WW2 Commandos

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.

A majority of volunteers for the Independent Companies went onto join the newly raised Army Commandos.  Further volunteers came from all sections of the Field Army. 

It should be noted that at this time these early Commandos were all Army Commandos rather than Royal Marines.  A total of 12 Army Commando units were initially raised.

It was not until February 1942 that the first Royal Marine Commando unit was raised. Known as The Royal Marine Commando, then re designated as 'A' Commando, before being finally re designated  40RM Commando.

40 and the later 41RM Commando would be the only two RM Commando Units raised initially from volunteers as with their Army Commando counterparts. From August 1943 onwards a further six RM Commandos were raised from disbanded Royal Marines Bn's. 

A résumé of the Wartime Army Commandos by Brig. Peter Young DSO MC

"The thirty-eight Battle Honours awarded to the Army commandos serve as a Prologue to this brief history of their five years’ Active Service. Look at the list and you will see that they were not the most peaceable operations of the Second World War. But these were only the most famous of countless fights in which these units played their part.

A summary of the decorations awarded to officers and men of the Army Commandos gives some indication of their prowess. Eight won the Victoria Cross; thirty-seven the Distinguished Service Order, with, in addition, nine Bars to that award; one hundred and sixty-two Military Crosses, with thirteen Bars; thirty-two Distinguished Conduct Medals; and two-hundred and eighteen Military Medals. But only the most fortunate, the most outstanding, won these distinctions, chosen from a host whose devotion and bravery was not less marked for being unrewarded.

This unique record of the Army Commandos owed more than anything to the fact that every man was a volunteer. He was, moreover, a picked volunteer, selected by officers who trained him and led him in battle. Those who failed for one reason or another to measure up to the most exacting standards of training, discipline and conduct under fire, could be Returned to Unit without more ado. Not a few were. "

Read the full account here The Wartime Army Commandos by Brig Peter Young DSO MC