23rd RM Battalion
Formed in April 194314 at Dalditch as part of 104 RM Trg Bde, the battalion moved to Towyn in the summer of 1944, and it was merged15 in October with 22nd RM Bn.
24th RM Battalion
HQ of this Battalion16 was forming in late July 1943 in Ceylon and drew men mainly from MNBDO I, with a nucleus from ‘R’ Searchlight Bty, but the Battalion was never brought to full strength17 before returning to the UK and was disbanded 15 May 1944.
25th RM Battalion
Was formed at Dalditch, CO Lt–Col T. W. B. Sandall and was disbanded on 24 August 1944.
26th RM BattalionIn the summer of 1944 the damage caused by German V1 ‘flying bombs’ and by V2 rockets was considerable, many houses being damaged in London and its suburbs. The Admiralty was approached by the Ministry for Reconstruction, and to provide help with building repairs this 26th RM Battalion was raised at Lower Sydenham (London) in July 1944,18 the battalion HQ opening on 10 July, CO Lt–Col R. E. S. Jeffries.
Organised in 15 Platoons (16 by 1 August19) of about 30 men each, the repair squads ‘followed the bangs’ and during the next few months patched–up 6,720 houses, made permanent repairs to 1,414 buildings and even built a few houses from their foundations. Three men had been killed by bombs before the Battalion was to be disbanded on 14 March 1944; but after the Ministry had asked for its continuance, 250 men were replaced by those in low medical categories.20 The Battalion continued its building repair work, covering sites as far apart as Esher, Kew,
Ilford and Orpington, until it was disbanded early in 1946.21
27th RM Battalion
The Battalion was one of several raised from cadres of former LC crews and recruits, as Beach Battalions for service in the Far East and on a war establishment appropriate to troops in a light division.1 Formed at Dalditch on 24 August 1944,2 CO Lt–Col P. W. O’H. Phibbs, the Battalion was trained in Scotland during December. On 4 January 19453 the Battalion came under command of 116 Infantry Bde RM for service as infantry and the war establishment was changed to that for an army rifle battalion. Lt–Col N. H. Tailyour was appointed CO on 8 January 1945.
On 12 April the Battalion was detached from the Brigade, and under US Army command, prepared for the assault on Bremerhaven (Lower Saxony), but about the 26 April the Battalion was switched to the command of 4 Canadian Armoured Division for the assault on Wilhelmshaven further west (see chapter 7). Later ‘A’ Coy was detached to take the surrender of ships in Emden, ‘B’ Coy went to Sengwarden where it ‘chaperoned’ naval personnel in that former German HQ, and the Battalion Anti–Tank Platoon was billeted in Wilhelmshaven Dockyard. In taking the surrender of ships’ crews, the Poles of Conrad (formerly HMS Danae) assisted the Marines.
The Battalion returned to the UK on 27–8 June4 (see 116 RM Bde history summary), and provided parties that autumn to work on farms while based at Beacon Hill Camp (nr Falmouth).5 On 27 November it moved to Chedworth (nr Cheltenham), before becoming a training battalion at Windrush Camp (west of Burford, Oxfordshire) early in 1946 and absorbing the 33rd RM Bn. On 1 April the Battalion became the training cadre at the Infantry School RM, Bickleigh (RMRO 323).
28th RM Battalion
The Battalion HQ was forming at Dalditch in August 1944,7 CO Lt–Col J. M. Fuller.8 During the early winter the men who had served in the 1st Armoured Support Rgt were drafted to the Battalion.9 They moved to Scotland on 8–9 December, where the Battalion trained as the nucleus for a Beach Group.10 But on 4 January the Battalion came under command of 116 Infantry Bde RM and its original war establishment was changed to that for an army battalion (see 116 RM Bde history summary). After service on the Maas the Battalion continued under army command (see chapter 7).
It returned to the UK in June 1945, and was stationed in August at Okehampton (Devon)11 in the late summer of 1945. From here it took part in internal security duties, quelling riots in a Polish naval camp. It was later briefly stationed in Plymouth and St Germans (Cornwall), where it provided parties for farm work. In November it was in South Brent (Devon), there it absorbed men from the 30th RM Bn.12 In rationalisation as demobilisation continued, the Battalion moved to Windrush Camp (see 27th RM Bn history summary) and was disbanded on 21 January 1946,13 the men being transferred to 27th RM Bn.
29th RM Battalion
When the Armoured Support Group was disbanded after returning from France in 1944, many of its personnel were transferred to this Battalion which was formed on 3 October 1944 at Burma Camp in Llwyngwril (North Wales). On 1 March 1945 practically all its personnel were drafted to form the 34th Amphibian Assault Rgt RM.14 However, the Battalion HQ was not disbanded until February 1946.15
30th RM Battalion
Formed at Dalditch on 15 January 1955,16 CO Lt–Col T. K. Walker, mainly from former crews of LCs, the Battalion was under command of 116 RM Infantry Bde, and after a brief shakedown in Yorkshire went to France with the Brigade in late February 1945 (see 116 RM Bde history summary). The battalion HQ was disbanded at Topsham (nr Exeter) on 7 November 1945,17 the personnel leaving Stoke Gabriel on 27 November for South Brent, where they merged with 28th RM Bn.
31st, 32nd and 33rd RM Battalions
These Battalions of 117 RM Bde were formed at Deal late in January 1945. The 33rd RM Battalion was flown to Germany to assist 116 RM Bde in accepting surrender of the German fleet, and had some casualties. The 31st and 32nd RM Battalions joined the 33rd in the second week of May 1945. They carried out security duties in the Kiel area until returning to the UK in July 1945, and the 31st and 32nd were disbanded shortly afterwards; the 33rd absorbed some men from the other Battalions before itself being disbanded at Towyn on 7 October 1945.
Other Infantry Units
60th Reinforcement Holding Unit:18 formed in spring of 1945; mobilised (under Army command) at Aldershot in May before going to NW Europe. Reverted to RM command on return to UK 1 June 1945 and disbanded shortly afterwards. Some Royal Marines for this unit who were under training with the Army in UK that June, also reverted to RM command.
RM Base Defence Unit:19 formerly ‘Y’ Company, formed in 1940 for ground defence of naval bases. (See also Boom Defence Scaffolding Unit.)
Plymouth–Argylls Battalion:20 formed in Singapore on 29 January 1942 with ‘A’ and ‘B’ from men of 2nd A & SH, ‘C’ Company of mainly Marines from Prince of Wales, and ‘D’ Company from Repulse. In action 8–15 February before Singapore troops ordered to cease fire (see chap 4).
Defence Force RN Air Stations: from 1940, and before then in the case of specific stations, RM units were formed to provide the ground defences of naval air stations, and were organised in companies and platoons.21
Special Service (SS)/Commando Group
Origin and titles:
Before 15 August 1943, when Commandos were not detached to field commands, they were under command of a single SS Brigade. SS Group under command of General Sturgess (GOC SS Group) was formed to take over this single Brigade’s responsibilities with four new SS Brigades. The Group’s HQ was opened on 15 August 1943, at the RM Division’s HQ at Milford–on–Sea (nr Lymington), with the Divisional staff and some army personnel forming the SS Group’s Headquarters. In November 1944 the titles of this Group and its Brigades were changed from SS — which was associated in the public’s mind with Nazi Storm Troops — to Commando, although some weeks passed before all the units overseas used these new titles (see RMRO 11 December 1944). In August 1945 the suffix ‘(Light)’ was added to these titles on the reorganisation of Army War Establishments.1 The Group was commanded by General Wildman–Lushington (May 1945) and by 1946 by General Campbell Hardy.2
Examples of Orders of battle:
September 1943 — 1st SS Bde, 3 Special Service and 4 SS Brigades, Holding Operational Commando at Wrexham, 2nd Echelon (RM personnel) and 43 RM Cdo (other units which would form 2SS Bde were under army commands in the Middle East), 30th Assault Unit, Commando Basic Training Centre at Achnacarry, Commando Mountain Warfare Training Centre at St Ives, the RM Engineer Commando, Small Scale Raiding Force (COPPs, SBS, RMPBD, etc.) Field Provost and Administrative Sections.3 The Field Security Section and the Postal Unit of the Division had been transferred to the Group.
April 1946 — Commando Training Unit RM, Commando Holding Unit RM, Commando basic Training Unit RM (for recruit), Commando Mountain Warfare Training Centre RM at St Ives, Commando Group 2nd Echelon, service Sections including Repair Section; and a nucleus for re–forming 41 RM or another Commando.
After moving from Milford–on–Sea, the Group HQ had several bases in the London area, including Hatch End (Middlesex) in September 1943. In the summer of 1944 it was in Petworth (Sussex); on 15 March 1946 the Group’s staff merged with HQ Training Group Wales to form a new Commando Group HQ at Towyn, North Wales.4
Commanded by the Group’s Deputy Commander (an army brigadier) and formed for planning with General Eisenhower’s staff, this HQ landed in France on 7 June 1944, and remained in NW Europe until mid–1945.5
Administration in World War II:
The group’s GOC kept in touch with his COs by visits and frequently by private correspondence.6
When commando training moved from North Wales to Bickleigh (in RM’s Plymouth Group) in 1947, the HQ was in Plymouth and closed on 8 August 1947.7
Commando Training Centres since 1947
The training of commandos continued at Bickleigh until 1954 under the staff of the Commando School and then under a cadre of 42 RM Commando except when this Commando was re–mobilised. In 1960 all commando training was concentrated at Lympstone (at one time known as Exton) in Devon. By 1969 it was part of the Training Group RM.8 On 24 August 1970 Lympstone was redesignated the Commando Training Centre, its name in 1997 as CTC RM Barracks.
In 1997 the Centre ran 30–week courses for commando training. It trains some 60 officers each year in the Officers’ Training Wing; about 400 NCOs pass each year through various courses in the NCOs Training Wing. The Infantry Support Wing trained officers and men as instructors in specialist equipment. About 500 students attended courses for signalers and clerks in the Signals and Clerks Training Wing.
In the 1990s CTC was a Brigadier’s command with some 900 instructors and other staff. (For history of the CTC Barracks see RM Bases, Depots and Training Establishments.)
HQ Commando Forces RM
After world War II the Major General RM Plymouth commanded all Commandos in the UK when these units were not detached to army or navy commands. On 31 October 1969 Plymouth Group was redesignated Commando Forces; and when 3 Commando Bde returned to the UK, it came into this command. In 1980 the Bde HQ and all operational Commando Units formed part of Commando Forces. The HQ provided personnel for the HQ of the reinforced 3 Cdo Bde and for General Moore’s Division in the Falklands operation ‘Corporate’. It remained based in Plymouth during the late 1980s and early–1990s. In April/June 1991 deployed to Iraq for operation ‘Haven’.
In March 1993 this Headquarters was closed and its functions taken over by personnel of HQRM as from 1 April 1993.
Memorable date for HQ Cdo Forces was 14 June recapture of the Falkland Islands (in 1982).
1st SS/Commando Brigade
Formed in November 1943, CO army Brig the Lord Lovat, DSO, MC, with 3, 4, 6 Army and 45 RM Commandos, its ordinal ‘1st’ signifying its association with officers and men from the Brigade of Guards who served in the 1st Cdo Brigade. Landed in Normandy and after 83 days was withdrawn to the UK from France. Although intended to move to the Far East, it returned to Europe in January 1945 with 3 (Army), 6 (Army), 45 RM and 46 RM Commandos under command. The Brigade was in action in penetrating the Siegfried line, crossing the rivers Rhine, Weser, Aller and Elbe. Early in May 1945 the Brigade was on the Baltic coast and later returned to the UK to be disbanded early in 1946.9
2 SS/Commando Brigade
Formed from the Commandos in Italy on 23 October 194310, CO army Brig T. B. L. Churchill with 2 (Army), 9 (Army), 40 RM and 43 RM Commandos. Units of this Brigade served in Italy, the Dalmatian Islands, Albania and Greece. The staff of its HQ provided a Brigade base at Molfetta (southern Italy) and Tactical HQs for operations with units detached to other formations. During the summer of 1944 they formed the garrison HQ on Vis with several thousand Allied troops to administer; the main HQ landed on Vis 5 March 1944 and returned to Italy on 13 August. It planned operations that autumn and sent a Tactical HQ to Albania.11 In the spring of 1945 the HQ moved to Ravenna and elements worked with the Brigade’s Commandos, which were all detached to Army commands during operations in April and May. Sailed for UK on 19 June. 43 RM Cdo absorbed into 40 RM Cdo as The RM Cdo of 2 Cdo Bde and 2 (Army) melded with 9 (Army) Cdo as The Army Commando of 2 Cdo Bde, disbanded in September.12
3 SS/Commando Brigade — see also sub–units 1981 etc
Origin and titles:
Formed 1 September 1943 at Dorchester with personnel of 102 RM Brigade HQ,13 CO Brig Nonweiler until 26 November 1944, Brig Campbell Hardy December 1944 to October 1945. Title changes as for SS Group but by October 194614 the Commandos were all RM units, with some army personnel serving in the Brigade.
The Brigade passed to the operational command of C–in–C India on 23 November 194315 and remained overseas until 1971.
Examples of Orders of Battle:
In August 1943 the RM Office had expected 3 Command Bde to include 42, 43 and 44 RM Cdos.
January 1945 — 1 (Army), 5(Army), 42 RM and 44 RM, Brigade Signals Troop, LAD Type A (for vehicle maintenance) with ‘C’ Squadron 19th Lancers of Indian Army.
January 1946 — combined 1/5 (Army) Commando, 42 RM Cdo and 44 RM Cdo, with some Army subunits attached.
October 1946 — 42 RM Cdo, 44 RM Cdo and 45 RM Cdo, with some Army subunits attached.
April 1961 — 40 RM Cdo and 45 RM Cdo with some army subunits attached.
During the decades since 1961 various Commandos have been detached to other commands from time to time but when not detached: all RM Commandos were under the Brigade’s command.
April 1982 — see appendix 2.
