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The Commandos; over-rated?!

Discussion in 'WWII Today' started by GRW, Nov 8, 2012.

  1. GRW

    GRW Pillboxologist WW2|ORG Editor

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    "The Commandos were the poster boys of the British military in World War II, the toughest and the bravest, cherry-picked from every regiment, ruthlessly trained and then let loose on clandestine missions in German-occupied Europe.
    Hundreds of them died on what in many cases were suicide missions, operations so daring and dangerous that the commanders who sent them were grateful if any got back alive. But what was the point of their sacrifice? A fascinating new book by military historian James Owen concludes that what these men of iron actually achieved was precious little.
    Some argue that the Commandos may even have hindered the success of the conventional forces. There were many in that Army who felt that they would have won the war sooner had the Commandos not creamed off the best of their fighting men.

    Battles were won by a hard-core of soldiers, the anti-Commando brigade argued. If the ones with backbone were hived off to go on jaunts of dubious worth, then it was inevitable the main forces would suffer. They had a point.
    So, if their missions were often failures and their existence posed problems for the regular army, was there any point at all to the Commandos? The answer is that their buccaneering image — skilfully enhanced by propaganda — raised morale at home at a time when the prospects for Britain looked bleak.
    Myth has a powerful part to play in winning wars. Poland, Belgium, Holland, France, the Mediterranean, North Africa and much more besides had been overrun by Hitler’s hordes.
    The image of the invincible British Commando, dagger between his teeth, striking night after night in a carefully co-ordinated campaign of sabotage and raiding, was a symbol of defiance against all the odds. No wonder Hitler wanted to crush it.
    The Commandos were a magnificent exercise in bravado and guts at a time when Britain’s very survival was in doubt. Those seven brave Britons who went to their gruesome death in a Nazi concentration camp 70 years ago might have taken some final comfort from knowing that."
    Did Britain's Commando heroes die in vain? Their daring raids drove Hitler to order them shot on sight, but a new book argues the soldiers, who died in their hundreds, did little to change the course of the war | Mail Online




     
  2. Skipper

    Skipper Kommodore

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    No way! The reputation of the British Commandos is well deserved all over the world. As a tribute to their ancestors who were part of the Kiefer commando , even nowadays, the French commandos still wear the British green beret to honor those who landed on D-Day.

    If they are honored abroad and highly regarded throughout the world why should the UK always start this masochistic attitude towards its onw veterans and institutions? It's like the debate about Bomber Command and others?

    You guys have something to be proud of. Those who disrespect the commandos weren't even there and they can go to hell if you ask me. These brave men have my highest admiration, regardless their origins and nationality, they had guts and skills that we needed in WW2. Others did well too, so did the commandos :poppy:

    [​IMG]

    WW2
    [​IMG]

    Nowadays, still wearing the beret the British way .

    [​IMG]


    kIEFFER WW2 vets with nowadays UK Commandos
     
  3. GRW

    GRW Pillboxologist WW2|ORG Editor

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    Skip,
    Guys like this author are very much in the minority, but unfortunately manage to command a lot more attention than they deserve. Bashing our own history has been turned into a national pastime by some people.
     
  4. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    These topics often provoke a "How dare you insult our brave ______ !" response even though no one, including the author here, is doing so. The men stepped up when their country asked for volunteers and went on the missions assigned; no one denies them credit for that. On the other hand, they would have served just as well and bravely in any other capacity, including in their original units where their examples and leadership might have been beneficial; that's the main counterargument to the formation of elite units. The value of such units and how many of them there should be are perfectly legitimate questions.
     
  5. scipio

    scipio Member

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    I absolutely agree with Carronade.

    My Uncle was a Royal Marine Commando. Training even for the RM Battalion was very thorough and tough but nothing compared with the Commando - one third rejected and three dead just after a 6 week course in the Highlands.

    Very brave, very professional, very well trained but, even though they had a heavy weapons platoon , they were always light and mobile and were at their optimum effectiveness when used in operations which suited this approach.

    But the question is were there enough missions to justify the numbers of Commandos and the expense (and the quality that was tied up in this resource and might has been used elsewhere to more effect).

    When you look at the relatively small amount of time they were actually in combat and the types of operations (and I include Paras) I think it is very questionable if this very expensive resource was used wisely.

    You just get the feeling at least in some the British operations that "Well, we have this exceptional fighting force laying idle what can we do with it?"
     
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  6. 4CommandoKid

    4CommandoKid New Member

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    I thoroughly enjoyed James Owen's book although a lot of people I know thought the person who wrote the piece for the Mail was out of order.
    My dad joined the Border Regiment so that he could volunteer for the Commandos - No.10 Independent Company first - then his beloved No.4.
    When Shall Their Glory Fade? Never.
     
  7. CAC

    CAC Ace of Spades

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    The group and idea was still in its infancy back then...surely mistakes were made...they made a contribution to WW2...but a far greater effect on subsequent wars...
     
  8. urqh

    urqh Tea drinking surrender monkey

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    There is a point to the article though...One I don't agree with...The commando's then as now are an elite..and like all elites in the British armed forces at any time are looked on with disdain by the occupants of Horseguards, or Whitehall of today. Same as Paras, SAS and even the auxilleries of 1940...Its just the old school regimental thing. Its not class. Its not jelousy. It can be excused I suppose And again I disagree with the fact the best were syphoned off..But this attitude is flawed as the best would not become the best if they had not been syphoned off.

