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During World War II the Tidal River area was closed to the public and No.7 Infantry Training Centre for army commandos was established in February 1941. The location was chosen because of the rugged terrain and its remoteness from civilisation.

The title "No. 7 Infantry Training Centre" was a cover to hide the fact that "commando" training was taking place.

In 1940/41 the Australian Army needed to quickly reinforce our military strength in Australia. At that time our four AIF Infantry Divisions were overseas in the Middle East and then Malaya. A British military mission, headed by Lt. Col. Mawhood, came to Australia in 1940, to assist with a strategy to reinforce the Australian Army.  The outcome was to raise a number of Independent Companies.

Independent Companies were special units, which were much smaller than an Infantry Battalion. They were highly trained in raiding techniques, sabotage operations and conducting guerrilla warfare. They could operate for long periods in remote locations without normal lines of communication.

Volunteers were called for from the 1st Armoured Division and any AIF reinforcements still located in Australia. Volunteers were told there would be involved in special duties in units where high level of physical fitness was required and a higher than normal level of danger was likely to be encountered.

The following Independent Companies were formed in 1941:-

4 Independent Company was in training in 1941 when a decision was made to disband the unit and return the volunteers to their previous units.

Pearl Harbor was attacked on 7 December 1941 and the 4th Independent Company was immediately reformed and completed its training. More Independent Companies were formed and trained at Wilson's Promontory.

One of the first tests at Commando Training at Wilson's Promontory was for new arrivals to climb Mt Oberon (558 metres). Those who failed to make it to the top were returned to their previous units.


No. 7 Infantry Training Centre with Mt Oberon in the background


Photo:- Ian Jenkins

Photo of Mount Oberon in 2007 taken from approximately the same location


Physical fitness was an essential component of training at the Commando School. Training included:-

There were initially eight Independent Companies:-

The Independent Companies were often referred to as "Commandos". The men of these independent companies saw themselves as carrying out independent guerilla operations and did not appreciate the term Commandos which they believed was the role of the British Commandos in Europe.


Photo:- via Heather McMillan

Leigh Graham McMillan (NX101100 & N235780) of the
2/7th Independent Company at Wilson's Promontory


In late 1943, Australian Army Headquarters decided to amalgamate the divisional cavalry regiments from the 2nd AIF infantry divisions with the independent companies and re-designate them initially as “Independent Companies”. They then became known as "Cavalry (Commando) Squadron" but this soon changed to "Commando Squadron". The Regimental Headquarters which had no operational role kept the full title of "Cavalry (Commando) Regiment".

The Independent Companies were increasingly used for reconnaissance, flank protection, the securing of important tactical features within the Divisional structure which was very much the traditional role of cavalry and the tasks given to Commando Squadrons.

By the end of 1943, the new structure was:-

2/6 Cavalry (Commando) Regiment

- 2/7 Commando Squadron (formerly 2/7 Independent Company)

- 2/9 Commando Squadron, formed from members of 2/6 Cavalry Regiment and new volunteers

- 2/10 Commando Squadron, formed from members of 2/6 Cavalry Regiment and new volunteers.

2/7 Cavalry (Commando) Regiment

- 2/3 Commando Squadron (formerly 2/3 Independent Company)

- 2/5 Commando Squadron (formerly 2/5 Independent Company)

- 2/6 Commando Squadron (formerly 2/6 Independent Company)

2/9 Cavalry (Commando) Regiment

- 2/4 Commando Squadron (formerly 2/4 Independent Company)

- 2/11 Commando Squadron formed from members of 2/9 Cavalry Regiment and new volunteers.

- 2/12 Commando Squadron formed from members of 2/9 Cavalry Regiment and new volunteers.

2/2 Commando Squadron

continued to operate independently until the war ended (formerly 2/2 Independent Company)

2/8 Commando Squadron

continued to operate independently until the war ended (formerly 2/8 Independent Company)


Photo:- Ian Jenkins

Independent Companies Memorial at Tidal River, Wilson's Promontory


Photo:- Ian Jenkins

Plaque on the Memorial


The memorial plaque reads as follows:-

This cairn was erected to commemorate the birthplace of the Commando in Australia and in memory of all Commandos who made the supreme sacrifice in World War II.

During 1941 and 1042 the 1st to 8th Independent Companies, the colour patches of which appear hereon and two New Zealand Units, were formed and trained in the Darby and Tidal River areas. Subsequently "Z" and "M" Special Units, 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th Commando Squadrons and Commando Regiments were formed. Commando Training was continued thereafter at Canungra, Fraser Island and elsewhere in northern Queensland and Garden Island, Western Australia.

Section 29 of the National Parks Act requires that the cairn at Tidal River commemorating wartime commando training be maintained. The Army buildings at Tidal River became a holiday village after the war. The road into the area was finally sealed in 1970/71.



I would like to thank Ian Jenkins for his assistance with this web page.

I'd also like to thank Heather McMillan, daughter of Leigh Graham McMillan of the 2/7th Independent Company, for her assistance with this web page.



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This page first produced 1 September 2007

This page last updated 25 January 2020