December 1997 — 40 Cdo RM, 42 Cdo RM, 45 Cdo RM, RM Stonehouse (barracks staff and instructors HQ Plymouth Garrison MR), 29 Cdo Rgt RA, 20 Cdo Bty RA, Cdo Logistic Rgt RM, 59 Independent Cdo Sqn RE, HQ & Signals Sqn RM, Patrol Troop and 539 Assault Sqn RM.
The Brigade became a part of the Rapid Reaction Force created in June 1995 as a reserve for possible operations in Yugoslavia. And in 1997 became a part of the UK Rapid Reaction Force.
HQ locations and principal operations of World War II and in 1946 & 1947:
Canterbury (Kent) in late summer of 1943; 12 December, Egypt;9–21 January 1944 at sea; February 1944 Poona (India); elements of this HQ remained in India; 17 March to 19 April at Maungdaw; early summer became Area Command Silchar (Surma Valley); 13 August arrived Ceylon (modern Sri Lanka); early October Teknaf; November Maungdaw; December Teknaf; January 1945 Myebon and Kangaw, Tactical HQ in Motor Launch, main HQ aboard HMIS Narbada; February Akyabb and later Myebon; 16 March sailed for Madras (India); spring in Poona and later Kharakvasa; 12 September arrived Hong Kong.17 The internal security duties which the Brigade’s units carried out in the next two years included: the prevention of smuggling and illegal exports; raiding opium dens; patrols against armed robbers; and other police duties.
Tactical HQ 1944:
February/March Cox’s Bazaar and aboard LCH 261 for Alethangyaw operations.
Formation of RM Brigade:
In 1945–6 most long–service RMs were naval gunnery rates, and 720 Marines (mostly ‘HOs’) were drafted to Hong Kong to replace army commandos in the spring of 1946. Six RM Commandos were to be formed but this was cut by the end of 1946 to three in the Far East; 40 Commando RM (formerly ‘44’), 42 Commando RM and later joined by 45 commando RM.18
HQ locations and principal events 1946–80:
1946 to 17 May 1947 in Hong Kong; June 1947 to August 1949 in Malta (during these years elements of this HQ went to the Canal Zone (Egypt) from January to April 1948); August 1949 to 23 May 1950 Brigade reinforcing Honk Kong garrison; June 1950 to March 1952 in Malaya, taking responsibility for military operations with police from August 1950; March 1952 to May 1953 in Malta (on 29 November 1952 the Duke of Edinburgh presented colours to 40 RM, 42 RM and 45 RM); May 1953 to August 1954 in the Canal Zone, Egypt (some elements stayed until September 1954); August 1954 to April 1961 in Malta except for operational tours (Cyprus in September 1955 to August 1956, ‘Suez’ operation November 1956, Tripoli exercise April 1957 and other HQ exercises); April 1961 to 1971 based on Singapore with three tours by HQ in Sarawak (July 1963 to October 1963, April to January 1964, January to March 1965); by late 1971 established at Plymouth where this HQ continued to be based; deployed as HQ in Norway January to March 1979 and again in 1980.19
HQ locations and principal events 1981–97:
Based at Stonehouse Barracks, Plymouth and mobilised for the Falkland Islands operation ‘Corporate’ from 2 April 1982 when merged with HQ Commando Forces RM, landed East Falkland 20 May, fought various successful actions (see Chapter 11) and returned to Plymouth after 11 July 1982. Deployed to northern Iraq for operation ‘Haven’ in April 1991 returning to Plymouth May/June 1991.
The Brigade commander’s pennant was navy blue with inverted red dagger.20
4 SS/Commando Brigade
In August 1943 the RM Office had expected 4 Commando Bde to include 45, 46 and 47 RM Cdos, but formed in UK September 1943, CO Brig B. W. Leicester with 10 (Inter–Allied) Cdo, 41 RM Cdo, 46 RM Cdo and 47 RM Cdo with HQ staff from 101 RM Bde. Raised 48 RM Commando on approval dated 1 February 1944. The Brigade HQ was in France and NW Europe from June 1944 until the winter of 1945. while at Ostend in October its HQ was the planning authority for the Walcheren landings and at this time 46 RM Cdo was replaced by 4 (Army) Cdo. During the winter of 1944–5 this HQ had responsibilities from time to time for sectors of the Allied line in Holland but Commandos were sometimes detached to other commands, as when 41 RM Cdo and 48 RM Cdo were under command of 116 RM Brigade, the remainder of the Brigade under its HQ formed a mobile reserve of 41 RM Cdo, 46 RM Cdo and elements of 10(I–A) Cdo, located south–west of Rotterdam. On 22 April the last of its raids was made by units under command. In late May 1945 the Brigade moved to Minden (Germany), where it was reinforced by drafts from 1 Commando Brigade in preparation for service in the Far East, but returned to the UK and was disbanded in December 1945.2
40 RM Commando/40 Commando RM
Origin and titles:
Formed at Deal with ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘X’ Companies in February 1942 as The RM Commando, it was briefly known as ‘A’ RM Commando (12–18 October 1942) before being designated 40 RM Commando.3 In August 1945 retitled 40 RM Commando (Light) until personnel disbanded but 44 RM Cdo in Hong Kong was later redesignated 40 Commando RM. On the original formation in 1942 the personnel were mainly volunteers from RM battalions , with an officer and 80 men of 8th Argylls; a USMC officer and two other ranks in the summer of 1942 were the first of several American Marines to serve with 40 RM Cdo.4
Principal operations in World War II:
After training in Scotland and Portsmouth Dockyard preparatory to the proposed raid on Dieppe, operation ‘Rutter’, embarked twice for this raid before it was cancelled. When it was remounted as ‘Jubilee’ (see chapter 4), the Commando landed at Dieppe on 19 August. Returned to the Isle of Wight, where the Commando had been based since 28 June; in October trained in Weymouth before going to Irvine (Scotland) in January 1943 and two weeks at Achnacarry in April; reorganised into Troops before sailing for Sicily early in June after landing rehearsals on the Clyde. On 10 July landed at Cape Passaro; many of ‘B’ Troop killed on 1 August when the Commando was aboard an LSI as a floating reserve; 8 September spearheaded 231 Brigade’s landing at St Venere, withstood counterattacks and advanced to Pizzo; 3 October landed Termoli (see chapter 7); 14 January to 21 February 1944 supported 56 (London) Division in crossing Garigliano river, later raiding behind enemy lines; 2–23 March patrolled and held sectors of Anzio Beachhead, making one major incursion with 9 (Army) Cdo into enemy defences. Landed Vis on 5 May; provided boarding parties and raided Komiza 23–4 May, Brac 3–4 June (see chapter 7), Mljet 6–13 July. August/September in Malta, reinforced by seven officers and 160 other ranks; 21 September returned to Italy; 24 September landed in Albania to capture Sarande with 2 (Army) Cdo on 9 October; advanced elements in Corfu on 13 October to garrison and administer the island until 9 November; but ‘A’ and ‘X’ Troops remained till 1 January 1945; main body at Turi (nr Salerno) until returned to Corfu 9 January 1945 to 27 February. During 22–31 March held a sector of line south of Comacchio; 1–2 April operation ‘Roast’ at Comacchio (see chapter 7); 11–13 April operation ‘Impact’ to cross Menate Canal; 16 April, after casualties, formed into three Troops at Ravenna; guards for prison camps etc. until June when sailed for UK.5
On return to UK 40 RM Cdo was based at Basingstoke (Hampshire); as of 12 September 40 RM Cdo absorbed men of 43 RM Cdo and became The RM Cdo of 2 Commando Brigade. (On 24 September the Army Commando in 2 Cdo Brigade was formed by 2 and 9 (Army) Cdos at Alresford, nr Colchester.) The men of 40 RM Cdo were posted to Wrexham for demobilisation or to Towyn before the Commando disbanded, early in October 1945. It was re–formed in Hong Kong in the summer of 1947 by redesignating 44 RM Cdo as 40 Commando RM.
May 1948 in Haifa during the Arab–Israeli battles, and last unit to leave on 30 June; moved from Malta to Cyprus on 1 November 1948 with 3 Bde RM; August 1949 to May 1952 patrolled over 300 sq. miles of Malaya from the Thai border to Pangkor Island on west coast, mainly in Kedah and Perak, an officer and five other ranks killed in these actions. On 1 July 1952 in Malta; February 1953 to October 1954 in Canal Zone (Egypt) guarding installations and on desert exercises; based on Malta 1954–62 and deployed in Cyprus 1855 to 1958 against EOKA guerrillas; ‘Suez’ operation 6–14 November 1956; returned to Malta, exercises, operations in Cyprus till 1958 and spring of 1959. Based on Singapore May 1962 until October 1971 with tours in South East Asia — December 1962 to January 1963 in Brunei and Sarawak; April to July and October 1963 to February 1964 in Sarawak; July to December 1964 at Tawau; May 1965 in Johore; July to November 1965 in Serian; May to September 1966 in Simmangeang Barracks (Borneo) and elements in Brunei; later moved to various barracks in Singapore until 30 October 1971, with a tour of duty in Hong Kong in September 1970; based on Seaton Barracks (Plymouth) from late 1971. Spearhead battalion to Cyprus on 17 July to 16 September 1974; tours in Northern Ireland 14 June to 18 October 1972, 16 June to 16 October 1973, 16 August to 15 December 1976; from 5 March 1979 for four months; and during part of 1980 in London Derry
Some operations and deployments 1981–97:
1982 Landed on East Falkland 20/21 May; provided the protection force for San Carlos area; two companies seconded on 11 June to 1st Bn Welsh Guards to replace the Welsh casualties at Goose Green and in advance by helicopter to Sapper Hill 14 June; companies to West Falkland 15 June.
1983 move to Taunton (Norton Manor Camp); tour in South Armagh; last Commando landing from Hermes for exercise ashore in Turkey (October) .
1984 Exercises in Egypt.
With UNFICYP summer in Cyprus.
1986 February composite company to Brunei for exercise ‘Curry Trail’.
One Troop on raiding exercises from Gibraltar.
Deployed to Belize.
1988 20 July returned from a successful tour of Northern Ireland based in South Armagh. Fifty Marines of A Company recalled from Christmas leave on 26 December and deployed at Lockerbie to search for wreckage from the PanAm aircraft which had exploded over the town. The search was so thorough that men found themselves searching almost inaccessible woods, thick pine forests and never forgetting to look up every five metres for pieces lodged in trees
1989 April deployed in exercise ‘Dragon Hammer 89'
1991 Summer: a company provided an element of the multinational ‘Rainbow Battalion’ in Turkey, which was part of the air/land deterrent protecting the Kurds.
1992 May the A Company flew to Kuwait for cross–training with Kuwaitis whose weapons included Russian RPG–7 anti–tank rocket launchers, gave fire demonstrations of commando weapons and trained in the desert. Other Companies were in the Caribbean at this time and a Troop from A Company deployed to the Indian Ocean for exercise ‘Orient 92'.
1993/4 the Commando served a tour in Northern Ireland based in West Belfast. Returned May 1994.
1994 October C Company Group on exercise ‘Sandy Warrior’.
1995/6 Commando served a tour in East Tyrone, Northern Ireland
1996 Series of exercises and cross–training in South Africa during ‘Ocean Wave’ deployment, which took the Cdo to the Far East and a late summer on exercise ‘Desert Song’ in Jordan.
1997 autumn — provided the Ld Cdo Group/Spearhead for the JRDF.
Flag had pale blue background with navy blue centre segment carrying inverted red dagger.7 Memorable dates: 3 October the landing at Termoli (in 1943); and 6 November the assault on Port Said (in 1956). Companies ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’ in 1997.
41 RM Commando/41 Commando RM
Origin and titles:
Formed 10 October 1942 at Pembroke Dock (south Wales) from 8th Battalion RM; was briefly B RM Commando (12–28 October) before being designated 41 RM Commando,8 which was disbanded at Llwyngwrill (north Wales) on 20 February 1946. Re–formed on 16 August 1950 at Bickleigh and Plymouth as 41 (Independent) Commando RM for service in Korea, and disbanded 22 February 1952 at Plymouth.9 Re–formed on 31 March 1960 at Bickleigh as 41 Commando RM. Reduced to a Cadre from time to time. Disbanded at Deal in April 1981 when personnel were merged with other Commandos.
Principal operations in World War II:
After training in Scotland (7 April to 27 June 1943), the Commando sailed for Sicily, landing on 10 July (see chapter 5). On 9 September landed at Salerno to capture a defile (see chapter 5) and withdrawn after suffering 50 per cent casualties. On 19 September returned to UK. On 6 June 1944 landed to capture Lion–sur–Mer strongpoint; served with 4 SS Bde in Orne line and later breakout; 1 November landed north of ‘gap’ at Walcheren to capture Westkappelle. January 1945 at Bergen–op–Zoom (Holland) and during next few months served as line and reserve troops for time to time in Maas River area; 30 May to 26 November in Hesse (Germany) before returning to UK.
41 (Independent) Commando
Fought in Korean war, initial strength 219 all ranks, including five RN personnel. Landed Japan 5 September 1950 to join US Army Special Raiding Force. 12 September mounted raids near Inchon, west Korean coast (see chapter 8); in November came under command of 1 (US) Marine Division and took part in Chosin operations (see chapter 8), withdrawing to Hungnam by 8 December; strength raised to 300 during 1951; 7 April raided east a coast railway; occupied major islands in Wonsan Bay (east coast of Korea) and raided Korean coastal defences (see chapter 8). Returned to UK early in 1952 and disbanded in February at Bickleigh.
Major deployments 1960–81
Re–formed 31 March 1960 as 41 Cdo RM. Based in UK 1960–3; 27 January to April 1964 as first Commando RM assigned to UK Strategic Reserve and deployed in Tanganyika and Kenya (February). On return to the UK stationed at Bickleigh from 7 April 1964, and in the following years took part in several major exercises in Norway and the West Indies, between the following deployments: 18 April to 13 August 1969 in Mediterrean; 28 September to 10 November on peacekeeping duties in Northern Ireland; 3 September to 20 October 1971 based on Malta; visited USA in Bulwark May–June 1972 for exercise ‘Rum Punch’ with USMC; returned to Malta on 6 July until temporarily disbanded. The winter of 1974–5 was spent with UN Force in Cyprus; by April 1977 reduced to Salerno Company Group, which was Malta Garrison, leaving 30 March 1979. Meanwhile 41 Commando RM was re–formed at Deal in the autumn of 1977, where it was based until disbanded in 1981; served in Northern Ireland 27 February to 28 June 1978; winter 1978 on London duties; with UN Forces in Cyprus during winter of 1979; on peacekeeping duties in Northern Ireland early summer of 1980. Last trooping of the Commando’s colour July 1981.
