2/2nd Independent Company
2/2nd Independent Company (2/2 Commando Squadron)
Having completed its training at Foster, on Wilson’s Promontory, Victoria, the 2nd Independent Company was raised and travelled north to Katherine, in the Northern Territory. However, following Japan’s entry into the war, as with the other independent companies that were sent to the islands off Australia, the 2nd was sent to Timor, where it joined the 2/40th Battalion and the rest of Sparrow Force.
Sparrow Force divided itself between west Timor, part of the Netherlands East Indies, and east Timor, which belonged to Portugal. The 2/40th Battalion defended the capital of west Timor, Koepang, and the airfield at Penfui. Most of the independent company moved to the airfield at Dili, in east Timor, and the nearby mountains.
Portugal was opposed to the stationing of a Dutch or Australian garrison in case this provoked the Japanese, but despite this opposition, on 17 December 1941, elements of the 2nd Independent Company and Dutch troops landed near Dili. On 20 February 1942 the Japanese invaded the island, attacking east and west Timor simultaneously. The 2/40th Battalion held out for three days, but were overrun. Most were either killed or captured although some men made their way to Portuguese Timor. Similarly, the 2nd could not hold the airfield and were also driven back. But they were not captured and instead retreated to the mountains where they conducted a very successful and pursued a guerrilla war against the Japanese which lasted for over a year.
Following the capture of Timor, the 2nd occupation the company was listed as “missing”, the company’s signallers were able to build a wireless transmitter, nicknamed ‘Winnie the War Winner’, and on 18/19 April were able to contact Darwin.
At the end of May RAN vessels began landing supplies for the Australians on the south coast of east Timor. These supply runs were very dangerous but they allowed the Australians on Timor to continue fighting. In September the guerillas were reinforced with the 2/4th Independent Company.
However, this could not go on indefinitely. In August the Japanese lunched a major offensive against the guerrillas and Japanese reprisals against the civilian population of east Timor reduced their support for the Australians. The 2nd (now named the 2/2nd Independent Company) and 2/4th were withdrawn in December and January 1943 respectively.
Although the 2/2nd Independent Company is best known for its time on Timor, it also saw extensive service in New Guinea and New Britain. The independent company reformed at the army’s training centre at Canungra, Queensland, where it was reinforced and reequipped. The company then moved to the Atherton Tableland, where it briefly became part of the 2/6th Cavalry (Commando) Regiment. Due to this reorganisation, in October, the 2/2nd Independent Company was renamed the 2/2nd Cavalry (Commando) Squadron. This name was later simplified to just commando squadron. When this happened though, the 2/2nd was back in action.
In June 1943 the 2/2nd sailed from Townsville for Port Moresby and was subsequently flown to Bena Bena, in the Bismark Range in New Guinea’s highlands. Here they supported the 2/7th Independent Company in patrolling the Ramu River area. In the second week of July the 2/2nd moved into position, with its headquarters at Bena Bena and with its platoons’ occupying neighbouring positions. By the end of the month their patrols were skirmishing with the Japanese. The 2/2nd remained in New Guinea until October 1944.
After 90 days leave, the squadron reformed at Strathpine in Queensland before sailing to New Britain in April 1945. The 2/2nd landed at Jacquinot Bay on 17 April. The squadron then moved to Wide Bay, in order to support the 13th Brigade of the 5th Division, and was based at Lamarien.
Following Japan’s surrender and the end of the war, the ranks of the squadron thinned quickly as men were discharged or transferred to other units. For those who were left, they returned to Australia and in early 1946 the 2/2nd Commando Squadron was disbanded.
- 48 died
- 2 DSO
- 3 MC
- 1 DCM
- 35 MID
- 3 Foreign awards
For more information please see Honours and Awards database
Search for related collection items
- AWM52/25/3/2: 2/2 Independent Company war diary
- Callinan, Bernard James, Independent Company : the 2/2 and 2/4 Australian Independent Companies in Portuguese Timor, 1941-1943, (Melbourne , Heinemann, 1953)
- Campbell, Archie, The Double Reds of Timor, ([W.A.?, 1988)
- Doig, Colin D, The history of the Second Independent Company, ([Perth, W.A.] : C. Doig, 1986)
- Smailes, Jim, The Independents, ([Australia : jim Smailes?, 1947)
- Wray, C C H, Timor 1942 : Australian commandos at war with the Japanese, (Hawthorn, Vic. : Hutchinson Australia)