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The Royal Marines A Geo History 1664 - Present

'Dits' - A monthly History Blog
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Come and see over 354 years of History, mapped out with over 577 pins and growing! RM a Geo History

In this months edition 06/30/2020 :

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SBS - Operation Ilois - Ambushed by the Taliban

By Si Biggs on Jun 30, 2020 09:01 am

Operation Ilois

Unit/ Formation,: SBS

Location,: Sangin

Period/ Conflict,: War in Afghanistan (2001-)

Year,: 2006

Date/s,: 27 June 2006

A 16-man unit from C Squadron, Special Boat Service and the SRR carried out Operation Ilois: an operation that covertly captured four Taliban leaders in compounds on the outskirts of Sangin, Helmand province.

As they returned to their Land Rover vehicles, they were ambushed by an estimated 60 to 70 Taliban insurgents. With one vehicle disabled by Rocket-propelled grenade fire, the team took cover in an irrigation ditch and requested assistance while holding off the Taliban force.

The Helmand Battle Group had not been informed of the operation until it went wrong; a quick reaction force made up of a platoon of Gurkhas responded but ran into another insurgent ambush; one SBS member was seriously injured in the ambush.

After an hour-long gunfight (some sources say three), Apache attack helicopters, the Gurkha quick reaction force and the 16-man unit, supported by a U.S. A-10 Thunderbolt and two Harrier GR7s managed to break contact and return to the closest forward operating base; two of the four Taliban leaders were killed in the firefight while the remaining two escaped in the chaos.

Upon reaching the forward operating base it was discovered that Captain David Patton, SRR, and Sergeant Paul Bartlett, SBS were missing – one was helping wounded out of a vehicle when he was shot and assumed killed, while the second went missing during the firefight. A company from the Parachute Regiment in an RAF Chinook took off to find them, a pair of Apaches spotted the bodies and the Parachute Regiment troops recovered them. One SBS member was awarded the MC for his actions in the ambush.

Image: David Rowlings

They were expecting a meeting of just four key guys but the OP was compromised and they were ambushed by 70-odd Taliban

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40 Cdo RM - Palestine Mandate and the withdrawal of British troops

By Si Biggs on Jun 26, 2020 10:43 am

Unit/ Formation,: 40 Cdo RM

Location,: Palastine

Period/ Conflict,: Palestine Mandate

Year,: 1948

Date/s,: 30th June 1948

,40 Commando was sent to Haifa to cover the end of the Palestine Mandate and the withdrawal of British troops. Animosity towards the British from both Arabs and Jews was high, and there was looting and violence by extremists.

,40 Cdo's task was to keep the port open, and to mount searches to prevent arms being smuggled in from visiting ships. In April a series of vicious skirmishes took place between Jewish paramilitaries of the Haganah and Arab forces, and the unit had to keep the peace while some 37,000 Arabs were evacuated from Haifa, and also had to house and feed large numbers of refugees who sought sanctuary in the dockyard.

,The final evacuation took place on June 30, smoothly and without incident, 40 Commando being the last to leave. For his outstanding leadership and distinguished service the CO 'Titch' Houghton was appointed OBE. 'Y' Troop 40 Commando RM led the way, with their attached 3-inch mortar group. The mortar group prepared for action immediately. They embarked on the Striker and mortars were set up on the forecastle to give covering fire if required.

,As 'X' and 'Y' Troops withdrew they made a quick sweep of the area to make sure no stragglers had been left behind by other units. 'A' and 'B' Troops followed 'Y' into the LST. 'X' Troop withdrew and embarked, leaving the C.O. and a small tactical H.Q. to report to the G.O.C.

,At 1234 hrs (local time) the C.O. reported to the G.O.C. Lt. General G.H.A. MacMillan: "Withdrawal of British Troops in Palestine com unit to leave, is now embarked." With a word of thanks from the G.O.C., the C.O. stepped onto the ramp of HMS Striker and 40 Commando's tour of duty in Palestine was completed.

,As Striker pulled away from the wharf small Royal Marine detachment from HMS Phoebe, who provided the personal bodyguard to the G.O.C., the Union Jack was lowered from the Port Office while a Royal Marine bugler sounded "Still", General Salute" an the last British soldier to leave the Holy Land, stepped into a pinnace and sped across the harbour towards HMS Phoebe. As the pinnace drew abreast the Striker, three cheers, led by the C.O., echoed over the still harbour.

,Read about

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Captain Halliday RMLI VC - Boxer Rebellion

By Si Biggs on Jun 25, 2020 08:08 am

Unit/ Formation,: Victoria Cross

Location,: China

Period/ Conflict,: Boxer Rebellion

Year,: 1900

Date/s,: 24 June 1900

''carry on and dont mind me

Lewis Stratford Tollemache Halliday was 30 years old, and a captain in the Royal Marine Light Infantry, during the Boxer Rebellion in China. On 24 June 1900 at Peking, China, an attack was made on the British Legation by the Boxers who set fire to the stables and occupied some of the other buildings.

It being imperative to drive the enemy out, a hole was knocked in the Legation wall and 20 men of the RMLI went in. Captain Halliday, leading a party of six men, was involved in desperate fighting and was severely wounded but despite his injuries, he killed four of the enemy.

Finally, unable to carry on any further, he ordered his men to go on without him, after which he returned to the legation alone, telling his men 'carry on and not mind him', so as not to diminish the number of men engaged in the sortie.

He walked 100 yards unaided to the hospital although his shoulder was half blown out and his left lung punctured.

