Commando Memorial

Commando Memorial, Sydney, public art, war memorial

Public Art : Commando Memorial

Designer: © Lyndon Dadswell

Description: A bronze plaque embedded in a granite plinth

Date Unveiled: Dedicated on 31st January 1982

Location: The memorial is located in Martin Place, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.


Commando Memorial

In memory of
Members of Australian Independent Companies
Commando Squadrons and Special Forces
who gave their lives.

World War II 1939-1945

Erected by N.S.W. Commando Association
Dedicated on 31st January 1982

Background to Commandos in Australia: The name commando was first used to describe a variety of Australian special forces and light infantry units which were formed during the Second World War. The role of these units were to mainly performed reconnaissance, raids and long-range patrol roles during Australia's campaigns in New Guinea and Borneo.

Following the end of World War II the "commando" units were disbanded. It was only later, in the 1950s, that the Australian Army realised that there was a need for these types of units again in the Australian Forces.

When World War II broke out, Australia had no "special forces" units within their army. In 1940 the British government sent Lieutenant-Colonel J.C Mawhood to Australia in  the hope of establishing such units . The concept was that "independent companies" be established and they would receive special training to take part in combined operations.

In March 1941 the Australian Army began raising and training the first group of "commandos", the 2/1st Independent Company. Formed from volunteers from all branches of the Australian military they received their training at the 7th Infantry Training Centre, Guerrilla Warfare School, at Wilson's Promontory, Victoria.

British commandos Mike Calvert and F. Spencer Chapman were among the men who took part in the training of the Australian soldiers. Midway through 1941, with three companies already trained, it was decided to discontinue the project due to misgivings about the concept. However, when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in December, 1941, training resumed and problems with the concept resolved.

The first of these units were :

1st Independent Company (raised May/June 1941)
2nd Independent Company (raised Oct 1941)
3rd Independent Company (raised Oct 1941)
4th Independent Company (raised December 1941)
2/5 Independent Company (raised March 1942)
2/6 Independent Company (raised March 1942)
2/7th Independent Company (raised March 1942)
2/8th Independent Company (raised May 1942)

The first Australian commando unit to see action was the 1st Independent Company. Sadly, many of its members were killed or captured while defending the island of New Ireland (part of the Australian territory of New Guinea), from Japanese marines in 1942.

With the outbreak of war in the Pacific, two multi-national combined forces commando units were formed as part of the Allied Intelligence Bureau (AIB), attached to its Special Operations Australia (SOA) branch. These units were M Special Unit  and the more famous Z Special Unit (also known as Z Force), and they were to be used by the Allies to conduct covert operations in the South West Pacific Area against the Japanese.

Later, the Royal Australian Navy also formed a number of commando units.



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