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(1) In the late 19th century, small armed militia detachments of the Boers that operated against the local African population and in the Anglo-Boer War of 1899–1902.
(2) In World War II (1939–45) special detachments of the British armed forces designed for reconnaissance and sabotage action were given the name commandos in June 1940. Commando detachments were first formed in the army; in 1942 such units were formed in the navy. A commando detachment consisted of several platoons recruited from among volunteer soldiers of the regular army; they received special training in reconnaissance and sabotage action at sea and on land.
Among the best-known commando operations were the raids on the coast of Norway in the region of the Lofoten Islands and on the coast of France in the region of Dieppe (Aug. 19, 1942). In the Mediterranean the commandos carried out raids on the island of Crete and in Tobruk; in November 1941 they attacked Rommel’s headquarters in the region of Beda Littoria. When the second front was opened in Europe, seven commando detachments (of 500 to 600 men each) seized bases of operations and prepared the way for the landing of the main forces of the Normandy Landing Operation of 1944. The British Navy retained the commandos after World War II.
V. S. GOLUBOVICH