10 - Commando Training
Start of the Royal Marine Commando
Royal Marines took over the commandos in 1942. Until then there
were many Royal Navy, Royal Air Force and Army instructors
responsible for training the army commandos. They were all highly
qualified and good at their job.
Regular army soldiers had been commandos and from my personal
experiences, an uneasy relationship developed between the Regular
army and the Royal Marines because of this change in role.
until 1949 there were two classes of Royal Marine, the ordinary
Marine and the Royal Marine commando. So there were two types of
beret, the blue and the green.
the Top Secret posting that I was posted to the Bickleigh, the
Commando Training School in Plymouth. It was my job to transport
all those on courses. That included Field Training courses for
Non-commissioned officers and the Commando courses. One day in 1949
I happened to read the Part One Orders and to my astonishment I
found that I was down to attend the next Commando course. I thought
that I was too old to do the course but everyone recommended that I
attend the course because my duties and postings would become more
settled when I successfully completed the course.
already knew that as soon as I completed the course I would be
posted out to Malaya with 45 Commando. Previous to this I had been
deferred for the posting to the Korean conflict. There was a high
risk of me becoming a POW again if I went there so in 1950 I was
posted to Malaya instead.
attended my commando course in 1949, just before 3 Cdo Brigade went
to Malaya. There were three of us who were old soldiers and we just
made the age limits for the course, I was 27 years old that year.
had a young Marine on the same squad as ourselves who had completed
the course three times and failed on purpose each time. He did not
want to pass out as a commando and was looking forward to his
discharge from the Royal Marines.
of the instructors detailed the two of us older Marines to look
after him and hopefully influence him into passing the course. He
was a brilliant soldier and we coaxed and cajoled him but he just
wanted to go back to civilian life.
was an eight-hour forced march phase to the course that took us
across Dartmoor. On this march we were carrying all our equipment
and weapons. There were stages where you had to run along riverbeds
and then abseil down cliff faces. The young Marine had done the
route three times so far and he knew all the short cuts and how to
get to each report point. At each report point we were given food
or a cup of tea and further instructions on the next report point
to make for. We informed him that he had better be genuine, as we
wanted to pass the course even if he didn’t.
took us through all the short cuts across the Dartmoor route and we
were close to the finish in good time. At that point we took a
break because even with his expert guidance we were all exhausted.
The last stage was the toughest; we had to run up a hill to the
finish line. Halfway up the hill the young Marine said, ‘Lets sit
down. I haven’t had a smoke since we started.’ He knew exactly
what was going to happen next because no sooner had we finished our
cigarette than a Landrover came along, heading for the finish line.
The Landrover took us halfway up the hill and we ran the rest of
the route, finishing the course in good time. After a shower we had
a meal and waited for the remainder of the squad to complete the
nights later we had a final night march before the course finished.
We were taken out by Landrover and informed to make our way back to
the camp. I knew where we were because I had been assigned as a
Landrover driver for the five previous months and had dropped
Marines off at the very same spot. We made it back in good time.
following day we had to complete a nine-mile speed march carrying
all our equipment, ammunition and weapons. It was a killer because
we marched 100 yards and then ran 100yards continually. The finish
line for the speed march was the 600-yard firing point on the rifle
range. We had to drop a target each at that range before the clock
stopped and the ammunition was counted. I passed this phase with
the course was over you were presented with the Green Beret on a
special parade. We were all called out on alphabetical order to be
presented with our berets.
the end of the presentations there were three men who did not
receive the Green Beret. They
were called forward and told that they failed the course and all
three off them broke down and cried their eyes out. The Camp
Adjutant took them away and explained to them why they failed the
course. The three men packed their kit and joined a less senior
course and eventually they successfully completed the commando
to being a commando the Marines wore a blue beret with a red flash
behind the cap badge. After passing out as a commando you wore the
Green Beret at all times except when on ceremonial guard when you
reverted to the blue beret. I remember Trooping the Colour in Malta
wearing the green khaki dress uniform with a collar and tie.
commando takes its turn each year to be the leading commando. As
the leading commando they set the courses for the coming year. But
overall every commando has to be trained in Artic Warfare, Jungle
Warfare, Cliff Assault and all forms of sea landings. At one time
we depended on the Royal Navy for sea landings but as time went on
we were issued with our own boats and raiding craft.
quite a few occasions when I applied to be posted to a Royal Navy
ship but I was never granted the privilege. At no time was I ever
informed why they wouldn’t allow me to serve on board a ship.
I went on seven days leave after completing the Commando Training at Bickleigh. After leave 45 Cdo travelled by troopship to Singapore in December 1949.