Special Service Brigade

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The Special Service Brigade was a formation of the British Army during the Second World War. It was formed in 1940, after the call for volunteers for Special Service who eventually became the British Commandos.

British Army during the Second World War

The British Army was, in 1939, a volunteer army, that introduced limited conscription in early 1939, and full conscription shortly after the declaration of war with Germany. During the early years of the Second World War, the British Army suffered defeat in almost every theatre of war in which it was deployed. With mass conscription, the expansion of the British Army was reflected in the formation of larger armies and army groups. From 1943, the larger and better-equipped British Army never suffered a strategic defeat.

Contents

Background

In 1940, volunteers were called for from serving British Army soldiers within certain formations still in Britain and men of the disbanding Divisional Independent Companies originally raised from Territorial Army (TA) divisions and who had seen service in the Norwegian Campaign. In November 1940 these army units were organised into a Special Service Brigade under Brigadier J. C. Haydon with five Special Service battalions. [1] By the autumn of 1940 more than 2,000 men had volunteered for commando training, and the Special Service Brigade now consisted of 12 units which were now called commandos. [2] Each commando would number around 450 men, commanded by a lieutenant colonel. They were divided into troops of 75 men and further divided into 15-man sections. [2] The Commandos were all volunteers, seconded from other British Army regiments, but they retained their own regimental cap badges and remained on their regimental roll for pay. [3]

Army Reserve (United Kingdom) element of the British Army

The Army Reserve is the active-duty volunteer reserve force and integrated element of the British Army. It should not be confused with the Regular Reserve whose members have formerly served full-time. The Army Reserve was previously known as the Territorial Force from 1908 to 1921, the Territorial Army (TA) from 1921 to 1967, the Territorial and Army Volunteer Reserve (TAVR) from 1967 to 1979, and again the Territorial Army (TA) from 1979 to 2014.

Norwegian Campaign Second World War campaign fought in Norway

The Norwegian Campaign was the attempted Allied liberation of the Scandinavian nation of Norway from Nazi Germany during the early stages of World War II and directly following the German invasion and occupation of the Norwegian mainland and government. It took place from April 9th, 1940 until June 10th the same year. The Allied campaign did not succeed, and it resulted in the fleeing of King Haakon VII along with the remainder of the royal family to Great Britain.

Brigadier (Brig) is a senior rank in the British Army and the Royal Marines. Brigadier is the superior rank to colonel, but subordinate to major-general. It corresponds to the Rank of brigadier general in many other nations.

Formation

The Special Service Brigade consisted of five Special Service battalions, numbered one to five. [4] These Special Service battalions were eventually re-designated commandos. The No. 1 Special Service Battalion became No. 1 and No. 2 Commandos. The No. 2 Special Service Battalion became No. 9 Commando. The No. 3 Special Service Battalion became No. 4 Commando. The No. 4 Special Service Battalion became No. 3 Commando. The No. 5 Special Service Battalion became No. 5 and No. 6 Commandos. [4]

The No. 1 Special Service Battalion was part of the British Army's Special Service Brigade, in the Second World War. It was broken up to form two different units, the No. 1 Commando and the No. 2 Commando.

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. 2 Commando was a battalion-sized British Commando unit of the British Army during the Second World War. The first No.2 Commando was formed on the 22nd June 1940 for a parachuting role at Cambrai Barracks, Perham Down, near Tidworth, Hants. The Unit at the time consisted of four troops - 'A', 'B', 'C' and 'D'. Eventually 11 troops were raised. On 21 November, it was re-designated as the 11th Special Air Service (SAS) Battalion and eventually re-designated 1st Parachute Battalion. After their re-designation as the 11th SAS Battalion, a second No. 2 Commando was formed. This No. 2 Commando was the leading commando unit in the St Nazaire Raid and suffered heavy casualties. Those who made it back from St Nazaire rejoined the few who had not gone on the raid, and the commando was reinforced by the first intake of volunteers from the new Commando Basic Training Centre at Achnacarry. No. 2 Commando then went on to serve in the Mediterranean, Sicily, Yugoslavia, and Albania, before being disbanded in 1946.

Commando brigades

In 1943 the commandos started to move away from smaller raiding operations. They had been formed into brigades of assault infantry to spearhead future Allied landing operations. Of the remaining 20 Commandos, 17 were used in the formation of the four Special Service brigades. The three remaining units No. 12, No. 14 (Arctic) and No. 62 Commandos were left to carry out smaller-scale raids. [5] But by the end of the year these three commandos had all been disbanded, to supply replacements for the other commando units. [6]

Brigade Military formation size designation, typically of 3-6 battalions

A brigade is a major tactical military formation that is typically composed of three to six battalions plus supporting elements. It is roughly equivalent to an enlarged or reinforced regiment. Two or more brigades may constitute a division.

