Z Special Unit

Z Special Unit

The Elite Allied World War II Guerrilla Force

General Military
  • Author: Gavin Mortimer
  • Short code: GNM
  • Publication Date: 14 Apr 2022
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About this Product

Leading expert Gavin Mortimer tells the remarkable origin story of a wartime special forces unit that defied the odds.

Z Special Unit, one of the most intrepid but arguably the most unsung of Allied Special Forces of the Second World War waged a guerrilla war against Japan for two years in the south-west Pacific. On some of their 81 operations Z Special Unit slipped into enemy harbours in canoes and silently mined ships before vanishing into the night; on others they parachuted into the dense Borneo jungle to fight with headhunters against the Japanese and on one occasion they landed on an Indonesian island and smuggled out the pro-Allied sultan from under Japanese noses.

The Japanese weren't the only adversary that Z Special Unit encountered in the brutal terrain of the Pacific. In the mango swamps of Borneo and the dense jungle of Papua New Guinea they were faced with venomous snakes, man-eating crocodiles and deadly diseases. But it was the enemy soldiers who proved the most ruthless foe, beheading those Z Special Unit commandos who fell into their hands.

Drawing on veteran interviews as well as operational reports and recently declassified SOE files, Gavin Mortimer explores the incredible history of this remarkable special forces unit and the band of commandoes that defied the odds.

Biographical Note

Gavin Mortimer is the author of Stirling's Men (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2004), a ground-breaking history of the early operations of the SAS, The SAS in World War II: An Illustrated History (Osprey, 2011) and The SBS in World War II: An Illustrated History (Osprey, 2013). He has also recently published The Men Who Made the SAS (Constable, 2015). An award-winning writer whose books have been published on both sides of the Atlantic, Gavin has previously written for The Telegraph, The Sunday Telegraph, The Observer and Esquire magazine. He continues to contribute to a wide range of newspapers and magazines from BBC History to the American Military History Quarterly. In addition he has lectured on the SAS in World War II at the National Army Museum. He was also the historical consultant on the 2017 BBC documentary about the wartime SAS and has conducted World War II battlefield tours with serving members of the Regiment.


Introduction: Stirling effort
Chapter 1: Lyon hearted
Chapter 2: Operation Jaywick
Chapter 3: An Old Krait
Chapter 4: ‘Good luck and God's Speed'
Chapter 5: Singapore Struck
Chapter 6: The Wizards of Oz
Chapter 7: Another Crack
Chapter 8: Sleeping Beauties
Chapter 9: Pirates and Porpoise
Chapter 10: Tiger Hunting
Chapter 11: 'A blow to us all'
Chapter 12: Jungle Challenge
Chapter 13: Allies and Headhunters
Chapter 14: Guerrilla Army
Chapter 15: Victory in Borneo
Chapter 16: Savage Revenge
Chapter 17: The Elusive Truth
Epilogue: 'War's pretty grim'

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