1st Commando Regiment (Australia)

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1st Commando Regiment
1st Commando Regiment Badge
1st Commando Regiment cap badge
Active 1981–Present
Country Australia
Branch Australian Army
Type Special Forces
Role Special Operations
Size One regiment
Part of Special Operations Command
Garrison/HQ Sydney and Melbourne
Motto "Strike Swiftly"
Engagements Vietnam
East Timor
War in Afghanistan
Martin Hamilton-Smith
Unit Colour Patch 1st Commando Regiment Unit Colour Patch.png
Abbreviation 1 Cdo Regt

The 1st Commando Regiment is one of the three combat units of the Australian Special Operations Command. Australian Army commando regiments are trained and organised primarily as a direct action and raiding forces. The 1st Commando Regiment is an integrated unit composed of regular (full-time) soldiers and reserve (part-time) soldiers. The Regiment’s primary function is to provide individual commando reinforcements to the Army’s full-time Commando unit, the 2nd Commando Regiment. The Regiment also provides specialist command and control capabilities for Special Operations Command.


Post World War II – 'the beginning'[edit]

World War II Commandos
Unarmed combat training

The term Commando is derived from the South African/Dutch word used by the Boers identifying their irregular sized raiding forces employed against the British during the South African Wars. The term commando was adopted by newly formed British raiding forces during World War II, and subsequently used by Australian special units raised to fight in the South-west Pacific and Indian oceans.

By the close of World War II Australian special forces included the Independent Companies (later Commando Squadrons) and Special Operations Australia (or the Services Reconnaissance Department – M and Z special units). The enviable record they achieved on active service had confirmed to all at the time the effectiveness of unconventional warfare.

Having disbanded all wartime special units it was deemed necessary to maintain the techniques and skills developed during the war. As a result two reserve commando companies were raised in 1955, 1 Commando Company in Sydney and 2 Commando Company in Melbourne. The established strength of the new commando companies was to be 265 all ranks, consisting of one major, five captains (three of them platoon commanders), six sergeants and 241 other ranks. This establishment was very similar to the Independent Companies of World War II.

1 Commando Company was raised in New South Wales on 24 February 1955 however the Officer Commanding Major W.H (Mac) Grant, decided that the official birthday would be their first parade on 25 June 1955. 2 Commando Company was raised in Victoria on 24 February 1955.

Grant traveled to the United Kingdom in 1955 and studied Royal Marine Commando training methods, completing their course, and being awarded their symbol of commando qualification, the light green (Sherwood) beret. It was decided that Australian commandos would also adopt the Sherwood beret as the symbol of qualification, with the first one being awarded in Australia to Captain George Cardy of 1 Commando Company on 14 July 1956. Major Jack Skipper MC took over Command of 1 Commando from Grant. Skipper had been awarded the Military Cross in Korea and also saw active service in Malaya.

In 1957, as the unit already had the designation "1st" within its title, the Army thought it would be a convenient framework on which to re-form the Australian Imperial Force's 1st Battalion. So on 1 December 1957 the unit was re-designated the 1st Infantry Battalion (Commando), until July 1960 when the unit was renamed the 1st Battalion, The Royal New South Wales Regiment (Commando), City of Sydney's Own Regiment. Finally in March 1973 the unit name at last changed back to the former designation of 1 Commando Company.

In early 1958 1 Commando Company provided the initial Special Forces training for the recently formed 1 Special Air Service Company. In 1997, 1st Commando Regiment provided the initial training for the re-role of the 4th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment from an infantry battalion into a commando unit.

301 and 126 Commando Signal Squadron[edit]

Commando signalman – Afghanistan

The requirement for long-range communications can be traced back to WWII and units such as Coastwatchers, New Guinea Air Warning Wireless Company, the Independent Companies, and Special Operations Australia. In 1958 a decision was made to raise No 1 Independent Signals Squadron to support clandestine operations and this led to the formation of 301 Signal Squadron in 1960 at Lidcombe, New South Wales. This new squadron was to meet the requirement for 'special communications' and was charged with the responsibility of providing long-range communications for commando type operations.

In 1965, 301 Signal Squadron was re-designated 126 Signal Squadron (Special Forces) and subsequently relocated to Melbourne. In 2000, 126 Signal Squadron returned to New South Wales now under command of the 4th Battalion (Commando), Royal Australian Regiment (later 2nd Commando Regiment) in Holsworthy. As a consequence, 301 Commando Signal Squadron was re-raised in Randwick, New South Wales on 17 June 2002 to provide signals support to the 1st Commando Regiment. The Squadron now has detachments in Williamstown, Holsworthy, Randwick, and Canberra.

Regimental Headquarters[edit]

All sub-units operated independently, training Army Reserve commandos and Special Forces signalers until 1981 when it was determined a regimental headquarters was required. This headquarters would coordinate the efforts of the previously independent units and provide the east coast command element for the newly established counter-terrorist capability within the Special Air Service Regiment. The headquarters was established on 1 February 1981 at Randwick, NSW where it remains today.

