Tag Archives: folbot

‘You are two men in a £15 Folbot…’

Commando officer Capt. Roger ‘Jumbo’ Courtney formed the now famous Special Boat Section (SBS) in 1940. Forerunner of today’s Special Boat Service, the unit used folding kayaks called folboats for small-scale raids.

These things:

Courtney wrote ‘The Compleat Folbotist’ [sic] in 1941, outlining the character of the kind of man suitable for this specialist task. Courtesy of the National Army Museum:


Special Z at work

When I was a kid, one of my favorite movies was “Attack Force Z” an early Sam Neil/Mel Gibson flick based loosely on the Z Special Unit joint commandos that ripped up Japanese held islands throughout WWII. Fascinating history behind these units.

Speaking of, above is some really remarkable color footage shot in the remote bush of Fraser Island in Queensland, well away from the public gaze, showing the art of bushwhacking as taught more than 70 years ago to the unit. Besides lots of really great images of the Australian Owen submachine gun in use, there are counter knife attacks, Folboats, Jungle Hammocks, How to use weapons, setting limpet mines to blow up shipping, bush survival skills, and fighting in unarmed combat.

The film was produced by one Dr. Tate.

From ABC.au: 

By the 1940s, Dr. Tate was an accredited army photographer, filming in New Guinea and as far as history records, the only person invited to document the activities of the so-called Z Special Unit.

His son Peter Tate, who inherited much of his father’s slides and film, remembers seeing off cuts of the Fraser Island footage as a child.

“There were a lot of naked guys running around a wrecked ship and fellows pretending to knife each other,” Mr. Tate said.

He recalls his father “going off to the camp and coming back with a lot of sample weapons”.

RIP Sir Thomas Macpherson

In the British Army, the Military Cross is rather hard to get. Its the third-level military decoration awarded to officers and men after the VC and the DSO. Comparatively, its the same as the U.S. the Silver Star Medal. If you can imagine a warrior brave enough to earn one of these, image one who earned two. Well, Sir Thomas earned three in addition to three Croix de Guerre (two Palms and Star), and several Papal and Italian medals during the Second World War.


Only 19 when he joined the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders (TA) unit in his home county, he later volunteered for the Commandos and soon found himself making all sorts of waves “somewhere behind German lines”  in Greece, Africa, France and elsewhere.

On one occasion in North Africa in 1942, Sir Thomas and “three comrades embarked in the submarine Talisman and were landed in folbots (folding canoes) near Apollonia. For two successive nights the submarine failed to return to the arranged rendezvous and the men set out to walk to Tobruk. The party had no food, water, maps or adequate footwear and were dressed only in PT shorts.

After they split up, two of the group were captured by the Italians. Macpherson and a comrade reached the outskirts of Derna, where they sabotaged a telephone exchange. It proved to be a bad mistake; they were traced and picked up by an Italian patrol.

During his interrogation, one of the patrol brought in his unloaded Colt automatic and asked him to explain how it worked. Macpherson showed him by loading a spare magazine, which he was still carrying, and holding up his captors…”

He has passed away at age 94. His obit in the Telegraph is most interesting.

Pro rege et patria…