Combined Operations

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

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 Scissors 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.

View the Roll of Honour here [Special Service Roll of Honour].


1 Independent Company

No.1 Independent Company formed from 52nd Lowland Division. Part of Scissors Force, a section of the British Expedition to Norway in May 1940. 

2 Independent Company

No.2 Independent Company formed from 53rd Welsh Division. Part of Scissors Force, a section of the British Expedition to Norway in May 1940.

3 Independent Company

No.3 Independent Company formed from 54th East Anglian Division. Part of Scissors Force, a section of the British Expedition to Norway in May 1940.

Report by Lt. Clibborn

Transcript of a report to the Essex Regiment by Lt Clibborn after the particpation of No. 3 Independent Company in the expedition to Norway as part of Scissors Force.

No3 Independent Coy
The Town Hall
The Adjutant
2/4 Essex Regt
Langton Park
No3 Independent Company arrived in Scotland yesterday in the Norwegian convoy, which was announced in the newspapers & wireless as having arrived safely.
Personnel of 2/4 Essex Regt are safe & well. There were however some casualties. Killed Pte Bixby [view]. Wounded Sgt White [view], also mentioned in despatches, Cpl Parker, L/C’s Bookham and Barnbrook, Pte Lowry, Pte Massey.  Pte Dunn was slightly hurt, but returned to duty some days later. Pte Massey is the only one who was not already convalescent before we left Norway. Wounded men did not return with the main body & have presumably been sent to a convalescent home in this country.
These casualties are out of all proportion to those sustained by No 3 Coy as a whole. Our Platoon happened to be sent out on duty in M.T. & were machine gunned by an enemy recce plane, on a narrow road, clear of snow itself but bounded by deep snow on either side. Sgt White displayed great bravery & initiative in attending to wounded and although wounded himself, driving them approximately 35 miles to the base. Pte Bixby was driving the ‘bus and was killed outright. Pte Massey was shot through both legs during a withdrawal. All other casualties occurred during the incident described above.
Our job was never that of an Independent Company, in fact our original scheme was cancelled before we sailed. We worked all the time as ordinary infantry & as such took part in four engagements. All were rearguard actions against greatly superior forces. In the first two actions we were at strategic bridges with the 5th Scots Guards & our job of holding up Jerry for a time after blowing these bridges was carried out according to plan and with very few casualties. The last two battles found us in reserve positions, or some distance from Jerry, though with nothing between us. In the third action we were subjected to an hours continuous aircraft machine gunning as we lay in reserve  in a wood. Strangely there were no casualties, though bullets struck up the earth all around us, and smacked into the trees. We got used to this sort of thing when we had had it about 3 times. Some of the marches were pretty cruel, but the 2/4 Essex men kept up well & were cheerful & full of grit. Under fire they behaved very well and obeyed all orders.
Our weapons were obviously unsuited to the country, though the BREN gun was deadly.  Jerry used ‘Tommy guns’ a great deal, never at close quarters where we were concerned, which was probably lucky for us. As it is our opinion of his shooting is very low.
Our zone of operations was within the Arctic Circle, in the Saltdal, which lies south east of the town of Bodo, now a mass of ruins.
Officers and men are now all very fit & are stationed at Hamilton awaiting our next move.
I have spoken over the telephone with CSM O’Connor this afternoon & found out you had moved. Hoping to see you all again if possible.
WC Clibborn 2Lt
Gary Cootes (on forum) & Essex Regiment files ER3356.1/2

4 Independent Company

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.
No. 4 Independent Company was part of Scissors Force, a section of the British Expedition to Norway in May 1940.

5 Independent Company

No.5 Independent Company formed from 56th London Division. Part of Scissors Force, a section of the British Expedition to Norway in May 1940.

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 Division.

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

'Special Boat Section'

