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Naval Commandos

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#1 macrusk


    Proud Daughter of a Canadian WWII Veteran

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Posted 06 June 2008 - 03:40 PM

While looking for the answer to Jeff's quiz question on Blue Star Commandos, I found this article on the Naval Commandos of the Royal Navy (and since there was a Canadian unit I assume RCN):

Royal Navy Commandos in World War II » HistoryNet - From the World's Largest History Magazine Publisher

"In 1942 a group of commandos gathered for a class in Inveraray, a small village in the Highlands of Scotland. Their instructor was a former assistant commissioner of the Shanghai Police named William Fairbairn, and he surprised the commandos by giving each in turn a loaded revolver. They were even more surprised when Fairbairn selected Albert Cattell and told him to stick the gun in his back. The instructor then said, ‘Now, when I move you pull the trigger!’ Cattell was convinced that Fairbairn would be shot and was amazed to find himself shooting wide. ‘As soon as he moved, I pulled the trigger,’ Cattell remarked. ‘My arm was over there, bang! We couldn’t fathom out how he did it, he did it with all of us. The trick was, before your brain could get the signal to your trigger finger, he’d turn round. If you were right-handed he’d turn to the left, so as he came round his left arm knocked that away, his right hand at your throat or your eyes.’Fairbairn had taught the commandos a valuable lesson. ‘What I’m trying to demonstrate is you never push a gun into the enemy’s back; you never get that close,’ he told them. Such unorthodox training was new for British forces in World War II, but the commandos themselves were a brand-new type of highly trained special forces that had been formed under Combined Operations Command to raid and to fight in enemy territory.

Since WWII, commandos have become legendary in military history, and their famous green beret is now an internationally recognized symbol of an elite fighting force. During the war each branch of Britain’s armed forces had its own commando force.

Thousands of pages have been written about the exploits of the British army and Royal Marine commandos who carried out recklessly daring raids at such places as St. Nazaire (see World War II, March 2003), Vaagso and Normandy. Lost in all the accolades, however, has been the role played by the Royal Navy Commandos, Britain’s forgotten special forces.

The Royal Navy Commandos had one of the most important and dangerous tasks of the war: They were the first onto invasion beaches and the last to leave. The navy commandos had their beginnings after the disastrous campaign in France and the ‘Miracle of Dunkirk’ in June 1940, when small groups of Royal Navy officers and ratings (enlisted men) were organized to man an assorted collection of vessels that would be used to carry out the first commando raids from England across the Channel into occupied France. These groups later became designated as Royal Navy Beach Parties, and in 1942 they led the landings at Madagascar and Dieppe, where they suffered terrible casualties.

Assigned to Combined Operations Command following the Dieppe mission, the beach parties were officially formed into Royal Navy Beach Commandos. Later they became known simply as Royal Navy Commandos. Apart from spearheading the landings on invasion beaches, the commandos had the task of establishing communications (their signalers were organized into separate Royal Navy Beach Signals sections) and controlling the landing craft of an invasion force.

The Royal Navy Commandos had their base, called HMS Armadillo, at a forestry camp near the small Highland village of Ardentinny. It was at Armadillo, and the famous commando training center at Achnacarry, that the sailors were turned into commandos. And it was at Armadillo that they were issued their Fairborn Sykes Commando knives–the hallmark of all British commandos.

Unlike their army and marine colleagues, Royal Navy Commando units were denoted by letters, from A Commando through the all-Canadian W Commando. Each such unit consisted of 10 officers and 60 ratings and was commanded by a principal beachmaster with the rank of lieutenant commander. Junior officers were beachmasters and assistant beachmasters. Much like the captain of a ship, during a landing a beachmaster had the final word on operations and outranked any officer who crossed his beach......"

Please note that at the link above are another 5 pages beyond what I have posted here.
Regards, Michelle

Oliver Goldsmith, "I love everything that's old: old friends, old times, old manners, old books, old wines." :flag_canada_ww2: :flag_canada: :flag_uk:

#2 Miguel B.

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Posted 06 June 2008 - 03:56 PM

Great stuff! Thanks. It'a always fun to learn something new about those guys.


#3 Skipper



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Posted 06 June 2008 - 04:37 PM

Too bad that history has almost forgotten these guys, they deserve better.


#4 bigfun



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Posted 06 June 2008 - 05:00 PM

Great stuff Michelle!

Scott :flag_USA_ww2: :flag_netherlands:

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