commando, noun

Forms:
Also comando, and with initial capital.
Plurals:
commandos, less frequently commandoes.
Origin:
South African Dutch, PortugueseShow more South African Dutch commando, kommando armed party, from Portuguese commando command, party commanded.
A small fighting force. See also commandant.
1. In historical contexts.
a. An armed and usually mounted party of men, usually civilians, mustered especially against indigenous peoples for forays, reprisals, and the recovery of stolen cattle; an expedition undertaken by such a party. Also attributive. See also burgher sense 3 a.
1790 tr. of F. Le Vaillant’s Trav. I. 319A planter..complains to the governor that the Caffres have carried away all his cattle; and he requests a commando, that is to say, permission to go and recover his property with the assistance of his neighbours.
1801 W.S. Van Ryneveld in G.M. Theal Rec. of Cape Col. (1899) IV. 92Their chief business is to form bodies of armed men (commandos) against Bosjesmen and other Vagabonds, who disturb the Country and rob the farmers of their Cattle.
1818 G. Barker Journal. 5 Jan.25 of our people and pack oxen went to join the comando against the Caffres.
1829 C. Rose Four Yrs in Sn Afr. 75The crimes were individual, but the punishment was general: the duty of the Commando was to destroy, to burn the habitations, and to seize the cattle.
1833 Graham’s Town Jrnl 21 Mar. 3Colonel Frayer immediately called together an Army, or Commando, consisting of Boers, Soldiers, and Hottentots from the missionary institution Theopolis.
1835 G. Champion Jrnl (1968) 4The ghosts of Hottentots & Bushmen & Caffers that have been murdered by commandoes in S. Africa in past years.
1844 J.C. Chase in R. Godlonton Mem. of Brit. Settlers 58We were denounced as having been often engaged in Commandoes, or semi-military Expeditions against the aborigines.
1863 J.S. Dobie S. Afr. Jrnl (1945) 64‘Commando’ means a calling out by authority, volunteers who place themselves under a magistrate or other officer..with the object of punishing some raid or turbulent conduct of Kafirs or Bushmen.
1875 J.J. Bisset Sport & War 107A strong party of Dutch — part of the field force called a commando — had been attacked by an ambush of Kafirs only a few days before.
1882 C.L. Norris-Newman With Boers in Tvl 14After 1831 the Commissioner-General for Frontier Affairs..set himself against these border raids and ‘commandoes’, as being both injurious to the colonists and unsettling to the natives.
1919 M. Greenlees tr. of O.F. Mentzel’s Life at Cape in Mid-18th C. 41An ensign of the Cape Garrison, Rhenius by name, had been sent with a commando of about forty soldiers.
1950 H. Gibbs Twilight in S. Afr. 144Commandos of Boer burghers penetrated Basuto territory to get back their cattle, burning down huts and carrying off prisoners.
1956 F.C. Metrowich Valiant but Once 13The Hottentot chief adopted so threatening an attitude, that the commando, completely outnumbered, thought it advisable to withdraw.
1977 R.J. Haines in R.J. Bouch Infantry in S. Afr. 1652–1976 1The commando of these years was a mixed group of regular soldiers, burgers and Coloureds.
1979 C. Endfield Zulu Dawn 82The War Office..had failed to furnish Chelmsford with cavalry. Some of these needs were being supplied by local white volunteers formed into irregular commando groups.
b. Occasionally with defining word:
straf-commando /ˈstraf-/ noun [Afrikaans, straf punishment], a punitive expedition.
1928 E.A. Walker Hist. of S. Afr. 73The company supplied the ammunition; those who took part in each straf-commando reported the result to the Castle.
c. combinations
commando beskuit rare [Afrikaans beskuit, see beskuit], rusks taken as provisions on commando ;
commando law, a law allowing the pressing of civilians into military service ;
commando tax, a tax levied at the Cape from 1812 to supply funds for maintaining commandos .
1899 M. Marquard Lett. from Boer Parsonage (1967) 40We have begun tackling our second muid of meal for commandobiskuit today.
1908 J.M. Orpen Reminisc. (1964) 203After the Constitution was completed, I drew up and proposed the Commando Law, which was adopted as proposed by me and continued fundamentally unchanged, while the Free State remained a Republic.
1926 M. Nathan S. Afr. from Within 72The field-cornet at Pretoria, purporting to act under commando law, impressed five uitlanders, all British subjects, into service.
1827 Reports of Commissioners upon Finances at Cape of G.H. II. 60Since the year 1812 another tax has been assessed, upon the principle of the ‘opgaaf,’ denominated the ‘commando tax’.
