Independent Companies and Special Service Battalions

No.4 Independent Company Officers 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 Scissors Force to join Operation Avonmouth - the British Expeditionary Force. 
Each Company consisted of 21 Officers and 268 OR's.
  • No.1 Independent Company from 52nd Lowland Divn.,
  • No.2 Independent Company from 53rd Welsh Divn.,
  • No.3 Independent Company from 54th East Anglian Divn.,
  • No.4 Independent Company 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 Independent Company from the 56th (1st London) Divn.,
  • No.6 Independent Company from the 9th Scottish Divn.,
  • No.7 Independent Company from the 15th Scottish Divn.,
  • No.8 Independent Company from the 18th Eastern Divn.,
  • No.9 Independent Company from the 38th Welsh Divn.,
  • No.10 Independent Company from the 66th East Lancs Divn.
  • No.11 Independent Company formed 14 June 1940 under Major R. Tod. with 350 OR's.

In June 1940 the first of the new army commando units were also being raised. A few months later on 11 October 1940 the Independent Companies were reorganised into Special Service (SS) Battalions merging with some of the new Commando units.

  • 1st Special Service Bn., A and B Coys., formed from Nos.1,2,3,4,5,8 and 9 Independent Companies.
  • 2nd Special Service Bn. formed from No.6 and 7 Independent Companies and the only recently formed No.9 and 11 Commandos;
  • 3rd Special Service Bn. formed from Nos.4 and 7 Commando; 
  • 4th Special Service Bn. formed from Nos.3 and 8 Commando; 
  • 5th Special Service Bn. 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. Also by February 1941 these Special Service Battalions were considered too large and unwieldy. They were therefore reorganised back into Commando Units which were smaller and more workable.

It should be noted that in January 1941 some of these units had already departed for a Middle East deployment known as Layforce. As a result Army Casualty Records for Layforce [more....] recorded a few individuals by their now defunct Special Service Battalion designation at the time of departure rather than by their current designated Commando unit within Layforce.
Finally No 2 Commando, originally raised as a Parachute Commando, was redesignated as 11 Special Air Service Bn., and in February 1941 a new No 2 Commando was was raised from 1st Special Service Bn. 'B' Coy. under Lt Col. Newman at Paignton.

Roll of Honour

No. 1 Independent Company
No. 2 Independent Company
No. 3 Independent Company
No. 4 Independent Company
No. 5 Independent Company
Special Service Battalions

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