Branch Royal Marines
|Country United Kingdom|
Type Marine Infantry
Size One battalion
40 Commando RM is a battalion-sized formation of the British Royal Marines and subordinate unit within 3 Commando Brigade, the principal Commando formation, under the Operational Command of Commander in Chief Fleet.
- Dieppe Raid
- Italy and the Aegean
- Post World War II reorganisation
- Post WW2
- Return to UK
- Falklands Conflict
- Recent history
- Unit memorable dates
- Battle honours
- Commanding officers
Tasked as a Commando light infantry unit, 40 Commando (pronounced "Forty Commando") is capable of a wide range of operational tasks. Based at Norton Manor Camp, Norton Fitzwarren their barracks is in Taunton, Somerset. Personnel regularly deploy outside the United Kingdom on operations or training. Whilst 3 Commando Brigade RM are the principal cold weather warfare formation, personnel are capable of operating in a variety of theatres including tropical jungle, desert or mountainous terrain. The Commando is a regular participant in the annual Brigade cold weather warfare exercise in Norway. The unit’s first "winter" was 1991, until which the unit was nicknamed the "Sunshine Commando".
All personnel will have completed the Commando course at the Commando Training Centre (CTCRM) at Lympstone in Devon, entitling them to wear the green beret, with attached personnel having completed the All Arms Commando Course.
Early Commando units were all from the British Army but by February 1942, the Royal Marines were asked to organise Commando units of their own, and 6,000 men volunteered. The first Royal Marines commando unit was formed at Deal in Kent on 14 February 1942 and designated ‘The Royal Marine Commando’. Before long it was re-designated RM ‘A’ Commando. Col J Picton Phillips was the Commanding Officer.
The Commando’s baptism of fire was at Dieppe on 19 August 1942. In support of the main Canadian assault force, Nos. 3 and 4 (Army) Commandos were to destroy the enemy coastal batteries covering the main landing beaches, whilst No. 40 had selected tasks in the port area and was to be responsible for reinforcements as required. In the pre-dawn run-in the landing craft of No. 3 were fired upon and scattered with the result that only two small parties managed to land, one was overwhelmed, but the other successfully engaged the Berneval battery for some hours before withdrawing. On the other flank at Varengeville No. 4, under the command of Lord Lovat, carried out what was officially hailed as a 'classic operation of war' and completely destroyed the Hess Battery, successfully withdrawing and re-embarking with prisoners. Unfortunately, No. 40, when committed to their landing, under well-nigh impossible conditions, suffered severe casualties. Of the 370 officers and men, 76 were lost on the beaches. Among those killed was the Commanding officer (CO), while the second-in-command, Robert Houghton was captured.
Italy and the Aegean
On return RM ‘A’ Commando was again re-designated; this time as 40 (RM) Commando. Further training and replenishment was carried out. Once back to full strength it was sent to Sicily in July 1943 and a little later in September saw action at Pizzio. Later that year the Commando was in action in Termoli in October, and in 1944 was embroiled at Anzio. Later service in Yugoslavia and Albania followed by policing duties on Corfu wound up 40’s wartime activities.
Post-World War II reorganisation
Following the Second World War, 2 Commando (Nos. 2, 9, 40(RM) and 43(RM)) disbanded leaving 3 Commando Brigade (42(RM), 44(RM) and 45(RM)). To recognise 2 Commando Brigade one of the Commandos was renamed, No44(RM) becoming No40(RM).
The Commando was deeply involved in 1947–1948 Civil War in Palestine acting as the rearguard in the Protectorate, leaving in 1948. They subsequently undertook security duties in Cyprus, Hong Kong and Egypt before moving to Singapore in 1961. It was involved in operations during the confrontation with Indonesia (Borneo) throughout the following decade.
Return to UK
In 1971 the Commando left Singapore and re-established itself in Seaton Barracks, Crownhill, Plymouth. Over the next decade the Commando found itself deployed to Northern Ireland four times and also undertook an unexpected two-month tour in Cyprus after the invasion by the Turkish Army.
In 1982, following the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands, the Commando deployed on Operation Corporate. On 21 May the Commando were among the first troops ashore and secured the beachhead at San Carlos. The Unit was subsequently split having two companies attached to the Welsh Guards, preparing to attack Port Stanley, when the Argentine surrender came.
On their return from the Falklands, the Commando spent the rest of the decade involved in a variety of tasks including two Northern Ireland tours to South Armagh, a six-month Peace-Keeping tour in Cyprus and a six-month operational tour in Belize. During the tour in Cyprus, the Commando was awarded the Wilkinson Sword of Peace for the third time. Also during this period, in 1983, the Commando relocated to Norton Manor Camp near Taunton.
In 1991 the Unit undertook its first Norway deployment but found itself undergoing a dramatic climatic change when, due to the Gulf War, it deployed to Northern Iraq to ensure the security of Kurdish refugees. Northern Ireland tours, Norway winter deployments and a major Asia-Pacific Exercise kept the Commando busy through the following years. In November 1993 the unit deployed to West Belfast in support of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), returning in May 1994. In 1998 a substantial part of the Commando deployed to the Congo to ensure the safe evacuation of UK nationals from Kinshasa City.
The new millennium saw the Commando deploy to Northern Ireland and on their return they were the first Commando to reorganise under a new structural concept called Commando 21.
The Unit deployed in its entirety in January 2003, initially part of the Naval Task Group (NTG) 03 in HMS Ocean, HMS Ark Royal and Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships RFA Sir Galahad and RFA Sir Tristram. The group sailed through the Mediterranean Sea, after a brief stop at Cyprus, continuing through the Suez Canal bound for the Persian Gulf. The United Nations were engaged in diplomatic efforts to avoid the need for military intervention in Iraq, as the Unit was busy rehearsing in the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait for possible operations against Iraq.
In March 2003 a coalition force, under the overall command of the United States, entered Iraq. During Operation TELIC 1, the liberation of Iraq, on the night of 20 March 2003, 40 Commando RM, under the command of Lt Col G K Messenger DSO OBE, mounted an amphibious helicopter assault to seize key Iraqi oil infrastructure on the Al-Faw Peninsula. As the first conventional troops on the ground, the strategic significance of the operation was immense and, as the Divisional Main Effort, the assault was supported by a vast array of coalition firepower. The Commando Group's role in the success of the coalition operation in Iraq was pivotal and profound. In a two-week period of intense operations, it secured key oil infrastructure, cleared a large expanse of enemy held terrain, and defeated a major enemy stronghold on the periphery of Basra, killing over 150 Iraqi soldiers and taking 440 prisoners.
In 2004 the Unit returned to Iraq as part of a multi-national division peace-support operation. The commandos returned in April 2008 from a tour in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan as part of Operation Herrick. During the tour L-Cpl Matthew Croucher was awarded the George Cross for his action of jumping on a live grenade during a patrol.
40 Cdo returned to Afghanistan in 2010 for Op Herrick 12. They were the last British troops to leave Sangin, described as the "deadliest place in Afghanistan", after command was handed over to the US Armed Forces.
A Company deployed with the UK Response Force Task Group in April 2011. Additional follow up forces were on board RFA Cardigan Bay. They then completed Exercise Red Alligator in October 2013: this trained their skills for the role of the Lead Commando Group.
Unit memorable dates
The following Battle honours were awarded to the British Commandos during the Second World War.
Commanders have included: