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Combined Ops Heritage for future generations. See veterans'
personal recollections in 40
D Day Stories.
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The Command's Formation
After the Dunkirk
Evacuation of the defeated Allied Expeditionary Force in early
June 1940, Churchill decreed that a new joint or combined fighting force
(land, sea and air) was required, whose unique challenge and sole
purpose was to plan, train for and undertake offensive amphibious operations against
the enemy. It was to be, organisationally, completely independent of the
traditional military services to avoid distractions arising from
[Photo; The Combined Operations
Command Memorial dedication ceremony, July 4th, 2013 at the National Memorial
Arboretum in Staffordshire, England. Entirely funded by veterans, their families
Initially, Small Scale
Amphibious Raiding Forces were formed, which soon developed into larger,
better trained and equipped
Commando Units, each around 500 men in strength.
coastal areas of enemy occupied territories from northern Norway to
south west France, causing the Germans to reinforce their coastal
defences including the deployment of thousands of additional troops taken from other duties. Special Forces, including the Special Boat Service
(SBS) and Special Air Services (SAS), took the Commando concept
to a new level for clandestine operations behind enemy lines.
with these developments, plans were prepared for large scale landings
(invasions) onto unimproved beaches in countries occupied by the enemy,
which culminated in the D Day landings. The Combined Operations Command was
not to be distracted from its offensive operations task by the unfolding
events of war as the three traditional
services concentrated their resources in defence of the UK and her interests.
fulfilling this task, RAF actions included the Battle of Britain, bombing raids, coastal defence
patrols, U-boat detection and support for Combined Operations raids and landings,
while the Royal Navy defended trade routes, detected and destroyed surface
raiders and U-boats, maintained a maritime blockade of Germany, defended UK
coasts and escorted and supported Combined Operations raids and landings.
After a period of re-equipping and training, including Combined Operations
landing craft training, the Army saw action in North Africa, Madagascar, Sicily,
Italy, East Africa, southern France, Normandy, Holland, the Rhine Crossing and
the Far East, assisted throughout by the forces of the Combined Operations
Command during amphibious landings.
For the purposes of
training and offensive amphibious operations against the enemy, all RNVR
and RN landing craft officers and ratings, and their Royal Navy landing craft, were attached to
the Combined Operations Command, itself staffed by Royal Navy, Army and
Royal Air Force personnel under the command of naval men Keyes and
Mountbatten from July 1940 to October 1943 and Major General Laycock until
Under their stewardship and
close liaison with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, extensive
training in the use of landing craft through dozens of
mainly in central Scotland and the south of England, were set up. For pay and
accounting purposes HMS Copra was established for RNVR and RN personnel attached to the
Combined Operations Command.
The training included general seafaring, joint army/navy
training in all aspects of amphibious warfare using landing craft with RAF support,
particularly at the No 1 Combined
Training Centre at Inveraray on Loch
[Photos; L -R Churchill, Keyes, Mountbatten and Laycock.]
In the final stages of training, 516 Squadron RAF
(also attached to the Command) created realistic
war conditions by attacking the landing beaches with live ammunition,
small bombs and
smoke canisters. This was usually followed by many months of joint
Army/Navy training exercises in loading, unloading, forming and
maintaining position in convoys and mock beach landings.
The Command's Development
On June 4th 1940, as the last of
the troops were evacuated from the beaches of Dunkirk, Churchill sent a
memorandum to his Chief Military Assistant and Staff Officer, General Ismay. He
was Churchill's main communications link with the Chiefs of Staff. The
memorandum warned against the dangers of concentrating too much on the defence
of the United
Kingdom against enemy attack or invasion. "It is of the highest consequence to
keep the largest numbers of German forces all along the coasts of the countries
they have conquered, and we should immediately set to work to organise raiding
forces on these coasts where the populations are friendly." Two days later, he
continued on the same theme, "I look to the Chiefs of Staff to propose me
measures for a vigorous, enterprising and ceaseless offensive against the whole
the 14th of June, the Chiefs of staff appointed Lieutenant-General Alan Bourne
to the amply described post of "Commander of Raiding Operations on coasts in
enemy occupation, and Adviser to the Chiefs of Staff on Combined Operations."
Bourne was 58 and had been in charge of the Royal Marines for about a year. His
wide experience on land and sea, and attendance at the Imperial Defence and Army
Staff Colleges, were no doubt factors in his selection for this new and
[Photo by Sarah Slee.
General Sir Richard Barrons looks on as the Revd
Prebendary Tony Wood dedicates the memorial.]
