Special Service Brigades
Functioned like a Commando Unit
The previous page was: "Rangoon Falls"
when World war II broke out, the 'Royal Marine Special Service
Brigade', was Britain's only Fighting Reserve. They were the last line of defence to take on the German forces, should they arrive on the southern shores of England.
The Brigade was being held as an amphibious force to meet an emergency which was expected; might arise at any moment.
Their function was similar to that of a Commando Unit; excpt they were better equipped.
Unlike most of the Royal Marines activities, the men of the
Royal Marine Special Service Brigade, did not normally serve
afloat. They were almost entirely recruited for 'Hostilities Only'.
They wore khaki, with the blue and red flash "Royal Marines" on
the shoulders of their tunics or battledress.
In October 1939, it was decided to form the first Royal Marine
Brigade, which was an amphibious unit. To be at the disposal of
the Joint Chiefs of Staff Sub-Committee.
The function of the Brigade was appropriate to the Corps, even though, it was designed to operate from a land base instead of a ship.
After Dunkirk, this Brigade was
One of the few formations of its size equipped ready to defend the English coast. Later, it sailed to Dakar, but did not land on French soil.
Detachments of independent units from the Army became the Army
Commandos. They increased so fast that it became necessary to
administer them under a separate headquarters known as the
Special Service Brigade.
This was an entirely military organisation, Under the control of Lieutenant-General sir Alan Bourne, the Adjutant-General of the Royal Marines and later Admiral of the Fleet Sir Roger Keys.
Eventually the Special Service Brigade headquarters developed
into an organisation known as Combined Operations Command, under Vice-Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten, the forces employed being drawn from the Royal Navy, the Royal Marines, the Army and the Royal air Force.
It was decided to expand the Brigades
Into a Division with similar functions. Two more Brigades were formed and a battalion of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders were attached.
The third Brigade was eventually amalgamated with the first and
second; certain units were sent to the Middle East and ultimately landed in Sicily with the Eighth Army; one company was detached for special duties in the Western Desert, which included the ground defence of naval airfields and desert patrols with the French Foreign Legion.
With the growing need of forces for amphibious operations, the
Royal Marine Division was reorganize as two Special Service
Brigades, for the functions of the Royal Marine Commandos, and
with their own compliment of landing craft, which was entirely
manned by Royal Marines.
They were ready as an assault force
To land on enemy territory and establish a bridgehead through which the main body of an army could advance. Or again, their self-contained units could deliver a series of rapier-like thrusts at the enemy's defences.
The Royal Marine Brigades were all under the operational control of the Chief of Combined Operations, but were paid by the Admiralty. Like all Royal Marine forces, when ashore they came under the Army Act.
Although their training was mainly that of a soldier, the troops were not allowed to forget that they are members of the Royal Marine Corps whose traditions are interwoven with the Royal Navy. They were encouraged to use sea terms and were taught something of seamanship.
The psychological effect upon the men is remarkable, and when
they go afloat they feel that they are not strangers to the
custom and usage of the sea, for, as one of their Brigadiers
has said: "their training has taught them, not to be seen
lurking in every corner of the ship."
Royal Marine Training Depot
This education begins as soon as they join as recruits at the
Royal Marine Training Depot, where they receive weeks of
Some new entries are disappointed to find that they are unlikely to go afloat, but soon become content to serve the Corps, of which they quickly learn to do proudly and in the capacity it needs them.
The Commandant of the depot was fond of repeating a conversation overheard between two passed-out recruits who were watching some new entries arrive. "Blimy, Bill," said one, "to think that we looked like that once!"
There could be no higher tribute to the work of the Royal Marine instructors, many of them pensioners, who, besides instilling into the recruits the element of drill and discipline, also pass on to the younger generation the tradition and high spirit of the Corps.
Fast Boats Pages
Joe Wezley Pages
Elizabeth Island 1944
The recruits pass from the Depot to
Another camp, where they receive instruction in platoon weapons, assault training, field craft and battle-drill. Some clearly display their natural talents of supervision.
The recruits who have been noted for their leadership potential are followed up during training, those selected as officer material pass on to the Royal Marine Military School.
Marines selected for sergeants or corporals go on for further
training. Those recruits who have technical qualifications were
tested at Fort Cumberland and if successful they received
In this way the unique organization of the Royal Marines, makes the best use of every man, and sends out a continual flow of trained Marines to serve wherever, the Corps requires more fighting men for irregular warfare.
In training the predictability of human behaviour comes when
understanding the commando's role; there is a feeling, it grows, it springs from the liberation of knowing it can be done, then there is the moment when that person knows he is going to do it.
There is nothing mystical about the Royal Marine, the final result is neither magical nor is it mysterious, his training is based on endurance, self discipline, on solid logic and common sense.
To read Prisoners of War letters go to: "Elizabeth Island 1944"
The next Link below will be: "40 Commando WW II"
Special Service Brigades
40 Commando Spearhead WW II
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