Carry on and dont mind me

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Battle of Crater & Rescue of Downed Sioux - Aden 1967

By Si Biggs on Jun 26, 2020 08:49 am

Battle of Crater

Unit/ Formation,: 45 Cdo RM

Location,: Aden

Period/ Conflict,: Aden Emergency (1964 - 67)

Year,: 1967

Date/s,: 20 June 1967

Following the Arab Police mutiny, all British forces were withdrawn from Crater, while Royal Marines of 45 Commando took up sniping positions on the high ground and killed 10 armed Arab fighters.

However, Crater remained occupied by an estimated 400 Arab fighters. NLF and FLOSY fighters then took to the streets and engaged in gun battles, while arson, looting, and murder was also common.

British forces blocked off the two main entrances to Crater. Order was restored in July 1967, when the 1st Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders entered Crater under the command of Lt. Col. Colin Campbell Mitchell and managed to occupy the entire district overnight with no casualties.

Rescue of Downed Sioux

Unit/ Formation: 45 Cdo RM Location: Aden Period/ Conflict: Aden Emergency (1964 - 67) Year: 1967 Date/s: 20 June 1967 A Sioux helicopter attempting to land Fusiliers at an Observation Point on Temple Cliffs above Crater crashed down under heavy fire from the Armed Police, the pilot, Sgt Martin Forde of the QDG having sustained gunshot wounds to his right knee & being unable to control the rotor.

Forde managed to keep the aircraft upright as it descended, & dreading an ensuing fire when the helicopter struck down, frantically flicked off all switches & transmitted a "May Day" which was acknowledged.

Lance Corporal Keightley was being carried in a litter at the side of the helicopter, Fusilier Duffy was seated next to Forde in the aircraft & in the resulting crash Keightley lost a leg, the other being amputated later. Under fire, Duffy rescued Keightley & Forde, who was still strapped into his seat, recovered a Self Loading Rifle (SLR) & an A41 man pack radio from the helicopter before it was completely destroyed, tended the wounded & called for assistance. About 45 minutes later a Wessex helicopter arrived on scene & deployed Royal Marine Commandos to sort out the enemy snipers & rescue the 3 survivors. Duffy was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. -

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47 Cdo RM - Sallenelles - Orne

By Si Biggs on Jun 22, 2020 06:58 am

Unit/ Formation,: 47 Cdo RM

Location,: France

Period/ Conflict,: World War II

Year,: 1944

Date/s,: 18th June 1944

The Commando had now begun a new type of warfare. The job consisted entirely in defence and in dominating the patrol area between us and the Germans.

Arrivals from the UK brought the strength up to 23 Officers and 357 Other Ranks - mostly MT drivers and Administrative personnel. With the exception of X-Troop all troops held forward positions and X-Troop were called on to do most of the heavy patrolling. Digging, wiring and mining provided plenty of employment in the early days.

Domination of the area forward did not prove difficult and soon the Commando had established 24 hours standing patrols in GRANDE FERME DU BUISSON some 1000 yards forward of our line.

On 18 June, after arrangements to turn over to 46 Commando, the Commando made a brief raid into the enemy positions. The enemy were taken completely by surprise and their FDLs were over-run. 8 Prisoners of War were taken and the Commando lost 1 Other Rank killed and 22 Other Ranks wounded.

Immediately after the attack the Commando moved into Brigade reserve behind 48 Commando on the axis of the road SALLENELLES - ORNE bridges.

Read More/ Web Link,:

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40 Cdo Accept the Surrender at Port Howard and Mine Clearance

By Si Biggs on Jun 21, 2020 08:38 pm

,In 1982, following the Argentinean invasion of the Falkland Islands, 40 Commando deployed on Operation Corporate as part of 3 Cdo Bde.

,On 21 May the Commando were among the first troops ashore and secured the beachhead at San Carlos. The Unit was subsequently split having two companies attached to the Welsh Guards, preparing to attack Port Stanley, when the Argentinean surrender came.

,On 15 June 1982, one day after the main Argentine surrender, Royal Marines of B Coy, 40 Commando flew in SeaKings to Port Howard, unsure if the Argentines would surrender with-out a fight around 850 members of Fifth Motorized Infantry Regiment including 601 Commando laid down their arms.

,In Port Howard AE Troop cleared anti tank, A/P mines and booby traps, pipe bombs were disarmed by hand.

40 Commando embarked on Canberra on the 24th June and left for home on the 25th June at 17:22 after having their passports stamped by Falklands Immigration.

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Royal Marines Armoured Support Group

By Si Biggs on Jun 14, 2020 11:45 am

Unit/ Formation: RM ASG Location: Merley House Camp Period/ Conflict: World War II Year: 1944 Date/s: 6th June 1944

RM Armoured Support Craft Group was formed on 14 March 1944, this Group would command the two RM Armoured Support Regiments and an RM Independent Battery of Centaur tanks. It was commanded by Brig D. C. W. Sanders, OBE, AFC, who had been CRA of the RM Division. He was killed when this HQ was in Normandy in June 1944 and succeeded by the second–in–command Col A. J. Harvey, OBE.

The small tactical headquarters was staffed by RM officers who developed: first, the techniques for firing engineless tanks on Bailey bridges in LCT(Adap­ted); and later, the methods of firing and control these Centaurs with their engines replaced. The headquarters returned to the UK in late June 1944 after several weeks in action, and on being disbanded that autumn the personnel were transferred to the 29th RM Bn, later forming the 34th Amphibian Support Regiment.

1st and 2nd RM Armoured Support Regiments formed in the spring of 1944, each with two Batteries, these Regiments were landed from LCT(Armoured), which were modified LCT(Adapted). The HQs, each of some 40 all ranks, were mainly administrative, and only the tactical portion of two officers and two other ranks landed with the Batteries on 6 June 1944 in Normandy.

The Regiments’ personnel included RA officers and RA gunner–drivers, with RAC fitters and mechanics, but the majority were RM gunners, including those who had trained for LCG(L)s.