Flag of old gold background and centre segment as for 40 Cdo RM.10 Memorable date: 9 September, landing at Salerno (1943). Coys ‘E’, ‘F’, and ‘G’ in 1980.
42 RM Commando/42 Commando RM
Origin and titles:
Formed in August 1943 at Sway (nr Lymington) from 1st RM Bn, the Commando was redesignated: 42 RM Commando (Light) in August 194511, and 42 Commando RM early in 1946.
Principal operations in World War II:
After ship damaged 42 RM Cdo reached India by August 1944 and carried out jungle training at Belgaum with 1 (Army) Cdo; later trained at Combined Operations Training Centre (Indian east coast) in temperatures of 45 C at times. October 1944 at Teknaf; November relieved a battalion of 74 (Indian) Bde at Maungdaw, patrolling aggressively into Japanese–held areas; December Teknaf; 12 January 1945 at Myebon; 19 January to early February at Kangaw (see chapter 7); early summer, exercise ‘Lilliput’ with Brigade at Kharakvasa (India); arrived Hong Kong about 11 September, where the Commando remained as part of the garrison after civilian administration restored in April 1946.
Principal deployments 1946–80:
1946 to June 1947 in Hong Kong; July 1947 to early 1948 based on Malta; May 1948 at Jerusalem, then Haifa, before evacuation on 27 June. While based in Malta, the Commando carried out exercises in Tripoli and Internal Security duties in the Canal Zone; returned to Hong Kong in August 1949; 1950–2 in Malaya based on Ipoh (Perak) for antiterrorist operations and later in southern Malaya; June 1953 returned to Malta. With Brigade in Canal Zone May 1953 to September 1954, when the Commando returned via Malta to Bickleigh to staff the Commando School from 4 October. The Commando remained here with exercises in Norway in 1955 and 1956, until the Commando was reactivated on 1 August 1956. Landed in ‘Suez’ operation 6 November 1956 (see chapter 9), and remained after the Brigade withdrew, until 27 November, later returning to Bickleigh as training cadre and operational nucleus. (One Troop in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, for eight months in 1957).12 Reactivated in summer of 1958 for Lebanon crisis and embarked for exercises in Libya; returned to Bickleigh and reduced again to a training cadre until 1959; reactivated for commando carrier force; embarked Bulwark March 1960 and after exercises in the Mediterranean began 11 years of service based on Singapore; 1 July 1961 landed Kuwait as defence force; December 1962 to Brunei at the time of the Indonesian confrontation, serving there till April 1963. In Sarawak July to October 1963 and February to June 1964; at Tawau December 1964 to May 1965; in Lundu area December 1965 to May 1966; at Aden 11 October to 29 November 1967 and retained until May at various periods in commando carriers; returned to Singapore until October 1971. Returned to UK in the summer of 1971 and spent eight periods of duty in Northern Ireland including: summer 1972, spring of 1973, summer 1974, winter 1975, spring of 1976, and July to November 1978. Also deployed in Norway on exercises in January to March or later, during 1979 and 1980. Company Group to New Hebrides from 13 June 1980 for two months.
Some Operations and deployments 1981–97:
1981 exercise ‘Mainspring’.
1982 The only Cdo RM to go to Norway
1982 M Coy elements in recapture of South Georgia 24 April.
Landed Falkland Islands 20/21 May; advanced by helicopter to Mt Kent and patrolled from the Mt Kent 31 May to 11 June; night attack on Mt Harriet was successful 11/12 June; flown forward to NE shoulder of Tumbledown and marched into Stanley 14 June.
1983 Exercises in Canada.
1984 tour in South Armagh, N Ireland
1985 M Coy in London ceremonies, November.
1986 exercise ‘Westward Shift’ with 42RM ‘opposing’ Dutch 1 ACG & 45 RM Grp.
Exercise with Spanish amphibious shipping
London Public Duties 17 June to 15 July
Exercises ‘Sea Soldier’ and ‘Eternal Triangle’
1987 Recce Trp in N Ireland with Army units.
1988 Deployed in Norway during Spring, WD87.
1989 In Belfast during tour of N Ireland
M Coy training at Fort Whiteroga.
1992 Tour in N Ireland
1995 In the summer L Coy carried out joint training in Romania with the Romanian 2nd Mountain Brigade in the Brasvo/Predeal region.(Exercise ‘Eastern Climb’).
M Coy as Fleet Stand By Rifle Coy assisted civilians on Montserrat after volcano eruptions, helped in the aftermath of a hurricane on Anguilla in September.
K Coy and elements of HQ in exercise ‘French Phoenix’ off the coast of South Wales, before gong to Brunei for exercise ‘Curry Trail’.
1996 In America on exercise ‘Purple Star’.
1997 Norway on WD97
Flag of red St George cross on white cross over yellow ground, with white number ‘42’ dissected by inverted dagger in the centre. This flag is based on a Lt–Col’s colour in the Lord High Admiral’s Rgt of 1664–89, adopted by 1st RM Bn as their unit flag in World War II.
The Commando raised a pipe band in 1943, which, with only a few breaks over the years, continues in 1997. Since 1968 one of these pipers has been appointed the Commandant General’s piper.
Memorable dates: 31 January, the battle of Kangaw (in 1945); and 11/12 June the attack on Mount Harriet (in 1982). Coys ‘K’, ‘L’ and ‘M’.
43 RM Commando/ 43 Commando RM
Origin and titles:
Formed on 1 August 1943 at Hursley (nr Winchester) from 2nd RM Bn and absorbed in 40 RM Cdo as of 12 September 1945. In 1961, when the Corps was reorganising its Commando Units, 43 Commando RM was re–formed (5 September) at Plymouth and disbanded at Eastney in mid–November 1968.13
Principal operations in World War II:
After training in Scotland, the Commando joined 2 SS Bde, arriving in North Africa late in 1943; 23–4 January 1944 landed as flank force at Anzio against little opposition; 2 February with 9 (Army) Cdo attacked hill features after night infiltration north of Allied position on Garigliano River; 28 February landed on Vis, joining 2 SS Brigade’s force on this island; 22–3 March raided Hvar with partisans; in May carried out unit recces on Uljan and Pasman islands with 9 (Army) Cdo and 43 RM Cdo; 22 May raid on Mljet with other units proved unsuccessful in steep hills; 2–4 June on Brac (see chapter 7); small recce patrol returned to Brac (20 June) but found no suitable positions for artillery to shell garrison; July, recce patrol on Hvar, ambushed Germans (12 July) and visited Korcula; artillery landed after patrols on Korcula and Peljesak Peninsula; 11 September returned to Brac to block possible German threats from the mainland when partisans took control of this island; 16–18 September landed on Solta and drove garrison into heavily a defended enclave; 27 September sailed from Vis for Italy. From 28 October to 22 December 1944 part of ‘Floyd Force’ landed at Dubrovnik (at that time in Yugoslavia) as nucleus of force engaged in mountain warfare. After intense training in Italy the Commando took over a sector of the line south of Comacchio Spit for several periods in March 1945; 2 April operation ‘Roast’, Lake Comacchio (see chapter 7), where Cpl Tom Hunter was awarded a posthumous VC for actions on 3 April; the Commando reached a point short of the Valetta canal; and relieved on 4 April. On 16 April, after moving to Argenta area, the Commando advanced on the Quaderna canal, cutting the Argenta road; 17 April successfully stormed buildings in open country north of Argenta Road and held off strong counterattacks but withdrawn at daylight on 18 April; the next night again advanced to the buildings before moving westwards, clearing the banks of the Reno;4 this was the commando’s last action, and in June it returned to the UK being absorbed into 40 Cdo RM on 12 September 1945.15
Re–formation in 1961:
For the six months after reforming in September, the Commando was training while it was built up to full establishment; 12 Marines from the Commando served as orderlies and guards on Prime Minister Macmillan’s visit to Bermuda on 20 December 1961; 1–2 March 1962 reorganised from Troops to three rifle companies, a Support Coy and an HQ Coy.
Major deployments 1962–8:
October 1962 on exercise ‘Donald Duck’ in Norway; mid–1963 exercise on Normandy Coast; 6–13 September on exercise ‘Bar Frost II’ in Norway; 7 January 1964 placed in Strategic Reserve at 10 days’ notice and organised for air lift, having trained to be air portable; 6 March embarked in Bulwark for North African exercise ‘Sand Fly II’ and subsequently training before being flow back to UK. In January 1965 took part in exercise ‘Cold Winter’ in Norway; 2 July presented with colours by the Duke of Edinburgh; November, helicopter landing exercise ‘Gadfly II’; March 1966 used in exercise ‘Morning Glory’ to test command and control from HMS Fearless; 24 June embarked in Bulwark for ‘Dry Fly’ exercise at Inverary (Scotland); 28 February 1967 elements of the Commando to Nassau (Bahamas) for exercise ‘Winter Sun’; spring of 1967 reorganised into special companies for demonstrations etc in recruiting: ‘O’ Coy in London ceremonies and display; ‘P’ Coy at Royal Tournament and street lining parties for ceremonial parades; and ‘R’ Coy providing youth activity teams. On 28 November 1967 to Melville (later Comacchio) Camp in Portsmouth; April 1968 recruiting companies reorganised as ‘O’ and ‘P’ prior to rundown during autumn.
Flag with a red background and yellow segment carrying red dagger (cp: 40 RM Cdo).16 Memorable date: 2 April, the battle of Comacchio (in 1945)
Companies: ‘O’, ‘P’ and ‘R’ in 1968.
44 RM Commando/44 Commando RM
Origin and titles:
Formed 1 August 194317 at Ashurst, Hampshire, from 3rd RM Bn, the unfit and unsuitable members of the Battalion being drafted to other units. The Commando’s title having been briefly 44 RM Commando (Light), was changed in 1946 to 44 Commando RM, and the following year, on 16 March 1947, it was redesignated 40 Commando RM, which had origins as the first RM Cdo, and which title the Corps wished to retain,18 in perpetuating the titles of Commandos which had each served in a principal theatre of World War II.
Principal operations and deployments:
In training at Achnacarry in September 1943; sailed for the Far East, arriving in India for training from December 1943 to February 1944; deployed in Burma from March 1944; 11–17 March made landings at Alethangyaw in rear of Japanese lines; March–April patrolling from Maungdaw; 9 April moved to Silchar (see 3 SS Bde history summary); 13 August at Trincomalee after transit via Bangalore, then to training with 3 Commando Brigade before landings at Myebon etc (see p. Chapter 7). In 1945 the Commando sailed for Hong Kong, landing on 11–12 September; they remained with the Brigade on garrison duties after the civil administration was restored in March 1946, and were renamed — see 40 Commando RM summary history.
Early in 1946 they cut their crest in a 2ft deep outline 80ft by 54ft on the hill side at Fanling, facing the Chinese border with Hong Kong, but little of this earthwork remained in 1970.20 Memorable date: Kangaw 31 January (in 1945). No record of a unit flag has been traced. The companies were designated as: A Troop; B Tp; C Tp; D Tp; X tp; S Tp; and HQ Troop.
45 RM Commando/Commando RM
Origin and titles:
Formed during the first week of August 1943 from 5th RM Bn at Burley, Hampshire, with five Troops (‘A’ to ‘E’), support Troop (‘F’) and HQ Troop (‘H’), with 500 all ranks. After world War II the Commando was reorganised in the UK, redesignated 45 Commando RM in Hong Kong about March 1946 and continues.
Principal operations and deployments in World War II:
Landed 6 June 1944 in Normandy with 1 SS Bde; in Orne line (see chapter 6); 19 August night infiltration with 1 SS Bde to Angerville; returned to Bexhill (Susses) after 83 days in France. Returned to Europe and on 23 January 1945 in action at Montforterbeek; March to April in river crossings of the Rhine, Weser, Aller and Elbe; reached Neustadt on Baltic on 2 May; stationed in Germany until June 1945, when Commando returned to Sussex.
The commando was reorganised in the autumn of 1945 and retained in preparation for service in the Far East.
Principal deployments 1946–50:
The Commando sailed for Hong Kong in January 1946; served on internal security duties in Hong Kong 1946–7. January 1947 Troops redesignated ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘E’, ‘X’ and ‘Z’ to come in line with other units in 3 Cdo bde; May 1947 to December 1948 based on Malta, deploying to: Benghazi (Libya) March 1948; Haifa (modern Israel) in spring 1948; July last ‘HOs’ left; August training in Tripoli; January 1949 to Canal Zone catching 40 thieves, many stealing telephone cables; June/July at Aqaba, at that time Jordan’s only port. Sailed from Suez for Hong Kong in August to reinforce the Honk Kong garrison for nine months.
Malaya emergency 1950–2:
The commando arrived in Malaya from Hong Kong in June 1950 for jungle training; July at Tapah in Perak to resettle Chinese squatters and conduct antiterrorism patrols; August 1951 moved to Batu Gajah in Ipoh area, patrolling swamps; 31 March 1952 sailed for Malta.
Carried out training while based on Malta and deployed from time to time. May 1953 in Canal Zone protecting ammunition dumps and carrying out amphibious exercises in eastern Mediterranean; returned to Malta in August 1954; training exercises in North Africa; and deployed from Malta to Cyprus in September 1955. Operations against EOKA terrorists in Cyprus, initially at Kyrenia on north coast, then in Troodos mountains; February 1956 formed ski–Troop. Returned to Malta on 16 August, for ‘Suez’ operation. Landed Port Said on 6 November (see chapter 9), in first helicopter deployment in battle area; withdrawn to Malta in November. Deployed in 1956 to Tripoli for training; in Cyprus May to October 1957 on antiterrorist patrols; the Commando returned to Malta but ‘X’ and ‘Z’ Troops formed ‘Heliforce’ in Cyprus during June 1958; training in Benghazi before returning to Cyprus from July to December. In 1959 trained in Malta.