The formation of the brigades was:

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. 3 Commando

No. 3 Commando was a battalion-sized Commando unit raised by the British Army during the Second World War. Formed in July 1940 from volunteers for special service, it was the first such unit to carry the title of "Commando". Shortly afterwards the unit was involved in a largely unsuccessful raid upon the German-occupied Channel Island of Guernsey.

No. 4 Commando British Army commando unit

No. 4 Commando was a battalion-sized British Army commando unit, formed in 1940 early in the Second World War. Although it was raised to conduct small-scale raids and harass garrisons along the coast of German occupied France, it was mainly employed as a highly trained infantry assault unit.

The previous Special Service Brigade Headquarters was replaced by Headquarters Special Services Group under Major-General Robert Sturges. The four brigades were to destined to serve in different theatres of war. The 1st and 4th brigades were based in the United Kingdom and destined for service in North-western Europe. The 2nd Brigade was based in the Mediterranean for service in Italy and the Balkans. The 3rd Brigade was based in India for service in Burma and the Pacific. [8]

Major general, is a "two-star" rank in the British Army and Royal Marines. The rank was also briefly used by the Royal Air Force for a year and a half, from its creation to August 1919. In the British Army, a major general is the customary rank for the appointment of division commander. In the Royal Marines, the rank of major general is held by the Commandant General.

Robert Sturges Royal Marines general

Lieutenant General Sir Robert Grice Sturges was a senior Royal Marines officer who fought in both the First World War and Second World War.

United Kingdom Country in Europe

The United Kingdom, officially the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland but more commonly known as the UK or Britain, is a sovereign country lying off the north-western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that shares a land border with another sovereign state‍—‌the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the south and the Celtic Sea to the south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea lies between Great Britain and Ireland. With an area of 242,500 square kilometres (93,600 sq mi), the United Kingdom is the 78th-largest sovereign state in the world. It is also the 22nd-most populous country, with an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.

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.

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.

Operation Claymore

Operation Claymore was the code name for a British commando raid on the Lofoten Islands in Norway during the Second World War. The Lofoten Islands were an important centre for the production of fish oil and glycerine, used in the German war economy. The landings were carried out on 4 March 1941, by the men of No. 3 Commando, No. 4 Commando, a Royal Engineers Section and 52 men from the Norwegian Independent Company 1. Supported by the 6th Destroyer Flotilla and two troop transports of the Royal Navy, the force made an unopposed landing and generally continued to meet no opposition. The original plan was to avoid contact with German forces and inflict the maximum of damage to German-controlled industry. They achieved their objective of destroying fish oil factories and some 3,600 t of oil and glycerine. The British experienced only one accident; an officer injuring himself with his own revolver and returned with some 228 German prisoners, 314 loyal Norwegian volunteers and a number of Quisling regime collaborators.

42 Commando is a subordinate unit within the Royal Marines 3 Commando Brigade, the principal Commando formation, under the Operational Command of Fleet Commander.

41 Commando or No. 41 Commando was a unit of the Royal Marines trained as Commandos during the Second World War. They were part of the all Royal Marine 4th Special Service Brigade that took part in the Normandy landings in June 1944 and later that served in World War II, the Korean War, and in Northern Ireland. They were disbanded in 1981.

No. 8 (Guards) Commando was a unit of the British Commandos and part of the British Army during the Second World War. The Commando was formed in June 1940 primarily from members of the Brigade of Guards. It was one of the units selected to be sent to the Middle East as part of Layforce. On arrival they became known as 'B' Battalion in an attempt at deception, not wanting the Axis forces to know there was a commando formation in the theatre of war. The commando participated in the Battle of Crete and around Tobruk before being disbanded in late 1941. After this, many of its personnel went on to serve in other commando units formed in the area, including the Special Air Service.

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. 44 Commando was a battalion size formation in the British Commandos, formed during the Second World War. The Commando was assigned to the 3rd Special Service Brigade and served in the Burma Campaign.

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.

References

  1. Joslen, p.454
  2. 1 2 Haskew, p.48
  3. Moreman, p.12
  4. 1 2 Moreman, p.18
  5. Moreman, pp.8485
  6. Chappell, p.14
  7. "unit index". Order of Battle. Retrieved 8 May 2010.
  8. Joslen, p. 455.