Commando Memorials

Commando memorialThere are many memorials across the world dedicated to Commandos. This section begins with the memorial to the Commandos located at Spean Bridge in the area where Commando training began, and where large numbers of Commandos, their families, and their friends, still gather each November in remembrance.

Additionally you will find guidelines that have been agreed on the scattering of ashes and the placement of plaques at the Area of Reembrance at the Commando Memorial, Spean Bridge.

Detail relating to the Commando Memorial at Westminster Abbey is also included, as is detail of a new memorial to commando training, The Gibraltar Stone,  on Woodbury Common near Lympstone . More detail about other Memorials will be added in due course.

A full list of Commando memorials across the world can be found on page 30 onwards on this document about The Commando Association.

The CVA Gallery has a section dedicated to War Graves and Memorials across the world

The Commando Memorial

[n.b. guidelines for plaques and the scattering of ashes at this memorial are included at the end]
 

History of The Commando Memorial.

Early in 1947 many members of branches of the Commando Association felt that some form of Memorial should be put up in Scotland. It was agreed that the most appropriate spot would be in the area of the former Commando Basic Training Centre at Achnacarry. Mr William Gilmour Smith JP of Glasgow advised the Association that a strong representative Committee had been formed with the intention of inviting the Scottish School of Sculptors to submit designs.

The Committee consisted of:

Sir Frank Mears PRSA, LL.D, FRIBA - Local Town and Planning expert,
Douglas Percy Bliss MA, ARCA - Principal of the Glasgow School of Art,
Dr Tom Honeyman JP - Glasgow’s Director of Art Galleries and Museums,
Sir John Richmond KBE, LL.D – one of Glasgow’s leading authorities on Art,
Sir William Reid Dick KCVO, RA – Noted Sculptor.

They were joined on the Committee by three representing Commandos –

The Lord Lovat DSO, MC
Lt. Col. J.M. Dunning-White
Lt Col. C.E. Vaughan OBE.

Douglas Bliss and Dr Tom Honeyman were responsible for drawing up the conditions of the test, and the artists were given 8 months to complete their designs. In all 26 designs were submitted, and these were exhibited in the Glasgow School of Art on the 28th October 1949. The Committee came from all over the country to judge the exhibits.  They were unanimous that the design by Mr Scott Sutherland, who was an Art Teacher at Dundee College of Art, was the most outstanding work, and they all felt would be a fitting symbol of all that Commandos stood for.

It took another two years to prepare the clay and plaster casts for the Foundry and complete the castings in bronze. The actual figures are 9 feet 4 inches high, and the finished memorial approximately 17 feet high. In the early stages a site was chosen above the lock gates at the Caledonian Canal on the actual road to Achnacarry, but this site was afterwards abandoned because of unforeseen difficulties. It was felt too, that as the memorial would be two and a half miles from the main Inverness Road, it was too far off the beaten track.

At this stage Lord Lovat was successful in having a suitable site generously donated by Mr McDonald of Speanbridge. The site commands a wonderful view. It is situated at the junction of the Gairlochy Road, and the main Inverness to Fort William, about three quarters of a mile from Spean bridge, at the top of the hill.

The Memorial was unveiled by Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother on Saturday 27th September 1952.

There was no parade or ceremonial drill, the Queen Mother expressing a wish to walk through a line of Commandos on the way back to her car. 

 

A simple Area of Remembrance was later opened adjacent to the Memorial which was extended in recent years.

 

Here Commandos and their families can lay small tributes to loved ones. There is also an area for scattering of ashes.

More information can be found HERE

 

At Spean Bridge, as at Westminster Abbey, an annual act of Remembrance was arranged, the first being on Sunday the 8th November 1953. Over the years this ceremony has become a very important one, not only for the residents of Lochaber, but for the hundreds of Commandos, their families, and their friends, making the pilgrimage to the area.

In 1957 the Town Council of Fort William agreed to arrange future services at the memorial, and also to be accountable for its future care and upkeep. The close links between Lochaber and the Commandos have been maintained ever since, and in 1993 the Lochaber District Council bestowed on the Commando Association the very great honour of the Freedom of Lochaber. This was presented to the Association on Saturday 13th November 1993. The following day a special plaque was unveiled By Brig. K.R.S. Trevor CBE, DSO, on the Memorial giving a short history of the Commandos.

