2/8th Independent Company
2/8th Independent Company (2/8 Commando Squadron)
The 2/8th Independent Company was formed at Wilson’s Promontory, Victoria, in July 1942 and travelled to Yandina, in Queensland, in September. While the other seven independent companies saw action in the islands off Australian and in New Guinea, the 2/8th spent most of the next two years based at Adelaide River, in the Northern Territory. While it was in the Territory, the independent companies underwent a series of reorganisations and the name of the 2/8th was changed from the 2/8th Independent Company to the 2/8th Cavalry (Commando) Squadron. This name was later simplified to just commando squadron.
In July 1944, after years of waiting, the squadron left the Territory and sailed from Townsville to Lae, via Milne Bay. While at Lae, the squadron received an intake of 70 men from the 2/8th from the 2/3rd, 2/5th and 2/6th Cavalry (Commando) Squadrons, many of whom were veterans of the earlier New Guinea campaigns. Their experience was no doubt a useful reserve that would have been called upon during the 2/8th’s subsequent campaign in Bougainville. Others though, were able to implement some of their commando training when a small group from the 2/8th they made a secret landing on New Britain.
Towards the end of the 1944 the 5th Division was preparing to make a landing at Jacquinot Bay in New Britain. Part of these preparations included landing a small group of officers from the division at Jacquinot Bay to make a secret reconnaissance of the potential landing site. As Jacquinot Bay was still in Japanese controlled territory, ‘C’ Troop from the 2/8th provided the protection for the reconnaissance party by establishing a position on the beach and by patrolling the surrounding country. Everything went well and the 5th Division later landed at Jacquinot Bay in November.
The squadron too was on the move, and in October it sailed to Torokina, the main Australian base on Bougainville, where it joined the II Australian Corps. The campaign on Bougainville was dived into three areas, the Central, Northern and Southern Sectors. The 2/8th served in the latter two areas. The 2/8th made the first move of the Australian campaign in the Northern Sector, by patrolling from Torokina to Kuraio Mission and Amun once a week. The squadron did this from the second week of November unit the second week of December. The 2/8th was then transferred to the Southern Sector.
The main battle for Bougainville was fought in the Southern Sector, as the 3rd Division advanced towards Buin - the main Japanese base on the island. As the division’s infantry brigades advanced along the coast, the 2/8th’s task was to protect their flank by conducting forward reconnaissance patrols, harassing the Japanese with raids and ambushes and conducting a form of guerrilla warfare.
The squadron had a long campaign. For nine months, from the end of December until August 1945, the troopers were in action the whole time. After securing the Jaba River, they moved inland, first to Sovele Mission, then the villages of Opai, Nihero and Morokaimoro. They had reached Kilipaijino by the end of the war. Each village taken became a patrol base. Patrols were usually limited to two sections, although up to six sections could be operating at a time. Patrols generally lasted four to six days, but nine-day patrols were not unknown.
The squadron collected and collated track information, terrain reports and located the enemy. Once patrols had gathered information, they were free to make a ‘strike’ against the Japanese by setting an ambush or taking a prisoner. These raids were very effective, as they forced the Japanese to deploy troops to their rear areas, removing men from the front created by the infantry.
Following Japan’s surrender and the end of the war, the ranks of the squadron thinned quickly as men were discharged or were transferred to other units. For those who were left, the squadron returned to Australia at the end of December. In mid January 1946, at Liverpool, the 2/8th Commando Squadron was disbanded.
- 7 killed
- 16 wounded
- 1 MBE(M)
- 2 DCM
- 4 MM
- 12 MID
For more information please see Honours and Awards database
- AWM52/2/2/60: 2/8 Cavalry (Commando) Squadron
- Astill, Donald Walter, Commando white diamond : memoir of service of the 2/8 Australian commando squadron ; Australia and the South-West Pacific 1942-1945, (Loftus, N.S.W. : Australian Military History Publications, 1996)