Daily Archives: 10 February, 2010

The Army Commandos

Nowadays we associate the word Commando with the Royal Marines and their green berets. But during the Second World War the Commando units were also drawn from the Army. The word itself derived from the Boer em>kommando who caused the British Army so much trouble in South Africa.

As with the Parachute Regiment, Army Commando men volunteered from another unit, rather than join straight from civilian life. In the 1940 the British Army began to form and recruit company sized Commando units, which eventually grew to Battalion size. These special forces units spawned a number of famous Regiments, in particular the Special Air Service, the Special Boat Service and the Parachute Regiment.

Commando’s fought in the defence of Crete against a German airborne invasion in 1941.Corporal George Sheridan was killed on 25 May 1941 while serving in 7 Commando. Orginally from the Hampshire Regiment, he was 20 and from Fratton. He is buried in Suda Bay War Cemetery on Crete.

Private John Stevens, 22 and from Southsea, died on 13 May 1943. Originally from the Hampshire Regiment, he was serving in 12 Commando. He is buried in Milton Cemetery.

Commandos were par of the force that invaded Sicily in 1943.Gunner Richard Tickell was serving in 3 Commando. Orginally of the Royal Artillery, he was killed on 10 July 1943. He is buried in Syracuse War Cemetery, Sicily.

Army Commandos were among the units that landed on D-Day. Lieutenant Michael Burness landed on Sword Beach on D-Day with 4 Commando. Originally from the Ox and Bucks Light Infantry, he was 26 and from Southsea. He was killed on D-Day and is buried in Hermanvlle War Cemetery.

After D-Day the Commando’s fought on throughout the battle of Normandy, serving alongside the arborne troops in holding the Orne bridgehead. Private Andrew Newham of 6 Commando was killed on 20 August 1944. Aged 20 and from Southsea, he was formerly a member of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment. He is buried in Ranville War Cemetery.

Private Frederick Lyons was serving in 2 Commando when he was killed in Italy on 9 October 1944. Orginally from the Queens Regiment, he was 29 and from Southsea. He has no known grave, and is remembered on the Cassino Memorial.

After the war the Army Commandos were disbanded, leaving the Royal Marines to carry on the role.

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Filed under Army, portsmouth heroes, World War Two

Revealed: the face of the man who sank the Mary Rose

Mary Rose

The face of the Bosun of the Mary Rose has been can be seen for the first time for over 560 years. The Bosun’s reconstructed head will go on display at the Mary Rose Museum in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard from tomorrow.

The head has been modelled by the internationally renowned forensic artist Richard Neave and two of his colleagues, from a skull recovered from the wreck. Only a handful of the more than 500 crew and soldiers survived when the ship sank in July 1545 and Henry VIII was reported to have heard the screams of the drowning men as he helplessly stood and watched from Southsea Castle.

This man was found with the emblem of his comparatively senior status, his Bosun’s call – a whistle – suggesting he was the man who may have been at least partly responsible for the disaster. Expert analysis has suggested that he was in his 30′s or 40′s. His skeleton indicated that although he was doing a relatively sedate job, at some point in his life he had previously carried out heavy physical work. This suggests that he had worked his way up through the ranks. His teeth reveal that he came from south-west England.

John Lippiett (Chief Executive of the Mary Rose Trust) commented that “it is great to have the opportunity to see what the Bosun looked like after all these years and to welcome his arrival in our Museum”.

The Mary Rose sank on 18 July 1545, during a confrontation with the French Fleet in the Solent, before the eyes of Henry VIII himself. There are many theories about why the ship sank, but evidence from the wreck itself suggests the ship put about with its gunports open, was hit by a squall and sank like a stone. Ensuring that the gunports were closed would have been the Bosun’s job. The Mary Rose settled deep into the silty bed of the Solent, which preserved the many thousands of unique artefacts in excellent condition.

The prominent Historian David Starkey has referred to the Mary Rose as ‘England’s Pompeii’. Not only is the ship important, but the time-capsule like artefacts that have been recovered along with it. The silty bed of the Solent ensured that thousands of arefacts and the remains of many of the crew were preserved.

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Filed under Dockyard, Local History, maritime history, Navy