Combined Operations

HMS Glengyle

Combined operations

Throughout the war many of the Commando offensive operations against the enemy were Combined Operations involving other Units from one or more of the the three Services of the Armed Forces of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth, as well as Units from other allied nations.

The Commandos were either supported by such Units  during their own raids, or were tasked with specific roles to  support  such Units in major offensive operations.

Examples of Combined Operations are St Nazaire in March 1942, Dieppe in August 1942, the North Africa and Sicily campaigns in 1942/43, the invasion of Europe in 1944, and in operations in the Far East.

The Royal Navy ship in the photo is HMS Glengyle,  one of a number whose crews helped transport, and support, the Commandos. The Glengyle and her sister ships, the Glenroy and Glenearn, were the first ships to be fitted out permanently as large infantry landing ships. They were able to carry three landing craft mechanised (LCMs) and fourteen infantry landing craft. Accommodation was provided for 1,087 assault troops (700 in the case of the Glengyle). Each ship was armed with three twin 4-inch guns and numerous short-range AA weapons.

Combined Operations Headquarters

Source: National Archives Series reference DEFE 2.

Arising from the armistice concluded by France with Germany in June 1940 and the evacuation of British forces from the Continent, a small organisation was established to take command of subsequent raiding operations against enemy territory and to provide advice on combined assaults. From this emerged a distinct Combined Operations Headquarters, staffed by all three services, but independent of all of them and under the command of a Director of Combined Operations.

Admiral of the Fleet, Sir Roger Keyes, was appointed first director in July 1940; he was succeeded in October 1941 by Commodore Lord Louis Mountbatten with the title Adviser on Combined Operations. In March 1942 this title was altered to Chief of Combined Operations; it was also decided that the Chief of Combined Operations should attend meetings of the Chiefs of Staff as a full member whenever major issues were in question and, as previously, when his own combined operations or any special matters in which he was concerned were under consideration. In October 1943 Lt. Col. Robert Edward Laycock became Chief of Combined Operations.

From the establishment of a Combined Training Centre in August 1940 at Inveraray, Argyllshire, the Combined Operations Command expanded rapidly both within the United Kingdom and overseas, notably in the Middle East and India. In 1942 it sent a permanent representative to the Joint Staffs Mission in Washington and in the same year a Combined Operations Experimental Establishment was set up at Appledore, Devon. This establishment was much involved in the investigation of problems likely to be encountered on the beaches in connection with an invasion of Europe, particularly as regards the landing of armoured vehicles, stores, supplies, etc. Following the successful invasion of Normandy in 1944, a similar establishment was set up in India to carry out the developments and trials necessary in the very different conditions in the Far East.

From its formation, Combined Operations Headquarters maintained a close, though sometimes strained, contact on the naval side with the Admiralty, which set up a number of combined operations branches within its own departments, particularly in relation to operations, materials and personnel. Raiding forces, such as commandos, came under the command of Combined Operations Headquarters, except when they were employed as part of larger operations.

Throughout the war Combined Operations Headquarters played a key role in the development of offensive operations against the enemy. This was notably the case in the raid on Dieppe in August 1942 and the preparation and planning of the North Africa and Sicily campaigns in 1942 to 1943, the invasion of Europe in 1944 and similarly, through its directorate in India, in operations in the Far East.

Independent Companies and Special Service Battalions

No. 4 Independent Company Officers at Sandwich 1940.
Raised in April 1940 from volunteers serving in the Territorial Army. There were 11 Independent Companies formed, the 11th being only for one specific operation. The first 5 Independent Companies sailed to Norway in May 1940 under the name Scissor Force to join Operation Avonmouth - the British Expeditionary Force. 
Each Company consisted of 21 Officers and 268 OR's.
No 1 Ind. Coy. from 52nd Lowland Divn.,
No 2 Ind. Coy. from 53rd Welsh Divn.,
No 3 Ind. Coy. from 54th East Anglian Divn.,
No 4 Ind. Coy. from the 55th (West Lancs) Division. At the time the 55th were a two Brigade Motor Divn consisting of 164 Bde. : 9th Btn. Kings Regt, 1/4th Btn The South Lancs Regt, and 2/4th Btn. the South Lancs. Regt; 165 Bde. : 5th Btn. Kings Regt, 1st Btn. Liverpool Scottish QOCH, and 2nd Btn. Liverpool Scottish QOCH. 
No 5 Ind. Coy. from the 56th (1st London) Divn.,
No 6 Ind. Coy. from the 9th Scottish Divn.,
No 7 Ind. Coy. from the 15th Scottish Divn.,
No 8 Ind. Coy. from the 18th Eastern Divn.,
No 9 Ind. Coy. from the 38th Welsh Divn.,
No 10 Ind Coy from the 66th East Lancs Divn.
No 11 Ind Coy was formed on the 14th June 1940 under Major R. Tod. with 350 OR's.
On the 11th Oct 1940 they were reorganised into Special Service (SS) Battalions.