Many of the HQ staff transferred ultimately to the 34th Amphibian Support Regiment, after the armoured Support Regiments were disbanded in the autumn of 1944. 1st RM, 2nd RM, 3rd RM, 4th RM and 5th RM (Independent) Support Batteries The ‘1st’ and ‘2nd’ were in the 1st RM Armoured Support Regt, the ‘3rd’ and ‘4th’ in the 2nd RM Armoured Support Regt, and the ‘5th’ was an independent Battery.

Each had four Troops with its Left and Right Sections. Troop commanders were in Sherman tanks, with the two Centaurs of the Left Section, in one LCT(A). The Right Section of two Centaurs were in a second LCT(A).

Operationally Batteries Nos 1 to 4 had no tactical HQ, as Troop commanders worked to their local artillery commands, therefore the Batteries’ cooks and quartermasters landed in follow–up waves.



2. (a) Under comd 50 Division –

1 RM Armd Sp Regt consisting of Tac RHQ and eight troops each of one Sherman 75 mm and four Centaurs 95 mm.

(b) Under comd 3 Canadian Division –

2 RM  Armd Sp Regt consisting of Tac RHQ and eight troops as above

(c) Under comd 3 British Division –

5 (Indep) RM Armd Sp Bty consisting of Tac Bty HQ and four troops as above.

The GPO’s tank is the Sherman 75mm, in which there is sufficient room for an artillery board. This tank is also provides the anti-tank and concrete breaking element of the troop. The four Centaurs are the gun tanks. All tanks are fitted with No 12 dial sight and GPO’s tank with a binnacle compass in addition. Guns can be brought parallel and zero lines recorded without any personnel exposing themselves.

4. The 95mm Gun.

This is a howitzer, with a maximum range of 4,700x with a Charge III or 1,300x with Charge I. With Charge I it can shoot down to 700x over an obstacle 50 ft high at 200x.

5. The Shell.

This gives a bigger burst than the 25 pr and has a steeper angle of descent. It should be very useful in clearing thick undergrowth with its big burst.

6. Ammunition Supply.

All tanks tow Porpoises which can be carried several miles inland. Total ammunition carried, with NO soft vehicles, 165 rpg.

7. Direct Fire from LCT A

This is controlled by GPO from the bridge of craft by telephone, using a Director on the bridge and bearing scales in the tanks.

8. Direct Fire on Shore

Controlled by GPO from Sherman tank.

9. Indirect Fire on Shore

Due to limitations of frequencies available, and to the primary role no 1 (a) above) FOOs of field arty rgts provide observation of fire for Armd Sp Gp Troops.

(c) Fire from beaches.

(i) Indirect. Indirect fire from the beach was carried out by 14 guns (17.5%). A further 7 guns established R/T contact with FOOs of the field arty regts to which they were attached, but received no calls for fire. The remaining 27 guns landed up to H + 4 hours and had no indirect fire from the beach area for one or more of the following reasons:-

  • Disablement of tank and gun through enemy fire or drowning after landing
  • Casualty to FOO
  • FOO not replying when called on R/T.

(ii) Direct. Direct fire from the beach area was carried out by 8 guns or 10 per cent of total fire power.

(11) Secondary Task – Fire on the Run In

(a) Performance of the Group’s secondary task was directly dependent on time of arrival off the beaches.  The table in para 4 above shows that the maximum number of guns which had the opportunity of carrying out this task was only 20.

(b) Ten guns, or 12.5 percent, of total fire power engaged shore targets during the run in to the beaches and in all cases the GCOs and Troop Lts reported that “targets were extremely difficult to identify”, but were satisfied that this fire was of value in keeping the enemy’s head down.

(c) Most of the remaining ten guns which landed within 15 mins of H hour were in the sector of 3 Canadian Division, the CRA of which had given instructions that fire on the run in was to be employed only if targets were easily identifiable and unmistakable. In fact, visibility was poor and several craft were landed on beaches other than those planned, with the result that GCOs had not been briefed on possible targets.

12. Third Task – Attachment to Field Arty Regts.

(a) Employment of units and sub units of the group after completion of their primary task varied greatly in accordance with the needs of the various divisional fronts and with the ideas of the divisional CsRA. Details are given in paras 13 – 15 below.

10. Primary Task

(a) Performance of the Group’s primary task (provision of arty support during the interval between H hour and the establishment of the SP arty in action ashore) was dependent on the successful landing of the guns at the right time and place, and secondly on the establishment of contact with FOOs of field arty regts and the receipt of fire orders from these FOOs.


13. 1 RM Armd Sp Regt.

(a) After beaching, no direct fire targets appeared and no calls were received from FOOs. Beaches were very crowded, with few exits.  GCO’s Sherman of one troop was knocked out by 88 mm, all of the crew being casualties, and two Centaurs of the same troop were damaged by mines. The craft containing RHQ was sunk some distance from beach. Personnel swam to a LCM, which struck a mine on beaching. Regt 2IC wounded and evacuated. RHQ without transport, but subsequently obtained a German staff car.

(b) After regrouping, three troops were operational. These were deployed forward of field regts on 50 Division front, and employed to a limited extent. The only engagement out of the normal was on D + 1, when one and a half troops supported an attack on a wood in rear of their position, from which 86 prisoners, three 75 mm guns and one 105 mm gun were captured. On D + 7 the regt was transferred to 49 Division, who again only employed them occasionally.

(c) SUMMARY. The employment of this regt, perhaps due to the small percentage of craft which arrived, and partly due to the inherent disadvantage of being dependent on FOOs whose primary duty must be to their own field regts, was disappointing.

14. 2 RM Armd Sp Regt.

