'View of Commando training in 1973'

Extract from Comando Association newsletter 56 issued March 1973.
 
We feel sure Members will be interested to have news of Major General John Owen, O.B.E., who served during the war in No. 44 RM. Cdo, and who now commands the Commando Forces,  Royal Marines. from his Headquarters in Plymouth. In conjunction with Colonel Derek Pounds [more...], who was an instructor at Achnacarry, and who has kindly compiled a few notes on present-day Commando training,  John has added notes on the present organisation of Commando Forces, and we have no doubt that many members will enjoy reading just how our successors are progressing.
 
Teaching the new dog old tricks
Cornmando Training at Achnacarry during World War II evolved almost directly from the methods used by Sir John Moore in training light infantry at Shorncliffe, prior to the Peninsular War. Both systems aimed at teaching trained men how to become highly efficient infantrymen, capable of fighting alone or in small groups and using speed, lightness and mobility to achieve surprise and success. 
 
Commando training at CTCRM Lympstone is designed to achieve the same end as in World War II, with the exception that there is greater emphasis on marksmanship, tactical knowledge and understanding of the social environment in which men are likely to operate. Marines are given basic training for 24 weeks, joining as recruits direct from civil life and being awarded the Green Beret after 14 weeks and the commando shoulder insignia after passing out as King's Squad.
 
The tests and times parallel those of Achnacarry days, but the training is systematic and assessed step-by-step to limit wastage through minor injuries. The training is as demanding as anything done at Achnacarry, but the living conditions are vastly superior and the men recuperate quickly in good surroundings. Sailors, soldiers and airmen who are destined in serve in Commando Forces come as trained officers and men and undergo a six-week course to gain the knowledge and skills needed to earn a Green Beret. This course is nearer to the Achnacarry course in design and content.
 
Which is tougher, Achnacarry or Lympstone ?
Our assessment is that the former was more arduous and unpleasant because of the indifferent living conditions. Training at Lympstone is equally demanding, covers a variety of subjects, aims at producing the " whole man " and is probably more stimulating and interesting. The end product from Lympstone is a man who is highly competent, well motivated and a worthy successor to his Achnacarry predecessors.
 
Teaching the old dog new tricks
Perhaps nowhere more than in the field of defence have we, as a country, learned to look towards Europe (NATO) as the focus of our activities in the future. Since 1968 all United Kingdom Amphibious Forces, that is the ships, commandos and helicopters, have been declared to NATO. The special characteristics of commandos make them ideally suited for operations in the rugged terrain of, for example, Norway or Turkey, on NATO's northern and southern flanks. One commando group is socially trained and equipped for mountain and arctic warfare and could, if required, operate during the height of an arctic winter. 
 
Despite this emphasis on possible operations in concert with our NATO allies, today's Commando Forces may still be called upon to provide units to meet certain national contingency plans. All ex-commando readers will also be aware that commando units have operated in Northern Ireland since the emergency began in 1969. These changes of role and emphasis have inevitably brought about changes in our organisation. Like the remainder of the Services, we have learned to live with the 3-Rs of postwar life-Realism, Rationalisation and Re-organisation. This has tailbred and streamlined our organisations to meet the new situations. This has resulted in specialist units being formed of commando gunners, commando sappers and more recently commando logisticians. The last being a mixture of Royal Marines, RAOC., RCT.. REME.. RAPC, and the Naval Medical Branch.
 
Under HQ Commando Forces in Plymouth, the principle formation is 3 Commando Brigade RM., consisting of a Headquarters and 40, 41 and 42 Commandos, plus 29 Commando Light Regiment RA. and 59 Independent Commando Squadron RE. There is also the Commando Logistic Regiment. All these units, with the exception of 41 Commando, are based in the West Country. Adjacent to training areas, a mounting port and helicopter bases. 41 Commando is now based in Malta. 45 Commando Group is based at Arbroath in Scotland where mountain and arctic warfare training using the Cairngorms and Norway, can best be done.  Also under command is 95 Forward Observation Unit RA., based at Poole, which provides naval gunfire spotting teams. Finally, a Raiding Squadron equipped with small high-speed raiding craft is also part of Commando Forces. Special Boat Sections are attached to Commando Forces when necessary.
 
In the post-war years, Commando Forces have largely been concerned with United Kingdom commitments in the Far and Middle East. We now find ourselves in a different league as part of a larger NATO amphibious force, facing a sophisticated and well-equipped enemy. These changes have posed, and will continue to pose, a major challenge to today's proud wearers of the Green Beret. We may have put on a bit of chainmail, but we are as active, fit and determined as ever.
 

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