Brief History
The first ever special boat section was raised in July 1940 under the command of Major Roger Courtney and was known as the Folbot Troop of No. 8 Commando. In February 1941 the Folbot Troop sailed for the Middle East as part of Layforce. It was after their arrival that the Folbot Troop acquired the name Special Boat Section. They trained at Kabrit on the Great Bitter Lake and were then attached to the 1st Submarine Flotilla. The Section operated from bases in Malta and Alexandria primarily in train wrecking and beach reconnaissance against targets in Italy and Sicily and raids along the Libyan and Cyrenaican coasts. 
In December 1941 Major Roger Courtney returned to the UK. The success of the Special Boat Section had resulted in a decision to form a second Section in the UK and the first choice for selection of suitable candidates was obvious. 101 Troop of No. 6 Commando had been formed in April and had been tried and tested in operations on the French coast under the command of Captain G.C.S. Montanaro, D.S.O.
Special Boat Section (Home) later designated as 2 Special Boat Section was duly formed, their HQ on the 2nd April 1942 being at Ardrossan/Saltcoates in Ayrshire. Their commander was Major R.J. Courtney, later joined by Captain Montanaro D.S.O., of 101 Troop [more....]. Capt. Montanaro was the Chief Instructor in the early days until detached to command the Mobile Flotation Unit, being granted a commission as Lt. Commander in the Royal Navy and left the S.B.S.  After 3 months training the Section was declared operational and moved to Titchfield in September 1942 .
No.1 Special Boat Section continued to operate in the same theatre of war but lost its independence when absorbed in November 1942 within the Special Air Service Regiment.  The SAS itself was reorganised into the Special Raiding Squadron in 1943 with its new leader Paddy Maine, and included the now redesignated Special Boat Squadron under Lord Jellicoe comprising  L, M, and S detachments
No. 2 Specal Boat Section training in the UK in 1942 were destined to take part in Operation Torch in North Africa, and later in raids and reconnaissance along the Mediterannean coast. 
During 1944/5 No.2 Special Boat Section consisted of 'A', B', and 'C' groups operating primarily in the Far East under the command of Majors Kealy, Sidders and Livingstone respectively, with Major Kealy as the Senior Military Officer, and 'Z' SBS who had been recalled from the Far East to continue operations in the Mediterranean under the command of Major G.B. Courtney, M.B.E., M.C.
Special Boat Section memorandum - Formation to February 1944.
British Special Forces, author William Seymour

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. 

2 SBS establishment Feb.1944.

In February 1944 the following Officers were shown serving in the War Establishment.
'A' Group
Major M.R.B. Kealy
Capt. H.V. Holden-White
'B' Group
Major D.S. Sidders
2/Lieut. E. Wesley
Major G.B. Courtney
Capt. E.J. Lunn
Capt. N.G. Kennard
Capt. W.G. Davis
Headquarters No. 2 Special Boat Section Feb. 1944.
Commanding Officer     
Major R.J. Courtney, M.C.
2nd in Command           
Major R.P. Livngstone, M.B.E.
Chief Instructor             
Captain B.N. Eckhard.
Technical Officer           
Captain R. Davy.
Navigational Officer       
Lieut. W.W. Armstrong.
Admin. Officer                
Lieut. H.S. Quigley.
Operational Officers      
Capt. J.P. Foot, M.B.E.
Lieut. D.S. Smee.
Lieut. J.B. Sherwood, M.M.
Special Boat Section timeline memorandum - Formation to February 1944.

2SBS Partial Nominal Roll

Some names of those who served in 2 SBS:
Major R. J Courtney MC*
Major G.B. Courtney*
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. E.A.W. Wesley MC*
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 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

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  

KEMP, Peter Mant MacIntyre

Intelligence Corps
Service numbers: 
Died : 
Saturday, October 30, 1993

An extract from Fighting Heroes of the Intelligence Corps

by Harry Fecitt MBE TD, (ex-22 Intelligence Company and various armies)
“ . . . however many of the latest spies’ wonder-toys they had in their cupboards, however many magic codes they broke, and hot signals chatter they listened to, and brilliant deductions they pulled out of the aether regarding the enemy’s organisational structures, or lack of them, and internecine fights they had, and however many tame journalists were vying to trade their questionable gems of knowledge for slanted tip-offs and something for the back pocket, in the end it was the spurned imam, the love-crossed secret courier, the venal Pakistani defence scientist, the middle-ranking Iranian military officer who’s been passed over for promotion, the lonely sleeper who can sleep no longer, who between them provide the hard base of knowledge without which all the rest is fodder for the truth-benders, ideologues, and politopaths who run the earth.”
From John Le Carre’s ‘A Most Wanted Man’


I believe that these days most members of our Corps have a reasonably comfortable operational life – clean dry clothes, regular ablutions and hot cooked meals, decent billets, indoor working conditions, immediate medical attention for headaches, and often the knowledge that other people are tasked with their physical security.  That is the life of the mainstream Intelligencers.
But fortunately since our Corps began there have been individuals, both men and women, who have deliberately rejected the mainstream and have embraced another life in the field.  They sought out challenges that most others avoided – rough terrain and inclement weather, a cave or a bivouac for a billet, physical insecurity, the likelihood of torture before certain death, the company of strange rough people whom they could not always understand or trust, night parachute insertions onto unknown ground, the loneliness of the self-imposed exile, hunger, thirst and exhaustion, the knowledge that taking a wound or suffering an illness in the prevailing circumstances could prove fatal – and these individuals thrived on those challenges until their mental resilience to do so had been eroded away.

