The Fighting Fourth: No.4 Commando at War 1940-45 by James Dunning

One of the lingering misconceptions of the Second World War is that ‘Commando’ = ‘Royal Marines‘. True, the Royals might sport the green berets nowadays, be called Commando’s, and even serve in a Commando Brigade. Over the past 60 or so years they have very much made the name their own.

But the birth of the Commando is slightly more complicated than that. The first Commandos were in fact formed in 1940, during the invasion scare. And whats more, the first units were formed from Army personnel – volunteers who were bored and looking for action. Realising that the country was going to be on the defensive for some time, and had a paucity in regular troops, Winston Churchill ordered the raising of Commando special forces, based on the Boer Kommando he had encountered in South Africa years before.

No 4 Commando had an impressive list of battle honours during its short life. Lofoten Islands, Dieppe, D-Day and Walcheren are impressive honours for any unit. But upon reading this history by a veteran of No. 4, its impossible not to admire these fine men. They were clearly trained to a high pitch – sniper training, amphibious training, mountain training, general physical fitness, field craft – these really were some of the best men Britain had to offer.

After opening their account in the daring Lofoten raid in 1941, destroying a fish oil processing port in Northern Norway, No 4 then guarded the left flank of the ill-fated Dieppe raid. Although the raid was nothing short of a disaster, No 4 did extremely well, putting a gun position out of action, and Captain Pat Porteous won a Victoria Cross for repeatedly leading attacks while seriously wounded. I certainly dont agree that Dieppe gave valuable lessons – it shouldn’t have taken such a disaster to learn such elementary lessons. Then on D-Day No.4 Landed at Ouisterham, and hot-footed it across the Orne at Pegasus Bridge. They spent much of the Normandy campaign in the line in the Orne Bridgehead with the 6th Airborne Division, including in the Mosquito-riddled Bois de Bavent. After being withdrawn from Normandy, No.4’s final operation was the little-known but bitter fight to clear the Scheldt, where they carried out an amphibious landing at Walcheren Island. In early 1946 they were disbanded, after ending the war in Germany.

Some very famous men came from No 4 – none other than Lord Lovat, who went on to Command the Special Service Brigade that landed on D-Day and marched to reinforce the Paras at Pegasus Bridge, complete with personal Bagpiper Bill Millin. The spectacle is immortalised in the Overlord Embroidery.┬áThe unconventional nature of the Commando’s clearly attracted a lot of ‘individual’ officers and men, who were no doubt misfits to conventional military thinking. But unconventional was the norm in units such as the Commandos – in fact, they had their own organisation, with HQ commanding a number of troops (roughly equivalent to infantry platoons), with no Company level command in between. This meant that the command structure was flexible, and junior officers and NCO’s had to show initiative. In Normandy and Walcheren French Troops were also attached.

I found this a really interesting book to read. A few things really jumped out at me – it was interesting to read that No 4 Commando trained for a long time in the Purbecks region of the Dorset coast – at Worbarrow tout, Arish Mell gap and Chapmans pool. I walked over them all last summer, and its very rugged terrain to say the least. Also, I could not help but be impressed by the rigorous training that the Commando’s went through. Sadly, I have to compare it to the impression I have of the 1st Airborne Division‘s training before Arnhem, and it strikes me that they weren’t as well prepared as the Commandos. A salutory lesson – even in modern warfare, with remote-control fighting, first class training and fitness – healthy mind, healthy body and all that.

I’ve often wondered which unit, if any, could be called the ‘British Band of Brothers’. C Company of John Frost’s 2 Para have always been foremost in my mind, but the story of No.4 Commando is also a very fine one indeed.

The Fighting Fourth: No.4 Commando at War 1940-45 is published by The History Press

About these ads

13 Comments

Filed under Book of the Week, special forces, Uncategorized, World War Two

13 responses to “The Fighting Fourth: No.4 Commando at War 1940-45 by James Dunning

  1. Pingback: The Fighting Fourth: No.4 Commando at War 1940-45 by James Dunning …

  2. Pingback: (1/6) The Greatest Raid of All World War II | Articlewrap.com

  3. My father was No.4 Commando from D day to Walchern to the scheldt at the end of the war…..I would like to find pictures of him in battle….Duncan McAlpine Nelson…any help?

  4. I was recommended this web site through my cousin. I’m now not certain whether or not this put up is written
    by him as no one else recognise such unique approximately my difficulty.
    You are wonderful! Thank you!

  5. It’s a pity you don’t have a donate button!
    I’d without a doubt donate to this superb blog! I guess
    for now i’ll settle for book-marking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account.
    I look forward to fresh updates and will talk about this blog with my Facebook group.

    Chat soon!

  6. Hurrah, that’s what I was seeking for, what a stuff!
    existing here at this weblog, thanks admin of this site.

  7. I do not even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post
    was good. I do not know who you are but certainly you’re going to a famous
    blogger if you aren’t already ;) Cheers!

  8. Aesthetically, both types of iPad are similar. They cannot need to encounter legalities, which simply is sensible.
    Video conversions will undoubtedly be completed with minimal time.
    That’s a very important factor I am confident of.

  9. You can also change the Flash file to other popular video,
    audio or picture formats and click Convert to start.
    Phase 2: Load iTunes and make certain it sees your telephone.
    The Chinese are frequently good at only two things.

  10. It has a 4X world guide and fascinating real-time battles which makes the gaming experience more real.
    Girls generally perform this kind of incredibly hilarious activities for girls until
    night.

  11. Updating the Include Feed demands constant information packet exchange.
    Believe of it as Samsung’s solution to iMessage, but it’s not particular to Android.
    Nicely, KIK is not bad both but whatsapp is more secured.

  12. GV Mobile + is $2.99 on the Application Store, just as GV Link is.
    Both choices are developed to prevent somebody from using a lost gadget by remotely locking
    the device. Also, there is a risk of virus infecting your device.

  13. Hi, after reading this amazing paragraph i am as well glad to share my experience here with mates.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s