1st SS Btn. A and B Coys. was formed from Nos. 1,2,3,4,5,8 and 9 Ind. Companies
2nd SS Btn. was formed from No.6 and 7 Ind. Coys. and the only recently formed No.9 and 11 Commandos;
3rd SS Btn. was formed from Nos.4 and 7 Commando; 
4th SS Btn. was formed from Nos.3 and 8 Commando; 
5th SS Btn. was formed from Nos. 5 and 6 Commando.

The Independent Companies were short lived and by the end of the year most had ceased to exist. By February 1941 the Special Service Battalions had been reorganised back into Commando Units which were smaller and more workable.
No 2 Commando, which had originally been raised as a Parachute Commando, was redesignated as 11 Special Air Service Bn., and a new No 2 Commando was was raised from 1st SS Bn. 'B' Coy. under Lt Col. Newman at Paignton.

1 Independent Company

No.1 Independent Company formed from 52nd Lowland Division.

2 Independent Company

No.2 Independent Company formed from 53rd Welsh Division.

3 Independent Company

No.3 Independent Company formed from 54th East Anglian Division.

4 Independent Company

No. 4 Independent Company.  Photo © Commando Veterans Archive
In April 1940 HQ 55th (West Lancs) Division issued Divisonal Operation Order 5 authorising the formation of No.4 Independent Company.  At the time the 55th Divsion was a two Brigade Motor Division consisting of units from the 164th and 165th Brigades.
164 Brigade consisted of the 9th Bn. Kings Regiment, 1/4th Bn. and 2/4th Bn.  of the South Lancs. Regiment;
165 Brigade consisted of the 5th Bn. Kings Regiment, 1st Bn. and 2nd Bn. of the Liverpool Scottish Queens Own Cameron Highlanders.

5 Independent Company

No.5 Independent Company formed from 56th London Division.

6 Independent Company

No.6 Independent Company formed from 9th Scottish Division.

7 Independent Company

No.7 Independent Company formed from 15th Scottish Division.

8 Independent Company

No.8 Independent Company formed from 18th Eastern Divion.

9 Independent Company

No.9 Independent Company formed from 38th Welsh Division.

10 Independent Company


No.10 Independent Company formed from 66th East Lancs. Division. The Commanding Officer in May 1940 was Major L de C. Robertson and they were based in the Johnstone, Renfrewshire area that month. On the 4th  June the Company moved to Lochailort for a Cadre course and Individual/specialist training. They remained at Lochailort for the rest of the month.

On the 8th July the Company moved to Achdalieu Lodge, Corpach. Here they continued collective and individual training especially in boat drills and landings followed by a period of leave.

On 1st August 1940 Major A.C.W. May, MC, assumed command of the unit at Achdalieu.  The Company now consisted of and Headquarters, and 3 platoons each of 3 sections.  On the 24th August the Company moved by road to Scapa Flow and embarked aboard HMT Sobieski. They sailed to Freetown, Sierra Leone, arriving there on the 14th September.  After this they sailed to Dakar but did not disembark. After a period at sea off the coast, they were ordered back and returned to Freetown where they set up their base at Lumley Camp nearby.

On the 11th October the Company left Freetown to return to the UK. They were on board 4 vessels. Major May MC with 6 officers, and 89 OR's on HM AMC Alacantara,  Capt. C.J.B. Pollitt with 3 Officers and 61 ORs on the SS City of Canterbury, Capt. A.W.I.B. Black with 6 officers and 80 ORs on HMT Reina del Pacifico, and 5 OR's on board the SS Adda.

On the 18th October HMT Reina del Pacifico anchored at Gibraltar, and the following day 496 civilians were embarked, along with 5 Italian Officers and 40 Italian ratings from a sunken Italian submarine. They left Gibraltar for England arriving at Liverpool on the 25th. From there Major May and his contingent from the Company proceeded by train to Spean Bridge finally arriving at Glenfinnan House on the 29th October. Over the next few days the other ships docked with their contingents moving to Fort William and Achnacarry House.

On the 6th October orders were recieved for No 10 Independent Company to be disbanded.  Major A.C.W. May MC was  to take command of the Training and Holding Wing (located at Achdalieu Lodge and Achnacarry House) of the STC. (ref War Office letter 3/1890/AG17/A). The purpose of this Training and Holding Wing was to train and hold recruits for the Special Service Battalions. All ranks of the 10th were given the option of returning to their Regiments, or of joining the Holding Wing, or Staff of the Training and Holding Wing if suitable.  The Company Office was situated at Granite House, Fort William.

Throughout November men from the 10th Ind Coy were sent in sections for periods of leave whilst the reorganisation was taking place.

On the 2nd December No 10 Independent Company ceased to exist, and personnel not yet disposed of were transferred to the Holding Wing, STC Achnacarry. 

12 Officers were posted to the Holding Wing : Maj. A.C.W. May MC, Capt's A.W.I.B. Black, C.J.B. Pollitt, C.G. Craven, C. Smalley; Lt's H. Hollins, M. Whitelock, J. Duncan, W.R.H. Hay, M. Callaghan. A.R.H. Kellas, G.R.C. Stewart.