The Commando’s main body sailed from Malta and arrived in Aden on 4 April 1960; advanced elements had arrived in March and were in Dhala by 25 March, where the commando over the next six years would from time to time patrol to the Yemeni border. From 1 to 19 July in Kuwait as part of the defence force. In August first deployed on internal security in Aden Colony; in October patrolling from Dhala. In September 1962 reorganised from five Troops to ‘X’, ‘Y’ and ‘Z’ Companies. Training continued in Aden with some exercises in Kenya (East Africa), when all companies were there for two weeks in 1963 on ‘Winged Marine’. January/February 1964 in Tanganyika (central Africa) to aid local government quell a mutiny; March visited Mombassa (at that time in Keyna). First operations in the Radfan 30 April to 28 May, which was followed over the years by: second tour from 3 July to 6 August; third — 20 January to 4 March 1965 (mounted 305 night patrols); fourth — 20 April to May; fifth - 23 June to 28 July; sixth — 22 September to 26 October; seventh 15 December to 28 January 1966; eighth — 14 April to 22 May; ninth — 14 September to 10 November; tenth and last from 6 February to June 1967. Between tours in the Radfan, the Commando was frequently deployed on internal security duties in Aden Colony. The last elements of the Commando left Aden on 29 November 1967.
United Kingdom 1967–80:
Based on Stonehouse Barracks after returning from Aden, the Commando served in the Strategic Reserve. In June 1968 it was the ‘enemy’ in Norway for the exercise ‘Polar Express’. In October 1968 it was deployed in Northern Ireland. In the spring of 1969 ‘X’ coy was in the Bahamas, ‘Y’ Coy aboard Fearless in the Mediterranean and ‘Z’ Coy in Norway. 13 May 1969 HM the Queen Elizabeth II presented new colours to the Commando; in July ‘Z’ Coy deployed to the West Indies; September the Commando embarked in Bulwark for a month’s deployment as part of NATO’s southern flank forces in the Mediterranean. In 1970 commenced intensive snow warfare and mountain training, with 845 Naval Air Cdo Squadron and the four Sioux of an RM Cdo Flight. Spring 1971 850 all ranks moved to a new base in the old RNAS HMS Condor in Arbroath (Angus) as a Commando Group which in addition to 45 Cdo RM included: a battery of 29 Cdo Light Rgt RA; a Troop of 59th (Independent) Sqn RE; other support personnel; and an RM organisation for the base. The Commando was the first specialist Mountain and Arctic Warfare unit, although retaining general skills. There were tours in Northern Ireland: summer 1970; summer 1971 (when PO F. MacLaughlin was awarded the George Medal in June)1; winter 1971–2; autumn 1974; summer 1977; and August 1979.
1980 in September exercise ‘Teamwork 80’ which included 6–days ashore with the Brigade in various ‘assaults’ in the areas of Halsafjord and Vinjeford in Norway. Returned to the UK for moutain training in October in preparation for January 1981 exercises in Norway.
Some operations and deployments 1981–97:
1981 late–Summer in Belfast
1982 landed East Falkland 20/21 May; advanced during 30 and 31 May to Douglas Settlement over 30km from San Carlos with loads of some 50kg per man; successful night attack on Two Sisters mountain 11/12 June; advanced to Sapper Hill on 13/14 June joining the Welsh Guards who had been flown there.
1983 Support Trp on NBC exercise Porton Down
1986 Tour in Belfast, N Ireland.
1987 Contingent in Royal Tournament.
1990 North Norway exercises including the landing of 550 men and 35 vehicles in Tovik/Grov area.
Tour of duty in South Armagh, N Ireland.
1991 In Northern Ireland on a roulement tour of six months]
1992 A team from the Commando took part in the Swiss Commando Raid Competition where they yomped about 30kms up a Swiss mountain within 3½ hours, a Dragon anti–tank shoot, a shoot with a Panzerfaust (equivalent to an LAW), and other firing exercises with Swiss weapons, a 3–minute swim across a fast flowing river, silence shots at two sentries before a house clearance and ‘killing’ its five occupants in under 30 seconds. This team achieved the highest score not only of any foreign team in that year’s competition but the highest by a foreign team since the inception of the competition.
1993 Deployed to Belize for six months.
1994 Deployed to Kuwait in operation ‘Driver’.
1995 Deployed as Fermanagh roulement battalion returning at the end of November.
1996 Served as Fleet Standby Rifle Coy from January.
1996 From October the Commando was Spearhead Battalion as part of JRDF into 1997.
1997 Provided Fleet Stand–By Rifle Troop with Marines in West Indies guard ship and RN ships off west Africa.
Flag green ground with red letters ‘45’ dissected by red inverted dagger.2 Memorable dates: 23 January, the attack on Montforterbeek, near Linne, Holland (in 1945); and 11/12 June attack on Two Sisters (in 1982).
Coys ‘X’, ‘Y’ and ‘Z’ in 1997.
46 RM Commando
Origin and titles:
Formed at Dorchester, West Dorset, in August 1943 mainly from men of 9th RM Bn; its title was briefly 46 Commando RM before being disbanded on 31 January 1946.
Principal operations 1943–6:
Trained in Scotland with two weeks at Achnacarry (23 October to 9 November 1943); mobilisation completed on 24 January 1944, but intended night raiding role cancelled. Embarked 1 June with cliff–climbing and demolition equipment for destruction of Benerville Bty (or Houlgate Bty as alternative target) in Normandy, but unfavourable weather and the fact that neither battery was harassing shipping, led to operation being cancelled. Landed Berniers (Normandy) on 7 June (D+1) capturing strongpoint at Petit Enfer (see chapter 6) before occupying the town. 7/8 June patrols sent inland to La Deliverande, Douvres; 9 June occupied the village of Douvres and came under command of 3 Canadian Division; 11–12 June actions in Mue Valley (see chapter 6); 17 June rejoined 4 SS Bde in Orne line; ‘S’ Troop re–equipped with support weapons; 17 August patrols entered Troarn to find it deserted but heavily mined; 19 August with 47 RM Cdo attacked Dozule successfully after silent approach at night. On 25 August, having been brought forward in transport, the Commando was south of Beuzeville, the CO Lt–Col Campbell Hardy was wounded but continued in action while the road was cleared a well-camouflaged enemy defences were engaged in a fire–fight, as the Commando and a Para Bn advanced. After three hours the second–in–command, Maj John Lee, MC, and 10 others had been killed and 37 all ranks wounded before the commando was withdrawn. The Commando went into billets — the first in 12 weeks — on 26 August at St Maclou; 11–15 September guarded prisoners near Le Havre; 18 September in Bray Dunes area (Belgium) occupying former German defences investing Dunkirk; 7 October sailed for UK to join 1 SS Brigade. The Commando received 200 reinforcements and reorganised; sailed to Ostend (Belgium) on 15 January 1945 and detached from 1 SS Brigade for deployment to Antwerp. Took over a sector of line Heel to Beegden on the Mass on 2 February, with standing patrols out but little activity. On 12 February the Commando relieved 3 (Army) Commando at Linne, and after spending several weeks here and further west, the Commando trained for river crossings. It crossed the Rhine on 23 March, establishing a bridgehead, helping to clear Wesel next day; in April in actions crossing the Weser, Aller and on 29 April the Elbe. Arrived Neustadt (near Lubeck) on 5 May and returned to UK on 8 June. The commando spent the summer of 1945 at Tunbridge Wells training for operations in the Far East, but the Commando’s strength began to be run down from October.
Memorable date: 11 June, the attack on Le Hamel and Rots (in 1944)
47 RM Commando
Origin and titles:
Formed on 1 August 19433 at Dorchester, West Dorset, mainly from 10th RM Battalion and disbanded at Haywards Heath, West Sussex, on 31 January 1946.
Principal operations 1943–6:
After training in Scotland a 32–strong detachment was provided for MTB operations from Lerwick (Shetland Islands), two raids were attempted: one successful in a landing in Norway; and the second aborted due to presence of enemy ships. 8 February 1944 to Herne Bay (Kent); landed Normandy 6 June and next day (D+1) prepared to assault Port–en–Bessin, captured the following day (see chapter 6); 12 June moved to Orne line; 18 June raiding force sent into forward German positions; 19 August crossed Dives River to attack Dozule with 41 RM Cdo; moved to Beuzeville area and on 26 August after night infiltration took Toutanville; 31 August, after brief rest, crossed Seine and on 2 September at Fécamp, closed the last enemy escape route from Le Havre; 18 September in line investing Dunkirk; during October at Wenduine carrying out amphibious exercises and joined by large draft of reinforcements. 1 November 1944 landed at Walcheren but only three of the Commando’s amphibious tracked Weasels survived the landing; by D+1 (2 November) afternoon all Troop commanders were casualties but on the morning of D+3 the Commando captured W11 battery and cleared the dunes towards Flushing before returning to Weduine on 10/11 November. 25 November in training at Bergen–op–Zoom; 22 December joined mobile reserve for defensive duties along the Maas, patrolling in anticipation of German counter–attack towards Antwerp, but only enemy fighting patrols crossed the river; 13–14 January 1945 made attack on Kapelsches Veer Island, but, having forced a way into the defences, was withdrawn in face of strong opposition. The island was later captured by 10 Canadian Infantry Brigade. After returning to Bergen–op–Zoom, the Commando was deployed in defence of Walcheren; 12 March to North Beveland, raiding from there to German posts on Schouwen in the Schelt estuary; 7–8 May invested Schouwen. Moved to Germany and by January 1946 were only 100 strong at Minden; brought up to strength in August and had army Troop under command with 130 army personnel serving in the Commando for a period; 31 August moved to Erkenschwick (Ruhr) to administer displaced persons; 28 November returned to UK shortly after moving to Warburg. (See ADM 202/431 for further details of operations.)
Memorable date: 7 June capture of Port–en–Bessin (in 1944).
48 RM Commando
Origin and titles:
Formed4 at Deal 2–13 March 1944 from 7th Bn and disbanded at Beeding, near Horsham, on 31 January 1946.5
Principal operations 1944–5:
Trained at Achnacarry 13 March to 3 April 1944; 6 June landed in Normandy and captured the strongpoint at Langrune–sur–Mer where the Commando remained on security duties after suffering 50 per cent casualties; 9 June reinforcements arrived, bringing strength to 250, before advance to Douvres for patrolling; 11 June in Orne line and next day advanced 1,000yds to Sallenelles where the Commando in a defence line for 60 days, although the number of patrols was limited so as not to interfere with other Commandos’ patrols, since there were four Commandos on a 2,000yds front. On 20 August moved from Troarn, bypassing Dozule to advance in daylight to reach Clermont–en–Auge, attacked German field batteries etc before midday, and later secured high ground overlooking Dozule; 25 August outflanked enemy positions near Beuzeville which were mortaring 46 RM Cdo, and next night infiltrated behind this town to St Maclou with 41 RM Cdo; advanced across Seine to Valmont against no opposition; 5–13 September in Valmont for rest; policed Le Havre for next two days; 18–27 September held front of 10,000yds investing Dunkirk and patrolling. October trained for Walcheren operation; on 1 November landed on Walcheren, clearing south of the ‘gap’ (see chapter 7) and successfully assaulted W13 battery about 1600 hours; D+1 (2 November) captured strongpoint W287 at first light (0630 hours), ‘A’ Troop entering Zouteland at 1100 hours before 47 RM Cdo passed through; clearing dunes while other units gave support fire from north of the ‘gap’; the Commando moved north to support 41 RM Cdo on D+4 (5 November) before being withdrawn on 12 November. After rest at Haan, moved to Goes (South Beveland) training reinforcements; three Troops, ‘X’, ‘Y’, and ‘Z’ under command of 47 RM Cdo as only infantry in Oosterhout area at the end of December. During March 1945 the Commando mounted five raids against Schowen and Overflakkee, the Commando suffering casualties on mines. On 25 March in defensive positions on the River Maas at s’Hertogenbosch, a road and rail centre 6,000yds from German positions; enemy artillery and patrols were active; in April on a quieter front of 35,000yds, as reserve to Belgians and Dutch near Kapelsches Veer; raided in dories into the Biesbosch, among marshes and waterlogged islands; 23 April last operation by this Commando to rescue a patrol in the Biesbosch without casualties before ceasing fire, except for defence. From 1 May to 31 August based at Minden (Germany) as defence force for the HQ of Allied Naval Commander Expeditionary Force (ANCXF); September to 21 October at Waltrop and near by controlling displaced persons (DPs). October to November 1945 the Commando on occupational duties at Kreis Buren looking after two camps of DPs, with patrols based on five burgomasters’ offices; these patrols stopped ‘black market’ rackets, rapes and armed robberies; Marine officers organised camp improvements before returning to UK on 29 November and disbanded January 1946.6
Memorable date: 6 June, the landing in Normandy (in 1944).
RM Engineer Commando
This unit7 had developed from units in the RM Battalions which were trained in demolitions and as assault engineers. From 25 October 1943 the first War Establishment was: HQ; Holding Troop; and two fighting Troops (RM Circ 1303/43G dated 26 November 1943). By June 1944 there were 180 all ranks, forming a small HQ with a Training Troop (the Holding Troop?) and two fighting Troops. These were reorganised for the Normandy invasion with HQ and Training Troop in the UK, one Section with 1st SS Bde, one Section with 4 SS Bde, and six Landing Craft Obstruction Clearance Units.
Sections with Commando Brigades:
The Section with 1st SS Bde of 39 all ranks commanded by a lieutenant, landed in Normandy on 6 June 1944 at H+75 minutes to demolish bridges; but these were still in enemy hands and this Section prepared the defences of Brigade HQ; later they were employed in mine–clearing and building strongpoints. They also improvised bridges and fords (‘wet bridges’ lying below the surfaces of rivers), before returning to the UK on 9 September 1944. The Section with 4 SS Bde. The Section which joined 4 SS Bde arrived in France at the end of June 1944 and served in mine–clearing, demolition and other work of assault engineers. In November 1943 a third Section served in the Far East. This Section had joined 3 Commando Brigade in November 1943 and was increased to a Troop in the late summer of 1944. It built the ‘roads’ at Myebon (from 12 January 1945) and at Kangaw (from 19 January), under appalling conditions on both occasions.