    Even today...and training does change over the years...the Royals of the 40 names group of commandoes have a role. In fact more of a role today than in previous years. One should never argue with a Royal as one should never argue with a para, because their word really is their bond.

    No, this disdain some show, or the question rather than a disdain filters through a lot of our historians of today...my own RAF, never won the Needless Battle of Britain apparantly.

    As an ex serviceman I have words of my own to describe my attitude to this new look at history we are seeing in print these days...But as a civilian..I'll just say its not cricket old chap.
     
  9. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Member

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    I've seen a few comments as I've wandered through Sealion-related material lately...most recently David Newbold's thesis again...including "period" comments, that the Commandos soaked up a lot of manpower - raw and training staff - and particularly arms in the invasion scare period when they were desperately short elsewhere; getting first call on the first bulk imports of Thompson SMGs in 1940, for example....

    And leafing through Charles Messenger's book on the Commandos again a number of times in recent months, I'm struck again by the comparison with the British and U.S. airborne forces in the last year of the war - most of their history is a long litany of cancelled operations!

    It would be interesting to go through a decent book like Messenger's again with a notebook and actually find out if cancelled commando operations outnumbered ones that actually took place...and add these to those with large Commando casualties - like Crete, EXPORTER, and the Dutch islands in the autumn of 1944.

    I've a feeling that if properly put to the balance, the Commandos might just barely approach "break even" point for what they achieved vs. what they cost! :( Or at least....not surpass it enough to have been worth the cost?

    But that's on a purely "numbers" basis; there's no accounting for the value of an elite that went out and DID things to move our war effort forward when no other regular formation could.

    But I think there are questions that could also be asked comparing the Commandos' excellent record of small, covert operations vs. the large, set-piece actions where they had to act more as excellently-trained and versatile infantry...but infantry nonetheless.
     
  10. Fred Wilson

    Fred Wilson "The" Rogue of Rogues

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    You know me. Constantly searching for WW2 video releases.

    World War II Special Forces (46 Minutes)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nXBGui2UovY

    SAS The Real Story (47 Minutes)

    The hidden history of the SAS, from its formation in the North African desert in WWII to its highly secret operations in the jungles of Malaya and Borneo.
    It reveals 'the hidden wars' fought by the SAS in Oman in the 1950s and 1970s, undercover operations in Northern Ireland and missions previously shrouded in secrecy in the Gambia, Sierra Leone, Bosnia and the Yemen.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AG-6OwZm8H4
     
  11. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    So did I.......I actually wonder if the good old Mail writer has actually read it. :listen:

    One of the points made in the book was that when they were conceived, Britain was in its darkest hour but when they had been raised, fully-equipped and trained, the original idea ( 'raiding the Reich' ) had been altered by events. That's nothing new ( pretty much the same thing happened with Bomber Command ).

    I think the Mail writer has done a disservice both to the Commandos and to Owen, whose book I think gives a decent overview of the Commando story.
     
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  12. urqh

    urqh Tea drinking surrender monkey

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    In which case my response is out of context with the book. Especially as I have not read it. Fallen once again for a Daily Mail critique...I should know better.
     
  13. 4CommandoKid

    4CommandoKid New Member

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    You're not alone - a lot of people were a tad annoyed about what they read in the article and thought that the author was dissing the Commandos ... far from it. However, he does raise the points that have been aired on this thread. I remember, when I first learned that dad was a Commando (I was very young), my mam said all the above about taking the best men, lots of raids being cancelled etc .... however ...

    I think people are doing a disservice to those that remained/didn't want to volunteer for the Commandos in the first place as I've read about terrifically brave deeds carried out by those across the wide range of people involved in WW2.
    Many men were RTUd for many reasons - some chose to return to their original Units, some just didn't come up to par, physically. Others were too 'gung-ho' in their attitudes ... thinking of others/working as a team as well as being able to make your own way and decisions just wasn't right for some.
    Being volunteers, they had joined up to take the fight to the enemy, to inflict as much annoyance/fear/upset as they could - getting out as quickly and as quietly as they had got in. I've heard Commandos say that they weren't any 'better' than other highly trained soldiers but their training was different, harder ... and not every person could take what they were trained to do. It was attitude and a particular mind-set that was required.
    Morale was low - although the RAF had won a resounding victory at home which raised spirits - but instead of just waiting for the expected invasion, the Commandos were (amongst?) the first to show the people, and the enemy, that we weren't just going to sit and wait.

    Worth it? You betcha.

    Just watched the first video - you know when it mentions Pat Porteous winning the VC at Dieppe? My dad was one of those beside him. Proud? Me? Too right. :)
     
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  14. scipio

    scipio Member

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    Pat Porteous was my father's CO and I had the honour also of at least seeing Pat Porteous or rather his youngest daughter Georgina.

    Great man, gorgeous girl..

    My father could never understand why he wasn't made a General - but there we are.

    Do you have the write up of his Obituary - if not I will send it to you.
     
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  15. 4CommandoKid

    4CommandoKid New Member

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    I can't remember if I've read it - I know I've read the details of his being awarded the VC ... I'd be very grateful if you could send it to me. Please pm me if you need my email address ... and thank you.

    I've seen 2 or 3 photos of dad and Pat, some taken in the early days of training - my dad thought he was marvellous too. :)
     
  16. scipio

    scipio Member

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    Come to think of it there is not reason no to publish it here -

    [​IMG]
     
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  17. 4CommandoKid

    4CommandoKid New Member

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    Thank you. Yes, I had read it. :)

    My dad told me about waving at the planes when I was little - I was shocked, he just grinned.
     

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