6 Officers were returned to their Regiment or Corps.

69 OR's volunteered for the Holding and Training Wing, with 164 being returned to their Corps or Regiment.

[Source for all the above information comes from the No 10 Independent Company War Diary held at the National Archives ref. WO.218/17]


11 Independent Company

Small Scale Raiding Force

Part of Combined Operations the men of the SSRF were trained in Commando style combat together with aspects of seamanship in the use of small craft such as Dory's. Formed at Fareham they recruited from units such as the SOE and the SBS, included foreign nationals, and were often supported by some Commandos, in particular individuals from No.12 Commando. Their primary role was small raids along the Channel coastline of occupied France. 

SSRF and SAS raids:

2/3rd Sep-42 Operation Dryad. Raid on Alderney - 8 raiders to the rocks beneath the lighthouse. When they returned later they had the enemy's code books and seven prisoners - the lighthouse keepers, radio operators and guards.
12/13th September - Operation on Saint Honorine .
3-Oct-42 Operation Basalt Sark Channel Islands. 
11-Nov-42 Operation Farenheit The Pointe de Plouezec - Raid on a signalling station French Coast.
1942 Foretop France (Foretop N Allied 1942 - 1943 NW Europe Plan to raid U-boat bases on French coast, abandoned as too impractical);
Jan'43 onwards -Forfar Raids along French coast commanded by Major Ted Fynn MC 12 Commando (there were a number of Raids titled Forfar followed by Beer -Dog -How -Love-Item)
2-Sep-43 Forfar Item. This was the first raid into France by Parachute and later evacuation by MTB.

Photos of the SSRF are here  

Special Boat Service

Information about the origins of the Special Boat Service, originally known as the Special Boat Section & Special Boat Squadron. 

To be updated.

Our gallery of photos of the SBS is here 

2SBS Partial Nominal Roll

Some names of those who served in 2 SBS:
Major R. J Courtney MC*
Major G.B. Courtney*
Major Alexander Coulson MBE
Major M.R.B. Kealy*
Major D.S. Sidders*
Captain P.A. Ayton*
Captain Davidson*
Captain R. Davy*
Captain B.N. Eckhard*
Captain J.P.Foot MBE*
Captain H.V.Holden-White*
Captain N.G. Kennard*
Captain Langston*
Captain R.P. Livingstone MBE*
Captain Lunn*
Captain McClair*
Captain G.C.S Montanaro DSO*
Captain J.C.C. Pagnam*
Captain Pate*
Flight Lt. Roy Thompson (MO)
Captain R. Wilson DSO*
Lt. Barnes MM and bar*
Lt. Best
Lt. Colville*
Lt W.G. Davis*
Lt. S.B. Durnford*
Lt.K.S. Kerr*
Lt. Peters*
Lt.H.S. Quigley*
Lt. J.B. Sherwood MM*
Lt. D.S. Smee*
Lt. Stobie*
Lt Van Houten*
Lt. Edward Alfred Wellesley Wesley*
2/Lt. W. W. Armstrong*
CSM Embelin*
CSM Galloway*
CSM Jones*
CSM Weatherall MBE*
Sgt Austin*
Sgt Bates*
Sgt Blewett*
Sgt Booth DCM*
Sgt Ellis*
Sgt Gilmour*
Sgt. Hawkins*
Sgt Hutchison*
Sgt. Newsome
Sgt Parks*
Sgt Penn*
Sgt Preece DCM*
Sgt. Salisbury*
Sgt Sidlow*
Sgt Smith*
Sgt Thompson MM*
Sgt. Williams MM
Sgt. Wood
Cpl. Burns
Cpl Carver*
Cpl Didcott*
Cpl. Evans*
Cpl Gain*
Cpl. Hart*
Cpl Hook*
Cpl. Loasby*
Cpl. Palmer
Cpl Roberts*
Cpl. Sidlow
Cpl Smithson*
Cpl Somers*
Cpl Swain*
Cpl Toogood*
L/Cpl Horner*
Pte Boyes*
Pte Darlington MM*
Pte Lovell*
Pte McKenzie*
Pte Miles*
Pte Miller*
Pte Massey*
Pte Watson*
Pte. Wheeler*
Pte Williams*
Pte Wright*
* Special Boat Section memorandum about 2 SBS
CVA SBS  gallery

2nd Special Boat Section

A timeline of the Special Boat Section (Home)

Type: Official Letters
Author: Lt Henry S. Quigley, Admin Officer 2SBS
Year of Publishing: 2010
Keywords: sbs, horner

7 pages of a Special Boat Section memorandum about 2 SBS from its formation through to February 1944. An official memorandum by Lieut. Henry S. Quigley, Admin. officer 2 SBS dated February 1944. The last page details equipment used by 2 SBS. This document is from the collection of Arthur Horner who was attached to No.1 Commando and 2 SBS, provided to the CVA in 2010 courtesy of his son Ashton Horner. 