Landing Craft Obstruction Clearance Units:
In the Normandy landings on 6 June 1944, Nos 7 and 8 were with Force S, Nos 9 and 10 with Force G, and 11 and 12 with Force J. They were all intended to clear paths through beach obstacles, but owing to the conditions of the tide and dangers from incoming craft the men were unable to use their shallow–water diving gear, but nevertheless cleared obstacles.
After World War II:
Royal Marine assault engineers served with various Commandos from time to time and continue to do so, but see also history summary of 59th Independent Cdo Sqn RE.
Commando Logistic Regiment RM
In the mid–1960s the permutations of subunits in Commando deployments, were expected to require a flexibility in logistic support which could not be provided from existing formations. After careful study the peacetime and war establishments of new units were determined, and between July 1971 and January 1972 subunits were brought together to form this Regiment. In operations the Regiment HQ became — and becomes — the HQ for the Brigade Maintenance Area (BMA), controlling the logistics to the Brigade’s plan. Among its 400 all ranks in 1980 were army personnel from the RCT, REME, ROAC, RAPC, and personnel of the RN Commando Medical Squadron. The Medics did not provide staff for the sick–bays when in barracks, but were equipped to provide medical services in the field during operations (including those in Arctic areas). The Regiment’s Transport Squadron was equipped to move supplies from the areas of a beachhead to the Brigade Maintenance Area and from there to distribution points for the units deployed. The Squadron could also transport personnel. The Ordnance Squadron held ‘on wheels’ (loaded in vehicles) two months’ needs in spare parts and technical stores, including those for the Brigade’s aircraft and motor transport. In addition men from this Squadron were responsible for stock control in the Maintenance Area and at distribution points, and they distributed the bulk fresh rations, ammunition, petrol, oil and lubricants. The Workshop Squadron’s three Troops repaired vehicles, and electronic and other equipment, including instruments, and was equipped to recover light vehicles. All Squadrons continued to provide these services in 1997.
Deployments and changes in organisation 1981–1997
1981 training in Sillies.
1982 deployed to Falkland Islands in operation ‘Corporate’ setting BMA at Ajax Bay and later at Teal (see chapter 11).
1985 training in Wales.
Belfast tour in N Ireland.
1991 deployed in operation ‘Haven’ during April to August[?] when strength raised to over 800, but by mid–September returned to ‘a more normal strength of 540 men. The maintenance to vehicles and equipment was completed by 1 October. The configuration of the Regiment as originally laid down, had been modified in practice and was at this time brought up to date.
1993 By late 1993 the First Line Troop of Transport Squadron, the Servicing Bay and the LAD joined HQ Squadron, and the Medical Squadron moved to Coypool (Plymouth) where a new building housed the NAAFI and a purpose built galley for RM chefs who served the new mess rooms. The Workshop Squadron’s hangar was renovated. During this year the Regiment put on many displays, with a section from the Ordnance Squadron, another from Transport Squadron and one from HQ plus some last minute additions, all climbing Jenny Cliff to show the Regiment’s versatility.
1995 Exercise ‘Rolling Deep’ (where Rgt repaired CVR(T)s of the Household Cavalry).
26 Aug tasked with establishing an evacuation centre on Antigua for deployment to people evacuated from Montserrat.
Elements in Cyprus supporting 29 Cdo Regt RA.
On 26 October the CO formally took over the former RAF barracks enabling the Regt to bring together its various units. Elements deployed with 45 Commando to Kuwait in operation ‘Driver’.
In November and December the Regiment moved to RM Barracks Chivenor.
1997 Winter deployment preparations for WD 98
Memorable date: 22 May landing at Ajax Bay (in 1982)
Commando Brigade Air Squadron
A light aircraft unit was formed by 42 Commando RM in 1965; this flight and others formed to support Commandos, were brought together to form the Commando Brigade Air Squadron on 12 August 1968.8 In the early 1970s these flights were each equipped with three Sioux AH1 helicopters for which there were four pilots — an RM OC, an RA second–in–command, an RM sergeant and an RA sergeant. Each flight had two observer/gunners, a signaller and three drivers for its vehicles drawn from RM or RA personnel, and an REME team of six airframe fitters and other mechanics. The flights served with their respective Commandos in Northern Ireland and elsewhere, proving Nitesun illumination, forward air command and air OPs. They landed on darkened LPHs at night, and in October 1978, one flight relieved an Army Air Corps’ flight in Belize (formerly British Hondurace). Three flights served in Norway in 1979 with six Gazelles and six Scout helicopters.9
Deployments and changes in organisation 1981–1997
The Squadron provided flights in Northern Ireland from time to time in the 1980s and 1990s in support of army units on some occasions. They deployed with 3 Cdo bde to Norway. In 1982 they were deployed in operation ‘Corporate’ (see chapter 11). They also provided flights for operations in Belize from time to time, as in 1992 a typical year of their 1990s deployments: the A Flight, issued with new tropical flying suits, in served five months in Belize as the roulement for 25 Flight of the Army Air Corps; their Gazelles were fitted with emergency flotation equipment, but weight restrictions meant that ‘the optical aid was not fitted’. Much of the flying required extra concentration to identify landing sites in jungle clearings, when the duties were mainly involved with liaison work.
1993 Pilots had additional training at Middle Wallop on part of a new syllabus for the Army Pilots, so that they could work in pairs as Aircraft Captains commanding a section of aircraft. In November Sgt Jack Frost won the Hughes Master Pilot’s Trophy awarded annually to the pilot who obtained the best results in the Army Master Pilots’ Exam. In 1994 the deployment in Norway only required part of the Squadron but a team also deployed to Kenya to support 3 Para in exercises. On 1 September 1995 the Squadron became a part of 847 Squadron in the Naval Air Command (see below).
Memorable date: 14 June recapture of Falkland Islands (in 1982)
Comacchio Company RM/Comacchio Group RM
Formed in 1980 with 300 all ranks, this company provided detachments for the defence of naval installations, for Britain’s offshore assets in oil rigs and movement of nuclear missiles. The Company took on many of 43RM’s traditions including the red–and–old–gold lanyard. It was renamed Comacchio Group on 1 November 1983
Three troops continued to carry out security duties in support of the RN and the RAF throughout the 1980s. The Group — by this date reporting directly to CG — was reorganised in 1992 into three companies for roulement on the west coast of Scotland (see chapter 12) And in the early 1990s they were deployed annually for two weeks of training in Cyprus. In 1993 a company from the Group visited the USA for some USMC courses on fighting at close quarters and anti–terrorist activities. They have continued to carry out security duties in the 1990s, but one Troop went to Belize in 1990 in 1992. Elements in exercise ‘Malayan Warrior’ during Jan–Feb 1993. In March 1998 elements were again in America with the USMC.
Memorable date: 2 April battle of Comacchio (in 1945) and was the memorable date of the disbanded 43 Commando RM.
29 Commando Regiment RA
These units’ close association with the Commandos began in 1961 when 29th Field Regiment RA began to re–form as 29 Commando Light Regiment RA with four batteries (220 all ranks). The first battery in action, 145 (Maiwand) Bty, joined the Cdo Brigade and was in Borneo firing the 105–mm pack howitzer for the Battery’s first shoot ‘in anger’ on 23 December 1962.10 By 1965 the 95 Regiment RA of forward observation teams had been reorganised for service with the Commandos, but after the economies of 1976 only one headquarters was retained. The batteries served in Malaya, Singapore, Brunei, Sarawak, Cyprus, Aden, Norway and from 1971 were on tours in Northern Ireland with Commandos.
On 1 April 1977 the first TAVR battery joined the Regiment, 289th Commando Battery. In 1978 the three gun batteries of 29 Cdo Regiment were each equipped with six 105–mm light guns, replacing the pack howitzer, and the TAVR battery was equipped with this light gun. The Commando Forward Observation Battery, 148th (Meiktila) Bty, provided parties to control air strikes and naval support fire, the men being trained parachutists and divers. All ranks of the Regiment wear the green beret on completing their commando training.
Deployments and changes in organisation 1981–1997
The Regiment deployed in 1982 to the Falkland Islands (see chapter 11). They trained with the Cdo Bde in various exercises including those in Norway and with Commando units in Belize from time to time. They were involved in other exercises including in 1990 a battle run with a rifle company and helicopters.
Batteries were detached for service in Yugoslavia on roulement tours in the late 1980s and 1990s.
20 Commando Battery RA
This Battery was formed after trials of Rapier missiles for air defence, to support 3 Cdo Bde, and based at Kirton–in–Lindsey [Suffolk?]. Before 1985 a series of trials with Rapiers in Norway led by 1985 to the formation of a cadre which by 1987 (Lt, WO + 3 x Sgts) trained RA gunners for mountain warfare and to work Rapier FSB1. Capt M. G. Flanagan (previously RSM of 29 Cdo Rgt RA) joined Cadre as Project Officer and the Cadre became C Troop, deployed in WD89 with 3 x FSB1 fire units. These gunner officers and NCOs passed the Cdo course but not entitled to wear Green Berets officially. Bty Cmdr appointed in Sept 1989 some months before official formation of the Bty in Apr 1990 as 20 Cdo Bty RA and armed with 24 Javelins as interim measure, as the FSB1s did not work satisfactorily in mountains and cold. In the Spring of 1997 training with Rapier FSB2 but maintained full capacity of 24 x Javelins. To have 10 x FSB2 (an area Short Range Air Defence (SHORAD) system. 24 hour all weather capability with engagement range of 7.2 km.
. The Battery used Air Defence Command Control and Information Systems (ALES) which automated the rapid passage of weapon control instructions from an Army Corps level to individual fire units (note 3 below). By 1998 the systems was to be carried in BV206s. These were expected to have two Autonomous Link Eleven Systems (ALES) which would receive and display tactical information from NATO Link 11 in AWACS aircraft, providing warning of aircraft at ranges of over 750km. ALES would also provide additional information such as IFF (identifying friend from foe), speed, heading and position of aircraft. The Air Defence Troop (RM) came under command of 20 Cdo Bty as did the Dutch Air Defence Trp (RNLMC AD TP). The AD Troop was expected to be fully converted to Rapier FSB2 by March 1998, a system which may be replaced in AD 2013 by another SHORAD System.
59th Independent Commando Squadron RE
Formed as a Field Company in 1900, the Squadron served in both World Wars; and became closely associated with 3 Cdo Brigade when stationed in Singapore between 1968 and 1971. Re–formed at Plymouth in April 1971 as 59th Independent Commando Squadron, as an integral part of Commando Forces, these engineers were mainly employed in mountain and Arctic warfare. They built bridges, ferried troops, lay and/or cleared minefields, as well as other defences. They could build sophisticated field defences, carry out demolitions, and had a number of general tradesmen among the eight officers and 221 soldiers in the Squadron in 1979. All ranks of the Squadron wear the green beret on completing their commando training.
Other Commando and Special Service Units
Formed in Singapore on 24 December 1954 this Platoon raided behind Japanese lines (see chapter 4).
30th Assault Unit:12
An intelligence unit had existed since the late summer of 1941 as the special Engineering 30 Commando, included in this unit were RN and RM personnel as well as army troops. In operations in North Africa one Section under an RN lieutenant landed from HMS Broke when she crashed the boom at Algiers. The Commando operated in Sicily and Italy, recovering codes and other documents from German headquarters. In February the Unit was re–formed as a naval intelligence–gathering Commando (wearing green berets and commando flashes). The former CO of 5th RM Battalion recruited many RM guards for naval specialists in this 30th Assault Unit which was under the command of the Director of Naval Intelligence. The personnel were trained as parachutists, and in such offbeat skills as safe blowing. They were also trained in security duties and street fighting. The Unit was organised in Troops, with ‘A’ Troop landing in Normandy on 6 June 1944, followed by ‘A’ and ‘B’ Troops on 10 June.
During the next ten months these Troops operated close to or ahead of the Allied advanced positions, and by March 1945 ‘A’ Troop was moving towards Leipzig (in eastern Germany), ‘B’ Troop towards Hamburg and ‘X’ Troop to Keil, areas they all reached as German resistance crumbled. In April teams were finding minefield charts, ciphers, data on naval technical developments and other intelligence in German HQs. The Unit’s HQ had moved close behind the Allied line of advance and was in Minden by May. In June the RM elements returned to the UK and were disbanded.
RM Boom Patrol Detachment:
Formed13 on 6 July 1942 at Southsea, Hampshire, the Detachment trained in canoes, in long–distance swimming and shallow–water diving.14 It mounted a raid on shipping in Bordeaux in December 1942 (see chapter 4). A unit went to the Mediterranean and mounted raids in 1943–4 (see chapter 7). The Detachment did development work on air–launched explosive motorboats but these were not used operationally. The personnel were later absorbed into the RM Special Boat Sections.
Small Operations Group:15
Formed on 12 June 1944 to co–ordinate small scale raiding parties in South East Asia Command, the Group was based in Ceylon (modern Sri Lanka) with an RM base staff by 1945. Under command were four COPPs, three SBS Groups and four Sea Reconnaissance Sections, all with army and naval personnel and RM Detachment 385. Units of the Group had carried out 174 operations by June 1945 and several after this date. The Group was disbanded in the autumn of 1945.
RM Detachment 385:16
Formed April–May 1944 at Havant, Hampshire, from volunteers, many of whom had served with MNBDO I and MNBDO II. Seven officers flew to Ceylon (modern Sri Lanka) for instruction from Lt–Col H. G. Hasler and were later to train the main body (112 all ranks) after their arrival in Ceylon on 7 July 1944. Between August 1944 and February 1945 the Detachment completed training. Operations were mounted for reconnaissance, deception and to land clandestine forces in Burma, Malaya, Thailand, and the Nicobar Islands between late February and mid–August 1945, in all 16 operations, some of which comprised more than one raiding party. After World War II some personnel were absorbed into the SBS when this Detachment was disbanded.