(a) On the beaches, several troops carried out the role as laid down. When no calls for fire were being received, troops engaged special tasks on their own. One troop knocked out an MG nest and captured 21 prisoners, and another attached itself to the Regina Rifles and fired 100 rpg during the capture of a 105 mm gun position. Another troop attached itself to a FOO other than its own, and engaged targets at 650x range, over tall buildings, the only occasion on which Charge I was used.

(b) After regrouping troops were used in a variety of roles. On D and D + 1, troops supported 46 and 48 RM Commandos in street fighting.  Other troops regrouped and engaged independent direct fire targets in forward areas. Subsequently, seven troops were continuously employed about 3,000x in advance of field regt areas, firing either under field regt FOOs or under their own GCOs, who moved up to FOPs in Shermans. On D + 5 three troops supported 46 RM Commando at ROTS. RM GCOs acting as FOOs. On D + 15, when remainder of the Group was withdrawn, three troops of this regt were ordered East of R ORNE in support of 6 Airborne Division. They were deployed well forward in anti-mortar role. They then trained RA personnel to take over their tanks.

(c) SUMMARY.  This regt was kept well employed throughout and exemplified the two most useful tasks after leaving the beaches – street fighting and very close support of troops on special tasks, and deployment well forward of arty areas in anti-mortar and DF roles.

15. 5 (Indep) RM Armd Sp Bty.

(a) On the beaches, direct and indirect fire support was given to 4 Commando. Guns were also ready to support 41 RM Commando, but no call for fire was received. The battery commander became a casualty at H + 45 mins and was evacuated the next day. Several tanks were drowned, due to rising tide and punctured waterproofing. Ammunition number in craft did particularly good work with this battery.

(b) After regrouping, troops were at first deployed in field arty areas, but later one troop was placed in support of 4 SS Bde East of R ORNE, and the other in support of 41 RM Commando for capture of DOUVRES Radio Station.

(c) SUMMARY. Only two out of four troops were operational, and these were used entirely in close support of commandos, where their work was effective.


16. It is suggested that the stated role could have been carried out very much more efficiently had it been possible to incorporate the following in the organization :-

(a) Observation of fire. FOOs belonging to RM Armd Sp Grp, to be provided on a scale of one per troop, allowed a frequency and transported in a carrier in a LCTA of the troop. No additional officers would be required, the troop Lt acting as GPO in the Sherman and the captain acting as FOO.

(b) Control. A regt comd net to be provided for each regt. This would have speed up the regrouping of troops in the initial stages and greatly increase the divisional CRA’s control in the later stages.

(c) Administration. Even if the agreed time limit had been adhered to, a very small adm tail of, say, 6 x 15 cwts per regt, would have improved the performance of units immensely. This transport should one vehicle for a small REME detachment, who would diagnose vehicle casualties and obtain spares for first line repair.


17. During phases after completion of the primary task (para 2(a) above), in addition to performing the role of thickening up of field arty fire, troops were found most useful in support of units employed on special tasks. The reason for this employment is two-fold:-

(a) It is most inconvenient for CsRA to detach field arty already committed to their fire plans and place them in support of individual units employed on special tasks. This is especially so when the special tasks are at such a distance as to involve re-deployment of field arty.

(b) Field arty, not being completely armoured, cannot act in the very close support, at times even street fighting, where a completely armoured gun can operate.

18. It is my opinion that, after the primary task, this new role was the most useful provided by the RM Armd Sp G.

19. It is for consideration whether, if this were an accepted role, the composition of a troop should not be one 17 pr Challenger and four 95 mm Cromwells. Amongst other advantages, this would facilitate provision of spares, either by cannibalisation or otherwise.


After the initial landings the Batteries were used as independent units. The tanks of the ‘1st’ and ‘2nd’ supported 4 (Army) Commando and 48 RM Commando; the ‘3rd’ and ‘4th’ supported the Canadians, being deployed 3,000yds forward of the Canadian artillery.

Troops from these last two Batteries assisted 46 RM Cdo on D+1 (7 June), and a Troop from the 5th RM Battery crossed the Orne river to give counter mortar fire in support of 4 SS (Commando) Brigade, among several independent actions by these Batteries before they were withdrawn on 24 June. By this time some 50 per cent had had mechanical failures. Although they had been intended as purely assault troops, they had stayed in action for almost three weeks and proved a valuable supplement to conventional artillery.

The Centaurs’ 95–mm gun–howitzer had many parts in common with the 25–pdr, and as a totally protected gun in a turret was less vulnerable than self–propelled artillery. These tanks were taken over by RA gunners before the Batteries’ personnel returned to the UK for disbandment on the formation of 29th RM Battalion on 3 October 1944, this Battalion later became the 34th RM Amphibian Support Regiment.

RM Armoured Support Group HQ Wing and holding Battery

This Wing included 65 RAC mechanics under command of five RAC officers,16 and 50 RM reserves for tank crews. These mechanics, assisted by RM tank crews, made exceptional improvisations to keep the tanks in action, despite the limited facilities available.

'As late as February 1944 the-plan to simply supply artillery support before the normal field regiments of the Royal Artillery could come ashore, was changed. This meant that the Marines should drive ashore and operate as self-propelled Artillery, so modifications were made, would remain mobile and the tank would be the platform. We were the first Royal Marines to fight in tanks, our job, to break the crust of the enemy defences. Intended solely for preliminary support we were instructed to limit our action to a week ashore and not to advance more than a mile from the beach. In the actual fighting the pressure of events took charge. So useful, and indeed essential was the support given by the, tank guns that the Armoured Support Group remained ashore for 15 days, and operated up to ten miles inland.’ Sir Robert Bruce Lockhart

The RMASG was reformed in Bovington in 2007.