The last photo shows members of the Commando Veterans Association (CVA) at the 2013 Remembrance Service. The CVA maintains close links with the people of Lochaber, local dignitaries, representatives of the Local Authority, the staff and pupils of Lochaber High School, local Cadet forces, Lochaber Archaeological Society, and many other interested parties. Our Annual Gathering on Remembrance weekend is always a well supported event with members travelling long distances to join us in Commando Country to remember all The Fallen Commandos, as well as all those Commandos who, with the passage of time, are no longer with us today. 

We will remember them

Source: Documents of the original Commando Association, and those written by the late Henry Brown OBE, No 1 Commando and General Secretary & Treasuer of the Commando Association.

Read on below .....

Guidelines on plaques and scattering of ashes at the Commando Memorial


The Commando Memorial is held in high regard and is recognised as a place of National and International importance. It is maintained in memory of and as a tribute to those Commandos who gave their lives in the Second World War and during more recent conflicts.

It is supported through financial donations from the visiting public and the Highland Council look after the memorial site with the aim of retaining the dignity and purpose of the Commando Memorial.

It is requested that family and friends wishing to place small memorials and plaques in the memorial garden kindly ensure that plaques measure no more than 6 inches x 4 inches (15cms x 10cms) and are made from weather proof material, and also held securely by a ground stake.

Due to the severity of the Highland weather, items left in the garden can deteriorate quickly. Therefore, Council staff, with dignity and integrity, will on occasion remove and dispose of items that have deteriorated. They respectively ask that no soft toys are left at the site as they deteriorate very quickly and will be removed for that reason.

Although the entire vicinity of the memorial has traditionally been used to scatter ashes, a new area has been created specifically for this purpose adjacent to the Area of Remembrance.

In the event of relatives wishing to scatter ashes, arrangements should be made with:

The Highland Council 
Community Services 
Carr’s Corner Depot
Lochybridge 
Fort William
PH33 6T
Phone: 01397 709000 
email [email protected]

If you have any more general questions on the use of the memorial garden contact: 

The Highland Council
Chief Executive’s Office
Fort William  
Phone: 01397 707231

50th anniversary of the unveiling of the Commando Memorial, Spean Bridge.

Type: Booklet
Author: Andrew Milne
Year of Publishing: 2014
Keywords: Commando Memorial, Spean Bridge, Duke Of Edinburgh, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, Service of Remembrance

A beautifully produced Service of Remembrance booklet to Commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the unveiling of the Commando Memorial at Spean Bridge by HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.  The memorial was unveiled and dedicated on the 27th September 1952. The anniversary commemoration took place during Remembrance weekend on the 9th November 2002.

This Service of Remembrance was attended by HRH Prince Phillip, The Duke of Edinburgh, K.G., K.T.

The booklet contains the history of the Memorial in photographs and narrative and a lot of other information about the Commandos.

CVA Army Commando Memorial


Photo: John Mewett, Tim McKerrith, Frank Johnson (3Cdo), Fran McKerrith, Norris Pickford, Capt. Geoff Murray - the concept design and installation team of the Memorial.


History of the CVA Army Commando Memorial

Written by CVA associate member John Mewett.
 
The CVA Memorial to the Army Commandos at the National Memorial Arboretum, Alrewas, was unveiled by HRH Prince Phillip on 29th July 2007.

The idea for this installation was first discussed at the Lincoln Branch of the newly formed Commando Veteran Association in December 2005 and a motion passed and subsequently put formally to the National Committee CVA on 10th January 2006.

The founder of the CVA Vic Ralph (1 Cdo), Deputy Chairman Lincoln Branch Frank Johnson (3 Cdo), and secretary of the Lincoln Branch John Mewett were then tasked by Stan Scott (Chairman) and the CVA National Committee, with bringing the project into being.

The National Arboretum was visited on a cold snowy February morning and it was agreed unanimously that the CVA must have a presence there for the future.