Special Boat Section:17
Army commandos had been using Folbot canoes since early in 1941 and Special Boat Sections of canoeists were formed. These carried out a number of recces and demolition raids in Europe and the Mediterranean. They were also used to collect agents, deliver clandestine stores and for beach reconnaissance in World War II. By July 1944 the SBS had been formed into ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’ Groups under command of the Small Operations Group. After World War II the SBS became an RM unit, and although political factors have limited their use in peacetime, they are available as the Special Boat Squadron for beach surveys and similar work when required. The Squadron had three operational Sections of selected volunteers in the 1970s and continues.
SBS teams were deployed in the Falkland Islands from 1 May 1982 in operation ‘Corporate’ (see chap 11). In 1991 they made two raids into Iraq (see chap 13). At other times in the 1980s and 1990s they continued their secretive work but in 1997 their operational command was joined to that of the SAS.
Raiding Squadrons RM
After World War II an RM flotilla of LCP(L)s was based at Plymouth for training commandos in landings at the base of cliffs. They carried out much of their training at St Ives (Cornwall). A larger raiding craft was introduced in the early 1950s. This flotilla did not carry out any operations.
Experimental work in Malta with an inflatable rubber craft (IRC) during the 1950s led to the adoption of the Gemini for seaborne raiding. This craft was based on designs of the French Zodiac. In July 1967 No.1 Raiding Squadron RM was formed at Poole (Dorset) initially with 12 all ranks, to take over the training and operational commitments of 3 Cdo Brigade for raids. A second Squadron was formed on 2 December 1968 under the command of 45 Cdo RM but was disbanded after some months. In 1978 the RMR formed the 2nd Raiding Squadron, which continued in 1980. That year there was also a third Squadron, the 3rd Squadron RM in Hong Kong.
The 1st Raiding Squadron landed men from their rigid–raiders or from inflatables (launched from submarines on occasions). Sections were deployed with individual Commandos in many of the operations noted in the Commandos’ histories. Typically in 1979 their exercises included: the Arctic Section’s visit to Norway from January to March; a detachment in Holland (June); another in Scotland (September to October); and throughout the year the Squadron provided training facilities for other units
Raiding Squadrons 1981 to 1997
Since before 1981 1st Raiding Squadron had been attached to the Cdo Brigade’s HQ & Sigs Sqn. It deployed to the Falkland Islands in 1982 (see chapter 11). And was deployed on exercises in Norway and elsewhere. In April 1994 it came under the command of 539 Assault Sqn.
A ‘new’ 2nd Raiding Squadron was an RMR unit formed in 1978 (see above). In a typical exercise it was in the Mediterrean in 1992.
3rd Raiding Sqn formed for service in Hong Kong in 1978 (see above). 1 July 1988 ceased operations against illegal immigrants in Honk Kong, but some personnel remained in the Hong Kong for service with patrol boats.
Regarded as part of the Assault Squadrons, the Raiding Squadrons had the 6 June (Normandy 1944) as their memorable date.
OTHER SUB–UNITS OF 3 CDO BRIGADE RM 1981–97
Commando Brigade HQ & Signals Squadron
The Squadron had more rough and tumble about its activities than might normally be associated with staff work. Typically in ‘Event 80' there was a competition between teams (1 officer, 1 NCO, 1 JNCO + 3 Mnes) from each troop or department in HQ & Sigs Sqn with 5 stages: gym test; orienteering; whaler racing; run with casualty to cross water; and pulling a 4-ton truck.
1982 Deployed with 3 Cdo Bde to Falkland Islands and in other years with the Brigade on Winter Deployments and on operation ‘Haven’.
Memorable date: 21 May landing at San Carlos Water )in 1982)
Under command of HQ & Signals Sqn, this Troop operated in the main Net of for the Brigade’s radio communications, and by 1997 also had satellite communications with the Permanent Joint Headquarters of the Rapid Reaction Force.
Tactical Air Control Parties
These were deployed with HQ & Sigs Sqn or independently as TACP 605, 608(RMR) and 611. They served at various times in Belize, in Norway on Winter Deployments, in operations ‘Corporate’ and ‘Haven’. Each TACP had an officer and two driver/radio operators.
Air Defence Troop
This Troop was part of HQ and Signals Squadron RM although came to be regarded as an independent asset of the Brigade, until late in 1994 when it came — and remains — under command of 20 Cdo Bty RA. It normally deployed with the Squadron and subsequently with 20 Cdo Bty. But had also been deployed independently.
Some examples of deployments
1982 served in operation ‘Corporate’ summer of 1982.
1988 Detached for operations in support of the Fleet.
1991 Service in operation ‘Heaven’ during the Spring and annual firing practice in September on the missile range at Tenby (Dyfed) firing the allotted 16 Javelin missiles. Other live firing practice at Tenby included live firing GPMGs from vehicles and other weapons in air defence shoots while wearing full NBC kit for some exercises. By 1994 — if not before then — the Troop was regarded as a Brigade asset which could operate anywhere in which there was an air threat. In based in an old WW II camp on the Essequibo River in Guyana for jungle training and live firing, then visits to Trinada, Puerto Rico (more live firing) and on to Tortola in the British Virgin Islands followed by five days R & R in Bermuda. In October deployed to Kuwait with 45 Cdo RM when the Troop’s demonstrations of their Javelin missiles is said to have boosted British armament sales. In 1995 in Norway from first week in January attached to 20 Cdo Bty RA. By 1997 this Troop was equipped with shoulder–launched Javelin S15 missiles for local air defence.
RM Police Troop
This Troop was part of HQ and Signals Squadron and normally deployed with the Squadron, but from time to time men were detached for special duties with other units. On Brigade operations the RM police provided the Brigadier’s bodyguard, co–ordinated vehicle movements, sign posting routes into and out of beachheads and other combat areas.
1988 Detachment assisting with security at HM Prison Alma, Dettingen.
Y Troop of Brigade HQ & Signals Squadron
Equipment with Electronic Warfare devices to interception and monitor an enemy’s signals traffic.
Brigade Patrol Troop of HQ & Signals Squadron
This Troop was to take over the M&AW Cadre’s functions. It began a year long trial in July 1992. This proved successful and in the summer of 1993 the Patrol Troop was set up with a Recce Troop, the ML Cadre and an Admin section under a small HQ (OC Bde Patrol Tp + 3). The Recce Tp was commanded by a Lt Mountain Leader who had an HQ of 4 men. There were four Sections each commanded by a SNCO with two ML Cpls and three GD Marines. See G & L 1994 p 77 for full details. The Cadre continued to run courses in mountain climbing and cold weather warfare. The Recce Troop deployed to Switzerland in June 1993 for exercise Ice Flip. In January 1994 the whole Patrol Troop deployed to Norway. During this six weeks of training the Recce Troop made eight parachute jumps. The Cadre continued that year for a further three week in Norway. The Recce Troop by 1997 reportedly had six 4–man teams providing medium range reconnaissance for the Cdo Brigade.
539 Assault Squadron
Formed as organic unit in 3 Cdo Bde on 1 April 1984 at the Royal William Yard in Plymouth (See chapter 12). The Squadron had an Amphibious Beach Unit (ABU) with a Beach Armoured Recovery Vehicle (BARV) and the ability to lay beach trackway with a specially adapted vehicle.
1988/89 Trials with Slingsby hovercraft.
1989 Squadron reviewed in their craft, when the salute was taken by Maj Gen N. F. Vaux CB, DSO at Plymouth and he presented them with a new ceremonial pennant.
1989/1990 After pre–winter training in Snowdonia mountains and craft training at ATTURM, deployed in Norway in January (later than usual) when the Squadron carried out various training exercises including trials with a new RRC replacement.
1990 LCs off Libya for evacuation if required.
1991 Caribbean training.
1991 Exercise ‘Final Nail’ landed YO’s and their ‘enemy’ from the Royal Scots on the beaches of Skye (Inner Hebrides) and experienced Force 10 gale which brought the exercise to an abrupt end. It became Force 12 as the LSL Sir Belvedere sailed back to Plymouth with 539 Sqn aboard.
1993 In June moved to a custom built base on the banks of the Plym River on the site of the old Turnchappel Wharf. This had 1,000m² of hard standing, 150m of jetty, 900m² of concrete slipway and a careening grid. The workshops and offices were housed in nearby buildings including five of stone and built in the early 19th century by French Prisoners of war. These and other services provided all that the Squadron required to be operational.
1994 By March the Squadron had four hovercraft and the first RRC Mk2s.
1995 The advance party for the winter deployment to Norway in 1995 arrived at Harstad soon after Christmas on the Squadron’s 10th deployment to Norway, making recces of sites for various courses. The main body arrived and the new comers completed the Novice Ski and Survival Course, others completed the Winter Warfare Course (Infantry). LCU C2 fouled her kedge on an underwater electric cable, requiring the aid of the Norwegian Coast Guard Service to extract the ‘hook’ in a sudden storm.
1996 Exercise ‘Purple Star’ in America and by the winter several craft had major refits.
1997 The Squadron had: LCUs capable of carrying a battle tank or 100 Marines and their equipment; LCVPs which were each able to carry a Land Rover plus a Light Gun (105–mm) or 30 fully equipped Marines; IRC to carry six Marines; RRC to carry 8 Marines; and four LCAC which were hovercraft each able to carry 64 Marines.
Memorable dates: 6 June landings in Normandy (in 1944) and 21 May landings in San Carlos Water (in 1982)
AMPHIBIOUS UNITS NOT UNDER DIRECT COMMAND OF BRIGADE
1 Assault Squadron RM
This Squadron was the last of the Assault Squadrons to serve in HMS Anzio which paid–off in the early 1970s.
2 Assault Squadron RM
This Squadron normally served in one of the LPDs manning her Landing Craft and when she was under dockyard overhauls these crews assisted with training at RM Poole. The Squadron had an Amphibious Beach Unit (ABU) with a Beach Armoured Recovery Vehicle (BARV) and the ability to lay beach trackway with a specially adapted vehicle.
4 Assault Squadron RM
This Squadron normally served in an LPD manning her Landing Craft and when she was under dockyard overhauls, these crews assisted with training at RM Poole. The Squadron had an Amphibious Beach Unit (ABU) with a Beach Armoured Recovery Vehicle (BARV) and the ability to lay beach trackway with a specially adapted vehicle.
1990 Re-embark in HMS Fearless
1991 in Fearless to Sevastopol 6 October 1991 in first visit to a Soviet Block port for 50 years.
1992 In Fearless on exercise with French Assault Ship
1994 In exercises ‘Tartan Surprise’ and ‘Royal Dawn’ in Scotland and April/May that year in exercises ‘Resolute Response’ and Dynamic Impact’
1995 with Hermes in America on exercise ‘Purple Star’
1997 Embarked in HMS Fearless.
6 Assault Squadron RM
This Squadron normally served in an LPD manning her Landing Craft and when she was under dockyard overhauls, these crews assisted with training at RM Poole. The Squadron had an Amphibious Beach Unit (ABU) with a Beach Armoured Recovery Vehicle (BARV) and the ability to lay beach trackway with a specially adapted vehicle.
1981–89 aboard HMS Intrepid at times when she was exercising or deployed — as in ‘Corporate’ 1982 — in amphibious roles.
1990 in HMS Intrepid’s winter deployment from early January when some men undertook the Novice Ski and Survival Course with ‘45 RM’ and then a Winter Warfare Course at Krakenes, Harstad. These were followed by NBC trials controlled by scientist from Porton Down. In February landed 45 Commando Group in the Tovik/Grov area. LCVPs operated from an FOB. Later that month landed 1 ACG and all its vehicles in less than 1½ hours. Remained in Intrepid until she returned to Portsmouth in October and Squadron retuned to RM Poole. Disbanded 21 December 1990.
9 Assault Squadron RM
The Squadron was at Poole in the summer of 1997 and due to embark in HMS Ocean in March 1998. Their craft was to included four LCVP(5)s.
Memorable dates for operational Landing craft Squadrons: 6 June landings in Normandy (in 1944) and 21 May landings in San Carlos Water (in 1982).
RN Commando Squadrons
845 and 846 Squadrons
Squadron 845 was flying helicopters in the 1970s and in 1991 846 flew Chinook helicopters in operation ‘Haven’. The two Squadrons each flew 10Seaking support helicopters in 1997, which were flown by RN crews.
Was originally the Air Squadron of 2 Cdo Brigade (see above), moving to RNAS Yeovilton when command of this unit passed to CINCFLEET on 1 September 1995. In 1997 the Squadron flew six Lynx helicopters equipped with anti–tank missiles and eight Gazelle Helicopters primarily for observation work, all with RM crews.
HEADQUARTERS ROYAL MARINES (HQRM)
From 1 April 1993 this Headquarters was formed under the command of the Commandant General and took over the functions of: CG’s Department at the MOD; HQ Commando Forces; and HQ Training and Reserve Forces (HQ TRFRM). Initially based in HMS Vernon at Portsmouth, the staff moved to new buildings at HMS Excellent at Whale Island in 1996. Reporting to CG in this Headquarters were in 1997: the commander of 3 Cdo Bde; the commandant of CTC RM; the commandant of RM Poole; the CO of Comacchio Group; the commandant of the RM School of Music; trials unit ATTURM; the director of the RMR; 847 NAS; and the SBS which in 1997 came under a Special Forces HQ for operations but was administered as a unit under command of CG. The Lt Col commanding this HQ staff which included the Personnel Branch RM.
NAVAL PARTIES AND MISSIONS
Naval Examination Service
Marine signallers served in small ships of this Service, which examined merchantmen entering British ports in wartime.
Marines served as orderlies for many conferences, including the Washington Conference of 1922, when seven corporals were commended by the First Lord of the Admiralty, as they ‘proved themselves equal to every ... emergency in difficult circumstances’.1
North Persian2/Caspian Flotilla3
A small British army formation in 1918 had been assisting a local Russian force to hold a Turkish advance, which the Germans had hoped might reach Afghanistan. In August they were joined by an RN force which armed a number of Russian ships and that December prevented the Bolsheviks gaining an ice–free port on the Caspian Sea, a sea of 600 miles from north to south and up to 300 miles wide, with nearly 1,000 sizeable vessels on its waters in 1918. The flotilla flew the Imperial Russian ensign before 2 March 1919,2 when it came under British command. The ships Venture, Fox, Emile Nobel, Alla Vardi, Salva, and Bibi–Abat had RMA/RMLI detachments, each with 11 to 16 Marines, commanded by sergeants or corporals. Other ships had British gunners — Kruger with RA field artillery, and Zorcaster and Asia with RN seamen gunners. RN crews operated the Flotilla’s ships, which also included the Windsor Castle, the improvised seaplane carrier Orlionock, and Sergei which carried some of the Flotilla’s 12 RN Coastal Motor Boats. The old ships of the Flotilla, however, were limited to a best speed of 9 knots. Livestock was carried to provide rations for 14 days, but the sheep often died from the cold in the first week at sea.
