~ COMBINED OPERATIONS ~

WW2 land, sea and air forces of the Allied Nations planning, training and operating together as a unified force on amphibious raids and landings against the enemy.

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Hundreds of thousands of visits each year to 200  web pages & 4000 photos. The Website has been published & hosted by Geoff Slee since 2000.

Support the restoration of LCT 7074 to her former wartime glory and read of the role of landing craft in  40 D-Day Stories.   

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2019 - 75th Anniversary Year of D-Day          

Significant events in the Combined Operations Calendar.

Day Year Event
Jan 3 1945

Op Romulus Burma.

Feb 19 1942

The Combined Operations Badge design was approved.

Feb 27 1942

Op Biting, Bruneval, France.

Mar 03-04 1941

Op Claymore, Lofoten Islands Raid, Norway.

Mar 28 1942

Op Chariot, St Nazaire, France.

Apr 19-20 1941

Bardia, Lybia, North Africa.

Apr 27-28 1944

Operation Tiger, Lyme Bay, SW England

 May  05-07 1942

Op Ironclad, Madagascar.

 Jun 06 1944

Op Neptune & Overlord, D-Day, Normandy, France.

 Jun 07 1944

Mulberry Harbours. The first markers were positioned to aid construction.

 Jun   09-10 1941

Litani River, Palestine.

Jun 11 1943

Op Corkscrew, Pantelleria, Mediterranean Island.

Jun 17 1944

Op Brassard, Elba, Italy.

 Jul  03 1940

Op Catapult, Mers-el-Kebir, French Algeria.

 Jul  04 2013

Memorial Dedication Ceremony.

 Jul  9-10 1943

Op Husky, Sicily, Italy.

 Jul  17 1940

Keyes appointed Director of Combined Operations.

Aug 12 1944

PLUTO fuel pipelines to France became fully operational.

Aug 19 1942

Op Jubilee, Dieppe, France.

Sep 09 1943

Op Avalanche, Salerno, Italy.

Sep 09 1943

Op Starkey, North West France. "The raid that never was."

Sep 12-13 1942

Op Aquatint, "Omaha" Beach, France.

Sep 15-21 1942

Op Musketoon, Glomfjord, Norway.

Oct 18 1942

Infamous "Commando Order" was issued.

Oct 27 1941

Mountbatten replaces Keyes.

Nov 01-08 1944

Op Infatuate, Walcheren, Holland.

Nov 08-12 1942

Op Torch, North Africa.

Nov 14-18 1941

Op Flipper, Rommel's HQ, North Africa.  

Dec 07-12 1942

Op Frankton, River Gironde, France (Cockleshell Heroes).

Dec 26-27 1941

Op Anklet, 2nd Lofoten Islands Raid, Norway.

Dec 27 1941

Op Archery, Vaagso, Norway.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[The Combined Operations Command Memorial dedication ceremony, July 4th, 2013 at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, England. Entirely funded by veterans, their families and friends.]

The Command's Formation & Purpose

Immediately 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 and undertake offensive operations against the enemy. It was to be, organisationally, completely independent of the existing military services.

Small scale amphibious raiding forces soon emerged, which later developed into Commando Units of around 500 men each. They raided coastal areas of enemy occupied territories from northern Norway to south west France. 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.

Concurrent 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 task by the unfolding events of war since the three traditional services would concentrate their resources in defence of the UK and her interests.

In fulfilling this task, the 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 1947.

Under their stewardship and close liaison with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, extensive training in the use of landing craft through dozens of Training Establishments, mainly in central Scotland and the south of England were set up. For pay and accounting purposes HMS Copra was established to process pay and allowances for RNVR and RN personnel attached to the Combined Operations Command.

Churchill

Keyes

Mountbatten

Laycock

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 Fyne where, 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 German-occupied coastline."

On 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 challenging post.

[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 Combined Operations. 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 until 1947.

Combined 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 the D-Day Invasion on the 6th of June 1944.

The Command 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.

In 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, hence the inclusion of their flag on this website.

[Photo by Harriet Calfo. Lord Lieutenant Dudson with WW2 Veteran Kenneth Howes.]

The 'All Pages Index' in the page banner heading has brief descriptions of around 190 web pages 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 PLUTO Pipeline 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 Lt D A Grant, RNVR, in 1942, is still in use to this day in a number of countries worldwide.

The 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 day... and, if you wish, you can add a photo of your visit to this website in remembrance of a veteran of your choice.

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 Wood.

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. [Map courtesy of Google Map Data 2017.]

 

A Spontaneous Act of Heartfelt Appreciation

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.

The miles 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.


Further Reading

See the website's main Index page for access to 190 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 world.

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.

News & Information

Memorial Maintenance

We have a small band of volunteers who take turns to visit the memorial each month, particularly during the growing season, to undertake routine maintenance such as weeding keeping the stones and slabs clear of bird dropping, lichen etc. and reporting on any issues. If you live near the National Memorial Arboretum and would like to find out more, please contact us.

Remember a Veteran

You can pay a personal tribute to veterans who served in, or alongside, the Combined Operations Command in WW2 by adding their details and optional photo to our Roll of Honour and They Also Served pages on this website.

Read the Combined Operations prayer.

Events and Places to Visit

To organisers: Reach the people who will be interested to know about your Combined Operations or war related event by adding it to our  webpage free of charge.

To everyone else: Visit our webpage for information on events and places to visit. If you know of an event or place of interest, that is not listed, please let us know.

To notify an event or place of interest, click here.

To visit the webpage click here.

Facebook

Why not join the thousands who visit our Facebook page (click on icon above) about the Combined Operations Command in appreciation of our WW2 veterans.

See the 'slide shows' of the dedication ceremony and the construction of the memorial plus the 'On this day in 194?' feature where major Combined Ops events are highlighted on their anniversary dates with links to additional information.

You are welcome to add information, photos and comment or reply to messages posted by others.

Find Books of Interest 

Search for Books direct from our Books page. Don't have the name of a book in mind? Just type in a keyword to get a list of possibilities... and if you want to purchase you can do so on line through the Advanced Book Exchange (ABE). 5% commission goes into the memorial fund.

WW2 Combined Operations Handbook

This handbook was prepared for Combined Operations in the Far East. It illustrates the depth and complexity of the planning process necessary to ensure that the 3 services worked together as a unified force.

New to Combined Ops?

Visit Combined Operations Explained for an easy introduction to the subject.

 

About Us?

Background to the website and memorial project, and a look to the future; plus other small print stuff and website accounts etc. Click here for information.

 

Legasee Film Archive

As part of an exciting social history project, the film company Legasee has recorded interviews with veterans from any conflicts. These  films are now available on line. www.legasee.org.uk

 

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