2/11th Cavalry Commando Squadron

The first independent company was formed in June 1941 and another seven were raised by July 1942. Following a reorganisation of the independent companies and the 6th, 7th and 9th Divisions’ cavalry regiments, these divisions raised cavalry (commando) regiments to administer the independent companies. Consequently, the names of the independent companies were changed to cavalry (commando) squadrons which later became just commando squadrons. In January 1944 the 9th Division raised the 2/9th Cavalry (Commando) Regiment which controlled the 2/4th Commando Squadron and the newly raised 2/11th and 2/12th Commando Squadrons. The 2/9th Commando Regiment was unusual in that it had a pipe band, but it did not seem to have had a connection with a Scottish unit.

The 2/11th and 2/12th Commando Squadrons were formed from men mainly from the 9th Cavalry Regiment, as well as from the disbanded 1st Armoured Division and others who had volunteered for commando training. Both squadrons, as well as the 2/4th, spent the rest of 1944 and beginning of 1945 training on the Atherton Tablelands, initially at Kairi and then Ravenshoe.

In April 1945 the squadron sailed from Townsville for Morotai as part of the build up for the OBOE operations which were intended to liberate areas of the Netherlands East Indies and British Borneo with the 9th and 7th Divisions. In the first of these operations, the 2/4th made an amphibious landing on Tarakan in support of the 9th Division’s 26th Brigade. The rest of the 9th Division and the 2/9th Commando Regiment went into action, landing on Labuan Island and Brunei Bay, in Borneo, on 10 June. The 7th Division landed at Bakipapan at July.

Attached to the 24th Brigade, the 2/11th came ashore at Green Beach on Labuan Island on 10 June and a troop from the squadron landing at Harby’s beach, across Victoria Harbour, to clear Hamilton Point. The troop the followed Charlie Track and by 12 June it met the 2/43rd Battalion at the track junction with Hamilton Road.

Thus far Japanese resistance had been limited, because the Japanese had concentrated their defences in the mountain ridges off MacArthur Road, known as “The Pocket”. At the start of the battle to clear the position, on 15 June, the 2/11th assisted the 2/28th Battalion, who were to make the main assault, by patrolling along Lyon Ridge, one of the approaches to The Pocket, and by report on its suitability for the use of tanks. The next day, when the main attack began a section from the commandos lead in the infantry and the squadron later acted as stretcher bearers - organising the rescue of the wounded. The Pocket was not final cleared unit 21 June.

With the rest of Labuan cleared and the Japanese falling back in British Borneo, the 9th Division’s commander decided to gain control of the high country from Mempakul and Menumbok to Cape Nosong. Consequently, on 17 June the 2/32nd Battalion, followed by the rest of the 24th Brigade, crossed Bruni Bay in landing craft and moved toward Beaufort. The 2/11th landed at Mempakul on 19 June and, followed the coast to Kuala Penyu, clearing the Klias Peninsula.

The 2/11th remained at Kuala Penyu until the end of the war and afterwards was given the task of improving the accuracy of maps of the Klias Peninsula. In September the squadron moved to Mempakula and then Beaufort, although it later returned to Labuan in December.

With the war over, the ranks of the 2/11th thinned as men were discharged, transferred or volunteered for the Japanese occupation force. In January 1946 those men who were left in the squadron returned to Australia and the 2/11th Commando Squadron was disbanded at Chermside Camp, Brisbane, at the end of the month.

Glossary

Casualties

  • 9 died, 6 wounded

For more information please see the Roll of Honour and Second World War Nominal Roll (external website) databases.

Commanding Officers

Decorations

  • 3 MM

For more information please see Honours and Awards database

Collection Items

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References

  • AWM52/2/2/63: 2/11th Cavalry (Commando) Squadron war diary
  • Knight, Phillip, Where to now [electronic resource] : memoirs of my stint in the 2/11 Commando Squadron, attached to 24 Brigade of the 9th Australian Division, in the Operation Oboe Six on Labuan Island and British North Borneo (Sabah) in 1945, ([Australia] : P. Knight, 2004)
  • Martindale, R J; Martindale, R L, Blokes from the cav : personnel of 9th Australian Division Cavalry Regiment & 2/9th Australian Cavalry (Commando) Regiment, (Sydney : R.J. Martindale and R.L. Martindale, 1993)