Combined Operations Headquarters

Last updated
Combined Operations Headquarters

British Commandos Patch.jpg

Combined Operations badge
Agency overview
Formed 1940
Dissolved 1947
Superseding agency
Jurisdiction Government of the United Kingdom
Headquarters War Office building
Whitehall
London
Parent agency War Office

Combined Operations Headquarters [1] was a department of the British War Office set up during Second World War to harass the Germans on the European continent by means of raids carried out by use of combined naval and army forces.

War Office department of the British Government responsible for the administration of the British Army

The War Office was a Department of the British Government responsible for the administration of the British Army between 1857 and 1964, when its functions were transferred to the Ministry of Defence. It was equivalent to the Admiralty, responsible for the Royal Navy, and the Air Ministry, which oversaw the Royal Air Force. The name "War Office" is also given to the former home of the department, the War Office building, located at the junction of Horse Guards Avenue and Whitehall in central London.

Raid (military) military tactic or operational warfare mission which has a specific purpose

Raiding, also known as depredation, is a military tactic or operational warfare mission which has a specific purpose and is not normally intended to capture and hold a location but instead finish with the raiding force quickly retreating to a previous defended position prior to enemy forces being able to respond in a coordinated manner or formulate a counter-attack. A raiding group may consist of combatants specially trained in this tactic, such as commandos, or as a special mission assigned to any general troops. Raids are often a standard tactic in irregular warfare, employed by warriors, guerrilla fighters or other irregular military forces. Some raids are large, for example the Sullivan Expedition.

Contents

History

Admiral of the Fleet Roger Keyes was the first director, from 17 July 1940 to 27 October 1941, replaced first by Lord Louis Mountbatten and then Major General Robert Laycock (October 1943 – 1947). The main forces used by Combined Operations were the Commandos.

Roger Keyes, 1st Baron Keyes Royal Navy officer

Admiral of the Fleet Roger John Brownlow Keyes, 1st Baron Keyes, was a Royal Navy officer. As a junior officer he served in a corvette operating from Zanzibar on slavery suppression missions. Early in the Boxer Rebellion, he led a mission to capture a flotilla of four Chinese destroyers moored to a wharf on the Peiho River. He was one of the first men to climb over the Peking walls, to break through to the besieged diplomatic legations and to free the legations.

Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma British statesman and naval officer

Admiral of the Fleet Louis Francis Albert Victor Nicholas Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma, was a British Royal Navy officer and statesman, an uncle of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and second cousin once removed of Queen Elizabeth II. During the Second World War, he was Supreme Allied Commander, South East Asia Command (1943–1946). He was the last Viceroy of India (1947) and the first Governor-General of independent India (1947–1948).

Robert Laycock British Army general

Major-General Sir Robert Edward Laycock was a senior British Army officer, most significant for his service with the British Commandos during the Second World War.

It comprised background staff whose job was to plan operations and to develop ideas and equipment to harass the enemy in any way possible. It also covered all those who worked with landing craft up to and including the landing ships that were used in the various amphibious operations.

Landing craft small and medium seagoing vessel used to convey a landing force

Landing craft are small and medium seagoing watercraft such as boats, and barges, used to convey a landing force from the sea to the shore during an amphibious assault. The term excludes landing ships, which are larger. Production of landing craft peaked during World War II, with a significant number of different designs produced in large quantities by the United Kingdom and United States.

Amphibious warfare ship Ship used in amphibious warfare

An amphibious warfare ship is an amphibious vehicle warship employed to land and support ground forces, such as marines, on enemy territory during an amphibious assault. The largest fleet of these types is operated by the United States Navy.

The badge of Combined Operations was an eagle over a submachine gun over an anchor, reflecting the three service arms; the Royal Air Force, the British Army and the Royal Navy. In 1941 the title of Director of Combined Operations was changed to Adviser Combined Operations. In 1942 the title of Adviser Combined Operations was changed to Chief of Combined Operations. [1]

Eagle (heraldry) heraldic bird

The eagle is used in heraldry as a charge, as a supporter, and as a crest. The symbolism of the heraldic eagle is connected with the Roman Empire on one hand, and with Saint John the Evangelist on the other.

Thompson submachine gun American submachine gun

The Thompson submachine gun is an American submachine gun invented by John T. Thompson in 1918 which became infamous during the Prohibition era, being a signature weapon of various crime syndicates in the United States. It was a common sight in the media of the time, being used by both law enforcement officers and criminals. The Thompson submachine gun was also known informally as the "Tommy Gun", "Annihilator", "Chicago Typewriter", "Chicago Piano", "Chicago Style", "Chicago Organ Grinder", "Trench Broom", "Trench Sweeper", "The Chopper", and simply "The Thompson".

Anchor Device used to connect a vessel to the bed of a body of water to prevent the craft from drifting

An anchor is a device, normally made of metal, used to connect a vessel to the bed of a body of water to prevent the craft from drifting due to wind or current. The word derives from Latin ancora, which itself comes from the Greek ἄγκυρα (ankura).

The department existed until 1947 but later re-emerged under a new name in 1951 the Amphibious Warfare Headquarters. [1]

Directors of Combined Operations

Adviser Combined Operations

Chiefs of Combined Operations

Operations

Among the projects undertaken by Combined Operations was the surveying of landing sites for invasions, including those of Sicily and Normandy. These were carried out by Combined Operations Pilotage Parties made up of members of the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Corps of Royal Engineers and Special Boat Service.