1833 Cape of G.H. Lit. Gaz. III. 181 (Pettman)The pay of the military body, an expense which the whole Colony had to meet in the shape of a Commando Tax, without any return whatever.
1913 C. Pettman Africanderisms 127Commando Tax, A tax established in the Cape Colony by Government Proclamation, 4 December, 1812, ‘for the maintenance of a corps for the defence of the frontier’.
2. In historical contexts. In the phrase on commando, on a military expedition; engaged in military service.
1800 J. Backstrom (tr. of J.A. Truter) in G.M. Theal Rec. of Cape Col. (1898) III. 27830 lbs. of Powder & 60 lbs. of Lead were added..that the..Veld Commandant might make use of it in case he had occasion to send a party on commando.
1835 A. Smith Diary (1940) II. 174The Matabeli, when they go on commando, advance during the night..with great rapidity.
1861 P.B. Borcherds Auto-Biog. Mem. 56This service was known under the appellation of ‘commando gaan’ — to go on commando — the term for an armed body of inhabitants dispatched on active service.
1887 J.C. Brown Management of Crown Forests 12A person I had once engaged was prevented by his attendance being required on commando.
1900 G.H.M. Ritchie in E. Hobhouse Brunt of War (1902) 15Unless the men at present on commando..surrender themselves and hand in their arms to the Imperial authorities..the whole of their property will be confiscated and their families turned out destitute and homeless.
1915 J.K. O’Connor Afrikander Rebellion 12‘On Commando’ to them is a term meaning a happy time of riding on horseback from town to town, living on the country as they proceed and doing no work.
c1936 S. & E. Afr. Yr Bk & Guide 73Some 20,000 Boers were still on commando but, outside of these, nearly the whole nation was being maintained by Great Britain.
1946 S. Cloete Afr. Portraits 359His force of mounted burghers were dependent on grass to feed..the driven cattle which they used for food when on commando.
1963 R. Lewcock Early 19th C. Archit. 242Matters were not improved by the unavoidable absence, from August 1822, of Retief on commando against Macomo.
1973 J. Meintjes Voortrekkers 95Virtually everybody was known to everybody else due to their migrations and hunting trips,..and service on commando.
1983 F.E.O’B. Geldenhuys in Optima Vol.31 No.3, 154The burghers on commando..came back to farms destroyed and burned down by the English.
3. In historical contexts. During the 19th century: an armed group, or regiment, of black soldiers; an expedition undertaken by such a group. See also impi sense 1 a.
1835 W.B. Boyce in A. Steedman Wanderings II. 269The Ficani Chief..has been driven thence, by a commando from Dingaan, the Zulu Chief.
1839 W.C. Harris Wild Sports 111We saw comparatively few men, the larger proportion of the able-bodied being absent with Kalipi on the commando against the emigrant farmers.
1846 J.M. Bowker Speeches & Sel. (1864) 223The commando of the Kafirs were round us all day.
1881 E.L. Price Jrnls (1956) 451Do you remember..hearing of our Bakwena fighting with another tribe close by...They have set out today in what we call ‘a commando’ in this country — wh. is, in fact, an army.
1905 G.W. Stow Native Races of S. Afr. 311Moselekatze..sent a large commando in pursuit, with orders to overtake the marauders..and recover the cattle which had been seized.
4. In historical contexts. A unit of the Boer forces during the Anglo-Boer wars of 1880–81 and 1899–1902, usually mustered from a particular town or farming district; kommando sense 1 a. Also attributive. See also burgher sense 3 a.
1899 Westminster Gaz. (U.K.) 11 Nov. 8The President..has the right of declaring war and calling up one or more commandos.
1900 J.B. Atkins Relief of Ladysmith 87A commando of Boers was within half a mile of our picket.
1902 Encycl. Brit. XXXIII. 438Each field-cornet..was responsible for the arms, equipment and attendance of his commando — the commando being the tactical as well as the administrative unit.
1929 D. Reitz Commando 26It was magnificent to see commando after commando file past the Commandant-General each man brandishing hat or rifle according to his individual idea of a military salute.
1937 C.R. Prance Tante Rebella’s Saga 152The waterless ‘hinterland’,..too hopeless as farm-land even to be palmed-off on simple burghers as reward for their commando-service.
1957 D. Grinnell-Milne Baden-Powell at Mafeking 27Were there not brave men in the commandos, resourceful, inured to hardship, every man accustomed to long hours in the saddle..? [Note] The units of the Republican militia, each designated by the district in which it was raised.