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30 AU in Normandy - 'You can't behave like Red Indians any more'

By Si Biggs on Jun 11, 2020 10:39 am

,30 Assault Unit was formed in 1943 following the merger of 33 Navy Troop and 34 Army Troop. It was a joint venture which emerged from a turf war between Royal Navy Intelligence and Combined Operations and had a direct link to NID 30 in the Admiralty. Both units worked side by side in the field, with 30 AU being the bodyguards for the RNVR Officers in NID 30 as they raced around Europe just ahead of the advancing Allied armies gathering naval and secret intelligence before the retreating Axis forces could destroy it.

,The Unit's founder, Lt. Commander Ian Fleming (author of the James Bond books) told them before they went to France in the summer of 1944:

"You can't behave like Red Indians any more. You have to learn to be a respected and disciplined unit."

,The Unit was divided into four 'Troops':

  • A Troop (Captain Peter Huntington-Whiteley)
  • B Troop (Captain Geoff Douglas)
  • X Troop (Captain Geoffrey Pike)
  • HQ Troop

,The Unit's C.O. was Lt. Colonel Arthur Woolley, who had been the former commander of No. 47 RM Commando. All the fighting men were Royal Marines and the Unit was based at Littlehampton on the Sussex coast prior to the Normandy Invasion. Incidentally the terms, 'A', 'B' and 'X' Troops comes from the turret designations of a warship. They were firmly grounded in all things naval but many of the missions that the Unit was to take on took them far inland on many occasions.

,During the Normandy Invasion, 30 AU's primary mission was to seize naval intelligence from the Kriesmarine HQ at Villa Meurice in Cherbourg during (not after!) the capture of the city.

,A secondary mission, but just as important, was the capture of intelligence at the radar station at Douvres la Delivrande, inland from Juno Beach on D-Day. This mission was assigned to 'X' Troop under the name PIKEFORCE from it's commander. Again, the task was to grab secret German radar intelligence and equipment before the Germans had time to destroy it. As it turned out, this secondary mission was the more successful.

,A second group known as CURTFORCE commanded by Duncan Curtis landed on D+1 at Arromanches on Gold Beach. This force consisted of two additional officers and nineteen marines. this group was to bring in heavy weapons and specialist vehicles to aid in the capture of the radar station.

,The third and largest group was WOOLFORCE who landed on Utah Beach on D+4, the 10th June with the primary mission of securing the naval intelligence in Cherbourg. They also had an interest in the V2 site at Sottevast on the way up the Cotentin accompanying the American 9th Infantry Division.


Raid on Kriegsmarine HQ at Villa Meurice

Unit/ Formation,: 30 Cdo

Location,: Cherbourg

Period/ Conflict,: World War II

Year,: 1944

Date/s,: 26th June 1944

During the Normandy Invasion, 30 AU's primary mission was to seize naval intelligence from the Kriesmarine HQ at Villa Meurice in Cherbourg during the capture of the city.

The Unit's C.O. was Lt. Colonel Arthur Woolley, who had been the former commander of No. 47 RM Commando. WOOLFORCE landed on Utah Beach on D+4, the 10th June with the primary mission of securing the naval intelligence in Cherbourg.

They also had an interest in the V2 site at Sottevast on the way up the Cotentin accompanying the American 9th Infantry Division.

Crossbow V1 Sites

Unit/ Formation,: 30 Cdo AU

Location,: Normandy

Period/ Conflict,: World War II

Year,: 1944

Date/s,: 17th June 1944


10 June 1700 - Landed at Ste. Marie du Mont 10 June 2300 - Sustained 20 casualties through enemy bombing. (Two (2) killed)

11 June - Location changed to Ste. Mere Eglise

14 June - Moved to Benzeville en Plain. Patrols were sent out to Azeville & Emondville. Position of "PIKEFORCE" established at Douvres.

15 June - Patrol sent out to St. Marcouf.

17 June - Report on activities of "PIKEFORCE".

17/18 June - Examination was carried out of three "Crossbow" sites at La Haye-du-Puits. 6 E/5 203994, 146988, 176995. 203994: Latitude : 49° 25' 49'' N Longitude : 1° 31' 14'' W 146988: Latitude : 49° 25' 20'' N Longitude : 1° 35' 55'' W 176995: Latitude : 49° 25' 47'' N Longitude : 1° 33' 28'' W

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46 CDO RM - The Attack on Le Hamel and Rots - 12 SS Pz Div

By Si Biggs on Jun 10, 2020 09:00 pm

Unit/ Formation: 46 Cdo RM Location: France Period/ Conflict: World War II Year: 1944 Date/s: 11 June 1944

The attempted counterattack by 12. SS-Panzer-Division ‘Hitlerjügend’ on 8th June against the Allied bridgehead was halted just northwest of Carpiquet Airfield by the efforts of Keller’s 3rd Canadian Infantry Division and Wyman’s 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade.

Repeated attempts by Hitler’s ‘Black Hussars’ to break through the Canadian lines at Norrey-en-Bessin and Bretteville l’Orgueilleuse have all been beaten off and the Allies have now regained the initiative.

The Canadians are launching a major effort to relieve their isolated outpost at Norrey-enBessin, and drive through German lines to seize Carpiquet Airfield and the Cheux Heights, thus outflanking the western flank of Caen.

On the eastern flank of this operation is the village of Rots, which is occupied by elements of the SS-PanzerGrenadier-Regiment 26 and a company of Panthers from SS-Panzer-Regiment 12.

This position sticks like a thorn in the side of 3rd Canadian Division and must be seized if the planned operation is to be successful. The task is to be given to Blackader’s 8th Canadian Infantry Brigade, spearheaded by the British 46 Royal Marine Commando and the tanks of the Fort Garry Horse.