SUTHERLAND, David (Lt Col)

Lieutenant Colonel
Black Watch
Service number: 
Thursday, October 28, 1920
Died : 
Tuesday, March 14, 2006

(The following is from the Times obituary.)
LIEUTENANT David Sutherland and Royal Marine John Duggan were the only two to return from Operation “Anglo”, a raid on the Italian-occupied island of Rhodes by the Special Boat Service in September 1942. The SBS team was pursued relentlessly; it had attacked two airfields and destroyed aircraft positioned to support Rommel’s threatened advance on Cairo and to bomb supply convoys to beleaguered Malta. 
The team of eight, plus two Greek guides and two interpreters, sailed from Beirut in the Greek submarine Papanikolis on August 31 to a beach near Cape Feralco, on the east coast of Rhodes, from where the two target airfields of Calatos and Maritsa lay eight and fifteen miles (24km) distant. The party landed without difficulty using a folding boat and three inflatable floats, which they concealed in caves after obliterating their foot prints in the sand. Beyond an assessment that the Italian garrison was about 30,000 strong, there was no intelligence on the local situation. The mission had to be accomplished by the night of September 17/18, when a submarine would call to pick up the team — or the survivors. They had no radio link to their base or to the Navy. 
After resting for the first day, the group split into two parties — one under Captain James Allot to make the 30-mile return march to Maritsa and the second under Sutherland to attack the nearer airfield at Calatos. Sutherland’s party reached a point overlooking the airfield by the night of September 11/12 and spent the next day noting how the aircraft were dispersed. He decided on a simultaneous two-pronged night attack: one by a Greek officer with two Royal Marines to place explosive charges on aircraft on one side of the airfield, while he and Marine Duggan dealt with those on the opposite side. 
Despite torrential rain during which Sutherland and Duggan were detected by a sentry, at least 13 aircraft were destroyed together with several fuel storage tanks. All five men got away from Calatos airfield but only Sutherland and Duggan reached the planned rendezvous for return to the beach. Shots heard to the north before dawn suggested the other party had met the enemy, as indeed they had. Next day the surviving pair lay up in the hills to confirm their assessment of aircraft destroyed, then made for the rendezvous (RV) overlooking the beach where they expected to meet Allot’s party on return from Maritsa. 
Neither Allott’s group nor the missing three from Sutherland’s appeared at the beach RV, but an Italian patrol craft arrived with a landing party which found the folding boat and inflatables. After narrowly avoiding discovery by an Italian foot patrol on September 17, the pair left a written message at the RV explaining the lost boats and climbed down to the beach to swim out to the expected submarine. Two hours before midnight a reply to their identification torch signal was seen — it was flashed through the submerged submarine’s periscope — and, after replying, “Swimming, come in,” in Morse code, they entered the water. Although calm, the sea was cold and having eaten only a tin of sardines each over the previous five days it was little short of a miracle that, after an hour and a half in the water, they sighted HM Submarine Traveller and were helped aboard over the foreplanes. Minutes later Traveller had to crash-dive to avoid an Italian naval patrol boat. 
Sutherland was awarded the Military Cross for his leadership and initiative and Marine Duggan the Military Medal. All other members of the SBS team were taken prisoner. The two Greek guides, who had earlier escaped from Rhodes and volunteered for the operation, were tried for treason and the older one, aged 24, executed. The younger man, aged 19, was imprisoned but died soon after the war from tuberculosis. 
David George Carr Sutherland was born near Peebles in Scotland. He was educated at Eton and RMC Sandhurst, from where he was commissioned into his father’s regiment, the Black Watch, in October 1939. He served with the 6th Battalion in the British Expeditionary Force in France and Belgium and was evacuated from the beach at La Panne, east of Dunkirk in June 1940. He was an early volunteer for the commandos, soon after their formation, and went to the Middle East with a troop of 8 Commando. He served for a time in besieged Tobruk and with David Stirling’s 1st SAS Regiment in the Western Desert. 
He took over command of the squadron-sized “S” Detachment of the SBS when the unit was reorganised under Earl Jellicoe on April 1, 1943, and moved to a new base at Athlit Bay on the coast of Palestine. He took his detachment to Crete intending to destroy enemy aircraft capable of reaching the southern shore of Sicily, where the Allied invasion fleet was due in July, but managed to burn only a few, as the Luftwaffe had discontinued night use of the airstrips. He was awarded a bar to his MC in September 1943 for his work on Crete. 
Better results were achieved in a series of raids on enemy installations on Aegean islands north of Rhodes in early 1944. Secure operating bases on the Turkish coast were negotiated by quiet diplomacy, but when one of the SBS Greek-manned support craft collided with the harbour wall at Bodrum, Sutherland and the crew were arrested and briefly locked up in the castle until explanations could be made. He parachuted into Albania in October 1944 to join men of his “S” Detachment operating with local partisans against the withdrawing German Army, but found the partisans more preoccupied with local politics than attacking the joint enemy. 
On return from Albania, at only 24, Sutherland became a lieutenant-colonel, on succeeding Jellicoe, in command of the SBS. He subsequently led them in a series of operations in support of Tito’s partisans in Dalmatia and Istria but, as in Albania, found that the indigenous political struggle had become more important than harassing the withdrawing enemy. He was mentioned in dispatches in July 1945 in recognition of his period in command of the SBS. He also received the Greek War Cross. 
Return to peacetime soldiering was difficult, as it was for many of his contemporaries who had survived the war. He spent a year with the British Military Mission in Greece, advising the government forces in their struggle in the bitter conflict with communist guerrillas, and was later an instructor at RMA Sandhurst. Perceiving that it would be many years before he would regain his wartime rank of lieutenant-colonel to command the Black Watch, he left the Army in 1955 to begin a new career with the security service, MI5. At one stage he was the service’s senior representative in Pakistan, but took a nostalgic break to command 21 SAS of the Territorial Army 1956-58 and, from 1967 to 1972, to serve as deputy commander of the SAS Group. He was appointed CBE in 1974. 
In 1946 he married Jean Henderson, his partner at the Sandhurst passing-out ball in 1939. She died of cancer in 1963 and he married the author and historian, Christine Hotchkiss, in 1964. He is survived by his second wife and a son and two daughters of his first marriage. 
Colonel D. G. C. Sutherland, CBE, MC and Bar, wartime commander of the Special Boat Service, was born on October 28, 1920. He died on March 14, 2006, aged 85.

