45RM Commando

Formed at Burley in the first week of August 1943 as No. 45 Royal Marine Commando, Royal Marines, from the disbanded 5th RM Battalion.  Their first Commanding Officer was Lt. Col. N.C. Ries. There followed hard training with those unfit or unsuitable being removed to other duties. In September the Commando moved to billets at Ayr.

On the 26th November 1943 the Commando moved to the Commando Depot [view] at Achnacarry for their Commando course

From Achnacarry they returned for a brief period to Ayr for some leave. Then on the 19th January 1944 the Commando moved to the Combined Training Centre (CTC) at Dorling for additional advanced training. The Chief Instructor was Major W.N. Gray, RM [view], who was later to command the unit in France, Holland, and Germany.

During this time the Commando became part of No 1 Special Service Brigade under Brigadier Lord Lovat DSO, MC [view]. This Brigade consisted of No. 45RM Commando and three other Commando Units, all Army Commandos. No. 3 Commando, No. 4 Commando, and No. 6 Commando.

After about 2 weeks at CTC Dorling, the Commando moved to Eastbourne. During this period the training continued at a pace. Three troops, 'B' under Capt. N.G. Michel RM ; 'C' under Capt. J.N. Rushforth RM; and 'D' under Capt. A.A.B. Scott, RM, went to the Commando Mountain Warfare Training Centre at St Ives [more] to do cliff climbing and practice landings on rocks. 'E' troop under Capt. I.N.N. Beadle, RM, went to the Parachute Training School at Ringway and qualified as Parachutists.

On the 26th May 1944 at 0400hrs the Commando left Eastbourne by train for a Staging Camp at Southampton. Then on the 5th June 45RM Commando moved by troop carrying vehicles to Warsash where it embarked in five Landing Craft Infantry (small). At 1700 hrs the same day their craft slipped anchor and formed up in the Solent taking their place in the vast armada of craft that was shortly to cross the English Channel for Normandy.

No. 45 RM Commando, Royal Marines, landed on the 6th June 1944 with the rest of the 1st Special Service Brigade on Sword Beach and were involved in the fighting in France until the 7th September when the Brigade was returned to England to refit. Disembarking on the 8th September at Southampton, the Commando moved to the Commando Group Reception Camp at Petworth, and later to Eastney Barracks at Southsea, and then Bexhill.

On the 14th January 1945 the Commando embarked at Tilbury Docks for Ostende, arriving the following day. From there the Commando moved forward and was involved in the  operations to capture Maasbracht and Brachterbeek. It was during the latter that Lance Corporal H.E. Harden, the RAMC medical orderly attached to 'A' troop of 45RM Commando, was awarded the Victoria Cross [read more].

Read the 1 Commando Brigade HQ War Diary, January - April 1945, for more detail about operational timelines [go to war diary].

Post War

The Commando was one of the three RM Commando Units not disbanded after the war. It was edesignated as 45 Commando Royal Marines in March 1946.

The post-war years saw the Commando deployed on operations to Palestine, Suez, Malaya, Aden and Cyprus. The Commando finally returned to the UK in 1967 after 24 years operational service abroad and moved to its current base in Arbroath in 1971.

Since then they have been deployed in Northern Ireland, and, in 1982, the Commando took part in Operation Corporate, the recapture of the Falkland Islands. In 1991 the Commando deployed to Northern Iraq on a humanitarian assistance mission and in 1994 it was dispatched to reinforce the Kuwaiti border against renewed Iraqi aggression. More recently the Commando has been deployed on operations in Afghanistan.

Primary Source
The Story of 45RM Commando written by an officer of the Commando and made available to all who served.
Some names from various sources including Capt Day 'B' troop in his account for By Sea and Land by Robin Neillands: Col. Nicol Gray (OC 45RM Cdo); Maj Alf Blake ('B' tp); Capt. E.W.D. Coventry (East Lancs & 'A' tp);TSM 'Wiggy' Bennet MM ('A' tp); Mne Bertram Kenneth 'Scouse' Ord ('A tp kia 24-3-45); Mnes Derrick Cakebread and Fred Harris ('A' tp); Capt. Day ('B' tp) ; Sgt Tomas ('A' tp); Lt Peter Riley MC ('B' tp later Capt 'D' tp); Lt Graham Partington (replaced Lt Riley); Lt Eric McDonald ('B' tp); TSM B. Aylett MM ('B' tp); Sgt Johnny Bastable ('B' tp); Sgt Jack Sinclair ('B' tp); Cpl. J. Sykes MM ('B' tp); Mnes Ogle and Denny ('B' tp); Capt. Barnard (Gordon Highlanders & 'E' tp until wounded); Capt Maurice Chester Brockbank (Capt of 'E' tp later kia 12-4-45 at the Aller - replaced Capt Barnard); TSM R. Haines ('D' tp); Sgt. Fenwick ('D' tp)