‘They fought like lions on both sides, so that the dead lay corpse by corpse. We searched every house, every courtyard to avoid ambush. And here is the confirmation of how ferocious last night's battle must have been. The Commandos lie dead in rows beside the dead SS. Grenades are scattered all over the road and in the porches of houses. Here we see a Commando and an SS man, literally dead in each other's arms, having slaughtered each other. There, a German and a Canadian tank have engaged each other to destruction, and are still smouldering, and from each blackened turret hangs the charred corpse of a machine gunner. Over here are a group who ran towards a wall for shelter and were shot down before they got there. And then near the church, as the advance guard of C Company and the carriers turn the corner, there are three Germans. Only three. But one of them instantly draws his pistol and hits one of our men. A Bren gunner kills two of the three SS men, but the survivor gets away. Now we understand with what kind of fanatic we have to deal.’ – Regimental History, Régiment de la Chaudière.
'Suddenly a Panther appeared to support us. It was a terrible sight as we saw the tank churning through the dead and wounded… we launched a counter-attack with its support. A little later someone shouted “Tank behind you!” Our tank was in a difficult position as it was impossible to turn round in that narrow street. I reversed as far as a place where I could at least traverse the turret through 180° and then I drove slowly as far as the exit from the village. Suddenly a Sherman appeared in front. Our crew then realised what was happening, as with roaring engine, I tried to reach the edge of the village to be able to traverse the turret. But I never got there and our Panther was destroyed… I found out later that Hauptsturmführer Pfeiffer had been killed in the tank.’ – SSOberscharführer Erwin Wohlgemuth, 4. Kompanie, SS-Panzer-Regiment 12

, ,SS-Hstuf. HansPFEIFFER had been ,Hitler's Personal Adjutant in 1943 and was actually killed when a shell decapitated him in his cupola, his body bleeding out in the combat compartment the tank then drove into action.

46 CDO war Diary

10th June 1944

Place: Aubuerny

All day - Day spent in patrolling and improving defensive position.

2100 - Orders received from 8 Cdn Inf Bde to move at 0615 11 Jun and clear the valley of LA MUC RIVIERE from incl BARBIERE 9777 to ROTS 9571 with in support 'A' Tp, 10 Armd Regt, one Tp RMAS Gp, one sec RCE and FOO with call on one Fd Regt.

11th June 1944

Place: Aubuerny

0615 - Cdo left the position and married up with supporting arms area rd junc 979778.  CO gave orders for the operation to be carried out in four phases:-

        Phase I - clear woods from BARBIERE 9777 to small wood 975754.

        Phase II - clear CAIRON 9675.

        Phase III - attack on ROSEL 9673.

        Phase IV - attack on LE HAMEL 9472 and ROTS 9571.

Phase I was completed by 1100 hrs.  8 prisoners from 716 Coastal Div Arty were captured in the woods. 

Phase II - CAIRON was found to be already occupied by our own troops and was entered at 1120 hrs.  The unit was heavily shelled in the area between 1130 and 1245 hrs. 

Phase III - Attack commenced at 1320 hrs, supported by Arty and a Cdn MMG Pl, firing from area pt 60 9573.  The town and woods of ROSEL were cleared by 1500 hrs. 

Phase IV - Attack commenced at 1730 hrs.  The assault on LE HAMEL was put in at 1800 hrs by 'Y' and 'S' Troops, who encountered heavy opposition.  The assault on the positions surrounding the village was successful and two hrs of bitter street fighting followed in LE HAMEL against a resolute enemy subsequently identified as 1 Coy 26 PGR of 12 SS Pz Div. 

Meantime, 'A' and 'B' Tps had passed through into ROTS and encountered two PANTHER tanks which were destroyed by the Cdn Shermans after a hard fight. 

Street fighting in ROTS followed and by dusk both towns were in our hands.  Enemy casualties were 122 killed (counted and buried subsequently by Reg de CHAUDIERE) and eight prisoners.  Our own casualties were 17 killed, 9 wounded and 35 missing (majority believed wounded and evacuated by enemy). 

The Cdo was then ordered to withdraw from the towns by 8 Cdn Inf Bde but CO stated towns could be held and the Cdo was then ordered to hold the towns and infm that assistance would be sent fwd as soon as possible. 

The remainder of the Cdo moved into the town; two of the Shermans remained overnight to give assistance if required.  All ranks stood to continuously throughout the night but no counterattack was put in by the enemy.

National Archives catalogue number ADM 202/105

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Lieutenant-Colonel Ewen Southby-Tailyour, OBE

By Si Biggs on Jun 08, 2020 09:33 am

Lieutenant-Colonel Ewen Southby-Tailyour, OBE is an author, sailor, and retired Royal Marine. He served for 32 years in the Royal Marines and retired with the rank of lieutenant colonel. After retiring from the Royal Marines he concentrated on his sailing and writing careers and has written a number of books on military history and the Royal Marines.

The son of the late General Sir Norman Tailyour, former Commandant General Royal Marines, Southby-Tailyour comes from a family with strong ties to the Royal Marines; an uncle, two cousins and a step-brother have previously served in the Corps. He attended Stubbington House School, Nautical College Pangbourne (where he was captain of sailing) and the University of Grenoble in France.

Southby-Tailyour's early career included active service operations in Aden, Northern Ireland, Oman, the Falkland Islands, Hong Kong and 13 winters in the Norwegian Arctic developing the use of fast raiding and assault craft for supporting commando operations. He also served in the United States, India, Djibouti, the West Indies, the North Sea (oil-rig protection), Cyprus, Corsica, Malta, Bahrain, the Yemen, Kuwait and the South Atlantic 1977-1979 (before the Falklands War).

