Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Commandos: Origin and Purpose of Canadian Beach Commandos

Royal Canadian Navy Beach Commando “W”

Researched and Written by: Ed Storey, CD
Edited by: Hugh Spence

Commando training: Survival - Old-School style​
Photo credit - Black Belt Forums

Many Canadians in Combined Operations who initially trained on landing crafts in early 1942 (and then participated in the raid at Dieppe, and the invasions of North Africa, Sicily and Italy), came back to Canada in December, 1943. It is then, in Halifax, they met some Canadian commandos for the first time.

In my father's memoirs I read:

It would be fitting here to say, to wherever camp or ship we went - and we were at many - we were called ‘new entries.’ Even after two years overseas, when we arrived back at Halifax and fell in, the first words we heard were “for the benefit of you new entries.” How humiliating can they get? Then you got the rules.

We met a lot of sailors, who were shortly to go through what we went through already, and they called themselves commandos. They sure were in for a rude awakening. We were never called commandos, only combined operations ratings, and we were the first from Canada to go overseas.

My father and his mates, early entries into Combined Operations, would have had some experience working with commandos during training exercises in 1942 and 1943 but may not have heard much about the origins and progress of Canadian Beach Commandos. 

The following article, published by The Friends of the Canadian War Museum, explains the development and duties of Royal Canadian Navy Beach Commando “W”. It begins:

As a result of heavy casualties sustained by Royal Navy Beach Parties during the 1942 Dieppe raid (Operation Jubilee), Britain set up a specialist training centre for future Beach Parties at the Royal Navy Combined Operations base in northwest Scotland, HMS Armadillo. 

The site was located at Ardentinny (west of Glasgow). It was suggested by Admiral Mountbatten, Chief of Combined Ops, the units be called “Beach Commandos”. 

The article continues:

The principal tasks of the Beach Commandos involved disembarking troops and vehicles from assault and follow-up landing craft, organizing and supervising suitable beach areas, and loading serviceable returning vessels with wounded and/or prisoners. 

As well, during withdrawals the Beach Commandos organized the loading of landing craft.

Plans for Operation NEPTUNE (the amphibious invasion, June 6, 1994) stated that Beach Commando units (85 members) and Royal Navy Beach Signals personnel (30 members) "would join with a 443-man Army Beach Company to form a Beach Group."

Please link to the full article: Royal Canadian Navy Beach Commando “W”

Please link to Books: Royal Canadian Navy Beach Commando W

Unattributed Photos GH

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