Malaya, Borneo and Vietnam[edit]

Prior to formation as a Regiment, the sub units deployed individuals and small teams to the Malayan War, the Borneo Confrontation and the Vietnam War. During the Indonesia-Malaysia Confrontation, Sergeant Ted Blacker of 126 Signal Squadron (Special Forces) was awarded the British Empire Medal. From 1965 the Commando Companies contributed numerous instructors, including from their reserve part-time component, to the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam (AATTV). Two lost their lives with the AATTV, with Warrant Officer Class 2 John Durrington being killed in action, and Warrant Officer Class 2 Ron Scott dying of wounds. Whilst serving with the AATTV, Warrant Officer Class 2 Ray Simpson, formerly from 1 Commando Company, was awarded the Victoria Cross for an action in the Kontum Province on 6 May 1969.

Recent operations[edit]

Commando Surveillance and Reconnaissance Vehicle SF

In recent years the Regiment has become more frequently deployed on operations providing small detachments and individuals to Cambodia, Bougainville, Iraq and Afghanistan.

In 2001 the Regiment provided a substantial reinforcement to 4th Battalion (Commando), Royal Australian Regiment for a deployment to East Timor. Additionally in that year, the Regiment provided teams to support operations in the Solomon Islands.

In May 2006 SOCOMD was re-deployed to Timor Leste with a Special Operations Task Group to conduct special recovery and evacuation operations. Post the extraction of the initial task group the special operations component in Timor Leste was reduced – often commanded by a member of the 1st Commando Regiment and the force element supplemented by 1st Commando Regiment teams.

Commandos board CH47

In March 2007 the task group was bolstered to form an Apprehension Task Force with the purpose of apprehending ex-Timorese Army Major and rebel leader, Alfredo Reinado, at the request of the President of Timor Leste. Reinado was eventually located in the village of Same. Following negotiations between the Timor Leste government and the rebels, the decision was made to detain Reinado by force. Reinado evaded capture but five of his men were killed in the battle. For the members of the 1st Commando Regiment who participated in this Special Operations Task Group mission the battle was the first combat seen by the unit (at greater than individual level).

On 11 February 2008 Reinado was killed during coordinated rebel attacks on the President and Prime Minister of Timor Leste.

In 2008 the Regiment's operational commitment took a step further with the deployment of an entire Commando Company Group to the Special Operations Task Group in Afghanistan. This constituted the first deployment of an Army Reserve force element on combat operations since WWII and the Regiment has continued to support this operational commitment with similar deployments each year since.

Special Operations Task Group – Afghanistan

The role of the commando company in Afghanistan is to conduct offensive operations deep within enemy safe havens to provide security to both coalition forces and the people of Afghanistan. This is achieved through intelligence led direct action missions to disrupt and destroy enemy forces within known insurgent strong holds.

The unit suffered its first combat fatality in 2009, with Private Gregory Sher killed by a rocket attack in Oruzgan province, on 4 January. Lieutenant Michael Fussell was killed in action whilst serving with the 1st Commando Regiment company group several weeks before on 24 November 2008, but was still posted to his parent unit of 4RAR (Cdo).

The Regiment received considerable publicity in 2009 when members of the unit were engaged by Taliban insurgents on the night of 12 February and 5 Afghan civilians were killed during the ensuing firefight. The Australian Director of Military Prosecutions, Brigadier Lyn McDade, made the unprecedented decision to charge two soldiers of the Regiment with manslaughter as a result of an investigation into the engagement. The charges were dropped in a pre-trial hearing and the two men fully exonerated.

Customs and traditions[edit]

The Sherwood Green Commando beret is worn as the primary form of head dress, formally recognising Commando qualification. The Sherwood Green beret was adopted in 1956 due to the close association with the British Army and Marine Commandos of WWII.

The regimental badge features a silver WWII era Australian fighting knife surmounted by a gold boomerang engraved with the regimental motto ‘Strike Swiftly’. The badge was largely designed by Warrant Officer Ronald Nordhoff and accepted by the Officers Commanding each of the companies.

Members wear a Garter Blue lanyard on the left shoulder of dress uniforms in common with the other combat units of SOCOMD. In 1992 distinctive black and green commando parachute wings were adopted and are now worn by all parachute qualified commandos.

While there is no direct lineage to the 1st Battalion, AIF (other than in 1 Commando Company’s renaming to the 1st Battalion (Commando)) the regiment retains the colours of the Battalion’s WWI colour patch – black over green. This is most obvious in the current 1st Commando Regiment flag.


The Unit headquarters is located in Randwick, New South Wales. 1 Commando Company is located in HMAS Penguin, in Balmoral, New South Wales. 2 Commando Company is located in the historic Fort Gellibrand at Williamstown, Victoria. 301 Signal Squadron has its headquarters at Randwick and elements of the squadron are located in Sydney, Canberra, and Melbourne.