Times obituary. 
MC: LG Publication date: 24 November 1942; Supplement: 35799; Page: 5142
Bar to MC: LG Publication date: 10 September 1943; Supplement: 36168; Page: 4067
MiD: LG Publication date: 2 January 1945; Supplement: 36876; Page: 210
CBE: LG Publication date: 7 June 1974; Supplement: 46310; Page: 6797
TD: LG Publication date: 14 October 1975; Supplement: 46711; Page: 12844

Combined Operations Bombardment Units

Photos of th COBUThe Combined Operations Bombardment Units (COBUs) provided fire direction for ships in shore bombardment in WW2. The first COBU was formed in 1940 and by the end of the war there were five in existence. In 1946 all were disbanded, except No.2 COBU which joined the School of Combined Operations (later the Amphibious Warfare Centre) at Fremington. They were a mixture of men from different Services - Royal Artillery, Royal Marines, and the Navy. (Information from Stu Hart ex 29 Cdo)

Sea Reconnaissance Unit

Selection and training of the SRU

The SRU were part of the Special Operations Group within Combined Operations.

'British Military Mission 204'

Mission 204 was the designation given to the British Military Mission to China.

Photos of No.1 Special Service Detachment British Military Mission 204 to China. 

An account from the Australian War Museum of Australian involvement in Mission 204. 

ENGLISH, R.W. Major, Letter on Mission 204

Transcript (by Elaine Southworth-Davies) of a letter from Major R.W. English in response to an enquiry from Kevin O'Marah about the war service of his father WO1 Andrew O'Marah.

"April 15. 1984

Dear Mr O’Marah

I am writing in response to your request in the Legion under “Lost Trails” for information concerning the British Military Mission to China (204 Mission).

I was with the Malayan Contingent which arrived in Burma (Maymyo) when the Bush Warfare School was opened in 1941. During the first few weeks we were joined by the other Contingents which made up 204 Mission.  These Contingents came from Middle East (Commando Units) Australian Infantry Units (Malaya ) Far East (Hong Kong) and ourselves of course, drawn from Infantry and R E Units etc., Malaya.

After several months training and following the outbreak of hostilities with Japan the Mission left for China as planned. Those left behind in Burma were to eventually reinforce the Mission as and when required. However, in the light of the events that followed those remaining were eventually absorbed into the Burma Forces and it is at that time that No. 9 Independent Coy. and the Special Service Battalion must have been formed.

As for ourselves, we stayed in China for about twelve months and eventually were flown out to India. Not having really done an awful lot, most of us came out sick and when fit again joined other Units such as Wingate Forces. With a number of others, I later joined Force 136.

I cannot recall your father but certainly have still a vivid recollection of those days in Maymyo and, having been there from the very early days, may be able to assist you if you should require information on any specific details. If so, please let me know.

Yours sincerely


R. W. English, Major "

Follow this link to view our Images of Mission 204 and the Special Service Detachments. 

Mission 204 letter from IWM

Transcript (by Elaine Southworth-Davies) of part of a reply dated 23 January 1985 from the Imperial War Museum (ref CJVH/ES/074472)  to Kevin O'Marah in response to his enquiry about the war service of his father WO1 Andrew O'Marah.

"Dear Mr O'Marah

Thank you for for your recent letter, your father appears to have had an eventful war career.

Mission 204 was the designation given to the British Military Mission to China as can be seen from the extract below:

" In discussing the forces available for the defence of Burma, mention has been made only of the troops actually in the country, but arrangements existed for military assistance from China in the event of a Japanese attack. Shortly after Far East Command had been set up in November 1940, Major-General L.E. Dennys was appointed Military Attache in Chungking with a view to his becoming the head of a British military mission in China  (known as 204 Mission) should war break out.