Many of these Intelligence Corps heroes chose to serve in the Special Operations Executive (SOE) during World War II and we have some insight into their operational lives by reading the citations that accompanied their gallantry awards.  Through the 22 Club Newsletter I will introduce you to some of these personalities, and I hope that you can share my admiration of their ability, fortitude, determination, endurance and raw courage. 


“Hardship shall be your mistress, danger your constant companion.” - Advice proffered to trainees at Inverailort House.

The citation for the admittance of Major Peter Mant MacIntyre Kemp, Intelligence Corps, to Companionship of the Distinguished Service Order reads:
“Major KEMP was sent on a small clandestine operation to NORWAY in April, 1940.  The infiltration was to have taken place by submarine but on the outward journey the vessel was damaged by torpedoes from a U Boat and had to return to port and the operation was cancelled.  In June, 1940 he was sent on an Intelligence mission to SPAIN and PORTUGAL from which he returned in September, 1940 having completed the work satisfactorily.

In February 1941 he volunteered for infiltration into SPAIN from GIBRALTAR for the purpose of harassing the expected German advance through SPAIN in order to attack GIBRALTAR.  He returned to this country in August 1941 and stood by to be parachuted into Northern SPAIN until March, 1942.

From March, 1942 until May, 1943 he was attached to the Small Scale Raiding Force (No. 62 Commando).  This Force had been formed to carry out small raids on German installations in NORMANDY, BRITTANY and the CHANNEL ISLANDS for the joint purpose of obtaining information and of undermining the morale of the German troops.  Major KEMP took part in the raid on the CASQUETS when the entire garrison of the signal station was carried as prisoners.  He also commanded the detachment in an attack on a strong point on the POINT de PLOUZEC (BRITTANY) when a number of Germans were killed without loss to the raiding party.  

On 10th August, 1943 Major KEMP parachuted into ALBANIA as a member of an Allied Mission to the Partisan Forces.  During this period he acted as Liaison Officer with the Partisan Provisional Government.  He repeatedly exposed himself to great risk, notably on 21st August, when in conjunction with Albanian guerrillas, he attacked and shot up a large troop convoy in spite of heavy machine gun fire from the enemy.  On 26th August he showed great gallantry throughout the day with the forward troops of the First Partisan Brigade, encouraging them to offer stubborn resistance to the advance of Italian troops which was supported by medium artillery, mortar fire and aircraft.  

In September, 1943 at the time of the Italian collapse Major KEMP was instructed to provide a clear account of the political situation in TIRANA.  In spite of the fact that this officer speaks no Albanian he entered TIRANA on 22nd September, 1943 in civilian clothes and spent four days in the town.  On 25th September whilst making a reconnaissance of TIRANA airfield he was stopped by a German patrol and showed great resourcefulness in evading arrest.  He returned to his headquarters whence he transmitted most valuable intelligence by W/T to his Commanding Officer.

Throughout the winter of 1943/44 until his evacuation in March, 1944 Major KEMP continued to show great initiative and personal courage, and he took an active part in the fighting in the DEBRA area.”

Civil War Spain

But the citation only illustrates part of what was an amazing life in the field.  Peter was born in Bombay in 1915 where his father was a judge, and after education at Wellington and Trinity College, Cambridge he, like many young Britons, went to fight in the Spanish Civil War.  But unlike nearly every other young Briton in Spain he followed his right-wing beliefs and fought for Generalissimo Franco’s Carlist Forces.  He explained to a friend that he could not stand by whilst leftist mobs murdered people simply because they were priests or nuns or because they had a little money or property.  He initially served in the ranks and then become a Platoon Commander in the Spanish Foreign Legion until he was wounded by a grenade in the Battle of Caspe whilst fighting against the British Battalion of the Republican-sponsored International Brigade.  This was followed on the first day of the Battle of the Ebro by a serious mortar wound that tore open his jaw; after hospitalisation he was allowed by the Generalissimo to recuperate on leave in England, and when he returned to Spain the Civil War was over and the Carlists were governing the entire country.  

After an interview with Franco Peter obtained his discharge and later wrote:

“For me those years in Spain (1936-39) were a rewarding experience, despite the horror and the heartbreak, and the wounds that trouble me still.  I count it a privilege to have fought beside some of the best and bravest friends anyone could meet – and against some of the bravest enemies. . . . On my last visit to Spain in 1986, it was a joy to see, engraved on the new War Memorial at Caspe, scene of fierce fighting in 1938, the simple inscription: ‘A Todos’ – To you all.”

The early war years – Spain, 62 Commando and Albania

Because of his wounds and his linguistic ability in Spanish Peter started the war as a Postal Censor.  When fit he was posted to a Horsed (Cavalry) Officer Cadet Training Unit where he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant and also learned equitation skills that were to be very useful in some of his future deployments.   He joined the Intelligence Corps and was employed in Military Intelligence (Research).  After meeting one of the founders and later the Director of SOE, Lieutenant Colonel Colin Gubbins, a posting followed to the SOE’s Inverailort House near Fort William where he trained and exchanged experiences with some of the future Special Forces leaders of World War II – Lord Lovat (Commandos), Mike Calvert (Chindits), and Bill and David Stirling (SAS).  Peter’s citation now offers the bare bones of his experiences until mid-1944.


Poland and imprisonment by the NKVD 

The next deployment was a parachute insertion into Poland onto a Dropping Zone (DZ) near Czestochowa.  When the Warsaw uprising against the occupying Germans began SOE wished to drop a 5-man team into Poland to discover what was happening.  Joseph Stalin refused to agree, and for several months the British politician concerned (who later lost his nerve at Suez) forbade the drop.  Then Gubbins got that decision reversed and the team went in.
Despite an awkward DZ knee injury (Peter had been concussed on his previous Albanian jump) and some disorientation the team quickly met up with Poles from the Home Army and discovered that two other Partisan armies were operating – a Russian sponsored one and a far-right colonels’ organisation, and both of those killed each other whenever they could.  The Home Army was the largest and best organised.  German Wehrmacht troops tended to spare the lives of Home Army prisoners that they took but the SS did not; both those sentiments were reciprocated.  

The most dangerous enemy troops were renegade Russian General Vlasov’s Army of Cossacks, Ukrainians, Turkomans, Mongols and other Asiatics that were recruited from German prisoner of war camps.  Vlasov’s men were feared because of the atrocities they committed throughout occupied Europe and any captured were immediately shot along with the SS (Wehrmacht captives were deprived of their arms, equipment and uniforms and released).

After being attacked by tanks and infantry the SOE team had to run for it abandoning their heavy radio and battery charger, which cut them off from London.  The Germans tracked the team until advancing Russians arrived.  The team’s relations with the Russian fighting troops were friendly and lubricated with much vodka, but then the NKVD (Russian state security apparatus) arrived and accused the Britons of being German agents.  After two months of incarceration the team was released to the British Military Mission in Moscow and flown out via Baku, Tehran and Cairo.  The men did not know it but they had been lucky, as SOE counterparts dropped into Hungary were immediately liquidated by the Russians.

Thailand and Laos

After Poland Peter could have sat the rest of the war out but in Cairo he had met an old SOE chum, David Smiley (a future commander of the Sultan of Oman’s Armed Forces), who was heading out to Thailand where SOE was engaging the resident Japanese force, Thailand having been a Japanese ally since 1941.  As might have been expected, Peter Kemp, whose marriage was just ending, followed in 1945.  

Catching up with Smiley was not difficult as he had been in India recuperating from a bad accident in Siam, as Thailand was then called.  Smiley had jumped into north-eastern Siam in May but had then been badly burned by one of SOE’s wonderful collection of gadgets; this one was an exploding brief case designed to quickly destroy sensitive documents.  But Smiley’s exploded without warning as he filled it with papers and five pounds of blazing thermite covered him.  He suffered first, second and third degree burns and lay for a week in agony with a hole in his arm full of maggots; eventually the Siamese air force moved him to a strip where a Dakota from India could pick him up.  SOE teams in the field did not have the luxury of doctors in attendance.
As part of a Force 136 (SOE’s cover name in the Far East) operation Peter Kemp was tasked to jump into north-eastern Siam at Sakon Nakorn, about 50 miles west of the Mekong River.  His companion on the jump is worth a mention as he too had suffered from the problem of the lack of swift medical attention that bedevilled many SOE operations.  Rowland Winn had broken a leg on a jump into Albania, spending the next month in great pain in a shepherd’s hut until a doctor could get to him; that experience had left him with a limp but a desire to continue his operational service with SOE.  (Rowland later won a Military Cross in Korea at the Battle of the Imjin River.)

On the ground in Siam the SOE team liaised with local officials, reconnoitred Japanese prisoner of war camps and fended off truculent US OSS officers who were determined that Siam should not fall under British domination in the post-war world.  After the war in the Far East officially ended SOE teams arranged for the formal surrender of Japanese garrisons and for the release of Allied prisoners of war.