The building block of the regiment is the six man commando team. Combat elements of the regiment typically operate in platoon to company sized force elements. These will be force tailored by requirement and may not fit any doctrinal size or command and control. The commando companies are made up of a headquarters, two commando platoons, a signals troop, sniper, reconnaissance, and mortar elements, and integral combat service support.


To provide personnel and equipment postured to meet special operations tasking spanning the operational continuum in the defence of Australia and in support of national interests.

Specialist equipment[edit]

The 1st Commando Regiment is equipped with a range of weapon systems that allow it to tailor requirements based on mission needs. Key equipment are:

  • Zodiac F470 inflatable boats
  • Klepper folding kayak
  • Parachute (T10/T11/MC1/MC5)
  • M4 SOF MOD Carbine
  • MAG58
  • HK417
  • Mk19 AGL
  • MP5 SD
  • HK 9mm USP
  • Barrett .50 Cal rifle
  • Browning .50 Cal HMG
  • Surveillance and Reconnaissance Vehicle
  • 4x4 and 6x6 All Terrain Vehicles

Reserve service[edit]

The 1st Commando Regiment is SOCOMD's only integrated regular/reserve unit. As such it fills a unique role in providing a surge capacity to the commando capability. Members of the Regiment include lawyers, airline pilots, police officers, firemen, paramedics, teachers, businessmen, students, doctors, scientists and numerous other professions and trades. This wide range of occupations provides for a close relationship between the unit, local community and industry. Many Regular Army Commandos and SASR Operators join the 1st Commando Regiment after separating from the Regular Army, in order to continue to serve in SOCOMD.

Selection and training[edit]

1st Commando Regiment personnel maintain the same base level commando skills as their regular commando counterparts in the 2nd Commando Regiment. As a result, members of the Regiment are positioned to provide short notice reinforcement in support of Special Operations Command operational and training activities.

Army Reserve members of the Regiment are subject to the same selection and training regime as their Regular Army counterparts. Because of the requirement to undertake the same selection and training courses as a Regular Army soldier, most Army Reserve members elect to undertake several months of Continuous Full Time Serve in order to complete their specialist training. Once the specialist training is complete, Army Reservists usually return to their civilian employment and report to the Regiment on a frequent basis to maintain their skills.

Commandos are selected through an intensive selection process and 12 month reinforcement cycle. The process is commenced with initial physical screening to determine suitability to start the cycle. Once recommended, candidates are paneled for the physically demanding 4 week selection course. When a candidate successfully finishes this course, and is recommended for further training, he will enter the commando reinforcement cycle (of approx 11 month). Training over this period is progressive and a candidate may be removed at any stage for not meeting the training standards or attributes required of an Australian commando. The current training for entry to the regiment includes:

  • Urban war fighting
  • Unarmed combat
  • Parachuting (land and sea)
An Australian Commando, fast-repels from a S-70A-9 Black Hawk aboard dock landing ship USS Germantown (LSD 42).
  • Roping
  • Helicopter roping
  • Basic demolitions
  • Heavy weapons
  • Marksmanship training
  • Specialist training (specialist demolitions, signals, or first aid)
  • Boat and vehicle operations
  • Close quarter battle

Further advanced skills are then taught at an appropriate time once a member of the regiment:

  • Advanced demolitions
  • Advanced pistol
  • Advanced parachuting (including Ram Air Parachute – Static Line and Freefall)
  • Language training
  • SF Sniper
  • Mortars
  • Mountain and Cold Weather Operations


  • The 1st Commando Regiment maintains close relationships with a number of regional Special Forces units.
  • While the 1st Commando Regiment and the UK Royal Marines recognise a shared link to the UK Special Service Brigades of WWII the two units have steadily traveled separate paths of capability and service needs. It would be difficult to now draw parallels between the two.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Australian Government, Department of Defence. "PrivateGregory Michael Sher". Defence.gov.au. Retrieved 2010-09-30.
  2. Peter Collins (2005), Strike Swiftly, the Australian Commando Story, The Watermark Press
  3. http://www.army.gov.au/Who-we-are/Divisions-and-Brigades/Special-Operations-Command/1st-Commando-Regiment
  4. http://www.AustCdoAssocVic.com/126SigSqn/
  5. http://www.AustCdoAssocVic.com/2CdoCoy/
  6. http://www.Commandotrust.com
  7. Robert Lowry (2011), The Last Knight – A biography of General SirPhillip Bennett AC, KBE, DSO, Big Sky Productions, ISBN 978-0-9808140-4-0
  8. http://battleoflongtan.reddunefilms.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Long-Tan-Harry-Smith-Biography.pdf
  9. http://nautilus.org/publications/books/australian-forces-abroad/east-timor/special-operations-timor-leste/
  10. http://www.defence.gov.au/op/afghanistan/gallery/2010/20100316/index.htm

External links[edit]