View our Gallery images of 45RM Commando

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45RM Cdo. Roll of Honour

"They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old. Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, We will remember them."

click on any name for more, or view this ROH with more detail here [alternative view]
The Fallen from No. 45 Royal Marine Commando
Capt. B.G.  WHITE
Lieut. P.  CASPER
Lieut.  A.  GALE
Lieut.  W.E.  KENNEDY
Lieut.  P.  WINSTON
Lieut.  T.D.  WRIGHT
Sgt.  P.  AHERN
Sgt. F.  KERR
Sgt. R.D.  WHITE
Cpl. E.B.  BEACH
Cpl. A. R.  BROOKS
Cpl. J.S.  COCKS
Cpl. I.  COHEN
Cpl. J. J.  DUCHAN
Cpl. H.A. GAGE
Cpl. J.T.   KNOTT
Cpl. J.H.  LAING
Cpl. D.A.W.  MONEY
Cpl. L.  MYERS
Cpl. D.W. REED
Cpl. J.R.   RUSTON
Mne. D.A.  BAKER
Mne. R.  BELL
Mne. B.L.  CANN
Mne. A.C.A.  COOK
Mne. W.  CROUCH  
Mne.  K.W.J.  DAVIS
Mne.  A.J.  EARL
Mne.  E.W.  FORBES
Mne.  B.B.  FOSTER
Mne.  K.R.  GEORGE
Mne.  R.  GEORGE
Mne.  E. J.  GLADWIN
Mne.  G.S. HALL
Mne.   J.  HALL
Mne.  W.   HOBBINS
Mne.  P.L.  HOLMES
Mne.  A.J.  KEMP
Mne.  R. J.  KEOUGH
Mne.  C.  KING
Mne.  G.  LAY
Mne.  E.J.   LEE
Mne.  L.L.  LEE
Mne.  T.A.  LOVETT
Mne.  C.A.  LYON
Mne.  L. H.  MANLEY
Mne.   J.  McFATTER
Mne.  N.M.  McINTOSH
Mne.  D.  McKEOWN
Mne.  C.  McPAKE
Mne.  C.  MOSLEY
Mne.  B.K.  ORD
Mne.  H.   PLANT
Mne.  W.  PURVIS
Mne.  T.   ROBSON
Mne.  R. J.   ROLSON
Mne.  J.G.   RUSSELL
Mne.  H.J.   STAPLEY
Mne.  D.P.  SWEET
Mne.  R.L.   SYMES
Mne.  K.E.   THOMAS
Mne.  R.  THOMAS
Mne.  E.E.L.  TONKS
Mne.  F.E.  WALES
Mne.  J.  WALKER
Mne.  J.W.  WALKER
Mne.  G.  WATSON
Mne.  R.A.  WILCOX
Mne.  F.  WILD
Mne.  S.W.  WILSON
Mne.  A.  WRIGHT

We will Remember them

and all ranks who served in the Commando, and have since passed on in the passage of time, who are also remembered by their proud families and comarades.

HARDEN, LCpl. Henry Eric, VC

Lance Corporal
Royal Army Medical Corps
Service number: 
Honours & Awards: 
Died : 
Tuesday, January 23, 1945
Killed in action or died of wounds
Roll of Honour: 
LCpl Harden VC
Original grave of LCpl Harden VC

LCpl. Harden was killed during operations in the Brachterbeek area of Holland. He was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.


London Gazette of 9th March, 1945

In North-West Europe on 23rd January, 1945 the leading section of a Royal Marine Commando Troop having come under intense machine-gun fire was ordered to make for some houses close by. Four of the section had been wounded and were left lying in the open. Under continuous fire Lance Corporal Harden at once went forward and with great coolness and bravery attended to the four casualties. He then carried one of them back to cover. He was ordered not to go forward again and an attempt was made to bring in the remaining casualties with the aid of tanks, but this proved unsuccessful owing to the heavy and accurate fire of anti-tank guns. A second attempt under a smoke-screen also proving unsuccessful, Lance Corporal Harden insisted in going forward with a volunteer stretcher party and succeeded in bringing back another badly wounded man. He went out a third time, and whilst returning with the stretcher party, he was killed. Throughout this long period Lance-Corporal Harden displayed superb devotion to duty and personal courage of the highest order. His action was directly responsible for saving the lives of the wounded brought in, while his complete contempt for all personal danger, and the magnificent example he set of cool courage and determination to continue with his work, whatever the odds, was an inspiration to his comrades and will never be forgotten by those who saw it.

