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Chapter 10 - Commando Training


The Start of the Royal Marine Commando


The 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.

Many 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.


Up 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 Commando Course


After 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.

I 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.


Commando Training


I 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.

We 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.


One 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.

There 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.


He 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 course.


Two 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.


The 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 flying colours.


Passing Out


After 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.


At 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 course.


Prior 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.


The Leading Commando


Each 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.


Sea Service


There 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.