Engineer designer Norris Pickford was drafted into the team, Norris agreed to donate his time and services free to the project, he had designed similar works before and had long experience on working with metals and structures of the type envisaged.

Many sessions were held with quite a few different designs being considered. A scaled down replica of the Spean Bridge monument was even spoken about and priced but it proved to be too difficult to realise. The final design as it is seen to today was decided upon because of the iconic status that the FS Commando Knife holds among all who have worn the Green Beret and it also provided a continuity link with the old ‘Commando Association’ who had used a similar design in the past, but had by this time stood down. Read about the origins of the fighting knife here: History of the Commando Fighting Knife.

A drawing was completed and appointments were made to discuss the project with Paul Kennedy, grounds manager of the National Memorial Arboretum.

Norris prepared a life size model of the proposed memorial centre piece from paper and card. On Paul enquiring ‘what do you have in mind’ Norris laid out the replica on the manager’s office floor. ‘That’s it ‘he said ‘life size’. A small silence followed. ‘Great I’ll put the wheels in motion’ came Paul’s reply.

Anwick Forge in Lincoln was selected to create and assemble the centre piece and the team visited and explained the project to the talented and eager proprietors Tim and Fran McKerrith It was explained how important and revered the FS Knife, which formed the visual impact of the memorial, was to the soldiers of the commandos. Tim asked if an example was available and John offered his fathers (Bob Mewett’s No 12 & 1 Cdo) 1st pattern knife as a working model. Tim and Fran set to work.

The FS and wreath centre piece comprises of the mirror-polished forged stainless steel FS Knife up scaled 4:1 to within 1/1000 of an inch, a replica of the original 1st pattern FS Commando knife. This four foot knife is surrounded by a wreath of 126 individually hot-forged copper leaves, thus reflecting the badge worn by all service personnel who pass the qualification to wear the famous Green Beret and also the wreath as worn by the former association’s members.

The blade of the four foot long FS knife was forged under a 10 cwt power hammer from a single piece of stainless steel weighing approximately 25kg, which was heated to a temperature of approximately 1100 degrees in a gas furnace. The blade only, itself, took over four hours to complete! Blacksmith Tim McKerrith of Anwick Forge crafting the memorials FS Knife blade

Blacksmith Tim McKerrith of Anwick Forge crafting the memorials FS Knife blade

After some research copper was chosen as the metal for the leaves of the wreath as copper naturally weathers to a green colour thus slowly producing an appropriately green colour wreath. A truly fitting and ‘living’ memorial. This structure proudly stands on a steel centre pole encircled by the word ‘Commando’ visible from both sides of the memorial. The letters of the words are again in copper and the font was kept bold and large symbolising the fortitude and strength of the Commando forces. Frank, John and Norris visited the Anwick Forge several more times and on a couple of occasions actually helping with the fabrication of the memorial as the installation day drew nearer. By this time Capt. (later Major) Geoff Murray had been elected as the new Secretary of the CVA and he took over the wheels of organisation. Capt. Murray arranged for a team of young soldiers to construct the initial brickworks and labbing and he also administered the final details for the unveiling ceremony including arranging for the attendance of HRH Prince Phillip and the overall culmination of the project.

On that memorable day of 29th July 2007 the unveiling ceremony took place to an enthusiastic reception and the memorial has been a place of pilgrimage ever since.

The CVA Army Commando memorial is close to the Royal Marines memorial. Unlike today, in WW2 not all Royal Marines were Commando trained.

The two memorials now honour all who served as Commandos, both Army and Royal Marines.

The initial installation has now evolved and includes seats, memorial paver blocks and in June 2013 the fabulous Walls of Honour were added which form a fitting backdrop to the beautiful FS Knife.

The Walls of Honour carry the names of all the Army Commandos who lost their life whilst in Commando service during the Second World War. Anwick Forge were delighted to be asked to fabricate these to add to their initial work.

Commandos, Armed service’s personnel and families from all over the world visit the NMA and the CVA memorial stands out proudly to represent the bravery and service of all who have earned the right to wear the coveted Green Beret. The CVA summer gathering is held annually at the memorial in July. Details of this can be found on our events page. 