Largely owing to his work and that of Wing Commander J. Warburton (Air Attache), British relations with the Chinese were satisfactory, and considerable progress was made in plans for mutual co-operation. These included a visit in April 1941 by a Chinese military mission to Burma and Singapore.

British assistance took the form of aid in the preparation of airfield sites in the Kunming area for the protection of the Burma Road and the despatch of stocks of explosives, aviation petrol bombs and other material to China. In addition, special squads of British and Indian personnel were put under training in Burma for eventual attachment to the fifteen Chinese guerrilla companies which were being formed in China. It was proposed ultimately to double the number of these companies and consequently, that of the special squads. The Chinese on their part promised to send troops into Burma if required, and to to threaten the Japanese northern flank should they advance against Burma by way of Chiengrai."

which was taken from The War Against Japan, Volume 2, India's Most Dangerous Hour​, by Major General S. Woodburn-Kirby (London HMSO 1958). A further extract relates to the outcome of the idea of the joint British Chinese commando units:

"Major-General Dennys, who commanded the mission at the outbreak of war had been killed in an air crash on the 14th March 1942. His place was taken by Major-General J. G. Bruce. The latter recommended the withdrawal of the small British contingents in China since they were not being properly used by the Chinese. They were withdrawn by October 1942 and in November General Bruce handed over the command of the mission to Major-General Grimsdale, who was at that time British Military Attache in Chungking."

​Follow this link to view our Images of Mission 204 and the Special Service Detachments. 

STUART, Ted, Memories of 5 Commando and Mission 204

Type: Letters
Author: Ted Stuart No 5 Commando
Year of Publishing: 2016
Keywords: Mission 204

A personal account of the memories of Ted Stuart, No 5 Commando, who volunteered for Mission 204.

Allied Forces who operated with Commandos

Americans from the 34 Inf. Divn. 168th Reg. Combat Team attached to No.6 Commando

These are just a few of the units from different countries that engaged in operations or training specifically with the Commandos. This does not include the troops that formed No 10 Inter Allied Commando as they were a specific unit of the Commandos and can be found in our WW2 Commandos section.

In our gallery we have numerous  photos of Americans, Candians, and Greeks who operated with,  or were trained by, Commandos.

We welcome more input regarding those individuals who served in this capacity.

United States of America

The members of the 1st Ranger Battalion were drawn in the main from two divisions that had recently been sent to Ireland from the U.S., the 34th Infantry Division and the 1st Armoured. In May 1942, Company A of the 1st Ranger Battalion was formed. All of the men were volunteers. They were moved to Scotland where they were trained under the instruction of British Commandos. Their commander was Captain William Darby. Some of them were among the first US troops to fight in Europe during the raid on Dieppe in 1942. Later they were expanded and trained to a battalion of 467 men. The US Rangers took part in the North African campaign Operation Torch, serving with Nos. 1 and 6 British Army Commandos. After this additional Ranger Battalions were formed along similar lines and took part in operations in all theatres of the war

Photos and documents about the US Rangers are here

LOUSTALOT, Edward Vincent

Known as: 
Forename seen elsewhere as Edwin
Second Lieutenant
US Rangers 1st Bn.
Service number: 
Honours & Awards: 
Monday, March 17, 1919
Died : 
Wednesday, August 19, 1942
Killed in action or died of wounds
Roll of Honour: 
Lt Edward Loustalot 1st US Rangers
2/Lieut. Loustalot, 1st US Ranger Bn., was killed during operations at Dieppe.  He was the first American soldier to die on European soil in WW2.

Posthumous Mention in Despatches

"Second Lieut. Loustalot was attached to the party of No 3 Commando which landed on Berneval, Dieppe, on August 19th 1942. This party consisted of only three boat loads out of fifteen which had been engaged and dispersed by the enemy before reaching shore. They immediately went into the attack against greatly superior forces. Throughout the action, in which he lost his life, Second Lieut. Loustalot displayed the greatest coolness and gallantry under heavy fire and by his example and leadership contributed greatly to the attack, which successfully engaged large numbers for a long time and enabled another party, a mile distant, to approach their objective with only minor oppostion." 
Notes on Forename and Award:
UK National Archives search result shows Edwin. Source of Edward: ABMC, US Federal  Govt / Cross on his grave.
Award Source: UK National Archives ref WO/373/93/857. Award recommended by Lt. Col. J.F. Durnford-Slater.

