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A.I.F. "Z" Special Unit (Z Force)
Operation Copper mission against Muschu Island

Click For EnlargementOn April 11, 1945 one of eight Z Special Unit (Z Force) commandos as part of "Operation Copper" (originally code named "Operation Ash"). Their objective was to land on Muschu Island, capture a Japanese soldier for interrogation, and to make a beach reconnaissance for a perspective landing area. Also, reconnoiter the island's defenses and locate two concealed naval guns, then rendezvous again with their launch HMAS HDML 1321.

The Z Force consisted of eight individuals: Lt. Alan R. Gubbay, Lt. Thomas J. Barnes, Sgt Malcolm F. M. Weber, L/Cpl Spencer H. Walklate, Sig Michael S. Hagger, Sig John R. Chandler, Pte Ronald E. Eagleton and Spr E. T. Dennis.

On April 11, 1945 boarded HMAS HDML 1321 and motored to the island. During the night, they aboard four folboats and paddled towards Muschu Island. Strong currents pushed them southward and swamped and capsized some of their boats causing them to loose some equipment. The force made landfall near Som Point and waited until morning.

Although they had lost some of their equipment, they continued on their mission which was all but complete when they took a wrong turn on their march back to their secret camp and encountered an Japanese patrol. The commandos' prisoner slipped off his gag and shouted. The men escaped this enemy patrol, and later attempted unsuccessfully to put to sea on a raft, losing many more of their weapons in the process. Lt. Gubbay, Lt. Barnes, L/Cpl Walklate and Pte Eagleton then put to sea on logs in an attempt to make contact with aircraft or patrol boats. They were never seen again.

The remaining commandos: Sgt Weber, Sig Hagger, Sig Chandler and Spr Dennis remained on Muschu Island. On April 14, they approached bomb craters seeking fresh water and ran into a Japanese patrol and all were killed except Dennis.

Alone, Spr Dennis evaded the enemy and managed to swim for the mainland, pushing a heavy board on top of which he carried his Austen gun and ammunition. After swimming approximately 10 miles to the coast of New Guinea, he walked roughly 20 miles through enemy territory before being picked up by an Australian patrol near Aitape, 10 days after the original landing. Afterwards, Dennis was awarded the Military Medal for his "great courage and initiative".

Recovery of Remains
The Australian Army Unrecovered War Casualties Unit led by Major Jack Thurgar investigated this case and recovered the remains of L/Cpl Walklate and Pte Eagleton. On June 12, 2014 both were buried at Port Moresby War Cemetery (Bomana). The memorial service included an honor guard from the Special Air Service Regiment (SAS) and the 1st and 2nd Commando Regiments provided the funeral party. Also in attendance was 94 year old Edgar "Mick" Dennis, sole survivor of the raid.

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