No. 2 Commando

No. 2 Commando was a battalion-sized British Commando unit of the British Army during the Second World War. The No. 2 Commando unit was reformed three times during the Second World War. The original No. 2 Commando, unlike the other commando units, was formed from volunteers from across the United Kingdom and was always intended to be a parachute unit. On 22 June 1940, No. 2 Commando was turned over to parachute duties, and, on 21 November, was re-designated as the 11th Special Air Service (SAS) Battalion and eventually re-designated 1st Parachute Battalion. After their re-designation as the 11th SAS Battalion, a second No. 2 Commando was formed. This No. 2 Commando was the leading commando unit in the St Nazaire Raid and suffered heavy casualties. Those who made it back from St Nazaire rejoined the few who had not gone on the raid, and the Commando was reinforced by the first intake of volunteers from the new Commando Basic Training Centre at Achnacarry. No. 2 Commando then went on to serve in the Mediterranean, Sicily,Yugoslavia, and Albania, before being disbanded in 1946.

The commandos were formed in 1940, by the order of Winston Churchill the British Prime Minister. He called for specially trained troops that would “develop a reign of terror down the enemy coast”. At first they were a small force of volunteers who carried out small raids against enemy occupied territory, but by 1943 their role had changed into lightly equipped assault Infantry which specialised in spearheading amphibious landings.

The man initially selected as the overall commander of the force was Admiral Sir Roger Keyes himself a veteran of the landings at Galipoli and the Zeebrugge raid in the First World War. Keyes resigned in October 1941 and was replaced by Admiral Louis Mountbatten.

By the autumn of 1940 more than 2,000 men had volunteered for Commando training, and what became known as the Special Service Brigade was formed into 12 units called Commandos. Each Commando would number around 450 men commanded by a Lieutenant Colonel. They were subdivided into Troops of 75 men and further divided into 15 man sections. Commandos were all volunteers seconded from other British Army regiments and retained their own cap badges and remained on their regimental roll for pay purposes. All volunteers went through the six-week intensive commando course at Achnacarry, in the Scottish Highlands. Training concentrated on fitness, speed marches, weapons training, map reading, climbing, small boat operations and demolitions both by day and by night.

By 1943 the Commandos had moved away from small raiding operations and had been formed in Brigades of assault infantry to spearhead future Allied landing operations. Three units were left un-brigaded to carry out smaller scale raids. In 1943 the commando formation was also standardised, into a small headquarters, five fighting Troops, a Heavy Weapons troop, and a signals platoon. The fighting Troops consisted of 65 men of all ranks divided into two 30 man sections which, in turn, were divided into three ten man sub-sections. The Heavy Weapons Troop was made up of 3 inch Mortar and Vickers machine gun teams.

The first No 2 Commando, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Jackson, did not carry out any operations before being turned over to parachute duties. After the formation of the 11th SAS Battalion a new No. 2 Commando was formed, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Augustus Charles Newman, from a new batch of volunteers. The first action that men from No. 2 Commando were involved in was two Troops supporting No. 3 Commando in the Vaagso raid in December 1941. The next action involving men of No. 2 Commando was Operation Musketoon in September 1942. This was a raid against the Glomfjord hydroelectric power plant in Norway. The raid, commanded by Captain Graeme Black, MC, landed by submarine and succeeded in blowing up pipelines, turbines and tunnels, effectively destroying the generating station; the associated aluminium plant was shut down permanently. One commando was killed in the raid; another seven were captured while trying to escape the area and were taken to Colditz Castle. From there they were taken to Sachsenhausen concentration camp and executed, the first victims of Adolf Hitler’sCommando Order. The three remaining commandos managed to escape to Sweden and eventually returned to No. 2 Commando.

For a full history of Number 2 Commando and the Commandos in general then one must look to The Commando Veterans Association website. Written by and for the lads who were there – where we can only look on and comment on history, they lived it:

Commando Veterans Association Website & Number 2 Commando History LINK

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