The British Commandos were one of the most famous Special Forces units of the Second World War, formed at a time when Britain was on the back foot, and that went on to become an ever more potent threat as the war went on.
The recruitment section starts with an interesting look at the Independent Companies, a precursor of the Commandos raised in the spring of 1940 from the Territorial Army.
There is an emphasis on how Commando life was less formal than in the normal army, with more emphasis on individual initiative, with accommodation away from barracks and almost no drill to give more time for the in depth Commando training.
The section on Training looks at what was required of a Commando - the distance and speed they were expected to march, the variety of weapon skills required, even practise at how to get out of landing craft quickly. There is also a brief look at the famous Command training centre around Achnacarry in the Scottish Highlands.
The equipment section continues to emphasis the differences with the regular army, with more variety of weapons and more infantry portable firepower being carried.
The Experience of Battle chapter is a bit brief - it might have been better to look at few cases in more detail, and the example from the Arakan is so short as to be pointless. The more general ‘On Campaign’ section is rather better, and gives an idea of how the Commandos operated in combat.
One interesting comment comes from a commando who served in the same unit in 1941 and 1944 - in his view in the gap the Commandos had become far more professional and skilful, but lost some of their early ‘dash’. This perhaps reflects the general improvement in the British Army in this period, but also the value of experience for the Commandos, who began as one of Britain’s few ways to strike back against occupied Europe, but became part of a much more potent military, fighting alongside powerful allies.
Conditions of Service
Belief and Belonging
Experience of Battle
Collections and Museums
Author: Angus Konstam