Churchill was not consulted about
the appointment during these frenzied and anxious times. Whilst he held Bourne
in high regard, he felt he was too close to the Admiralty to be able to operate
without undue influence from them and he lacked the seniority and authority to
deal with the three Ministries. On the 17th of July 1940, Churchill appointed
Admiral of the fleet, Roger Keyes to the newly
named post of Director of
He was succeeded by
Lord Louis Mountbatten, who held the redefined post from 27/10/41 until he moved to Burma in October
1943. Major General
Robert Laycock then held the post
Operations made a huge contribution to the successful outcome of the
Second World War by undertaking dozens of Commando raids and landings, mostly against
the Axis forces, from Norway in the north to Madagascar in the south
and from North Africa and the Mediterranean in the west to the Far East, culminating in
on the 6th of June 1944.
[Photo by Harriet Calfo. Lord Lieutenant Dudson with WW2
Veteran Kenneth Howes.]
drew on the best practices and expertise the Royal Navy, the Army and
the Royal Air Force had to offer to create a unified force. Many
of their top planners and experts formed the nucleus around which the
Command was formed and, as the requirements of offensive operations
took on an international dimension, the service personnel of many
Allied countries proudly wore the Combined Operations badge.
addition to the nations represented by the flags in the banner
heading, German speaking refugees from the following countries served
in No 10 Inter-Allied Commando, particularly No 3 Troop. They were; Austria,
Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Romania, Russia and
Yugoslavia. Greece's Sacred Commando
Squadron was not part of Combined Operations but in all regards
they served the Allied cause in defence of their Homeland.
Pages Index' in the page banner heading has brief descriptions of around 190 web
about this amazing and ubiquitous WWII organisation whose auspices
included such diverse subjects as
Commando Raids and Major
Landings, Landing Craft
Training for hundreds of thousands,
Mulberry Harbours, the
project, "Hobarts Funnies" tank adaptations and even top secret experiments on an unsinkable
"Ice Ship" in the Rocky mountains.
It's a testimony to the enduring
nature of the Combined Operations concept that the
Combined Operations Badge, designed by
Lt D A Grant,
1942, is still in use to this day in a number of countries worldwide.
Combined Ops Memorial
If you plan
to visit the memorial,
you'll find useful information on the link to help you make the most of your
On Thursday, July 4th 2013,
in the presence of Her Majesty's Lord Lieutenant of Staffordshire, Mr
Ian Dudson, CBE and 200 guests, including 25 WW2 veterans and 6 Standard
Bearers, the Combined Operations Command Memorial was unveiled
by General Sir Richard Barrons KCB CBE ADC Gen, Commander of the
Joint Forces Command. It was dedicated by the Reverend Prebendary, Tony
[Map courtesy of Google Map Data 2017.]
No greater honour could be bestowed on the service personnel of
yesteryear, than for the Commander of their modern equivalent Force to
honour their memory, sacrifices and achievements in this way.
Act of Heartfelt Appreciation
In the summer of 2004, a
WW2 veteran from
Canada and his friend were travelling north to Scotland by rail, having
attended the 60th anniversary D-Day commemorations in Normandy. They engaged
an elderly lady in conversation and found they had much in common. The
veteran had served in Combined Operations as an LAC on a radar vessel off
the beaches of Normandy and her late husband had been an officer in the
Combined Operations Pilotage Parties (COPPs). His clandestine visits to the
landing beaches prior to invasions, provided invaluable intelligence on
enemy defences, hidden obstacles and beach and tidal conditions.
drifted by almost unnoticed as they relived their youthful memories of
wartime... for she had also served her country in the WAAF, including some
time at RAF Charterhall, near Kelso, in the Scottish Borders.
Unbeknown to them all, a young business woman,
sitting nearby, overheard much of the animated conversation over several
hours. At York she slid a sealed envelope onto their table as she left the
train. She was gone before they had time to gather their senses.
Wherever you are in the world, your life has certainly been touched by
the achievements and sacrifices of those who served under the Combined
Operations Command in WW2. Viv felt compelled to show her appreciation and
gratitude having heard but a tiny fraction of the experiences of just a
couple of veterans.
See the website's
main Index page for access to 184 pages
about many different aspects of Combined Operations including 40 D Day accounts from
veterans who served in or alongside Combined Operations - precious personal
testimonies they left behind of a vastly important time in the history of the
There are around 300 books listed on
our 'Combined Operations Books' page. They, or any
other books you know about, can be purchased on-line from the
Advanced Book Exchange (ABE). Their search banner link, on our 'Books' page, checks the shelves of
thousands of book shops world-wide. Just type in, or copy and paste the
title of your choice, or use the 'keyword' box for book suggestions.
There's no obligation to buy, no registration and no passwords.
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