Lost wartime footage of Fraser found

SECRET footage of Fraser Island's World War II commando school has turned up 65 years later.

The historic colour film, shot between February and July 1944, includes never-before-seen footage of Australia's Z Special Unit in training. The commandos are seen handling foldboats, demolitions, weapons, signals, parachuting and exercising jungle craft.

“I've been working on restoring this rare footage over 18 months,” said Craig Brown, senior research analyst with the Australian Bunker and Military Museum, which until recently shared premises with Maryborough's McMillan Lighthorse and Military Museum under Mavis Bank house.

The museum at Mavis Bank has closed and the curator, Rob McMillan-Kay, has the displays in storage while he searches for new premises.

“The Z Special Unit film is now complete and we've put it on to a DVD that runs for more than an hour,” Mr Brown said yesterday.

“We will use the money we get from marketing the DVD to help fund new museum premises.”

During the war Fraser Island and Hervey Bay were used as training grounds for the famous Z Special Unit.

Embarking on an old Japanese fish carrier, Kofuku Naru, which was renamed Krait, Z Special Unit managed to get into Singapore Harbour where they attached limpet mines to Japanese vessels. In one night in September, 1943, they blew up more than 38,000 tons of Japanese ships and managed to return to Australia.

At Dayman Point a memorial dedicated to the Z Special Unit men draws hundreds of visitors.

The museum's director, Daniel Hultgren, said wartime maps of the Fraser Commando School and training manuals had also been turned up.

Not one of the Z Special Unit veterans knew the footage even existed. On Anzac Day Mr Brown took copies of the DVD to a Sydney Z Special Unit dinner and presented the handful of veterans there with a copy each.

“They were very very moved,” Mr Brown said. “It was the first time since a special screening on Fraser Island in 1945 that they had seen the footage.”

A former Z Special Unit trainer on the island, Frank Doyle, who now lives on the Sunshine Coast, said he had received a phone call from Mr Hultgren a month ago, telling him about the discovery.

“I couldn't believe my ears.”

Cost of the limited run special edition DVD/CD set is $50 plus $5 postage and handling. Call Daniel Hultgren on 0410 908 264.

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