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
Hamilton
Lanarkshire
11.6.40
 
The Adjutant
2/4 Essex Regt
Langton Park
Co.Durham
 
 
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
 
Source
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

History

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