Z Special Unit Camp Not Protected

During the Second World War, Z Special Unit was a talented band of commandos, and the precursor to the Special Air Services Regiment. Also commonly referred to as the Services Reconnaissance Department or the Special Operations Executive, they helped the Allies to gather intelligence while also conducting raids against enemy forces. Despite their importance, a major camp site used by Z Special Unit may soon be demolished to make way for a more profitable cause.

A multi-million dollar supply base has recently been opened nearby in Darwin, and is looking to expand its reach into the area of the camp site. Until the site was threatened, no one had thought to put in an application to have the site protected due to its heritage. Now, that application may have been sent in too late. In addition, the Z Special Unit camp site might not have been given heritage protection even if the application had been filled out long in advance. There is an RAAF base not far from its location that had been used in the Second World War, and its protection was denied. It is now set to see the same destruction as the camp site.

The squad that formerly inhabited the campsite was extremely useful to the Allies. Their ranks were comprised by a number of nationalities, from Britain, New Zealand and Australia to Timor and Indonesia. Members of Z Special Unit were trained in stealth. They could swim without being detected, kill their enemies silently using poisons or other means, and they could even make and use plastic explosives if needed. This meant they were good for a number of uses aside from standard intelligence gathering.

Technically, the site could have been protected as many as thirty years ago, but the order never went through. Now, the site has already been partially cleared to make way for the demolition. The need for remembrance of Z Special Unit has, however, been taken into account. The Minister for Lands, Planning and Environment, Peter Chandler, has stated that a plaque or a statue may be installed on the site in the event that demolition continues as scheduled, the ABC News reports.

Some feel thatZ Special Unit warrants more than a simple plague or monument. The financial considerations of the land’s new use are likely considerable, but many still feel that the commando squad which helped to birth the SAS deserves more commemoration. Although plans to demolish the Z Special Unit camp in Darwin are not yet technically finalized, the decision is looking probable.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE