Commando Training

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A timeline of Commando Training

The first call for volunteers for ‘Service of a hazardous nature’ was in the early months of 1940 and for the new Independent Companies.  Many of these men went onto action in Norway almost immediately with little training.  On their return Winston Churchill wanted his own Corps of ‘shock troops’ to start afresh.  Lt Col Dudley Clarke, who was then Military Assistant to the Chiefs of the Imperial General Staff, is generally credited with the initial outline plan of their formation. His plan was approved and the name agreed on. Thus the ‘Commandos’ were formed.

'Boat Training at Bunarkaig'

The Commando Boat Station at Achnacarry was on Loch Lochy at Bunarkaig. A small fleet of various craft was assembled for training in basic seamanship and landing drills. Amongst this armada were whalers, cuters, landing craft, dorries, canoes, rubber dinghies, kapok bridge rafts, and collapsible Goatleys. They were all stored in or moored alongside a little stone boathouse. Instruction began with a short film on the role and functions of Combined Operations, and the various craft used for training and operations. 

'Cliff Assaults'

Type: Files
Author: Prepared under the direction of the Chief of Combined Operations 1945
Year of Publishing: 2015
Keywords: commando mountain warfare training, cliff assaults


Initially formed at Braemar in Scotland in December 1942 and called the Commmando Snow and Mountain Warfare Training Centre. The Commanding Officer was Squadron Leader Frank Smythe, an accomplished mountaineer. Its role was to train Commandos to fight in high snow covered mountain territory. After 6 months the unit moved to North Wales and assumed a different role including the training of Lovat Scouts as a Mountaineer Battalion.

'Commando Dark Mile training areas'

A good map of the various locations of training described on our archive.

Speed Marches

Trainees were introduced to their first speed march on the 2nd day of the course. A gentle 5 miles around the Dark Mile in under an hour. This first march was followed by other weekly jaunts each followed by an additional task  

7 miles under 70 minutes followed by digging a defensive position

9 miles under 90 minutes, followed by firing practice

12 miles in under 130 minutes, followed by a drill parade on the square

'Courses at CTC Inveraray'

Courses for the Special Service Brigade and SCU.

The No 1 Combined Training Centre (CTC) at Inverary was located on the banks of Loch Fyne. The Naval Shore Base, HMS Quebec,  was also based at this location.
Training courses  took place here for units from both British and Allied Forces.  The list below represent only those allocated to the Special Service Brigade, and to the Servicing Commando Units of the RAF. 
Source: National Archives DEFE2/1317


Inveraray Scotland
United Kingdom
56° 13' 54.3288" N, 5° 4' 31.476" W

'History and Training 1940 -1945'


The following pages, compiled by the Commando Veterans Archive and published on the 10th February 2014, are designed to give the reader an insight into Commando history and training, and of the close association that has developed since then, between serving Commandos, Veterans, and their families, in the many areas such as Lochaber where they trained in WW2, and the places where they train nowadays. This section also includes an hour long film made about their WW2 training.

BAXTER, Richard Fraser

Captain Baxter served in 45RM Commando and during 1945-6 on the staff of the CMWTC.
Post war he was ordained Reverend. He was appointed OBE in the 1964 New Years Honours List "for public services in Nyasaland."
(Sources: CA Newsletters 38 and 98, and London Gazettes Supp 43200, page 23.)


Lance Sergeant Beaton served at Achnacarry.
Extract from Commando Association newsletter 45 issued Sept. 1967.
"L/Sgt. (later Drum Major) J. W. Beaton (C.B.T.C.) (now a member of the A.A. Road Staff in Inverness-shire) still pops round occasionally to the old domain at Achnacarry. Although the place has greatly changed and the old assault landing beach is overgrown with heather and bog myrtle a few landmarks remain, and the telegraph."


LSgt Bellringer served with 1 troop and took part in the raid at St Nazaire.  He was on board ML 446 and was evacuated back to the UK. In July 1942 he was part of the No 2 Commando Boxing Team. We have numerous photos in the gallery of him both before and after St Nazaire, and in an image of the boxing team.

He then left No 2 Commando to become an NCO Instructor at the Commando Depot, Achnacarry.  He was part of the PT Team alongside CSMI Frickleton and Sgt Bissell.*


Peter John Berrisford MM 6 Commando

Peter John Berrisford was awarded the MM in recognition of gallant and distinguished services in North Africa whilst a Sergeant in No 6 Commando [1]. He was noted as having spent four days alone on Djebel El Azzag (Green Hill) after the aborted attack on 30th November 1942. During that time he lay by himself on the plateau observing the location of the German machine gun positions, returning to the Commando on 3rd December 1942 at Sedjenane [2]

BISSELL, SSgt. Transcript of a speech.

Type: Personal Papers
Author: SSgt Stan 'Sonnie' Bissell BEM
Year of Publishing: 2015
Keywords: commando training

Stanley Bissell joined the Metropolitan Police on the 1st March 1926. In 1930 & 1934 he won silver medal at the British Empire Games middleweight freestyle wrestling events in Canada and London. He was then posted as self defence instructor at the Metropolitan Police Training Centre at Peel House. He attended the Army School of Physical Training to assist him in this new Police role.

BISSELL, Stanley

Stanley Bissell joined the Metropolitan Police on the 1st March 1926. In 1930 & 1934 he won silver medal at the British Empire Games middleweight freestyle wrestling events in Canada and London. He was then posted as self defence instructor at the Metropolitan Police Training Centre at Peel House. He attended the Army School of Physical Training to assist him in this new Police role.

FACEY, Robert

Marine Robert Facey, from Co. Durham, died after a fall at the RNH Haslar where he had been admitted for treatment. The Portsmouth Evening News reported that the South East Hampshire Coroner, Mr. R.N. Sherwell, recorded a verdit that he had taken his own life.
Portsmouth Evening News - Thursday 8 October 1953
British Newspaper Archive (website


CSMI Frickleton was the head of the Physical Training Team of Sgt's Bissell and Bellringer at the Commando Depot, Achnacarry.

In his book It had to be Tough, the author James Dunning describes CSMI Frickleton's role and adds that he was " a splendid warrant officer."

Donald Gilchrist in his book Castle Commando describes him as " a small compact bundle of muscles with a head of closely cropped curls and a well developed sense of humour."

GILCHRIST, Donald Johnston

Donald Gilchrist was serving as a Captain in the Cameronians when he volunteered for the Commandos. After acceptance he went to Achnacarry in February/March 1942 and successfully completed his Officer Training after which he was retained there as an Instructor. Achnacarry had just opened as the new Commando Depot, later renamed the Commando Basic Training Centre, and staff were needed to assist with the initial intakes. 

HARDEY, Ronald Graham Kennell

Capt RGK Hardey MC
Captain Ronald Hardey, 2 troop, was awarded the MC for his gallantry and leadership during operations on D Day at Normandy. (London Gazettes Supp. 36679, page 4046.)
In 1945 he served at the CBTC. He is shown in a photo entitled "Commando Basic Training Centre - Officers Mess - 1945." (CVA Gallery).

LEES, Brian

Capt Brian Lees 2 Commando and CBTC

Brian Lees served as a Lieutenant in No 2 Commando and is included in pictures in our gallery of the officers at Gibraltar in 1943. At some stage after that he is posted to the staff at the Commando Basic Training Centre and is included in a 1945 photo of the Officers there.

Post war he settled in the 50's in Illinois, America, and is referred to as Doctor Brian Lees in Commando Association Newsletter 26 of March 1958. His death was announced in a later newsletter which additionally showed the fact he had served in the CBTC (CA Newsletter 56).


Fusilier Bill Magennis served in the Pipe Band at Achnacarry.
Extract from Commando Association newsletter 40 issued March 1965
Now Pipe Major of the lst Bn. Black Watch (R.H.R.) of Canada and stationed at Camp Gagetown, New Brunswick is ex Fus. Bill Magennis who served in the Commando Pipe Band at Achnacarry.

MCCARTHY, Peter Francis

Sergeant Peter McCarthy was awarded the MM in recognition of gallant and distinguished services in the combined attack on Dieppe [1].
He is also named as serving at the CMWTC and attached at some stage to 46RM Commando. [2]. 
[1] London Gazettes Supp. 35729, page 4328.
[2] Nom. Roll for 46RM Cdo 6th Jun 44  -May45.

MURCUTT, Frederick George Halls

Frederick Murcutt was awarded the MC for his gallantry whilst a Lieutenant serving in Tunisia. He went on to serve with 2 Commando Brigade.
Captain Murcutt MC and Sgt Booth were the last demolition team on the training staff at the Commando Basic Training Centre. Post war they set up a boat hire company called 'The Green Beret Craft Operating Company Ltd." (Commando Association Newsletter 2 of 1946).
Additional Information and Sources:

MURPHY, Dennis Eric

Capt D.E. Murphy CBTC

Dennis Murphy was serving as a Guardsman in the 1st Bn of the Irish Guards in 1938 when he was awarded the Military Medal for his " conspicuous gallantry during an engagement with an armed band in the vicinity of Deir Bejjala o the 18th August 1938", Recommended by the Officer Commanding British Forces in Palestine and Trans-Jordan. A copy of his citation is in the National Archives  ref WO373/92/125.

OVENS, Patrick John

Lt PJ Ovens

Lieutenant Patrick Ovens served  for a period at the CBTC and is shown in a photo entitled "Commando Basic Training Centre - Officers Mess - 1945." 

He joined 46RM Commando shortly before it was disbanded.

Post war he served as a Captain with 41 Independent Commando RM in Korea being awarded the Military Cross in 1951 for " gallant and distinguished service".  [1]

POUNDS, Edgar George Derek

Edgar George Derek Pounds
Lieutenant Edgar George Derek Pounds was an instructor at the Commando Basic Training Centre in 1945 [1].
Captain Edgar Pounds, 41 Independent Commando RM, was awarded the Bronze Star with Combat 'V' decoration bestowed by the President of the United States of America, for gallant and distinguished services during operations in the Korean war [2].
He later received a MiD for for distinguished services in operations against terrorists in Cyprus serving with 45 Commando RM. [3]. 

PROCTOR, John David

John David Proctor 2 Commando
Commissioned into the Camerons (1st Liverpool Scottish)  on the 10th February 1940,  2/Lt Proctor first volunteered for the Independent Companies joining No 4 Ind.Coy. In February 1941 he was a Lieutenant in 5 troop, No 2 Commando

SAVILL, Gerald Peter

Capt G.P. Savill

Capt. Savill served on the staff at the Commando Basic Training Centre.Post war he was a member of the Commando Association and is listed on their Lost Legion 10 pamphlet (members they had lost contact with), his last known address being Heswall, Cheshire.


Lance Sergeant Leonard Suttling served as an instructor at Achnacarry in 1942/3, and was on the weapon training staff at the Holding Operational Commando at Wrexham in 1944/5.  Later promoted Company Sergeant Major.
Extract from Commando Association newsletter 61 of Sept 1975, ".........our blind comrade ex CSM Len Suttling of Grays, Essex. He. was L/Sgt. instructor in '42/'43 at Achnacarry, a Sgt. on the weapon training staff at HOC Wrexham '44/'45, and also went on the climbing course at St. Ives. "


Lt. DC 'Tommy' Thomas MC
Lieut. Thomas was from Maclear in the Transkei, South Africa. The South African Legion website records him as attached to the RM Commandos, 4th Special Service Bde., during the allied landings at Normandy, and that he recieved shrapnel wounds to his leg.
He was awarded the MC for "gallant and distinguished services in operations in North West Europe." (Source: London Gazettes Supp. 36846, page 5809, and Supp. 36895, page 417.)

TURNEY, William James

CSM Turney, CBTC

William James Turney enlisted as a Private into the 6th Beds and Herts Bn., TA on the 29th January 1940 and was quickly promoted Acting Lance Corporal.  He volunteered for the Independent Companies (Ind. Coy.)  and on the 26th April 1940 was attached to No 3 Ind. Coy. Having reverted to Private in order to get into the Ind. Coy. he was quickly promoted to Lance Corporal on the 1st May. On the 4th May he along with the whole of No 3 Ind. Coy. sailed with Scissors Force to join the expeditionary force in Norway (Operation Avonmouth).  

WALBRIDGE, Percival Norman

Captain Walbridge served as a Weapons Training Officer at STC Lochailort and the Commando Basic Training Centre.
There is reference in the London Gazettes to his promotion on the 18th Jan. 1941from a Warrant Officer class 2 at the Small Arms School to Lieutenant Somerset LI.
(ref LG 11Feb 1941; Supp 35075; Page 891).

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