In 1962 the 3rd Commando Brigade reorganised in order to meet the demands of modern warfare.
The Corps adopted the Army battalion structure of organisation in order to provide each Commando unit with more independence and the capacity to train young officers.
The new Commandos were twice the size of those in World War Two with around 640 men of all ranks.
Each unit had its own Headquarters with signals, transport and administrative troops to provide services for each Commando.
The units were also supported by their own rifle and mortar companies, a recce troop in ÂĽ ton vehicles and assault engineers.
Officials recognised the need for organic artillery support for the brigade.
In 1961 the 29th Field Regiment Royal Artillery reformed as the 29th Commando Light Regiment RA.
To qualify, the Royal Artillery Commandos also had to complete the Commando course as they must be able to go and do everything required of them in support of their unit.
RA Commandos have fought alongside the Royal Marines in all major conflicts of the Post War period.
Amphibious capabilities - Landing craft and Commando carriers and Assault ships.
Gunnery and repository
Anti-terrorism in the Middle East - Palestine and Aden
Jungle Warfare - Malaya, Brunei and Borneo
Anti-terrorism in Europe - Cyprus and Northern Ireland
Jungle Warfare and Anti-Terrorism
Malaya, Brunei and Borneo
The Corps first experiences of jungle warfare occurred in World War Two. Immediately following the war, unrest in the Far East meant that the Royal Marines maintained a presence in that theatre for the next few decades. During their time in the jungle the Corps re-learned valuable lessons from World War Two on how jungle tours could affect the health of the men. In the early years of jungle tours of duty many would develop foot rot and other diseases from the conditions in the jungle. As a result officers and SNCOs went on hygiene courses and men learned how to stay fit and which food and waterways to avoid.
The Corps recognised that acclimatisation and specific jungle training were needed for the Commandos to adapt to the specific needs of such warfare. The troops would have to patrol large areas, which meant that communication with commanding officers was scarce and stealth and independent operation was at a premium. Below are some examples of patrolling and signalling methods used by the Commandos whilst operating in the jungle.
In May 1950 the Brigade began what would turn out to be a two-year tour of duty in Malaya aiding the civil administration and police to quell anti terrorist activity. The Chinese terrorists of the Malayan Communist Party were trying to recruit other Chinese settlers, many illegal immigrants squatting in Malayan villages, in the country to overthrow the government. The Brigade disembarked at Penang and after six weeks jungle training, travelled for duty in the state of Perak, a region about the size of on the border with Thailand. The area had plenty of dense jungle and swampland in which the insurgents hid. Brigade HQ and 42 Commando based themselves in Ipoh, the state capital of Perak whilst 40 settled in Kuala Kangsar in the north and 45 in Tapah, in the south.
The Commando Brigadeâ€™s initial task was to split the Chinese squatters from contact with the Malayan Communist Partyâ€™s underground army and resettle them in new, guarded villages. Re -settling the squatters also had the impact of drawing the terrorists out further from their jungle hideouts in their attempts to obtain supplies and money. By the summer of 1951 around 91,000 of these Chinese illegal immigrants would be re-housed in new, defended, villages.
The other task for the Commandos was in anti-bandit operations. Each unit had a large area to cover and therefore it was broken down so that each troop would have their own area to patrol. As a result, some troops found themselves operating in an area 60 miles away from their unit headquarters. The troops would carryout arduous patrols of their area, many lasting from a whole day up to two or three weeks at a time. Leeches, mosquitoes and giant ants plagued these patrols as the troops marched through the dense jungle, often having to wade in mangrove swamps. Ambushes were set upon prowling terrorists, many lasting for days at a time as Commandos remained concealed in the same positions waiting to pounce.
In addition to patrolling and ambushing, the Commandos also provided assistance to the police in searches and screenings for terrorists in the local towns and villages. During these searches it was important to win the hearts and minds of the locals in order to dissuade any potential up risers and also to gather intelligence on the whereabouts and activities of the bandits in hiding.