Ashore a force of Royal Marines had set up coast guns at Petrovsk (Makhachkala in 1980) on the western shores of the Caspian, several hundred miles north of Baku, and from 1918 had garrisoned this advanced base. After January 1919 the 160 Marines of this defence force were attacked several times, but held the port after street fighting.
At sea a typical action by Emile Nobel (3,799 tons) on 21 May 1919, when she was making a reconnaissance of Alexandrovsk (Fort Shevchenko in 1980). It began with her being hit by a 150–in shell. This killed 11 of her crew of 845 before she opened fire with her two 4–in QF guns. The flotilla then attacked the port and sank nine vessels. Allied aircraft — some 40 RAF planes supported the Flotilla — later drove the remaining Bolshevik ships from this port, and by the end of May the only armed Russian ships were in their Astrakhan base on the Volga estuary. But 13 improvised warships and a small force of aircraft could not control this sea, although they captured several Russian ships in August 1919 before handing the Flotilla over to the White Russians. The last Marines left Petrovsk on 2 September,6 but before handing over the Emile Nobel, the breechblocks of her guns were thrown over the side, to disarm them.7
Naval Mission to Siberia/Kama River Flotillas
In 1917 some 600,000 tons of Allied war materials were a Vladivostock waiting to be shipped on the Trans–Siberian Railway, when an armistice was signed by Russia and Germany. A token Allied force was landed briefly in April 1918 to protect these supplies, and that summer more British, French, Japanese and American forces were landed.8 By the autumn an armoured train was equipped by HMS Suffolk with one of her 6–in guns and 4 of her 12–pdrs. this train, with royal Marines from Suffolk’s detachment, was in action in support of Czech forces fighting the Russians at Tischima, after the train had made a journey of 6,105 miles from Vladivostok. When the guns were frozen up, the train withdrew to Omsk in Central Russia, where in March 1919 another 6–in gun was fitted. This gun, from HMS Kent, had been brought to Omsk by a Canadian unit. The Suffolk detachment was then replaced by Capt T. H. Jameson (later Major General, CBE, DSO) with 29 RMLI NCOs and privates. All were volunteers, accompanied by four RN specialists including a doctor.
They reached Perm on the Kama River on 28 April just as the ice was breaking, and within a week had mounted the 6–in gun from the train in a Russian steamer renamed Kent, and the second ‘6–in’ in a barge named Suffolk. The steamer Kent sank three armed Soviet steamers on 23 May,9 in an action 300 miles south of Perm. She fired Lyddite shells from an opening range of 8,100yds and closed to 4,000yds before the remaining Bolshevik ships retired. The barge Suffolk was moored to support the steamer Kent and six ships of the Omsk government which were with her. But once the Czech Legion decided to withdraw, resistance crumbled. The steamer and barge’s guns were in action against artillery positions on the river bank during June, after the river levels fell. Later they withdrew to Perm. A Bolshevik agent in the steamer Kent’s Russian crew added to the RM Detachment’s difficulties, for ‘a small force ... in a foreign country ... [can find] that any lack of security may quickly undermine morale’.10
The British Government withdrew its support for the Omsk Government, and the Marines with great ingenuity and little help put the guns on railway flat–trucks, requisitioned an engine and set off for Vladivostock. Despite typhus and small pox among refugees, train wrecks and marauding bands of guerrillas, they reached this base in 52 days, on 18 August 1919, having suffered only minor casualties. The Japanese held the base until October 1922; but when HMS Carlisle left the port that November, she reported that there were no disturbances when Soviet forces entered the port.11
Black Sea Operations
A naval garrison of seamen and Marines was landed in December 1918 at Sevastopol in the Crimea, and was strengthened to nearly 500 all ranks by men of the 3rd RM Battalion12 before being relieved by French troops later that month. Allied support for the White Russian forces continued into the spring of 1919, but after April the RN ships’ help was limited and by June they were observing a strict neutrality.
Upper Yangtse Guard
Formed on 15 November 1927 with an officer and 10 other ranks from HMS Vindictive’s detachment, the Guard sailed up river to help protect merchant ships passing through the rapids of the Upper Yangtze (modern Change Jiang).13 Other small detachments served in this Guard until 1928 or later.
Harwich Auxiliary Patrol
Formed from trawler crews in June 1940 with trawlers and other small vessels, the Patrol was in action against E–boats and German planes.14 The crews were instructed in small arms and gunnery by nine RM sergeant pensioners.
Three of these15 were commandeered by the Admiralty and two were commanded by RM officers — the first to command HM ships in World War II — with RM crews. They acted as Q–ships to counter E–boat attacks on shipping in the English Channel.
Force W Fire Control Unit
A number of Marines served in this unit as signallers in the latter part of 1945, if not before.
Naval Port Parties (Normandy and North West Europe 1944–5)
Four of these16 were formed with RM personnel as well as naval ratings in March 1944, to operate captured ports and for boat duties, etc. in the Mulberry harbour; they also manned naval bases ashore.17 They each had a repair element and communications parties.
The large party ‘1500’ landed at Courseulles on 7 June 1944 with its repair element (NP 1526) and communications (NP 1518) — see chapter 6. The RM Passive Air Defence Section of ‘1500’ was responsible for precautions against and repairs after any air raids, but also worked on salvaging craft. Marines of ‘1500’s’ Administrative Section fed men in the naval camp, while those who were telephonists and those who plotted movements on the HQ maps, worked in the HQ of ‘1500’. The boat crews were mainly RMs and the RM bomb disposal team cleared mines
The second of the large parties, ‘1501’ was based at Ouistreham with its repair element (NP 1528) and its communications (NP 1518). Later its personnel went to man the Naval HQ at Rouen, and then moved to Antwerp.
The first of the smaller parties, ‘1502’ with a repair party ‘1531’ and communications ‘1520A, B & C’, was at Calais, but some elements were at Port–en–Bessin (1502A) and others at Ostend and Zeebrugge.
The second of the smaller parties, ‘1503’ was at Boulogne with its repair element ‘1530’ and communications as NP 1521.
NP 1686 with naval ratings and some Marines cleared Dieppe harbour of mines and obstructions in July 1944. NP 1715 when later in North West Europe included 324 RM Engineers. NP 1747 dismantled a V1 flying–bomb launching site in February 1945, and sent it to Chatham. NP 1749 with RM signallers was in Germany in the autumn of 1945.
Naval parties — ships’ names 1944–50s
Port parties at major bases were given ships’ names and RM detachments, RM Landing Craft flotillas and SBS served in these formations, which often commanded more units than the numbered Naval Party, or the Port Party initially clearing a port or setting up a headquarters. The names were:
Princess Amelia, 1945 Europe; Princess Irene, 1946 Berlin; Princess Louisa, 1945–6 Brunsbüttel on river Elbe; Royal Adelaide, 1945–6 Tonning, on Eider estuary; Royal Albert, Berlin in 1945 and later, but by the 1950s had become the depot in an ex–German ship at Cuxhaven, near Hamburg; Royal Alfred, Kiel in 1945 and later; Royal Caroline, 1945–? Lübeck on the Baltic; Royal Charles, port parties at Le Havre and later at Calais in 1945; Royal Harold (NP 1742) in April 1945 at Kiel, later merged with NP 1743; Royal James, parties at Boulogne 1944–5; Royal Prince in 1945–6 at Emden, Lower Saxony and later name of a parent ship for all RN forces in Germany; Royal William, port parties at Cherbourg, France 1944–?
Naval Party Operation ‘Grapple’
In 1956 this party, No. 2512,18 included a flotilla of RM LCMs and other Marines, about 56 in al, who were deployed in landing stores, and building roads, camps and other installations for the testing of the British hydrogen bombs in 1957 on Christmas Island in the Pacific. Their LST Messina had been modified to carry six LCMs launched by a boom crane.
A small detachment of Royal Marines was maintained on these islands from the 1960s to 1982 as NP 8901 - see also chapter 10.
Other Naval Parties in World War II
There were many naval parties in which RMs served as specialists or guards from time to time, and some included complete RM units described elsewhere in this Appendix. For example, Party 2402 included MOLCAB III.19 Almost all Naval Parties are formed for a specific task lasting a relatively short period but occasionally — as in the Falklands up to 1982 — they are in commission for many years. In World War II the ‘800s’ were mainly deployed in the Mediterranean, the ‘1500s’ (see above) and ‘1600s’ in North–West Europe, and the ‘4000s’ included landing craft ferry crews in India and SEAC. The large NP 31 in India became ‘1031’ in Rangoon, in a typical example of the renumbering of a party on its redeployment.
Carrier Borne Air (later Ground) Liaison Sections
These20 were formed in 1943 to carry out similar duties to those which Forward Observation Officers carried out in directing naval guns, but CBALs (Seabals) directed aircraft on to ground targets or work in intelligence teams. The RMs in these units were trained at Yeovilton RNAS by 1946. There were CBALs numbered in the 60s by this date, when 20 of them returned to the UK from the British Pacific Fleet. CBAL 51 was formed on 22 September 1944 but by 1947 CBAL 70 was an HQ at Yeovilton. The army had sponsored these Sections in 1943 and many included army officers, but by 1961 the Corps was unable to provide officers for training in this role, and the units continued as purely army Sections.
Beach Control Parties
These Parties in World War II had been Royal Navy Commandos operating under command of a Beachmaster RN, who controlled the berthing at landing points and was in general responsible for the organisation of craft’s beaching, coordinating this with the operational requirements as a beachhead developed. In July 1946 three officers and 37 other ranks were in training as half of a beach party to learn from RN experience. They were moved to Rosneath on the Clyde estuary but were reduced to a cadre of eight,21 from which the knowledge of Beach Control Parties’ work was retained and later expanded. The Parties had their equivalents in the LPDs of the 1990s, as a part of the Beach Units in Assault Squadron.
Many ships were laid up immediately after World War I, or, in the case of older vessels, had been stripped of their guns, but the lists below of capital ships and cruisers existing in 1919 but disposed of by 1932 indicate the Corps’ commitment to naval gunnery at the end of that war. Details are given of displacement tonnage and the date of a ship’s first inclusion in government financial estimates. See any standard reference books of naval ships, for details of the armament, but Royal Marines almost invariably manned at least one main turret and a number of secondary guns.
Detachment sizes are indicated by letter ‘d’ and RM band sizes by ‘b’, where these have been estimated the item is starred (*). These figures are indicative only of the size of these units for several reasons. In the 1930s many detachments were as much as 25 per cent below their establishment strength, due to the shortage of manpower. The approved strengths for wartime service were some 35 per cent above those of peacetime. In some cases the actual strengths were even increased by 50 per cent after the outbreak of World War II as additional armaments were added. Further increases in weaponry during that War, led to further increases in detachment sizes and no doubt in band sizes, where musicians were needed for increased instrumentation in the T/S. Detachments were further increased on those ships acting as flagships.
The dates of a ship’s completion and of its disposal are shown in parentheses, except for those disposed of before 1932. Not included are a number of ships on which Marines served briefly, including the gunboats in China, destroyers at Narvik, and depot ships and submarines on which individual Marines occasionally served.
Battleships and Dreadnoughts of 1919, disposed of by 1932
Majestic–class (14,900 tons) of 1894 — d–and–b 80*, in Caesar, Hannibal, Jupiter, Magnificent, Prince George and Victorious.
Canopus–class (12,950 tons) of 1896 — d–and–b 100*, in Albion, Canopus, Glory, and Vengeance.
Formidable–class (15,000 tons) of 1898 — d–and–b 100* in Implacable.
London–class (15,000 tons) of 1898 — d–and–b 100* in London and Venerable.
Duncan–class (14,000 tons) of 1898 — d–and–b 100* in Albermarle, Duncan and Exmouth.
Queen–class (15,000 tons) of 1901 — d–and–b 100* in Queen and Prince of Wales.
Purchased from Chile Swiftsure (11,800 tons) of 1902 — d and b not traced.
King Edward–class (16,350 tons) of 1902 — d–and–b 100* in Africa, Commonwealth, Dominion, Hibernia, Hindustan and Zealand.
Lord Nelson–class (16,500 tons) of 1904 — d–and–b 100*
Dreadnought (17,900 tons) of 1906 — d and b not traced.
Temeraire–class (18,000 tons) of 1907 — d–and–b 96 in Bellerophon, Superb and Temeraire.
St Vincent–class (19,250 tons) of 1909 — d–and–b 99 in Collingwood and St Vincent.
Neptune (19,900 tons) of 1909 — d–and–b 97.
Colossus–class (20,000 tons) of 1909 — d–and–b 99 in Colossus and Hercules.
Orion–class (22,500 tons) of 1912 — d–and–b 97 in Conqueror, Monarch, Orion and Thunder (see also post–1932).
King George–class (23,000 tons) of 1911 — d–and–b 97 in Ajax, Centurion (in 1913 used as radio controlled target ship, see also post–1932) and King George V. When these were flagships the d–and–b was 107.
Iron Duke–class (25,000 tons) of 1912 — d 109 and b 24 in Benbow, Emperor of India, Iron Duke (see also post–1932) and Marlborough (see also post–1932).
Iron Duke — see above — (1912–46 but disarmed c1922)
Centurion — see above — used as a Mulberry blockship in 1944.
Queen Elizabeth–class (31,100 tons) of 1912–13 — d 115 and b 24 in Barham (1915–41, sunk), Queen Elizabeth (1915–48), Warspite (1915–47, with a d 200 and b 24 at times in World War II), Malaya (1916–48) and Valiant (1916–48).
