The Double Reds Resilience Award is an initiative of Andrew Hastie MP, Federal Member for Canning, with the endorsement of the 2/2 Commando Association of Australia. The award recognises students who have displayed a high degree of character and resilience in the face of adversity during the school year.
The Award takes its name from the insignia of the 2nd Independent Company, who fought in the face of overwhelming odds during the Second World War.
In early 1942 the Japanese were rapidly advancing south through South-East Asia. On the evening of 19 February—the same day as the bombing of Darwin—several thousand Japanese troops landed on the island of Timor, north of Australia.
On 23 February more than 1000 allied troops based on the western side of Timor surrendered, including the Australian 2/40 Battalion. This left the 270-strong 2nd Independent Company, stationed near Dili in eastern Timor, as the last remaining ground unit in Timor to oppose the Japanese forces.
The 2nd Independent Company—also called the 2/2 Commando Squadron and often referred to simply as the 2/2 or the Double Reds—were part of a new Australian force trained to fight behind enemy lines. Formed in 1941 by a special mission of the British Special Operations Executive (SOE), the commandos were chosen for their mental and physical toughness. The 2/2 were 81% West Australians and identified by their distinctive double-red diamond patch.
Having escaped the initial invasion of Dili, the 2/2 retreated into Timor’s tropical mountain terrain to fight a guerrilla campaign. They did so with vital assistance from many East Timorese. Throughout the campaign the East Timorese provided the 2/2 with food, shelter, labour, friendship and intelligence. Timorese boys an average age of 13—known as criados—would adopt a soldier and deep friendships ensued. The soldiers owed their lives to their criados and many dedicated their post-war years to repaying this ‘debt of honour’.
The 2/2’s survival and resistance was not initially known by Allied command, as the unit’s radio communications were destroyed during the initial Japanese invasion. 2/2 signallers managed to rebuild a radio with scavenged parts, nicknaming it ‘Winnie the War Winner’. This was used to contact Darwin for urgent supplies, including boots, ammunition and malaria medication. Dangerous supply runs were made throughout the year by the Royal Australian Navy, including 700 reinforcements from the 2/4 Independent Company in September.
By November the Australian commandos were sick, exhausted and depleted of supplies. Japanese forces in Timor would soon exceed 10,000, making it exceedingly difficult for the Australians operate effectively. The decision was made to withdraw allied forces from Timor, which occurred between December 1942 and January 1943.
While not a main theatre of the Pacific War, the 2/2’s campaign throughout 1942 nonetheless made a significant contribution to the eventual Allied victory. Their staunch resistance in incredibly difficult conditions diverted thousands of Japanese troops that would have otherwise been sent to critical places like Kokoda and Guadalcanal. They inflicted over 1,000 casualties on the Japanese for the loss of 30 Australian lives.
The 2/2 were later redeployed to fight in New Guinea and New Britain. By the end of the war they had recorded the longest active service in contact with the enemy of any Allied unit.
The Double Reds Resistance Award is given to a student who, by their personal conduct, exemplifies the character of these Australian heroes.