HOCTEL, Lamont Durward

US Rangers 1st Bn.
Service number: 
Wednesday, October 18, 1916
Died : 
Sunday, July 12, 1942
Died on war service
Died in the UK
Pte. Hoctel, 1st US Rangers, Company 'E',  drowned whilst training at Achnacarry.  The date of his death is during the period that the US 1st Ranger Bn., led by Colonel W. Darby attended the Commando Basic Training Centre for their training. His death is noted in their War Diary as "drowned during stream crossing exercise.".
The local Death Register records the following information
Former occupation: Petrol Attendant
Private, Ranger Batallion, United States Army
Single, Male, 25yrs.
Usual residence: South Bend, Indiana, United States.
Found 7.30pm July 12th 1942 Loch Lochy, Bunarkaig, Achnacarry
Cause of death: Drowning
Seen after death by William A. Jarrett, 1st Lieut. Medical Officer 1st US Ranger Bn.
Informant as above.
Register of Deaths in the district of Kilmallie (Page 17, no.49) via
CVA Gallery list of Courses at the CBTC
1st Ranger Bn. War Diary


US Rangers 1st Bn.
Service number: 
Died : 
Friday, September 11, 1942
Died on war service
Died in the UK
Pte. Ruschkewicz, US Rangers 1st Bn. 'C' Company, was killed in an accidental explosion of a landmine at Barry Rifle Range, near Dundee, during a training exercise.  33068148 Pte. Aaron M. Salkin, 'C' Company, was severely injured. The Rangers had been training with No 1 Commando under Lieut. Col. T. Trevor
[ Source: 1st Ranger Bn. War Diary ]

'US Rangers', Assault on Pointe du Hoc Battery

Transcript of a report by Lt Colonel Trevor.

Report details the landing of the US Rangers on DDay to assault the Battery.
Source: David Cheverton, godson of Lt Col. Thomas Hoult Trevor
(click on highlighted name for more.)
1. The Battery dominated the OMAHA and UTAH beaches and shipping. It was essential, therefore, that the guns be destroyed at the earliest possible moment.
2. The outline plan at the time that I started to work on the project was to land the Rangers on OMAHA beach in the second wave, pass them through the forward troop and then for them to advance along the coast line for 4-5 miles and attack the Battery from the landward (South-East) side. This plan was identical with the plan used to attack the POINTE MATIFOU battery at ALGIERS. There it was demonstrated that even against light opposition it is impossible to reach and reduce the Battery quickly enough to prevent it engaging our shipping to considerable effect. The plan was, therefore, partially abandoned and a landing was sought nearer the objective. That this was right was demonstrated by the fact that neither the balance of the Ranger Group nor the assault Batallions landed at OMAHA, in spite of most violent exertions, covered the 4-5 miles and reached POINTE DU HOE before the evening of D+2. During which time if the damage done at MATIFOU in a few hours is any criteria much of our shipping would have been sunk. 
3. The search for a nearer landingwas complicated by the topography of the coast which, Westward of OMAHA to POINTE DU HOC and on to GRAND CAMP, consists of 90 - 100 ft high cliffs. ​
4. The second plan consisted of a landingat GRAND CAMP, some two miles to the East of the Battery, and then attacking the Battery from the East. Here, however, there was a large artificial inundation which restricted the line of advance and forced the attack over open country up hill on ground dominated by prepared positions on commanding ground. A careful study of photographs convinced everyone that not only had the enemy foreseen this attack, but that he had made very elaborate preparations to meet it, and had prepared a “killing ground”. The object of the inundation being solely to canalise the attackers' advance over this prepared ground. This plan was abandoned. Inspection of the ground and defences later showed that the enemy had, in fact, made the most careful preparations on the above lines and many hitherto unsuspected positions commanding the line of approach were discovered. ​
5. The right and left attacks having been ruled out, if the battery was to be quickly silenced, there remained only the centre which, as already mentioned, consisted of high vertical cliffs. A plan was produced to scale the cliffs to the East and West of the battery at selected places between the strong points which were sited at regular intervals along the cliff top, and then attack the battery from the East and West by means of a pincer movement. ​This plan offered every prospect of success, if the assault could scale the cliffs under fire. However, when they had done so - no easy task – the defences of the battery still had to be reduced, and these in themselves were formidable. ​
6. A study of these defences showed that they all faced inland and that the enemy were relying for defence of the battery to seaward on the sheer cliffs. If the assault force had to climb the cliffs under fire it was obviously better to do so and get right into the objective without having to overcome any additional obstacles, rather than climb the cliffs and then have to deal with the prepared defences. An additional inducement was the vital impotance of obtaining a quick decision, coupled with the economy of supporting fire which resulted from combining the supporting fire for the attack with the neutralising fire necessary to keep the battery silent during the approach. The final deciding factor was that it was a very bold conception and it is an old dictum that “bold conception and cautious execution leads to quick and favourable decisions”. This plan was adopted but unfortunately they hedged by providing for part of the Ranger Group to land at OMAHA and carry out the original plan if the assault of the Battery had not succeeded by H+30. It was, however, the original plan that failed and this “insurance” policy only resulted in the success of this operation not being fully exploited for lack of the necessary follow-up, since the assault did not land until after H+30. ​
7. The plan of attack having been decided and the route of approach having been chosen, there only remained the technical problem of how to waft two hundred or more men up a vertical cliff. When that problem had been solved a short eight minute film explaining how it was to be done was made, and is included as part of this report. 
8. The most prominent event in the execution was that the Rangers were put ashore about 70 minutes instead of 3 minutes after the bombardment ceased. At the time I considered that this alone was enough to render the operation abortive. However, so great was the tactical surprise and such the verve and dash of the troops that it made no difference, the first men being up in about 3 – 4 minutes and the guns captured and destroyed in thirty minutes. ​
9. The great accuracy of the preliminary bombardment, both by air and sea – the very considerable devastation and the large craters so created were very impressive, but it was of great interest that in spite of this accurate and intnsive concentration of heavy bombs and shells, only one-third of the guns were badly damaged, one-sixth slightly damaged, while half were in perfect order which strikingly confirms the old doctrine that vital objectives must be assaulted if they are to be destroyed with certainty. ​
10. Throughout the 3 days holding battle that followed the destruction of the guns the supporting fire given by the destroyers, was by its weight and extreme accuracy, often the deciding factor. It is rather remarkable that much of this fire was controlled from a forward O.P.  by Aldous lamp direct to the ship; the wireless sets having become casualties.
11. When the battle was prolonged food and water, both of which we were in need of, were landed by the destroyers in their ships' boats.
12. The lack of landing craft delayed the evacuation of wounded and the value of unit M.Os having blood Plasma and the necessary facilities for blood transfusion was apparent and should never be neglected where there is any likelihood of delayed evacuation.
13. The unseaworthy qualities of the L.C.A. were abnormally apparent in the short lop that there was during the run in, two out of twelve sank, due to stress of weather, the others were only kept afloat by working all the pumps and every available man bailing with his helmet. Having been for long voyages in the Channel and up the Africa coast in bad weather aboard these craft, without experiencing similar circumstances, I can only suppose that on this occasion the length of the seas was peculiarly unsuited to L.C.A. But it would appear desirable, in view of the above, to consider before employing these craft in the falsely named Pacific.  
14. In conclusion I feel that it should be stressed that an operation of this sort against a strongly defended coast is only suitable for bold and skillfull troops who have had long and careful preparation. Their leaders must combine a courageous spirit in the conception of the plan, with the ability to take infinite pains over minor details of the execution. 
12th July 1944                     Signed . Lt Col Trevor

