WW2 Monthly History - March

 There are too many operations and/or notable dates to mention each and every one but here are some. Photo below depicts No 3 Commando officers at Limehouse during training for D Day

4th March 1941 saw Nos.3 and 4 Commandos involved in Operation Claymore, on the Lofoten Islands. The Force also included approx 50 Royal Engineers and a group from the Free Norwegian Forces. They were transported on board two converted ships, the Princess Beatrix and the Queen Emma, now loaded with LCA's or Landing Craft Assault vessels. Leaving from, and returning to Scapa Flow, they were escorted by 5 Royal Navy destroyers. Two of the Commandos were later photographed with a couple of souvenirs in a newspaper after returning from the raid - L/Cpl Ernie Brooks and Pte. Fred Brooking. That photo can be viewed [HERE].

28th March 1942 saw No.2 Commando involved in Operation Chariot at St Nazaire, with small detachments varying in size from Nos 1,3,4, 5, 9, and 12 Commandos. A combined operations raid after which many of the Royal Navy personnel and Army Commandos would be awarded medals for gallantry including five Victoria Crosses.


Nominal Roll of the Commandos (Operation Chariot):  [ Commando Personnel.... ].

Nominal Roll of the Royal Navy   (Operation Chariot) : [ Royal Navy Personnel.... ].

Much has been written about the raid but for the best accounts we recommend Storming St Nazaire by James Dorrian and St Nazaire Commando by Stuart Chant-Sempill.

The gallantry of so many Commandos and Royal Navy personnel, many of whom would never return home, justify it being known as the "Greatest raid of all" [MORE]

March 1943 saw continued operations in North Africa involving No.1 Commando, whilst the Northforce half of No.12 Commando were engaged in operations along the Norwegian coast and fjords.

March 1944 saw No.9 Commando (Army) along with Nos.40 & 43 Royal Marine Commandos involved at Anzio. Private Robert Rose Urquhart No.9 Commando was one of many casualties. He recovered from his wounds at Anzio only to be killed the following year at Lake Comacchio. We have copies of 2 of his letters home, the first when injured and in hospital, and the second dated the 29th March 1945 having just rejoined No 9 Commando in Italy. He was killed in action 4 days later. Click [HERE] for more about Pte Urquhart and to read those and other letters.

3rd March 1944 was the date that No.9 Commando 5 Troop, led by Capt. Les Callf, made their famous bayonet charge to clear the enemy from the wadis at Anzio. Read more [HERE].

18th March 1944 No.2 Commando were involved in Operation Detained 1 at Grohote village on the island of Solta (Yugoslavia). More information about this operation is [HERE]
43RM Commando also took part this month in a raid on Hvar Island (Yugoslavia). 
 

March 1944 also saw continued operations in the Far East involving HQ 3 Cdo Bde and Nos 5 (Army) Commando and 44RM Commando, one particular being Operation Screwdriver. The fighting in the Arakan campaign was tough and casualties high. Photos of some of the No 5 Commando graves from the Arakan campaign can be seen in our war graves album for Burma (Myanmar) [HERE].

March 1945 saw 48RM Commando took over from 41RM Commando in patrolling the Lower Maas whilst 1 Commando Brigade we're involved in operations clearing the Rhine- Maas triangle, and the crossing of the Rhine and capture of Wesel (Operation Widgeon) [MORE].
 
March 1945 was also the month that two former members of No 12 Commando were executed, Lt Ross Littlejohn MC and Cpl Joseph Crowley. 

Both were now members of 2SAS and were captured during an operation in Italy and then executed at Bolzano, Italy. After a War Crimes trial the two German SS officers involved were both convicted of this and other atrocities and murders, and sentenced to death which was carried out on the 26th July 1946. 

The picture shows Lt Littlejohn MC and Cpl Crowley whilst attached to No 12 Commando, along with Corporal Stanley Bolden MM who was killed in action in March 1945 also whilst attached to 2SAS. Click or touch the photo for more detail.


March 1947 was of course after the war had ended but the date is significant for the post war Commandos. All Army Commandos had been disbanded along with six RM Commandos. Unit designations were also changing. 3 Commando Brigade was now 3 Commando Brigade RM.

On 16 March 1947 the then 44 Commando of 3 Commando Brigade RM was redesignated as 40 Commando, Royal Marines. The intention being to perpetuate a Commando representative of the Dieppe raid and the Italian theatre of war, and to recognise their contribution to the Allied victory in Europe as with that of 45 Commando, combined with 42 Commando's contribution to Allied victory in the Far East.
 

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