Layforce

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'Layforce'

Three UK based Army Commando units, Nos. 7, 8, and 11 Commandos, were initially combined within 'Force Z' for operations initially envisaged against Rhodes in the Eastern Mediterranean.  Other elements of the Force included a number of men from No.3 Commando and the Canoe section of No.8 (Guards) Commando.  They sailed from the Isle of Arran on the 31st January 1941, and arrived at Suez on the 7th March.

BOYLE, Richard

Major Richard Boyle MC died serving with the 1st Black Watch during operations at the River Rhine crossing having left the Commando. (1) 
 
He had previously served as Captain of 'D' Company,  'D' Bn.  Layforce, and was one of those who escaped from Crete after the ill fated action there. (2)
 
In 1942 he was awarded the MC for gallant and distinguished services in the Middle East. (3)
 
Sources

BROWN, Jack

Trooper Jack Brown was shot and killed whilst a prisoner of war and attempting to escape. The Casualty Lists show he was captured at Crete at the time of the evacuation of allied forces.
 
Service
The Tank Museum archives record the following:
  1. "X"1 list Depot Commando Training and Holding Unit 2/2/41 (Yorkshire Hussars 6/41) 

BURTON, Kenneth Harwood

Sergeant Kenneth Burton died during operations at Litani River.
 
Kenneth Burton, born in Rhondda, Wales,  was a butcher's assistant when he enlisted at Pontypridd aged 18 on  the 23rd June 1930 and was posted to the 1st King's Dragoon Guards on 26th June 1930. On the 4th March1932 he was posted to the Royal Dragoons, aka The 1st Royal Dragoons in India, before moving on to Egypt on the 20th November 1935. He returned to the UK on 13th May 1936, and a few months later on the  29th September 1936 was discharged to the Army Reserve.
 

CHEYNE, John

Jock Cheyne 11 Commando
Sergeant John Cheyne, 8 troop, was posted to 'L' Detachment, Special Air Service Brigade, on the 28th August 1941. He died during Operation Squatter targetting an airfield at Timimi, west of Tobruk, Libya, whilst attached to 'L' Detachment, Special Air Service Brigade. 
 

CROSBIE, John

Private John Crosbie died during operations in Crete [1].
 
Extract from the Dumfries and Galloway Standard - Saturday 12 June 1943
"Dumfries Commando Dies Of Wounds :-  James Crosbie, 32 Shakespeare Street, Dumfries, has received intimation from the War Office that his son, Pte. John Crosbie, K.O.S.B., who was reported as wounded and missing while serving as a Commando in Crete two years ago, must now be presumed to have died of wounds." [2].
 

DUFFY, Joseph Aloysius

Pte. Duffy joined L Detachment, SAS, from No 11 Commando on the 28th August 1941 and was killed in training due to a parachute failure with his friend and fellow Seaforth Highlander, Pte. WarburtonLocation given as East side of the Great Bitter Lake. The pair became the Regiment's first casualties. 

FASSAM, Joseph William

Joseph William Fassam 1st SRS
Lance Bombardier Joseph Fassam died during operations at Termoli Italy with the Special Raiding Squadron having left the Commando.
Service 
No. 8 Commando;  
4 Special Service Battalion;
'B' Battalion Layforce;
Royal Artillery;
Middle East Commando, 'A' Squadron;
1st SAS;
Special Raiding Squadron.
 
Sources
CWGC.
[Service and Image] The SAS and LRDG Roll of Honour 1941 -1947.
 

JOHNSTON, Robert

Corporal Robert Johnston 11 Commando
Corporal Robert Johnston died of  exhaustion and malaria whilst assigned from the Commando to Middle East Detachment 2, later redesignated 2nd Special Service Detachment (SSD 2), in Burma.
 
Some additional detail can be found on this link to a message on our Forum.
 
Sources
CWGC
His niece Mary Johnston.
 

KEITH, Douglas

Pte. Douglas Keith, formerly 11 Commando,  was posted to 'L' Detachment, Special Air Service Brigade, on the 28th August 1941, and was taken prisoner after Operation Squatter.  He died whilst being transported on the Italian prison ship SS Sebastiano Venier, after it was was torpedoed by a British submarine.

MAXWELL, Thomas Turnbull

Gdsm. Maxwell died whilst a prisoner of war.
 
The CWGC list him by his Regiment only. His name is however recorded on the Westminster Abbey Commando ROH as being a member of Layforce and dying as a Prisoner of War.  His name is therefore held on our ROH in the hope that further information establishing, or otherwise, any Commando service will come to light in the future.
 
Krakow Rakowicki Cemetery

MILLER, John

Pte. Miller was one of a contingent from Layforce (No 8 Commando)  who were attached to Middle East Detachment 2, later known as 2nd Special Service Detachment or SSD2, for operations in the Far East.

MOYLES, Gerard

Lance Corporal Gerard Moyles died during the evacuation of allied forces from Crete. The Casualty Lists show he was a casualty from 'D' Bn. Layforce,which was formed from 50 and 52 ME Commando. 
 