The Memorial in 2015

Westminster Abbey Memorial


The Combined Services Memorial at Westminster Abbey was unveiled on the 21st May 1948 by the Right Honourable Sir Winston Churchill KG PC.

 It was designed by the sculptor Gilbert Ledward, with three bronze figures in stone niches, with the dates 1939 and 1945 on tablets between. The models for the figures were serving members of the forces – the submariner was modelled on Leading Seaman Reginald Read, the Commando on Company Sergeant Major Ayres, and the representative of the Parachute Regiment was Corporal Howard Elliott.
 
A Roll of Honour for Commandos is on display in a case in the nave of the Abbey and the Commando Association Battle Honours flag is framed and displayed on the wall in St George’s chapel.
 
The Roll was pesented to the Abbey in 1949 by officers of the Commando Depot and completed though the generosity of Brigadier R.J.F.Tod.
 
A thanksgiving service with dedication of the Battle Honours Flag took place on the 15th April 1961.
 
The Laying Up of the Flag, unveiled by The Queen Mother, was on the 1st May 1971 (unfortunately the dagger at the top of this frame was stolen many years ago.)
 
Each year there is a small wreath laying Sevice at this Memorial.
View Images of the Wreath Laying Services
 

Source: Westminster Abbey 


15th April 1961 Dedication of the Commando Association Battle Honours Flag at Westminster Abbey. Narrated by Henry Brown OBE.
 

Speech by Winston Churchill at the unveiling of the Westminster Abbey Memorial

Type: Files
Author: John Mewett
Year of Publishing: 2015
Keywords: Churchill Speech Westminster Abbey Memorial May 1948

The Gibraltar Stone Memorial

Memorial to Commando Training
Woodbury Common nr Exeter
Ordinance Survey Maps can be found here: Maps of the area

Commando memorial woodbury common

Key Points

  • The Gibraltar Stone is a new memorial commemorating commando training in Devon - Royal Marines, Army and All Arms Commandos have trained on Woodbury Common near Exeter since 1940.
  • The stone is an actual piece of the Rock of Gibraltar, donated to the Royal Marines by the people of Gibraltar in 2014. This donation marked both the 350th anniversary of the creation of the Royal Marines in 1664, and the 300th anniversary of the capture of Gibraltar by British and Dutch Marines in 1704.
  • The Memorial is located in the heart of Woodbury Common, on land owned by Clinton Devon Estates; it can be visited by the public. 
  • The Memorial is on the ridge between Peter’s Pool and the Water Tunnel (GR038859), overlooking the old World War II firing range and part of the ‘Endurance Course’. 
  • The stone carries on it two plaques. One commemorates the history of commando training on Woodbury Common, the second has on it the 4 key attributes that together make up ‘Commando Spirit’:

Courage – Determination - Unselfishness - Cheerfulness in Adversity

History of The Gibraltar Stone Commando Memorial

Early in 2014, the year of the 350th Birthday of the Royal Marines, it occurred to me that there was no memorial on Woodbury Common to mark the fact that thousands of Royal Marines, Royal Marines Commandos, Army Commandos and All Arms Commandos have trained there since 1940. Surely all the men – and now a few women - who have trained there and served their Country so well, and the great support they have received from the local population, deserved some mark of recognition?

By happy coincidence, in 2014, an ex-Commandant General of the Royal Marines, Lieutenant General Sir James Dutton KCB CBE, was serving as Governor of Gibraltar.  Once he had been made aware of the idea, Jim Dutton approached the Chief Minister of Gibraltar, the Hon Fabian Picardo QC, with a request for a donation of stone for the memorial. The Royal Marines have a very close historical connection with Gibraltar, having captured it in August 1704. So General Dutton’s request also marked the 310thanniversary of that battle.

On behalf of the people of Gibraltar, the Gibraltar Government generously gifted to the Royal Marines an actual piece of the Rock of Gibraltar. As Chief Minister Picardo said:  “Gibraltarians don’t part with pieces of their Rock lightly, but, if there is anywhere that we think there should be a piece of the Rock, it is close to the Royal Marines”

Weighing in at just over 4 tonnes, and approximately 1.5 metres in height, width and depth, this boulder had, some years previously, fallen from the cliffs of the Rock of Gibraltar above Catalan Bay. Its natural, pyramidal shape mirrored that of the Rock itself, and the white colour of its limestone provided the ideal background for bronze plaques. 