1971 Daily Dispatch 16 Dec. 10The commando which took the field was a well-organised and fully equipped fighting machine. It consisted of 464 mounted men, each with a spare horse.
1987 S. Afr. Panorama Sept. 35Willem Smits, called up for commando service with the Boers, found himself at war with his own chairman, Lord Harris.
1990 Weekend Argus 29 Sept. 13Operating over a 275 000 sq km area, the commandos were highly mobile. They were self-contained units, either buying, commandeering or capturing supplies from the enemy.
5. An area protection force, initially under the control of the Union Defence Force, subsequently of the South African Defence Force, consisting of civilian personnel who, having completed an initial period of national service, must regularly report for shorter periods of service or training; kommando sense 1 a. In the plural, a collective term for the members of such a force. Also attributive.
1912 Act 13 in Stat. of Union 200The Citizen Force Reserve shall be divided into two classes, A and B...Class B shall be organised as far as may be practicable so that members therof..shall form territorial corps or commandos with sub-divisions corresponding as far as possible with the arrangement of Rifle Associations in each district.
1922 Rand Daily Mail in J. Crwys-Williams S. Afr. Despatches (1989) 231A striker carried the news to a commando at the Town Hall that there was a ‘scrap going on with coolies and Chinese,’ and immediately the commando broke up and raced down on foot and on bicycles to the..lower end of Market Street.
1936 E. Rosenthal Old-Time Survivals 26Commandos rode against the Germans in South-West Africa during the Great War..along-side the regimental units from the South African cities.
1957 Act 44 in Stat. of Union 544There shall be established under such designations as the Minister may determine, a system of commandos so as to ensure that citizens liable to render service in defence of the Union..shall as far as possible be proficient in the use of military weapons.
1971 Std Encycl. of Sn Afr. III. 603As the commando exists today it is intended to defend its own defined territory in times of emergency. War equipment, ammunition and uniforms are issued to members of the commandos. At the conclusion of a period of service in the commandos the members are posted to the Commando Reserve.
1977 B. Marks Our S. Afr. Army 11The Commando organization dates back to the Vryburgers in 1657. Since its inception it has been a volunteer force aimed primarily at territorial defence. It is the largest of the three components of the SA Army and despite its territorial context, it can operate in any operational area. Its members are trained as Infantrymen with the emphasis on counter-insurgency operations, both rural and urban.
1982 Uniform Sept. 9Country commandos will be applied to protect their own districts. Other responsibilities are the protection of national key points, collecting information and area studies, anti-terrorist action and the promotion of Civic Service...Urban commandos are usually composed of members who are not area-bound. Their main task will be to assist the SAP with crowd control, cordons, road blocks and curfews.
1983 J. Keegan World Armies 530The Commandos were reorganised in June 1982 as a result of a shortfall in manpower of some 37%...Essentially Commandos will be locally-based militia who are tasked with the protection of their own locality.
1985 H.R. Heitman in Frontline Dec. 16At present the SADF has a standing force of around 80000..backed up by some 320 000 members of the Citizen Force and Commandos.
1988 Personality 25 July 5For the first time ever (and at 42 years of age) my husband received a call-up from our local Commandos for a week’s camp and intensive training.
1990 Hogarth in Sunday Times 12 Aug. 16The SADF’s plan to provide commando and citizen force members with automatic rifles and radios in their homes raises some thorny questions.
6. An army unit trained to carry out lightning military raids and to engage in guerilla warfare; a member of such a unit. Also attributive.
Note:
This sense of the word is also in general English usage.
1940 W.S. Churchill Second World War (1949) II. 566Plans should be studied to land secretly by night on the islands and kill or capture the invaders. This is exactly one of the exploits for which the Commandoes would be suited.
1941 C. Birkby Springbok Victory 244Jews and Arabs, hereditary enemies, fought side by side..in a Middle East ‘Commando,’ one of those new units of shock-troops, which were a secret at that time. These commandos are composed of tough, specially-selected men, young, athletic, armed with powerful light weapons...Commandos..are highly mobile, hard-striking and elusive.
1959 L. Longmore Dispossessed 185The railway police..are not proficient in boarding trains in motion, because they have not been trained in ‘commando’ tactics.
1971 Encycl. Brit. VI. 141The distinctive commando symbol later came to be the green beret. Popular usage to the contrary, a commando was not an individual, but a unit roughly equivalent to an infantry battalion. In the beginning commandos were formed of volunteers from army units; from 1942 onwards they were also formed from Royal Marines.