Service
The Tank Museum archives record the following:

MUNRO, George

Sergeant George Munro, a veteran of the Litani River raid, died during operations with the S.B.S., on the island of Samos after leaving the Commando.
 
Postings
Sep   1940 - volunteered for 11 Cdo.
Mar  1941- arrive Middle East - 'C' Bn Layforce
Aug  1941- 11 Cdo absorbed into ME Cdo
Jan   1943 - volunteered  for SAS
Mar 1943 - posted to D Sqn - promoted Sgt - D Sqn becomes SBS.
 

NIXON, Malvern

Private Malvern Nixon died when his jeep patrol was attacked whilst en route to harass the enemy in Southern Tunisia. He was serving with 1st SAS  ('B' Sqn.) at the time of his death having left the Commandos. He had previously served in No 2 Independent Company,  No 11 Commando, Layforce, the Middle East Commando, and 'L' Detachment SAS. 
 

Operation Exporter

Location

Litani River
Syria
33° 20' 20.0004" N, 35° 14' 43.0008" E
Sunday, June 8, 1941

The original objective assigned to C Battalion "Layforce" (11 Scottish Commando) was to land on two beaches to the north of the River Litani and one to the south, seize and hold the Qasmiye bridge over it until relieved by 21 Australian Infantry Brigade.

Operation Flipper

Location

Beda Littoria
Libya
32° 45' 59.0004" N, 21° 44' 30.0012" E
Friday, November 14, 1941

Attack on Rommel's HQ by units from 'C' Bn Layforce. They included a group from No 11 Commando led by Lt Col Keyes supported by others, including two from No 7 Cdo who had escaped from Crete, Sgt Fred Birch (No 7 Cdo & 51ME Cdo) and Cpl John Kerr (No 7 Cdo & 51ME Commando)

PARKINGTON, Oswald

The full circumstances of the death of Pte. Parkington are not known to this archive. The date of his death coincides with that of the evacuation of allied forces from Crete. Elements of Layforce were engaged in a rearguard action whilst the evacuation took place. 
 

PATERNOSTER, Harry

Private Harry Paternoster died of heatstroke.
 
Sources
CWGC.
War Diary A Bn,Layforce, file ref National Archives WO 218/168, Entry for the 6th April "The death from Heatstroke of 5827448 Pte Paternoster H. occurred in 13th General Hospital, Suez."
 

RICHARDSON, Arthur

Company Sergeant Major Arthur Richardson was one of a contingent from Layforce (No 8 Commando)  who were attached to Middle East Detachment 2, later known as 2nd Special Service Detachment or SSD2, for operations in the Far East.

ROBERTSON, Andrew

Gunner Andrew Robertson died of wounds received during operations at Litani River.
 
Notes
Ramleh War Cemetery was used "by various Commonwealth hospitals posted in turn to the area for varying periods." (Source: CWGC).
 

SEVERN, Clive

LCpl. Severn SBS
Lance Corporal Clive Severn died at sea. He received a posthumous MiD "in recognition of gallant and distinguished services in the Middle East. [Source: London Gazettes Supp. 36065, page 2870.]
 

SHORTEN, Raymond Herbert

Lieutenant Raymond Shorten left the Commando in July 1942 to join 'L' Detachment SAS. He  died in October during operations with the SAS at Sidi Barrani.
 
 Nov 40, enlisted General List
 Dec 40, 52 ME Cdo
 Jan 41, wounded
 Mar 41, merged into D Bn,Layforce
 Apr 42, merged into ME Cdo C Sqn
 July 42, joins L Det, SAS Bde.
 
Sources
CWGC.

SILLETT, Thomas John

Pte. Thomas Sillett died of illness (diptheria) whilst serving with 1st SAS, 'A' Sqn.  He had joined No 8 Commando in 1940 and embarked with them for the Middle East at the end of January 1941 as part of Layforce.  He later left the Commandos and joined 'L' Detachment SAS in June 1942.
 

SMITH, Peter

Gunner Peter Smith died whilst a prisoner of war.

Historical information for Krakow Rakowicki Cemetery.
Those buried here died while prisoners of war during the German occupation, most of the graves coming from the cemetery at the large camp at Lamsdorf, Stalag VIIIB (after 1943 known as Stalag 344), where there was a hospital of 450 beds used only for Commonwealth prisoners. (Source : CWGC.)

THOMAS, Norman

Private Norman Thomas was reported as missing in action on Crete on the 2nd June 1941, however he had been taken prisoner. He died whilst a prisoner of war.
 
The CWGC and Casualty Records list him by his Regiment only. His name is however recorded on the Westminster Abbey Commando ROH as being a member of Layforce and dying as a Prisoner of War.  His name is therefore held on our ROH in the hope that further information establishing, or otherwise,  any Commando service will come to light in the future.
 
Notes

WARBURTON, Kenneth

Pte. Warburton was killed in training as a result of parachute failure whilst attached to 'L' Detachment SAS. He had previously served in 11 Commando 6 troop.  Also killed was his friend and fellow Seaforth Highlander, Pte. Joe Duffy. Location given as East side of the Great Bitter Lake.
 

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