2/2nd 'double diamonds'

2nd Ind. Coy. officers

Officers in East Timor

A section on the move

Timor commandos

Kevin Curran group

Tjerk Hiddes
2nd INDEPENDENT COMPANY (Commando) - also known as 2/2nd IND. COY...

The 2nd Independent Company was from West Australia and trained at Wilsons Promontory in 1941. Modelled on Churchill's Special Operations Executive, men were handpicked for an elite force operating behind enemy lines. They trained in guerilla warfare, demolitions and hand-to-hand combat. To disguise their role, 'independent company' sub-units were 'platoons'. A regular infantry platoons was about 40 strong with 3 sections of around 12 men each. Ind. Coy. platoons numbered 60 with sections of 20 men. There was a higher proportion of officers, twice the number of automatic weapons were issued.

The 2nd Ind. Coy. left Darwin on the S.S. Zealandia on 10th December 1941 after two days of loading. Wharf labourers staged a 'go slow', broke boxes and pilfered contents; men went onto the wharf to sort out the problem. Wharfies refused to load ammunition. The anti-war union lost any camraderie with the Japanese after at least 21 of them died in the Darwin bombing 6 weeks later.

Organization of the 2nd Independent Company was a Headquarters group and three Platoons. After some remnants of Sparrow Force from Dutch West Timor made their way east, another platoon was formed with 2/11th Field Company RAE sappers as the nucleus. Many straggling in from the north-west were not suited to the commando routine, especially Veale's 'top brass' group which eventually departed for Australia on 24th May with the commander of the Dutch forces on Timor, Lt.-Col. Nico van Straaten on a RAAF Catalina flying boat.

In East Timor, force composition and officers-in-charge of the 2nd Independent Company were:
     Headquarters group - Major Alexander Spence
          2-i.c. Captain Bernard J. Callinan
     A Platoon - Captain Rolf R. Baldwin
     B Platoon - Captain Geoffrey G. Laidlaw
     C Platoon - Captain George Boyland
     D Platoon - Lieut. Donald K. Turton - the new ad hoc platoon of Sparrow Force from West Timor

On the same evening of their landing at the Paha River in West Timor, the Japanese 228th Regiment landed at Dili. Both landings were unopposed due to poor intelligence and misunderstanding. Radio contact was lost with Australia after the quick exit from Dili. Brigadier Veale ordered the radio at Atamboa destroyed and 'every man for himself'. This rendered the group ineffective; some of the men threw away their firearms so that if they were caught by the Japanese, they could claim to be non-combatants. It is ironic that when Veale met up with A Platoon's No.1 section near Mape, with Timorese ponies loaded with fresh linen, Scotch and other luxuries, he expressed surprise at the unshaven commandos appearance. Lieut. Dexter replied 'But we still have our weapons'.


Contact was eventually made with Australia on 24th April with a jerry-built radio nicknamed 'Winnie the war winner'. After their identity was confirmed, the commandos requested boots, quinine, money and Tommy guns ammo and resupply missions commenced. Platoons and sections operated over a wide area which made it hard for the Japanese hunting them down. The Australians had tremendous support from the local population and native criados, a key in guerilla warfare. At first supplies were dropped by aircraft however following resupply by sea on the south coast permitted larger loads and personnel transfers.


On 15th September, the 2nd Ind. Coy. was joined by Lancer Force, the 250-man strong 2/4th Independent Company. They landed at Betano Bay from the HMAS Kalgoorlie along with 14 tons of stores. The commandos had been pushed into the south west corner of Portuguese Timor by continuous Japanese operations which had  renewed tribal conflict. The Japanese recruited and armed natives from West Timor, called the 'Black Column'. In many instances now, the Sparrow Force commando were fighting natives armed by the Japanese and being denied their local support. Tens of thousands of native Timorese were killed by Japanese bombing and the related inter-tribal conflict.

Eventually with the men physically worn out and their area of operation decreasing with their original mission accomplished, the 2nd Ind. Coy. was withdrawn to Australia on 11th December, on the British-built Dutch HNMS Tjerk Hiddes, a fast destroyer selected for their extraction. Lancer Force remained on Timor but were withdrawn on 10th February by the USS Gudgeon, an American submarine. 

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