Other operations included:

Units

Film

The Attack on the Iron Coast (film) depicts an account of Allied Combined Operations Headquarters commandos executing a daring raid on the German-occupied French coast during the Second World War. [2]

Related Research Articles

Commandos (United Kingdom) British commando formation

The Commandos also known as British Commandos were formed during the Second World War in June 1940, following a request from the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Winston Churchill, for a force that could carry out raids against German-occupied Europe. Initially drawn from within the British Army from soldiers who volunteered for the Special Service Brigade, the Commandos' ranks would eventually be filled by members of all branches of the British Armed Forces and a number of foreign volunteers from German-occupied countries. By the end of the war 25,000 men had passed through the Commando course at Achnacarry. This total includes not only the British volunteers, but volunteers from Greece, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, and the United States Army Rangers, which were modelled on the Commandos.

Dieppe Raid World War II battle on north coast of France

Operation Jubilee, more commonly referred to as the Dieppe Raid, was an Allied assault on the German-occupied port of Dieppe, France on 19 August 1942, during the Second World War. The main assault lasted less than six hours until strong German defences and mounting Allied losses forced its commanders to call a retreat.

No. 62 Commando

No. 62 Commando or the Small Scale Raiding Force (SSRF) was a British Commando unit of the British Army during the Second World War. The unit was formed around a small group of commandos under the command of the Special Operations Executive (SOE). They carried out a number of raids before being disbanded in 1943.

1st Special Service Brigade brigade of the British Army

The 1st Special Service Brigade was a commando brigade of the British Army. Formed during the Second World War, it consisted of elements of the British Army and the Royal Marines. The brigade's component units saw action individually in Norway and the Dieppe Raid, before being combined under one commander for service in Normandy during Operation Overlord. On 6 December 1944, the Brigade was redesignated 1st Commando Brigade, removing the hated title Special Service and its association with the German SS.

No. 7 Commando was a unit of the British Commandos and part of the British Army during the Second World War. The commando was formed in August 1940 in the United Kingdom. No. 7 Commando was transferred to the Middle East as part of Layforce. Committed to the Battle of Crete, it suffered heavy casualties, after which it was disbanded.

No. 11 (Scottish) Commando was a battalion-sized commando unit of the British Army during the Second World War. Formed in Scotland, members of No. 11 (Scottish) Commando adopted the Tam o'shanter as their official headdress.

No. 12 Commando

No. 12 Commando was a battalion-sized commando unit of the British Army during the Second World War. Formed in 1940 in Northern Ireland, they carried out a number of small-scale raids in Norway and France between 1941 and 1943 before being disbanded and its personnel dispersed to other commando units.

No. 5 Commando was a battalion-sized commando unit of the British Army during the Second World War.

No. 9 Commando

No. 9 Commando was a battalion-sized British Commando unit raised by the British Army during the Second World War. It took part in raids across the English Channel and in the Mediterranean, ending the war in Italy as part of the 2nd Special Service Brigade. Like all Army commando units it was disbanded in 1946.

No. 10 (Inter-Allied) Commando

No. 10 (Inter-Allied) Commando was a commando unit of the British Army during the Second World War, recruited largely from non-British personnel from German-occupied Europe. This unit was used to help co-oridinate attacks with other allied forces.

The No. 1 Commando was a unit of the British Commandos and part of the British Army during the Second World War. It was raised in 1940 from the ranks of the existing independent companies. Operationally they carried out a series of small scale cross channel raids and spearheaded the Operation Torch landings in North Africa. They were then sent to the India as part of the 3rd Commando Brigade and took part in operations in the Burma Campaign. During the Second World War only eight commandos were recipients of the Victoria Cross, two of the eight were from No. 1 Commando. After the war they were sent to reoccupy Hong Kong before being amalgamated with No. 5 Commando to form No. 1/5 Commando. The amalgamated No. 1/5 Commando was disbanded in 1947.

No. 50 Commando was a battalion-sized British Commando unit of the British Army during the Second World War. The commando was formed in 1940, from volunteers in Egypt and Palestine. Shortly after formation it was amalgamated with No. 52 Commando and became 'D' Battalion, Layforce.

No. 52 Commando was a battalion-sized British Commando unit of the British Army during the Second World War. The commando was formed in 1940, from volunteers in Egypt and Palestine. Shortly after formation it was amalgamated with No. 50 Commando and became 'D' Battalion, Layforce.

No. 51 Commando was a battalion-sized British Commando unit of the British Army during the Second World War. The commando was formed in 1940, from Jewish and Arab volunteers from Palestine. The Commando fought against the Italians in Abyssinia and Eritrea before it was absorbed into the Middle East Commando.

British Commando operations during the Second World War

The Commandos formed during the Second World War, following an order from the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in June 1940 for a force that could carry out raids against German occupied Europe. Churchill stated in a minute to General Ismay on 6 June 1940: "Enterprises must be prepared, with specially-trained troops of the hunter class, who can develop a reign of terror down these coasts, first of all on the "butcher and bolt" policy..." Commandos were all volunteers for special service and originally came from the British Army but volunteers would eventually come from all branches of the United Kingdom's armed forces and foreign volunteers from countries occupied by the Germans. These volunteers formed over 30 individual units and four assault brigades.

No. 14 (Arctic) Commando sometimes also called the Special Commando Boating Group, was a 60-man British Commando unit of the British Army during the Second World War. The commando was formed in 1942 for service in the Arctic and was disbanded in 1943.

Tony Pugsley British admiral

Rear Admiral Anthony Follett Pugsley was a British naval officer. During the Second World War he served as a successful destroyer captain, landed the 3rd Canadian Division on D-Day, and planned and executed the amphibious landings on Walcheren during a critically important phase in the Battle of the Scheldt in late 1944.

References

  1. 1 2 3 Archives, The National. "Combined Operations Headquarters, and Ministry of Defence, Combined Operations Headquarters later Amphibious Warfare Headquarters: Records". discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk. National Archives, 1937-1963, DEFE 2. Retrieved 3 March 2017.
  2. Attack on the Iron Coast

Sources