1972 Sunday Times 3 Dec. (Mag. Sect.) 1South African servicemen sent for commando training learnt their battle technique at the Danie Theron Combat School.
1972 W.H. Gardner in A. Lennox-Short English & S. Afr. 21An old injury to his left hip developed into chronic osteo-arthritis, which prevented him from achieving his dearest ambition — to fight as a commando.
1985 Time 1 July 27In late May, South African commandos made a foray into Angola.
1991 G. Nevill in Sunday Times 3 Mar. (Extra) 3Mr Ebrahim admitted that the Umkhonto we Sizwe ‘regional commando’ under his leadership in 1961 became the first ANC section to take up arms against the government.
7. The military — or paramilitary wing of any of several (usually right-wing) political organizations; a member of such a group. Also attributive. See also boerekommando and wenkommando (kommando sense 1 b).
1948 Press Digest No.10, 67A Rand leader of the Ossewa Brandwag answered that in the past few months more than two hundred guerilla commandos had been formed in mines, factories and other places of work.
1972 Sunday Times 24 Sept. 7The Nazi-type movement planned a special commando and ‘the take-over of the present democratic state and the appointment of a National-Socialist state.’
1986 B. Roos in Cape Times 4 Dec. 12The cause of the vandalism..is not the cricket tour at all. It is the destructive, violent laws of apartheid...Those who wish to condemn the ‘commandoes’ should not forget that it is not cricket they are opposed to but apartheid.
1991 Sunday Times 7 Apr. 11The time the team filmed an AWB Kruger Day rally, Mr Terre Blache was enraged. Only 400 commandos arrived with their wives and children.
1992 S. Macleod in Time 9 Mar. 27With the police on his tail, he disappeared underground for six months and tried to organize commando cells.
8. Figurative, and transferred sense.
1955 D.L. Hobman Olive Schreiner 140They fought the battle of their sex, in which the spectacular commandos of the militant suffragettes were less effective than the patient engineering of the pioneers of mental work.
1956 M. Rogers Black Sash 167The Transvaal ‘commandos’ of this great mass protest crossed the Vaal..into the Free State.
1972 tr. of E.N. Marais’s Rd to Waterberg 95In the big real black-ant commandos which battle with termites..there is a preservation of unity in both the swarm and its behaviour.
9. A unit in the Voortrekker movement, the Afrikaans scouting organization; kommando sense 2. See also Voortrekker noun sense 2 b.
1966 Cape Argus 8 Mar. 5The annual fund-raising campaign of the Riversdale Voortrekker Commando.
1975 E. Prov. Herald 7 Apr. 4Eleven George Voortrekkers have raised R2 000 for their commando.
1975 J.F.P. Badenhorst in Std Encycl. of Sn Afr. XI. 288The Penkoppe, Drawwertjies and Verkenners are grouped into field-cornetcies for boys and for girls, and two or more field-cornetcies form a commando.
1990 [see commandant sense 6].
A small fighting force.
An armed and usually mounted party of men, usually civilians, mustered especially against indigenous peoples for forays, reprisals, and the recovery of stolen cattle; an expedition undertaken by such a party. Also attributive.
, rusks taken as provisions on commando
, a law allowing the pressing of civilians into military service
, a tax levied at the Cape from 1812 to supply funds for maintaining commandos
on a military expedition; engaged in military service.
an armed group, or regiment, of black soldiers; an expedition undertaken by such a group.
A unit of the Boer forces during the Anglo-Boer wars of 1880–81 and 1899–1902, usually mustered from a particular town or farming district; kommando1 a. Also attributive.
An area protection force, initially under the control of the Union Defence Force, subsequently of the South African Defence Force, consisting of civilian personnel who, having completed an initial period of national service, must regularly report for shorter periods of service or training; kommando1 a. In the plural, a collective term for the members of such a force. Also attributive.
An army unit trained to carry out lightning military raids and to engage in guerilla warfare; a member of such a unit. Also attributive.
The military — or paramilitary wing of any of several (usually right-wing) political organizations; a member of such a group. Also attributive.
A unit in the Voortrekker movement, the Afrikaans scouting organization; kommando2.
Derivatives:
Hence commando transitive verb nonce, commandeer sense 2 a.
1880 Grocott’s Penny Mail 28 Dec. 3A party of Boers came to Mooi River, near Stormfontein, giving notice to the English residents that they would commando them on the following day, under the Grondwit [sic].
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