This series charts the journey of Z Special Unit, Australias first covert special force, a multicultural unit that fought behind Japanese lines during WW2. Over three episodes the series interweaves the story of Z Specials historic missions with a contemporary narrative - recreating their jungle training regime in the present day and putting the Z mens own descendants through it.
Australia’s Secret Heroes tells the extraordinary story of Z Special unit, a remarkable group of men who were plucked from the Australian military in World War II, trained in explosives, camouflage, silent killing and how to resist torture and then sent on incredibly perilous undercover operations in Asia. For years, the Z Special operatives were sworn to secrecy. But now the veterans relive their incredible wartime exploits. In a unique “living history” approach, Australia’s Secret Heroes takes six descendants of the Z Special operatives and places them on training missions to give them a taste of what their forefathers went through. (Part 1 of 3)
The modern descendants of the original Z Special operatives are going through similar training to that undertaken by their forefathers on the banks of Pittwater Bay in New South Wales. Now they are given the chance to operate a Sleeping Beauty - a one man motorized submersible kayak - under the watchful eye of surviving Z Special member Norman Wallace, the last veteran from WW2 who trained on the machines. The second episode also features the story of Jim Ellwood, a Z operative sent to Japanese occupied Timor to help form a resistance group. He was captured and tortured by the Japanese and for the first time in public, he talks candidly about his harrowing experience. (Part 2 of 3)
Operation Copper was an eight man mission to Mushu Island off New Guinea that went disastrously wrong. Only one man survived to tell the tale, Mick Dennis, who features in this episode, and survived 10 days in the jungle with the Japanese hunting him down. In Pittwater, the modern recruits recreate a similar mission to Operation Copper, leaving Cato alone and cut off from his group. Cato’s Great Uncle, Alan Gubbay, was killed on the original mission. Tian and Brenden both travel to Borneo to retrace their grandfather’s footsteps. The series finishes with final reflections from the veterans and the modern recruits themselves. The veterans reflect on war and its effect on them, and the recruits reflect on their experiences during the series, many of them feeling a much stronger attachment to their relatives. (Part 3 of 3)