With the help of members of the Gibraltar Regiment and Gibraltarian Environment Agency, the stone was collected and handed over to Royal Air Force movement staff in Gibraltar.  They were able to put it on one of the C130 Hercules training flights which regularly visit Gibraltar, and it was delivered by them to RAF Brize Norton in the Oxfordshire.

In the meantime, Clinton Devon Estates, the landowners of Woodbury Common, had been approached to see if they would provide a site for the stone on the Common.  In recognition of their long-standing relationship with the Royal Marines, and with strong personal support from the current Lord Clinton, outline permission was readily given.  At the same time it was clear that environmental concerns would need to be addressed. Woodbury Common is a designated SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) providing habitat for important endangered species such as the nightjar, southern damsel fly and Dartford warbler.  Dr Sam Bridgewater, the Nature Conservation Officer at Clinton Devon Estates, worked with the project to provide the necessary environmental impact survey and to get approval for the siting of the stone from Natural England, the regulatory authority.

The stone itself had meanwhile been moved to South Wales where Mossfords, a firm of stonemasons specialising in war memorial restoration, had agreed to design, source and mount the bronze plaques at ‘cost price’ – an extremely generous offer of support for the Royal Marines.   Working with the CEO of Mossfords, Simon Morgan, and the RSM from the Commando Training Centre Royal Marines, WO1 Phil Gilby RM, we designed and ‘word-smithed’ two plaques for the stone. 

The first plaque describes the purpose of the memorial and what can be seen from its location.  The view from the chosen site (Grid Ref SY038859) takes in both land and sea, reflecting the Corps’ motto: ‘Per Mare, Per Terram’. It also looks over some of the abandoned WW2 training facilities, notably an old rifle range and, in the trees beyond, the area once covered by Dalditch Camp.  On the hillside immediately below the memorial the modern day Endurance Course passes close by. This six mile endurance challenge runs across the Common through tunnels and other obstacles. It has to be completed against the clock by anyone wishing to qualify as a commando and gain the coveted green beret.  From the memorial one can see two of the Endurance Course obstacles:  Peters Pool and the Water Tunnel.

The second plaque has on it the Royal Marines Crest, the Globe and Laurel, surrounded by the four key attributes expected to be displayed by a commando: Determination, Courage, Unselfishness, Cheerfulness in Adversity. These four qualities are the glue that binds commandos together, giving them their unique ethos or ‘commando spirit’.  This smaller plaque faces one of the hills on the Endurance Course and it will be seen by every recruit and officer under training as they complete that part of their commando course.

By the end of 2014 the stone had been finished by the stonemasons in Wales and was moved to the Commando Training Centre Royal Marines (CTCRM) at Lympstone in Devon. CTCRM is the modern day centre of excellence for all Royal Marines and other arms commando training.  It occupies the same site as the original RM Depot camp, built in 1939 for this purpose on the side of the River Exe estuary between Exton and Lympstone. CTCRM will act as custodians of the stone on behalf of the wider Corps of Royal Marines. In February 2015 CTCRM moved the stone to its new location on Woodbury Common. The challenge of moving and placing the stone in its new home was undertaken by Royal Marines Assault Engineers from CTCRM, with vehicle and logistics support provided by the Commando Logistic Regiment.

Funding for the project was provided by the Royal Marines Charitable Trust Fund, the charity which aims to improve the quality of life of serving and retired member of the Corps and their families.  Many people have wished to donate to the RMCTF in order to support this memorial, and the work they do helping Servicemen during and after active duty.  In order to do this, you can find details of the Charity’s work and links to making a donation on their website: http://www.rmctf.org.uk

In the longer term, the memorial will be looked after and maintained by the Commando Training Centre Royal Marines.  All enquiries may be directed to them at 01392 414011.

Lt Col Alastair Rogers RM (Retd)

January 2015

** Ordinance Survey Maps can be found here: Maps of the area