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PostPosted: Fri Apr 17, 2015 6:24 am 
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Joined: Thu May 24, 2012 21:18 pm
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Hello Guys,

I am currently planning a short series of articles depicting details of Royal Marine operations during the Second World War. I have conducted as much research as possible using readily available books and open source information, but have still found a few stumbling blocks which I hope you chaps might be able to help me with:

- What were the responsibilities of RM Commandos from the ranks of marine up to sergeant, and at junior officer level? For example, many sources clearly lay out the basic British army structure of a 10 man section led by a corporal, with a lance corporal as Section 2iC and often in charge of the gun group; then three sections plus a HQ element are led by a subaltern with a sergeant and other HQ staff. From what little I have been able to find out, it seems that Commandos had an understandably far more fluid structure, but I presume some sort of SOPs existed as to how to structure a section. It also seems that NCOs were more numerous than the standard 2 per 10 man section; is this true? The only evidence I've found, which isn't referenced, states groups of 11 led by a Sergeant, with a rifle group and gun group both led by a Corporal. Where do Lance Corporals fit into this, if this is the case? Also, with Troops being led by a Captain, what are the duties of a subaltern?
- What has the weapon configuration of a section? Again, many sources give a army section standard as 10 men - one Bren gun and the Section Leader with an SMG, the rest carrying rifles. I’ve read that on D-Day the Commandos carried a good number of Thompson SMGs and also made use of the Vickers K gun, but no real numbers are given in any of the books I’ve managed to find.

I fully appreciate that not only will the answers to these two questions be variable at best but will also change a great deal between the establishment of the Commandos and the end of the war, but any guidance you guys could give would be very much appreciated!


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 19, 2015 6:39 am 
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Looks like this one might be a bit too taxing, but luckily the RM Museum has stepped in and answered all of the above. It has, however, raised a few more questions which somebody might know the answers to:

- The Assault Troop seems to be very rifle heavy, whereas the Commandos were known for favouring the Thompson submachine gun; were SMGs stored at Troop level and then distributed as required amongst the Assault Troops, or were the RM Commandos really this rifle heavy and lacking SMGs during the Normandy campaign?
- Was the rank of Lance Corporal employed at all in the Assault Troops?
- Did the Troop HQ act as an integral unit, or would subalterns be attached to lead Assault Troops individually?
- I’ve read a bit about the use of the Vickers K gun during the Normandy campaign; did this act as a direct replacement for the Bren gun in some troops, or was it employed differently? Also, is there any truth in what I’ve read regarding TWO gun groups being employed in some Assault Troops rather than the standard single group?

Hope somebody can help, many thanks in advance.


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 19, 2015 14:51 pm 
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Real Name: Jacko
Group: AFRA
You mention Royal Marine and Royal Marine commando operations specifically, so I presume you are not interested in the operations involving the Army commando units? -which formed the larger element of the commonwealth commando forces during most of ww2. The RM and army commandos fought side by side -for example No.2 Commando with No.41 (RM) Commando with No.3 Commando with No 40 (RM) commando in Italy. It was towards the end of the war the army commando units where disbanded and the 'commando' role went to the Royal Marines due to the way the commando force and its operational use evolved -although I guess you already know this.

However, Have a look at 'Commandos And Rangers Of World War II' by James Ladd (Originally published January 1st 1978 by St. Martin's Press) if you can find copy. (http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2667 ... rld-war-ii). This is quite a in depth study and I recall it also lists units histories and specific operations, together with commando structure and how it changed throughout the war.
A more recent excellent book is 'Commando Tactics' by Stephen Bull (pen and sword, 2010, http://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Commando ... ack/p/2822) I think this my appear to cover some of the things of you mention, for example in one appendix it gives the No.43 (RM) commando clothing and equipment for the Yugoslav theatre AND the establishment and armament of a RM commando troop. There is some good illustrations and further links of interest to you -such as one possible formation of a night fighting patrol with placing Thompson SMG gunners ahead and also at each of the four points of a diamond formation -based upon 'fieldcraft, sniping and intelligence' by Major Nevill A.D. Armstrong (1940).

Some other titles worth exploring are:
'The Green beret -the story of the commandos' by Hilary St George Saunders (first published in 1949)- gives much detail on operations but possibly not so much on the unit structure/order of battle you are looking. However the order of battle is given in the basic 'Army commando' by Mike Chappell.
Some of the training information is reproduced in 'The Commando Pocket Book: 1940-1945' by Christopher Westhorp (2012, http://www.conwaypublishing.com/?page_id=5803) is interesting although the book is a modern bringing together of various ww2 training manuals/documents which can be interesting nevertheless.
Of course there are many more sources of information and don't forget the Commando Veterans Association -they have a great website and useful photo gallery.(http://www.commandoveterans.org/)

I haven't directly answered your queries and if I have missed the point I apologise, nevertheless I hope the above is of some help.... and allows you to find out some more for yourself.


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 20, 2015 6:01 am 
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Hi Madjacko and thanks very much for your help - I'll certainly chase up those titles.
Yes, the article I'm writing is specifically about Royal Marine Commando operations, concentrating on No.47 Cdo in the opening stages of Overlord. Whilst there is a lot of crossover there is also (as I'm sure you'll know better than I do) a lot of differences and I'm working hard to make sure the information I write is RM specific and not listing details about army Commandos which were actually different from the way the RM conducted there side of business. The four questions I've listed in my second post are the only loose ends left for me to tie down before I can submit my final draft.


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PostPosted: Sat Jun 13, 2015 15:30 pm 
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Joined: Fri Jul 23, 2010 19:25 pm
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Location: Broadmayne, Dorset.
Real Name: Steve Ellis-George
Group: LHA.
The attached file is the unit structure of 46 (RM) Commando upon formation in 1943. Obviously this is a unit 'at home' and the roles, weaponry and equipment of (RM) Commando units during the invasion of Normandy altered due to changes in orders, casualty rate, equipment loss, constant movement and the general confusion that occurs during undertaking of such scale.

Due to a last minute change in orders 46 (RM) Cdo went ashore ill equipped for the new role assigned them and the men took it upon themselves to re-equip with anything that they could get their hands on including weapons & equipment taken from the enemy. The general feeling was if it was 'a good bit of kit' it remained in use and in the case of 46 (RM) Cdo this included vehicles, weapons, field gear & clothing. By the end of the war the unit had 'acquired' quite a large collection of both Allied & Axis equipment.

I agree with Jacko and suggest you read as much as you can but ideally you need to talk to the Cdo veterans themselves. Not only is it a delight to be in their company but the information they posess is invaluable.

I hope this helps.
Steve


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