The Limbang Raid, Sarawak 1962
In December 1962 40 and 42 Commando deployed to Brunei in north Borneo in order to quell unrest in the area following plans to unite the territories along the north Borneo coast under the new Malay Federation. 42 Commando and 40 Commando were aboard the Commando Carrier HMS Albion at the time. During the revolt terrorists had seized the British Resident and his wife along with twelve others in the Limbang region of Sarawak. Elements of 42 Commando executed daring raid in order to save them on December 12 1962.
L Company of 42 Commando, led by Captain Jeremy Moore, arrived in the area captured by the rebels only three days earlier and immediately planned for the rescue operation. Moore recognised that the most effective way to surprise the rebels was to be a direct attack on their headquarters. He assessed that it was most likely to be the police station in Limbang. Moore procured two lighters for the journey up the river and into the heart of the rebel territory. Royal Naval personnel from the minesweepers HMS Fiskerton and HMS Chawton prepared and crewed the lighters. During the raid the Marines lost their element of surprise by the noise of the lightersâ€™ engines. The rescuers were met with a barrage of gunfire from the estimated 150 rebels armed with guns raided from the local police station. The raid was highly successful with the Commandos finding all the hostages. Five marines died and eight were wounded in a raid that earned Captain Moore a bar on his Military Cross (where he distinguished himself during the Malayan Emergency) and two Corporals the Military Medal.
Jungle operations in Borneo continued for another three and a half years in what became known as the Borneo Confrontation.
Aid to Civil Population and UN
Cyprus 1955 â€“ 1959
From 1955 to 1959 40 and 45 Commando alternated duties in Cyprus undertaking anti-terrorist operations against the EOKA guerrillas during tensions between the Greek and Turkish inhabitants of the island. The EOKA were a small, but powerful organisation of Greek Cypriots, who had great local support from the Greek community. On 6 September 1955, the UN called 45 Commando at a moments notice to move to Cyprus amid escalating tensions and EOKA atrocities. The unit, based in Malta at the time travelled to the Kyrenia mountain area of the island and by 10 September, around 1,300 Marines and 150 vehicles used by the unit had arrived in the and ready to patrol.
A Royal Marine patrol in Cyprus consisted of helping the civil authorities restore law and order, crowd dispersal, conducting searches in villages for terrorist suspects, manning road block, taking down, terrorist flags and emblems of support. Above is a booklet defining the rules of engagement for troops in Cyprus. The Royal Marines would also carry booklets containing pictures and descriptions of men wanted in connection with terrorist activities in Cyprus.
As the Royal Marines found in Malaya in the early part of the decade, it was of great value to work with the local police and community when resources or intelligence was scarce. The Commando set up its own intelligence service and employed local civil servants as interpreters and local uniformed police. They would also run training courses for the police, encouraging a greater liaison with the Commando and the local authorities. Their operations also included gaining intelligence from the local population on the whereabouts of weapons and terrorists in order to quell the terrorist activity on the island. Below is a leaflet offering rewards to citizens who give the government information on the location of weapons and ammunition.
As the Royal Marines had been so effective in the Kyrenia mountain area the terrorists began to move to the central mountain range of Troodos and into the towns. The terrorists would hide in caves in the mountains where hard terrain and steep drops made patrols treacherous. Marines would use their mountaineering skills to abseil down these cliff faces looking into caves and be lowered into wells in order to find hiding terrorists. The troops would also use all terrain vehicles to patrol, and in the heavy snow of February 1956, patrols were carried out on skis.
Cyprus 1974 â€“ 1984
Between 1974 and 1984 the Royal Marines undertook three United Nations tours of duty in Cyprus. The first was in November 1974 when 41 Commando took over the Limassol District from the 2nd Battalion of the Guards Brigade and became the first Commando to wear the light blue berets of the UN when they began the Corpsâ€™ first six-month tour with the UN forces in Cyprus (UNIFCYP). The Commando also consisted of the 8th (Alma) Battery of 29 Commando RA and two troops of Independent Squadron Royal Engineers.
