The First Commandos: Ralph Coyne's Wartime Experiences 1942-45

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Petaurus Press, Dec 2, 2009 - History - 64 pages

 At the time they were extremely secret.  Still little known, Australia’s first commandos were repeatedly put in dangerous situations to achieve results disproportionate to their small numbers.  Their story is historically important, for these few hundred men possibly changed the course of Australia’s history.

Establishing commando units was a bold and dangerous gamble for the Australian military authorities facing Japan’s entry into the Second World War.  They did not know how commandos would be used when conventional army operations relied on large numbers of soldiers supported by heavy weapons, sometimes naval gunfire or aircraft, and comprehensive supply trains.  Very quickly the commandos showed they were extremely efficient and could perform a role which exceeded the ability of forces many times their size.

The 2/4 Independent Company, which included Ralph Coyne, was sent to Timor to supplement and then replace the original (2/2) company.  Outnumbered nearly one hundred to one but assisted by Timorese natives, the commandos kept a Japanese force of 20,000 men fully occupied and unavailable to fight elsewhere, possibly preventing invasion of Australia and at least greatly improving the chances of stopping the Japanese advance in New Guinea.

After Timor more drama followed in New Guinea and Borneo.  In one terrible incident Ralph Coyne was one of only four out of forty-eight commandos left alive and uninjured.

Against the odds Ralph Coyne survived to tell his fascinating tale.  Sometimes humorous, tragic, horrifying, even macabre, but usually dramatic, this book records the experiences of one of Australia’s first commandos. 

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Company headquarters in native huts Ailalec
New Guinea
24th Commandos unloading ammunition from a LST
Snags Track Tarakan
After the War

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About the author (2009)

Ralph Coyne joined the Australian Army at the outbreak of WWII.  Volunteers were sought for intensive training for special missions from which the troops were told they could not expect to return. Ralph volunteered.  He was trained at a remote, secret training base and became one of Australia's first highly secret commandos.  His first overseas mission seemed almost suicidal as his small company of commandos, outnumbered nearly 100 to 1, fought a force of 20,000 Japanese on East Timor.  Ralph was often operating alone there.  By preventing those Japanese forces from joining the war in New Guinea, this may have tilted the balance of power which prevented Japan taking over New Guinea.  Aged 94, Ralph is one of very few surviving Australian commandos from WWII.

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