He was attached to the USMC in 1977 in the eastern Mediterranean and, earlier, to the French Commando Hubert in Toulon with which he attended their combatant nageur course and served in a submarine, a helicopter carrier and ashore in Corsica and Djibouti with the French Foreign Legion. Following Arabic language courses at the Berlitz School of Languages in London and the Command Arabic Language School in Aden he was seconded for two years as a reconnaissance platoon and company commander with the Sultan of Muscat's Armed Forces during the Dhofar War where he was awarded the Sultan's Bravery Medal for gallantry in action - the approximate equivalent of the UK's Distinguished Service Order (DSO).

In 1978, he was the officer commanding a small Royal Marines detachment that was posted to the Falkland Islands. The following year he was promoted to major. It was then that on his own initiative he sailed around and extensively charted the waters around the islands, and had a 100+ page notebook filled with data on harbours, inlets and landing spots. This work, for which he was elected the UK's 1982 Yachtsman of the Year, and his personal knowledge of the area would later prove valuable in the Falklands War. During this campaign he was the inshore navigational adviser to the amphibious commanders prior to leading the major landings. He was appointed OBE and recommended for the DSC.

In the preafce to Falklands Island Shores Major General J.H.A. Thompson CB OBE,(Commander of 3rd Commando Brigade, Royal Marines, during the Falkland Islands Campaign, 1982) wrote;

"On 2 April 1982, when Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands, Ewen presented himself at Hamoaze House in Plymouth, where I had set up my Headquarters, bringing with him the pilotage notebook and a large roll of charts. After a few minutes it was clear that he and his notebook and charts must come south with us — not that he needed any persuading. He became a key member of the team planning the amphibious assault.
The 64,000 dollar question that any Commander planning an amphibious operation asks is ‘Where shall I land?’ To help him decide he will want to know a great deal about a number of beaches that, after examination of the charts, look as if they might be the place he is searching for. Having refined the possibilities down to a short list, he will want to send men to look at these beaches as covertly as possible to gather as much detail as they can. The problems facing a Commander choosing landing beaches on the Falkland Islands were that, in 1982, the charts were not, in many areas, up to date; the soundings did not, in most places, go close enough inshore; the kelp which is such a hazard to the propellers of small boats and landing craft was not plotted accurately; and so, from the information contained in the current charts, it was not possible to produce a short list of beaches to which the Special Boat Squadron (SBS) could be sent to glean the detailed information. There simply was not time to send SBS teams to more than half a dozen beaches. Curiously, the Falklanders themselves have a very sketchy knowledge of their own coastline, so no help would be forthcoming from Falklanders who happened to be on leave or living out of the Islands in April 1982.
However, Ewen and his notes solved the problem. His knowledge and his notes, both unique, enabled the planners to select only those beaches which were suitable for a landing for SBS reconnaissance and thus save precious time. The most vivid picture I have of Ewen during the passage south is of him in his ‘home’, which he had set up in the bath in the Senior Officers’ bathroom in HMS Fearless, poring over his charts, producing answers to the myriad questions the planners had posed."

It was Southby-Tailyour who provided the Falkland Islands (Governor's) Flag for the raising ceremony at Government House on 17 June 1982.

He had stolen the flag as a souvenir during his 1978-1979 military tour, and during the operation to retake the Islands from Argentina, Southby-Tailyour confessed the theft and offered the flag back to the Governor, Sir Rex Hunt. Hunt told him that he would forgive the theft if Southby-Tailyour personally put the flag back from where he had gotten it from, so in this manner, he obliged.

Southby-Tailyour's final four years service were spent on the staffs of the Commandant General, Royal Marines, and the Director General Surface Ships (Amphibious Group), helping to design and procure the next generation of amphibious shipping and craft, most notably Ocean, the Albion-class landing platform dock, the LCVP Mk 4 and the LCU Mk 10.

He has published 17 books on amphibious-related subjects (including two novels) and is a commercial yacht skipper and amateur, high latitude explorer he lives in south Devon and the French Pyrenees.


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Bombardier Thomas Wilkinson RMA VC

By Si Biggs on Jun 10, 2020 08:45 am

Bombardier Thomas Wilkinson RMA VC – Crimea

Unit/ Formation,: Victoria Cross

Location,: Russia


Period/ Conflict,: Crimean War

Year,: 1855

Date/s,: 7 June 1855

Thomas Wilkinson VC (1831 – 22 September 1887) Wilkinson was about 24 years old, and a bombardier in the Royal Marine Artillery (RMA), Royal Marines during the Crimean War when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC.

On 7 June 1855 at Sebastopol, Crimea, Bombardier Wilkinson was especially recommended for gallant conduct with the advanced batteries. He worked at the task of placing sandbags to repair damage done to the defences under a most galling fire.

His Victoria Cross is displayed at the Royal Marines Museum.

,“Honour to the brave,” the inscription reads “To the memory of Thomas Wilkinson, pensioner RMA, who died in the City of York 22 September 1887 and was interred with full military honours.”

Bombardier Wilkinson was later promoted to sergeant instructor, before being invalided out of the Marines on October 12, 1859.

He returned to York where he had been born, according to the York Cemetery Trust he became manager of Rymer’s coal and sand yard in North Street.

He received his Victoria Cross personally by Queen Victoria in 1857.

He died in September 1887, at the age of 55, he was buried in a public grave, along with ten other people

,The officers and men of the Royal Marine Artillery clubbed together to pay for a headstone. The stone at York Cemetery was erected by them, says an inscription;

,“as a token of respect to their late comrade, who received the Victoria Cross, Legion of Honour, Crimean and Turkish medals, for his conspicuous bravery during the Crimean War”.

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46 Cdo RM - D Day - Capture of Petit Enfer

By Si Biggs on Jun 06, 2020 09:00 pm

Unit/ Formation: 46 Cdo RM Location: France Period/ Conflict: World War II

Year: 1944 Date/s: 7 June 1944 Lieutenant Colonel Hardy’s 46 Royal Marine Commando (4th Brigade), which initially would have landed at Houlgate and Bénerville on the 6th, finally disembarked at 0600 hours, on 7th June, at Saint-Aubin-sur-Mer to attack the Petit-enfer strong point.