**Click on this link for images of his grave and those of others at Nederweert War Cemetery

Follow this link to learn more about all the Commandos awarded the Victoria Cross

Photo of grave in Gallery: 

HARDEN, Henry Eric, LCpl. VC announcement in Gazettes

Type: Files
Author: John Mewett
Year of Publishing: 2015
Keywords: Eric Harden VC RAMC Attached 45 RM Commando

The citation published in the London Gazette 6th March 1945 for the award of the Victoria Cross to Lance -Corporal Henry Eric Harden RAMC attached to 45RM Commando for action in NW Europe.

An article about L/Cpl. Henry Eric Harden VC RAMC - The Only Medical Corp VC of WW2

L/Cpl Henry Eric Harden VC

 R.A.M.C. attached 45 RM Commando


The Only Medical Corp VC of WW2


By Robert J Mewett


New students, like me, of the Victoria Cross could be forgiven for thinking that by the very nature of the tasks set to the skills of the R.A.M.C and their presence in nearly all front line fighting that their numbers would be bristling with WW2 VC recipients.  And in my opinion this would be right and justified.  But this is not the case.  Only one was awarded during the Second World War.  Henry Eric Harden was attached to No 45 RM Commando as their medical orderly during their fiercely fought action at Maastbract in Holland.

Henry Harden was born on 23 February 1912 in Northfleet, Kent.  In a family of eight he was the seventh son.  A keen sportsman he excelled at swimming, tennis and football at school in Northfleet where he received all of his education.  Also a keen musician he played the Violin.

At the age of ten he helped out in his brother in- laws butchers shop.  He eventually became a butcher taking over the business when tragically his brother in-law died. Very early on Henry showed a keen interest in things medical and joined the St Johns Ambulance brigade where he became a sergeant.

As the war effort gathered pace in 1942 the 30year old Henry Harden was conscripted into the Royal Artillery but as his medical aptitude became realized he was soon transferred to the R.A.M.C, where he served in a field ambulance unit.

Henry soon became restless with inactivity of service at home and in November 1943 he volunteered for the Commandos and was posted to the Achnacarry Commando training depot situated in the Highlands of Scotland.   A comrade of the same intake Mne. Keith Thompson , later also of 45 RM Commando , remembers sharing billets with Harden who he says was a quiet quick witted individual with a keen sense of humour.   Commando training successfully completed Harden was posted as a medical Orderly to Able troop 45 RM Commando in January 1944.    

He and the rest of the Commando commenced training for, which was to become the D-Day landings.

After their involvement in the D-Day activities 45RM Commando, who along with No 3, No 4 and No 6 Army commando formed No 1 Special Service brigade, returned to the UK for replacements and refitting and on 6th December 1944 was renamed the 1st Commando brigade.   

1St Cdo Brigade was expecting to go to the Far East but on 7th January orders were given for them to return NW Europe.  The first action on arrival in NW Europe which involved the brigade was ‘Operation Blackcock’.  The objective was to clear the enemy from the Roermond Triangle.   Attached to the 7th armored brigade they were given the job of crossing the Juliana canal and driving on through Maastbract and Bracterbeck in order to capture the town of Linne.

On the freezing night of the 23rd of January 1945 the German forces were already in full retreat out of Maastbract and on the same night No 6 Army Commando had successfully traversed the frozen canal and occupied the town.  45 RM Commando had pushed forward to occupy the smaller village of St.Joostburg  setting up HQ in a house situated behind the local church which offered protection from incoming fire.

Able Troop of 45 Cdo was ordered forward along the station Rd to occupy the railway station at Maastbract.  All went according to plan until the troop reached the crossroads.  Here they were trapped in an ambush by the enemy forces that had set their lines at Montfortebeek.  Able Troop came under intense MG and Mortar fire and were split and cut off from the main force. Some men had to lie in the freezing snow covered fields while others took cover in houses and outbuildings. Able Troops situation was made worse by a well placed German sniper who added to what seemed to be a helpless position.