YOUNG, Leilyn, Letter about his time as a US Ranger.

Type: Letters
Author: Leilyn Young, Lisa McCollum
Year of Publishing: 2010
Keywords: Leilyn Young, US Ranger

Leilyn Young, one of the first US Rangers to have Special Forces training by the new UK Commandos in WW2. Leilyn trained at the Special Training Centre, Lochailort, and then again at the Commando Depot, later renamed the Commando Basic Training Centre, Achnacarry. Both training centres were in Scotland, otherwise known as Commando Country. 

This letter is a diary of events from when he left America, his arrival in Ireland, subsequent Commando training in Scotland, then onto North Africa. The letter was taken back to the USA by a returning fellow US Ranger. Leilyn Young not only went through a 4 week course at Lochailort in 1942 but also a 4 week course a few weeks later at Achnacarry with Colonel Darby and his other Rangers. This latter course ended on the 1st August 1942. Leilyn reached the rank of Colonel but was a Captain when this letter was written.

His niece Lisa McCollum recalls this about him " He was an incredible man, very soft spoken and one of the kindest and gentlest men I had ever met. I did not know him as well as I would have liked." Leilyn Young died on the 28th July 2004 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Our thanks to Lisa McCollum for sharing her Uncle's letter with us


W Party - Royal Navy Beach Commandos.

W Party were mostly Canadian Beach Commandos attached to the RN Commandos. They were specially trained Commandos set up to create and maintain order on Normandy's Juno Beach during the landings. Such was the uncertainty of what they would find that they trained for all conceivable contingencies from protection against chemical warfare and clearing obstacles to driving Sherman tanks! However, their main task was to keep the traffic of men, machines and supplies flowing through the beach area.

Photos and documents can be found here


Greek Sacred Squadron

Formed in Palestine in 1942 from Greek Officers and cadets fighting at the time in the Middle East and originally under the command of Major Antonios Stefanakis. When its new commander Col. Christodoulos Tsigantes took over he changed the role to one of a Special Forces nature and they trained at the SAS base in Cairo. Also known as "Sacred Band" and increased in size to 400 men, the unit fought with General Leclerc's Free French forces in Tunisia, the SAS in the Libyan desert, and with the SAS and SBS in the Aegean. In 1944 it is increased to Regiment strength and put under the command of British Raiding Forces. It is involved in combat operations with the combined SAS/SBS raiding forces on the islands of the northern Aegean sea and the Dodecanese.

Notable among the many operations - July 1944 a combined Greek-British raiding force catures the German garrison on the island of Simi. Under Brigadier Turnbull's overall command, Col. Ian Lapraik DSO, OBE, MC and bar, played a leading role as OC of the British Special Forces (Force 142 a combined SAS/SBS force) involved. Throughout the months of 1944 and 1945 it continues in successful operations against the German garrisons on other islands. On the 7th August 1945 the unit disbands at a parade in Athens.

View on this link our Photos and documents about the Squadron.

Read the full history here The Sacred Squadron.