The fortified position fell at 1800 hours along with 65 prisoners of 716th German Division.

0600 - Signal received that the unit was to come under command 1 Corp and to be landed on NAN WHITE Beach as early as possible.

Hasty re-adjustments and improvisations were made to equipment. Place: Bernieres 002853

0900 - The unit was landed by the ships flotillas on NAN WHITE Beach. Orders were received that the unit was to capture strongpoint PETIT ENFER area 048833 - 052830 - 051829 - 047832 with u/c one troop RMAS Gp.

1330 - Attack in three phases commenced from rd junc 033838. Place: Petit Enfer

1800 - Strongpoint surrendered; 65 prisoners (716 Coastal Div) were captured, together with a considerable quantity of enemy weapons and equipment. Own casualties - NIL.

2000 - Orders were received that two troops were to occupy LA DELIVERANDE 0881 jointly with 7 Black Watch that evening after a heavy naval bombardment.

,More here:

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Deployment of Marines to Ireland

By Si Biggs on Jun 04, 2020 09:00 pm

Marines Land in Ireland

Unit/ Formation,: Royal Marines

Location,: Ireland

Period/ Conflict,: Anglo-Irish War

Year,: 1920

Date/s,: 4/5th June 1920

During the Irish War of Independence IRA activists such as the group below, started attacking British institutions across Ireland. In particular the IRA targeted the Coast Guard Stations which had been built around the whole Irish coast in Victorian times. These were often remote houses manned by retired sailors from the Royal Navy and therefore very vulnerable.

In June 1920 the 8th Battalion Royal Marines was formed to go to Ireland specifically to defend these Coast Guard Stations. On Thursday 27 May 1920 a conference had taken place in the First Sea Lord's room at the Admiralty in response to representations from the C-in-C Western Approaches "that armed revolutionaries were attacking and burning Coastguard Stations (in Ireland) and ... civil and military authorities were incapable of protecting those stations."

Orders were consequently given for 800 Marines to be sent to Ireland. Each Division plus the RMA had to send 195 officers and men, with "as many Old Soldiers as possible ... to be included." HMS Valiant and HMS Warspite were detailed as troopships and the newly formed battalion was ordered to concentrate on Plymouth.

At 4.00 pm on 3 June, 843 officers and men embarked. They arrived at Queenstown the following morning. On 18 June the Adjutant-General of the Royal Marines warned that units arriving in Ireland should be prepared for their ship to be fired upon and their train to be ambushed.

Capture of 7 IRA Members

Unit/ Formation,: Royal Marines

Location,: Ireland

Period/ Conflict,: Anglo-Irish War

Year,: 1921

Date/s,: 10 June 1921

Seven Waterford IRA men were captured when a party of Marines, having crossed from Youghal by boat to Ferrypoint by night, surprised them near Piltown, County Waterford.

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Major Francis Harvey RMLI - Battle Of Jutland

By Si Biggs on May 31, 2020 11:53 pm

Unit/ Formation: Victoria Cross Location: Jutland Period/ Conflict: World War I Year: 1916 Date/s: 31 May 1916

A long serving Royal Marine officer descended of a military family, during his career Harvey became a specialist in naval artillery, serving on many large warships as gunnery training officer and gun commander.

Specially requested for HMS Lion, the flagship of the British battlecruiser fleet, Harvey fought at the battles of Heligoland Bight, Dogger Bank and Jutland.

At Jutland, Harvey, although mortally wounded by German shellfire, ordered the magazine of Q turret on the battlecruiser Lion to be flooded. This action prevented the tons of cordite stored there from catastrophically detonating in an explosion that would have destroyed the vessel and all aboard her.

Although he succumbed to his injuries seconds later, his dying act may have saved over a thousand lives and prompted Winston Churchill to later comment: "In the long, rough, glorious history of the Royal Marines there is no name and no deed which in its character and consequences ranks above this"

This from the book 'From Trench and Turret – Royal Marines' letters and diaries 1914-1918' by S. M. Holloway, Constable, London, 2006, ISBN 13: 978 1 84529 321 5

“It was usual for major warships to have one main armament turret run by 'Royals', and in general this was 'X' turret. The turrets were lettered bow to stern. The foremost turret was 'A', manned by the fo'catle division, the 'B' manned by the top division. The two aft turrets had the Royal Marines in 'X' and the quarterdeck division in 'Y'. Where there were turrets amidships between the funnels, they would be 'Q', or if two, 'P' and 'Q'.

Just before 4pm (Lion's) 'Q' turret, which had fired 12 rounds, was hit by a 12-inch shell (415kg) from Lützow. The round hit at the junction of the roof plates, blowing out the front roof plate and front plate and detonating in the gunhouse.

The occupants were all killed or badly wounded and a fire started amidst the wreckage. The explosion had blown the breach lever of the left gun into the open position. The shell and the bagged cordite charge slid back and fell into the well and ignited in the fire. The resulting flash fire ignited all the cordite charges in the hoist and handling room, as far down as the magazine.

There the fire halted because the Officer of the Turret, Major Francis Harvey, had, in spite of mortal wounds, ordered that the magazine doors be locked shut and the magazine flooded.

Only a sickberth attendant and a wounded sergeant of the Royal Marines, whom Harvey had sent to the bridge to report the damage, survived from 'Q' turret. Captain Francis Jones RMLI, also from the Lion, identified the charred remains and blasted bodies at the close of action and recognised the remains of Francis Harvey, horrifically burnt but not as reported elsewhere, with his legs blown off....”

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