Unit Information Game Strategies History

Although the the term "commando" appeared at the turn of the century during the Boer War in South Africa, its roots go back to the 18th century, when Boer colonists needed security but could not afford a standing army. To solve this issue, militias named "commandos" were raised on a regional basis throughout the Boer nation.

Under the titular commando system, Boer lands were divided into districts and districts into wards or wyks required to be able to muster men for the commando. Unlike most military units of the day, the commando had a democratic structure and hierarchy, with each man being expected to arm himself, and those with farms obliged to bring their own mounts. The leaders of the fighting units led them rather than commanded them. The leaders of these units, called cornets, had no executive power and could not give orders.

To retain their leadership, cornets needed to retain the confidence and loyalty of the men in their unit, and so specialised not in all-out battle formation as in continental Europe, but in small guerilla attacks and skirmishes against larger foes such as Zulu impi and British infantry formations — very much like light infantry units in Europe during the Napoleonic Wars. To survive such encounters, fighting for the commando meant relying on superior outdoorsmanship as well as knowledge of native terrain to minimise losses and maximise damage wreaked on the enemy.

In the rugged and broken territory that characterised South Africa, the commandos proved surprisingly effective, especially during the Boer Wars to the extent that although the Boers were subjugated by the British, they made so great an impression that their methods were soon replicated by the major powers of the day, and eventually became the forerunners of today's special forces units in most militaries.