The UN command structure was different to usual Royal Marine protocols. The UN regarded the Royal Marines as under the direct command of its Secretary General. The UN punished breaches of discipline severely and the method of operating depended more on tact and discussion, rather than the Commando-trained methods of taking the initiative in any dangerous situation. Again, this showed the ability of the Royal Marines to accept command from other organisations and their many different roles from humanitarian work to handling aggressive situations. The Commando not only kept the peace between the Greeks and Cypriots of the island but also worked with the Red Cross in assisting refugees in the area.
In 1984 41 Commando was awarded the Wilkinson Sword of Peace for â€śThe establishment or unit which contributes the most towards establishing good and friendly relations with the inhabitants of any territory within, or outside the UK.â€ť
Anti-terrorism in Europe
Northern Irelandâ€™s modern troubles erupted in the late 1960s. The first Commando unit to go to Northern Ireland was 41 Commando in September 1969. The Commando learned the hard way in the October of 1969 when soldiers were deployed to the riot areas and had to face the insurgents without any proper anti-riot gear. The Corps recalled the unit after six weeks.
The Royal Marine Commandos alternated tours of duty with the Army. In June 1970 45 Commando began their first four month tour of Belfast. During what is termed as IS (Internal Security) tours not only would Marines patrol the streets and provide anti-riot protection and backup the local police, but they would also man roadblocks and perform searches on vehicles in attempts to find terrorist arms and weapons. In the early years of such tours accommodation was often poor and very basic. The unit would often have to sleep in cramped conditions on the floor of factories, school halls or even sheds.
Although the Royal Marines had much recent experience in riot and crowd control situations prior deployment to Northern Ireland, the anti-riot drills formerly used by the Corps were found to be inadequate for the conditions of Northern Ireland and had to be completely revised. Throughout the 1970s specialists slowly began to develop protective clothing to deal with the riot situations. The Armed Forces brought in flak jackets, visored helmets, gloves and other specialist clothing as well as new weapons, anti-riot shields and CS grenades. They also introduced night vision equipment for better surveillance at night. Royal Marine foot patrols would consist of four-man groups, but as the terrorists became more sophisticated in their methods over the years a number of other technologies and tactics were brought in to tackle the problems. Initially the Royal Marines used armoured vehicles to travel around. Later the Commandos travelled to their posts via helicopter as the streets became too dangerous.
From tours in Belfast the Corps expanded to tours of South Armagh and Commandos had to adapt from inner city to rural patrols as well. Each tour had different needs and working so closely within the Community required great diplomacy and skills to gain the trust of the locals. Commandos would sometimes find patrols in South Armagh frustrating. Terrorists often escaped over the border into the Republic of Ireland and all the Marinesâ€™ engagements were governed by strict protocols often making them feel like they had their hands tied behind their back. Snipers, bombs, radio-controlled mines and bloody ambushes meant that the Marines always had to be cautious and prepared for surprise attacks.
On 31 July 1972 22,000 British Troops from the Army and the Royal Marines were involved in Ulster Operation Motorman, which successfully cleared no-go areas of West Belfast and Londonderry. This close co-ordination with the Army signalled the respect the Commandos had earned in taking on Army roles. More crucially it highlighted the vital role of the Corps as a highly capable and adaptable force and as an asset to the many roles and responsibilities of the British forces as a whole at home and abroad.
As troubles in Northern Ireland have subsided over the years, the Royal Marines whilst on their tours of duty would play a crucial role of gathering intelligence and winning the hearts and minds of the local population. By June 2002 the Royal Marines had completed 40 tours of duty in Northern Ireland. During this time the Corps lost 14 killed and 95 wounded.