Sheltering in one of the nearby houses was the RAMC contingent and among them Doctor John Tulloch.   Tulloch observing the situation, with dead and heavily wounded lying in the open fields, decided to attempt to help his comrades.  He arranged for jeeps which would be protected by a Red Cross ensign to drive out and to bring back as many wounded as they could manage. The Jeeps set off on their mission and were on their way back when they came under heavy enemy fire, an action which violated the Geneva Convention, one jeep was completely destroyed and all the occupants killed.   John Tulloch was awarded the MC for his valiant part in this action.

The position then was this. A part of Able troop was pinned down and had taken severe casualties.  The troop’s position was exposed and was being exploited by a well placed sniper.  A party under the protection of a medical ensign had attempted to extract wounded and been seriously attacked. The foregoing makes the feat of Henry Harden strikingly selfless and even more remarkable.  Harden had been observing the unfolding events and still insisted that he go out and try to help and recover more of the wounded armed only with a side arm for self protection.

On all fours he scurried alone a distance of 120 mtrs across flat open ground while the area was being swept by heavy and concentrated fire.  He calmly bound up the wounds of one officer and two marines and successfully dragged one marine to safety single handed.  Whilst dragging his wounded comrade eye witnesses could see the snow flying all around from bullets one of which wounded Harden in his side.

After Hardens initial success two other attempts to rescue the wounded were made, one by tanks and the other with the aid of a smoke screen, but both failed. Harden was ordered not to expose himself any more but despite this he arranged a stretcher party, and while carrying a white flag with a red cross went out yet again to attend his comrades. Even though the second marine was hit again while being transported and died, Harden, with stretcher bearers , went out a third time.  It was while assisting an officer back to safety on this third attempt the fearless Harden was mortally wounded.

The intensity of the enemy covering fire prevented any body recovering Harden until the next day, but Hardens valour had inspired all around and they were able to hold and secure their positions.  Enemy counter attacks were beaten off and the objective of capturing the town of Linne was eventually achieved by No 3 Army Commando.  With help from tanks of the Royal Hussars they stormed the town and overcame fanatical enemy resistance.

When Henry Harden performed this courageous act he was 32 yrs old and was married with two small children.  

Although Henry Harden was the only recipient of the Victoria Cross in the R.A.M.C from the WW2 conflicts they are the third highest recipients, behind the Royal Artillery and the Royal Engineers, of the award. The R.A.M.C are however the Regiment with the highest number of awards per capita in the British forces.

Henry Eric Harden VC is buried in the Nederweert War Cemetery Holland.

Henry Harden’s Victoria Cross is held and displayed at the Army Medical Services Museum Aldershot.

The memorial plaque at the bridge in Montfortabreek.  A slight inaccuracy on the plaque states Harden was killed on his fourth attempt.  His Gazette citation however states clearly that it was in fact on his third attempt that Harden fell.

My Thanks to:

Stan (Scotty) Scott…….3 Commando
Mne. Keith Thompson…., 45 RM Commando
Major Erehard Vandaele ……….Medical Corp Reserve….Belgium Armed Forces (Translation of Original documents)
* Follow this link to learn more about all the Commandos awarded the Victoria Cross

GRAY, William Nichol (Lt Col)

Lieutenant Colonel
Royal Marines
Royal Navy
Lieut. Colonel Gray was awarded the DSO whilst Temporary Major (Acting Temporary Lieutenant-Colonel ) of the Commando.


On 23rd-24th March 1945 Lieutenant Colonel Gray was in command of 46 (Royal Marine) Commando which captured the original bridgehead over the River Rhine. He attacked across the river in Buffaloes and fought his way inland with unparalleled determination and skill. His men captured two large groups of houses killing over thirty enemy and capturing eighty three enemy in the first ten minutes of the operation. This was only made possible by the speed and dash of this fearless advance where a number of key personnel were lost. Lieutenant Colonel Gray never allowed the impetus to slacken despite every enemy opposition, and his dauntless courage and sure progress made the brigade task possible. He was in every way an inspiration and example to the men under his command. He was continually under fire from small arms fire from the Rhine to Wesel, and in Wesel was under fire from enemy armed with panzerfausts (hand-held anti-tank weapons) which wounded many of the men around him. His cool judgement and his complete contempt for danger inspired his men and influenced the battle at a most critical stage.
(London Gazettes Supp 36947, page 998, and 36992, page 1507. National Archives WO 373/47/52) 
​He was awarded a Bar to his DSO for operations in NW Europe.


