Secret service heroes reunite
SOLDIERS from Australia's most secret World War 2 commando unit returned this weekend to the Fraser Coast to remember fallen comrades and celebrate surviving friendships.
“I haven't seen Wally Pare for 66 years,” 90-year-old Z Special Unit operative Jack Tredea said.
Z Special commando Wally, nudging 90, had just flown in from Nottingham in the UK with his daughter Vanessa Haw.
“I wasn't going to miss this reunion,” he said. “I came to Australia in 1939 and went to work on a farm in the Hunter Valley. When war broke out I joined up here and eventually found myself assigned to Z Special Unit.”
The old soldiers originally trained on Fraser Island for the dangerous role of working behind enemy lines
Sixty-six years on, more than 20 of them gathered for a memorial service on Saturday morning at Maryborough's cenotaph.
More than 100 turned out for the moving ceremony led by Brigadier Grant Mason DSCAM from 1st Commando Regiment in Sydney.
The Z Specials enjoyed an Aero Club breakfast at the airport and checked out military historian Rob McMillan-Kay's unique display featuring weapons, maps and tools from the commando's training camp.
On Saturday evening they arrived at City Hall for the gala dinner, to which only one Australian politician turned up – National Party leader Warren Truss.
“It is a disgrace that the premier did not even nominate her tea lady to come to this historic event,” reunion organiser Lionel Aitken said. “This is the first and probably the last time these men will meet like this in Queensland and they deserve the respect of this state's politicians.”
Only some 65 of the original 1701 men are alive and this reunion brought them together from across Australia as well as from the UK.
Yesterday, the Z Specials visited Fraser Island and the remains of their secret training camp.
“Well, at least I'm getting some exercise,” former Z Special Intelligence operator, Merv Fox, 87, said.
“I haven't been able to get to my usual gym workouts since I flew from Adelaide on Friday.”