Peter and his team them moved across the Mekong into Laos, a French colony, where an amount of chaos prevailed as Viet Minh communist troops attempted to seize power.   The US OSS again were obstructive as they were determined that the French should not re-gain control of their former Indo Chinese colonies.  Eventually Chinese Nationalist troops entered the country to maintain order until the French could re-assert authority.  Peter’s tasks included rescuing French hostages from Viet Minh hands and preventing massacres of French civilians.  Often French paratroopers were dropped into the SOE base at Sakon Nakorn in Siam, along with whatever weapons that the British could find for them, the men then covertly crossed the Mekong to fight off Viet Minh attacks.  In the end the French regained possession of Indo China but only for a few years, and then ironically the USA took up the burden until it finally recognised failure.

In the New Year of 1946 a peace treaty was signed between Thailand and Britain.  New employment was found for Peter as the commander of a small mission to the Dutch East Indian islands of Bali and Lombok.  There the Japanese garrisons had not yet surrendered and Peter’s team was tasked with discovering Japanese intentions.  As the General despatching Peter said: “In other words, if they cut your throats we’ll know we’ll have to launch a full-scale invasion.”

In the event the Japanese surrendered immediately and the team spent four months on the islands conducting civil and military government affairs until Dutch troops arrived.

The post-war years

Peter was medically demobilised in June 1946 and re-married in November that year; this time it lasted twelve years.  He suffered badly from tuberculosis until the British Army finally admitted responsibility and cured him in its Midhurst sanatorium.  Then from 1951 to retirement in 1980 he worked for a Canadian Life Insurance company.  The company was very liberal in allowing him time off to visit troubled parts of the world as a journalist.  He was on the ground during the Hungarian uprising, the Congo troubles, Vietnam, and whenever there was excitement in Central and South America.  It is hard to believe that Peter was not of use to other people in London during his overseas journalistic visits. 
Peter Mant MacIntyre Kemp DSO, ex-Intelligence Corps, 62 Commando and SOE, died in London on 30th October 1993.


Peter Kemp wrote four excellent books; in all of them his prose is succinct and clear and his narrative style is excellent and extremely readable.
  • ‘Mine were of Trouble’ describes his Spanish Civil War years.
  • ‘No Colours or Crest’ details the MI(R) and SOE years covered by his citation.
  • ‘The Thorns of Memory’ is his autobiography in which he tells things as they were, freely admitting his own imperfections.  This is the best book for reading a general overview of his life.
But I especially like
  • ‘Alms for Oblivion’ which details his time in Thailand, Siam, Bali and Lombok.  Here, especially in Bali, we get a glimpse of the private Peter Kemp, who always had an eye for the ladies whilst the ladies always had both eyes for him.  When he loved did not love in a mean or a shallow way, but in the fulsome way in which he fought his military battles.  
Peter Kemp was an idealist but a realist – he always believed deeply in what he did, whatever that was, and his prose is a wonderful antidote to the jaded, too-clever-by-half, cynical and sometimes plain unbelievable political and military utterings that fill our television screens today.

“Hardship shall be your mistress, danger your constant companion.”
Author of the above: Harry Fecitt MBE TD
Award Source:
National Archives file WO 373/100/420.
London Gazettes Supp. 37396, page 6188.

Combined Operations Bombardment Units

A Combined Operations Bombardment Unit (COBU) 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)

View in our gallery some Photos of the COBU.

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 numbers: 
Honours & Awards: 
Monday, March 17, 1919
Died : 
Wednesday, August 19, 1942
Killed in action or died of wounds
Local Roll of Honour: 
Lt Edward Loustalot 1st US Rangers
Second Lieutenant Edward Loustalot, 1st US Ranger Bn., died 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.
Primary Roll of Honour: 

HOCTEL, Lamont Durward

US Rangers 1st Bn.
Service numbers: 
Wednesday, October 18, 1916
Died : 
Sunday, July 12, 1942
Died on war service
Died in the UK
Private Lamont 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 the website 
CVA Gallery list of Courses at the CBTC
1st Ranger Bn. War Diary via the website
Primary Roll of Honour: 


US Rangers 1st Bn.
Service numbers: 
Friday, March 19, 1920
Died : 
Friday, September 11, 1942
Died on war service
Died in the UK
Ranger James Ruschkewicz, US Rangers 1st Bn. 'C' Company, died in an accidental explosion of a landmine at Barry Rifle Range, near Dundee, during a training exercise.  
  • 33068148 Ranger 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 / Find a Grave website ]

'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, Lt.Col. Lapraik DSO, OBE, MC and bar [more....], 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.