Royal Sovereign–class (29,150 tons) of 1913–14 — d 125 and b 22 in Resolution (1916–48), Revenge (1916–48), Royal Sovereign (1916–1943 when secondary armament was reduced, 1944 to USSR) and Ramillies (1917–48).
Nelson (33,500 tons) and Rodney (33,900 tons) both of 1922 — d 185 and b 20 (1927–49 and 1927–48) respectively.
King George V–class (35,000 tons) of 1936–7 — d–and–b 350 in King George V (1950–48), Duke of York (1941–58), Prince of Wales (1941 and sunk that year), Anson (1942–58) and Howe (1942–58).
Vanguard (44,500 tons) of wartime (1940) but not built until later — d–and–b 350, for Royal tour in 1947 the band was increased to 50* (1946–60)
Invincible–class (17,250 tons) of 1906 — d–and–b 86 in Indomitable (1908–21) and Inflexible (19808–21).
Improved Invincible–class (18,750 tons) of 1909 — d–and–b 86 in HMAS Australia (1912–24) and New Zealand (1912–22).
Lion–class (26,350) of 1909 — d–and–b 88 in Lion (1919–24) and Princess Royal 1912–22. When these were flagships, the d–and–b was 94.
Tiger (28,500 tons) of 1911 — d–and–b 115 (1914–32).
Renown–class of world War I — d–and–b 157* in Renown (1916–48) and Repulse (1916–1941 sunk).
Hood (42,100 tons) — d 135* and b 17 (1920–41 sunk).
Capital ships’ service in World War II
Barham was torpedoed while on Atlantic patrol on 28 December 1939, but reached Liverpool. In November 1940 she joined the Mediterranean Fleet and was in action at Cape Matapan in March 1941. She was later sunk by torpedoes while exercising off Egypt when doing 17 knots, only 300 of her crew of 1,150 were saved.
Queen Elizabeth was in action off Crete in May 1941, but on 19 December that year was heavily damaged while in Alexandria, Egypt, by ‘human’ torpedoes. She was recommissioned at Devonport (Plymouth) in July 1943 after returning from extensive repairs in America. She arrived at Ceylon on 28 January 1944, to support air strikes against Sabang and Sourabata, before going to South Africa for a refit that winter. As flagship of the 3rd Battle Squadron, in January 1945 she again bombarded Sabang and operated against other Japanese island defences, before sailing for the UK on 12 July 1945.
Warspite sailed from the Mediterranean to join the Home Fleet in 1939, returned to the ‘Med’ in 1940, but was recalled for the defence of Norway. In the 2nd Battle of Narvik she bombarded shore batteries. In May she again returned to the ‘Med’. During early 1941 she bombarded North African ports, but in May her starboard secondary armament was wrecked by bombs. After refit in the USA, she was flagship of the Eastern Fleet, and early in 1943 she covered convoys to Australia. Later she supported landings at Sicily and Salerno, but on 16 September she was hit by a German glider–bomb, flooded and had to be towed to Malta. During 1944, despite having one turret out of commission, she covered the Normandy landings but on 13 June when returning to UK to replace her worn gun barrels, she hit a mine. When repaired she took part in the Walcheren landings among other bombardments.
Malaya covered the third Canadian troop convoy, arriving in the Clyde on 7 February 1940. She went to the Mediterranean to cover Malta convoys and take part in North African bombardments. On 9 February 1941, with Renown, she bombarded Genoa. When escorting convoy SL68 to Sierra Leonne in West Africa, she was sighted by German capital ships, which then left the area. After refitting in the USA, she joined the Eastern Fleet in 1944 and was serving in the East Indies during 1945.
Valiant completed an extensive refit in December 1939 before sailing to the West Indies. She covered Atlantic convoys and the passage of troops from Norway in June 1940, before sailing to the ‘Med’ in August. In December she bombarded Valona. In March 1941 she was in the battle of Cape Matapan, where she fired 62 15–in shells and got about 20 hits on Italian ships. On 21 April she fired more than 200 shells into Tripoli, and later escaped any major bomb damage off Crete and attacks from ‘human’ torpedoes. After refitting in the USA, she joined the Eastern Fleet in January 1944, and that spring through to the summer, she bombarded Japanese defences on various islands. But on 8 August she was accidentally sunk while in a floating dock at Trincomalee. Reciting after this mishap was not completed, although she reached to UK after temporary repairs.
Resolution covered the escorts of bullion convoys to Canada, then served with the Halifax Escort Force before going to Dakar, in West Africa in September 1940. There she was hit by four heavy shells and a French torpedo. After repairs she joined Force H in 1941, escorting convoys in the Mediterranean. By March 1942 she was in Ceylon with the Eastern fleet. In February 1943 she covered troop convoys to Australia, before returning to the Clyde to become the Depot Ship in the Gareloch which leads to the Clyde estuary.
Revenge was also in the bullion convoy of October 1939, sailing to Canada and later covered Atlantic troop convoys. In October 1940 she bombarded Cherbourg, while she was being held in home waters for some months, against the possible breakout of German capital ships from Brest. She joined the Halifax Escort Force in the summer of 1941, and later sailed to join the Eastern Fleet, arriving in Ceylon in March 1942, and early in 1943 she covered convoys to Australia.
Royal Oak was in the Home Fleet based on Scapa Flow, when U–47 torpedoed her at anchor on 14 October 1939. She capsized and sank in 13 minutes with the loss of 834 officers and men, including most of her RM detachment.
Royal Sovereign was in the Home Fleet in 1939 and joined the Halifax Escort Force in 1940. She was with the Eastern Fleet in 1941–2. Her secondary armament of 12 6–in guns was reduced to 10 in 1943. She was lent to the USSR from 30 May 1944 until she was returned to the UK in 1948 or 1949.
Ramillies was in the Mediterranean Fleet in September 1939, but escorted Australian troops to the Red Sea in January 1040. On 8 February 1941, after joining the Atlantic force covering convoy escorts, she was covering convoy HX106 when Scharnhorst and Gneisenau sighted her and broke off their intended action. She supported the Madagascar landings and her Marines were put ashore behind the French lines (see chapter 4). Shortly after these landings, she was torpedoed by a Japanese midget submarine, but there was only one minor casualty. After temporary repairs in Durban, South Africa, she sailed for a refit in Plymouth. On 6 June 1944 she took part in the Normandy bombardment and later bombarded Toulon and Port Cros in support of landings in southern France.
Nelson was built to limits set by the Washington Treaty. In September 1939 she was flagship of the Home Fleet. On 4 December she struck a magnetic mine while entering Loch Ewe on the west coast of Scotland. Repaired by September 1940, she was searching for enemy raiding ships in Norwegian waters. In March 1941 she covered the army commandos’ second series of landings on the Lofoten Islands, then she escorted troop convoys to Cape Town, before returning to Gibraltar to join Force H in July. On 27 September she was hit by an enemy aircraft’s torpedo, forcing her return to the UK for repairs and a refit. The following April (1942) she joined the Home Fleet; in May she escorted a convoy to Freetown, West Africa, and in August she escorted the last convoy to Malta, before its relief from constant air attack. She briefly returned to home waters before joining Force H, and was its flagship during the Sicily landings. In November she returned to the UK. In June 1944 she carried out 21 bombardments in support of the Normandy landings, being slightly damaged by a mine during the last of these. On 24 June she sailed for an extensive refit in the USA. On its completion in January 1945, she returned to the UK, and arrived in the Far East early in July to support operations in Malaya. On 3 September the surrender of the local Japanese in the Penang area was received aboard Nelson; and on 12 September at Singapore, the surrender of Japanese forces in South East Asia was signed aboard her. She sailed for home on 13 November.
Rodney, like Nelson, was built to limits set by the Washington Treaty. She was with the home Fleet in September 1939, and on 8 April 1940, while with Valiant off Bergen, Norway, she was hit by a 500kg bomb during three hours of air attacks. In June she was in the covering force protecting convoys from Norway, and the following November she joined a force covering Atlantic convoys. She was detached from this work in late May 1941 to join King George V in hunting the Bismark. After this she refitted in America, returning to the UK in November. During the following months she operated off Norway, positioned to capture raiding ships in Hvalfiord among other waters. During 1942 she covered convoys to Malta, bombarded Fort Santon and in 1943 was with Force 4 to cover the landings in Sicily. In June 1944 she was one of the bombardment force off the Normandy coast, successfully breaking up counterattacks on the British 3 Division; in July she supported an army offensive near Caen; and later that month destroyed much of the battery of heavy coast guns on Alderney in the Channel Islands. By September she was covering convoys to Russia and from 30 November 1944 to April 1945, she was the flagship of the Home Fleet.
King George V, like others of her class, had 14–in guns with a better penetrative power, range and rate of fire than the older 15–in guns. She joined the Home Fleet in October 1940, covered the March 1941 landings on the Lofoten Islands, North Norway, and was Admiral Tovey’s flagship in the action against the Bismark. During 1942 she covered Atlantic convoys and searched for raiders before joining Force H in May 1943 at Gibraltar. Later that year she covered the Sicily landings and carried out shore bombardments. After a refit in the UK during February to July 1944, she sailed to join the Pacific Fleet in October. Early in 1945 she was in a force bombarding Japanese island aerodromes as part of the Okinawa operations, in July she bombarded installations on the Japanese mainland, and on 2 September she was in Tokyo for the Japanese surrender. After refitting in Australia, she took the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester to Tasmania in January 1946, before returning to the UK. She was flagship of the Home Fleet during the latter part of 1946. After a long refit she became a training ship but in 1950 she was laid up, being one of the first capital ships to be ‘sealed for preservation’.
Duke of York she — like the KGV — had powerful 14–in guns. She joined the Home Fleet on 6 November 1941 and carried the flag of the second–in–command, taking the Prime Minister to America in December. During early 1942 she covered convoys to Russia, before joining Force H. She was flagship of this Force during the North African landings in November 1942 but returned to the UK for a refit that winter. On 8 May 1943 she became the flagship of the Home fleet. That December she was in action against the Scharnhorst. She supported aircraft carriers in strikes against Tirpitz in a Norwegian fjord before she began a long refit in September. This was to prepare her for operations in the Far East. In July 1945 she arrived at Sydney and was at Manus on 15 August. She returned to the UK in the summer of 1946 and that December became the flagship of the Home Fleet. She was transferred to the Reserve Fleet in April 1949.
Prince of Wales was in action against the Bismark in May 1941, before she had competed her work–up cruise. In August she took Prime Minister Churchill to Newfoundland for meetings with President Roosevelt. She returned to the UK, then had a brief spell in the Mediterranean, where on 24 September 1941 she shot down seven planes. She again returned to home waters, before sailing for Singapore as flagship of the Eastern Fleet. On 10 December, within days of her arrival, she was sunk by Japanese aircraft.
Anson joined the Home Fleet in April 1942, and, as flagship of the second–in–command, she covered convoys to Russia. She also protected aircraft carriers during strikes in 1943 against shipping in Norwegian waters, and in February 1944 against the Tirpitz. In April 1945 she sailed from Scapa to work–up in the ‘Med’ before going to the Far East. There she was with the force reoccupying Hong Kong and returned to the UK in July 1946. After a spell as flagship of the Training Squadron she was laid up.
Howe arrived in Scapa in August 1942 for her work–up. After covering convoys to Russia and patrolling northern waters against potential raiders, she joined Force H in the early summer of 1943. She was based on Algiers (modern El Djazair) with KGV, she covered Mediterranean convoys and carried out shore bombardments. In October 1943 she returned to the UK for a refit in preparation for sailing to the Far East. She arrived there in June 1944, and that summer bombarded Japanese railway workshops in Sumatra, in modern Indonesia. In December 1944 she sailed from Ceylon as flagship of the Pacific Fleet. In the late spring and early summer of 1945 she took part in the bombardments of aerodromes and other Japanese island defences, sailing in June, via Australia, for a refit in South Africa. In late September 1946 she relieved Nelson in the East Indies Fleet before sailing for the UK that December. She was later flagship of the home Fleet’s Second Battle Squadron before joining the Training Squadron, and was laid up in 1951.
Vanguard was not completed until after World War II, she took part in a major Royal tour in 1946–7.
Battle–cruisers in the 1920s carried out a number of tours showing the flag around the World. Lord Jellicoe and his staff had a year–long cruise from 21 February 1919 to 2 February 1920 in New Zealand. She sailed 33,000 nautical miles visiting India, Australasia, USA, Cuba and other countries on this tour. Renown took the Prince of Wales on his tours to the USA, Canada and Australia in 1920–21, and the following year took him on visits to India and Japan, in one of several major cruises before World War II.
Renown in 1939 was modernised with new engines. In the early months of World War II she was based on Freetown, West Africa, and with Ark Royal was searching for surface raiders making for the South Atlantic. She reached Montevideo, Uruguay, soon after the Graf Spee was scuttled. In 1940 she was Vice–Admiral Whitworth’s flagship off Norway and on 9 April was in action against the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau (see chapter 3). She later joined Force H as Admiral Somerville’s flagship. In April 1942 she escorted the carrier USS Wasp with 41 RAF Spitfires aboard, from the Clyde to Malta. She took Prime Minister Churchill to the Quebec conference in September 1943 and in November took him to the Teheran Conference. She sailed in December to join the Eastern Fleet. During 1944 she bombarded Japanese installations, including on 25 July those at Sabang on Sumatra and others in the Nicobar Islands bombarded in November. She had returned to the UK by August 1945 when King George VI met President Truman aboard Renown in Plymouth Sound.
Repulse carried the Prince of Wales on his South American tour in 1925. She had a major refit from 1936 to 1938 but was not ‘modernised’. In September 1939 she and Hood formed the Home Fleet Battle Squadron. By mid–February 1940 she had been at sea for 130 days in covering Atlantic convoys. She was in the Far East at the time of the outbreak of hostilities with Japan, and was sunk by aircraft on 10 December 1941.
Hood in 1939 was with the Home Fleet, she was transferred to Force H as Admiral Somerville’s flagship on 24 May 1941. On 24 May 1941 she blew up after being hit by a salvo from Bismark. There were few survivors and all the RM detachment was lost.