Lieutenant Colonel Gray commanded No. 45 (Royal Marine) Commando during the assault across the Rhine and the capture of Wesel on the night 23rd-24th March 1945. Lieutenant Colonel Gray’s task was to force his way to the Northern sector of the town and seize a factory which was vital in order to achieve a successful consolidation. Following up rapidly behind the leading unit who had broken into the city, he passed through and debouched into the streets. While leading his troops at speed and clearing all opposition in his path with great determination he was wounded by a panzerfaust fired at close range. In spite of his wound he refused to be evacuated and completed his important task. Having captured the factory he disposed his troops so skilfully that during the next thirty six hours they were able to beat off three major counter attacks by infantry and self-propelled guns with enormous casualties to the enemy. Throughout this time although he was suffering considerably from the pain of his wound he was constantly encouraging his men, who were inspired by their Commander’s example. Not until the last counter attack had been broken, forty eight hours after he had been wounded did this gallant officer allow himself to be evacuated.
(Source: London Gazettes Supp. 37136, page 3191 and National Archives WO/373/47/68.)
​Post war Colonel William Nicol GRAY, D.S.O., lately Inspector-General of Police, Palestine, was appointed Companion to the Order of Saint Michael and Saint George.
(Source: London Gazettes Supp. 38311, page 3369.)

45RM Cdo. Officers June'44

Extract from the Navy Lists

June 1944 Volume 1 Pages 1098/9  (pages 1102/3 on N.L.S. website page list)
Source: National Library of Scotland website.
Commanding Officer —  Act. Lieut.-Col. N. C. Ries.
2nd in Command 
Act. Tempy. Major W. N. Gray.
Act. Tempy. Maj. J. N. Rushforth.

Act Capt.
A. W. Neaves.
N. G. Michell.
Act. Tempy. Capts.
A. A. B. Scott.
I. N. N. Beadle.
E. E. D. Grewcock
J. E. Day.
P. M. Dunkerley.
G. T. Jackson.
P. Nelson.
A. Gale.
C. E. B. Fletcher.
A. Armstrong.
H. G. Riley.
A. J. Sudborough.
A. R. Brown.
P. S. Winston.
Tempy. Lieut.
B. Linscott, S.A.U.D.F.
D. R. Newton,  S.A.U.D.F.
T. Thomas, S.A.U.D.F.
Quartermaster —  Act. Tempy. Capt. F. E.  Derbyshire.
Signal Officer 
Medical Officer —  Lieut. H. N. Smith, R.A.M.C.
Chaplain — Rev. H. Kennen, R.N.V.R.
Sergeant-Major —  Act. Sergt. Major J. H. Grimsey.
Highlighted names contain more information.

45RM Cdo. Officers, Oct.'44

Extract from the Navy Lists

October 1944 Volume 2 Pages 1102/3.  (pages 258/9 on N.L.S. website page list)
Source: National Library of Scotland website.
Commanding Officer —  Act. Tempy. Lieut.-Col. W. N. Gray.

2nd in Command —  Act. Maj. I. D. DeAth, D.S.O.

Act. Tempy. Maj. I. N. N. Beadle.
Act. Maj. B. W. de Courcy Ireland.

Act. Capt. A. W. Neaves.

Act. Tempy. Capts.

Act. Tempy. Cap
J. E. Day.

Tempy. Lieut.
D. R. Newton,   S.A.U.D.F.
T. Thomas, S.A.U.D.F.
G. T. Jackson.
P. Nelson.
C. E. B. Fletcher.
A. Armstrong.
H. G. Riley.
A. J. Sudborough.
J. P. Norman.
J. C. Marsh.
D. T. Burrows.
H. R. M. Beddall.
L. Hoad.
B. C. W. Samain.
R. Y. McDonald.
P. D. Barnard, R.A.
Tempy. 2nd. Lieut.
D. A. Willows.

Adm. Officer — Act. Tempy. Capt. F. E.  Derbyshire.
Signal Officer 
Medical Officer —  Lieut. H. N. Smith, R.A.M.C.
Chaplain — Rev. H. Kennen, R.N.V.R.
Sergeant-Major —  Act. Sergt. Major J. H. Grimsey.
Highlighted names contain more information.