Green beret

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For other uses, see Green beret (disambiguation).
For other units that wear green berets, see Military beret.

The green beret was the official headdress of the British Commandos of the Second World War. It is still worn by members of the Royal Marines after passing the Commando Course and men from other units attached to the Marines who have passed the All Arms Commando Course.

There are certain other military organizations which also wear the green beret because they have regimental or unit histories that have a connection with the British Commandos of the Second World War. These include the Australian, French and Dutch commandos and the United States Army Special Forces (Green Berets). It is the norm in the armed forces of the Commonwealth Nations, where most regiments wear hats or cap badges which reflect regimental battle honours and traditions.


Initially those who joined the British Commandos kept their parent regimental headdress and cap badges. In 1941 no 1 Commando had no fewer than 79 different cap badges and many different forms of headdress.[1] "Thus a motley collection of caps, Tam o' Shanters, bonnets, forage caps, caps 'fore and aft', berets, peaked KD caps, etc., appeared on the Commando parades," says Captain Oakley, "the forest being a veritable RSM’s nightmare!"[2]

No. 2 Commando and No. 9 Commando faced with the same problem had adopted the Tam o' Shanter, but, as a traditional Scottish headdress, this was not considered suitable for what was a British unit. After some discussion it was agreed that if No 1 Commando was to adopt a uniformed headdress then the beret, which had been worn by the Tank Regiment since the first world war (and had recently been adopted by the Parachute Regiment), would meet the requirements: it had no British regional affinity, it was difficult to wear improperly, and it could be easily stowed away without damage (when for example tin hats were in use).[2]

Having decided on the headdress, the next question to be resolved was the colour. The shoulder insignia of No. 1 Commando had been designed by the Richmond Herald at the College of Arms. It incorporated three colours in its design of a green salamander going through fire: red, yellow and green. Green was chosen as the most suitable.[2] A Scottish firm of tam-o-shanter makers in Irvine (Ayrshire) was chosen to design and manufacture the beret.[3]

Once the design was agreed, Brigadier Robert Laycock was approached by No. 1 Commando to seek his permission to wear it. He had been pondering on what the commandos should use for their headdress, and welcomed the green beret as a chance to introduce it as standard for all commando formations, with No. 1 Commando being the first to don them.[2]

The proposal that the commandos should start wearing green beret as their official headdress was submitted to the Chief of Combined Operations and forwarded by Lord Mountbatten to the Under-Secretary of State for War. Approval was granted and in October 1942 the first green berets were issued to the Royal Marines.[1]

Australian commandos[edit]

Australian Commando berets are known as being "Sherwood Green" in colour. The corps badge on the beret is a black background and a gold combat dagger with the moto “Strike Swiftly" underneath the dagger.[4] The green beret is only awarded to a soldier upon becoming qualified as a Commando in either of the below Regiments.

Belgian paracommandos[edit]

The Belgian 2nd Commando Battalion inherited the green beret along with other traditions from the 4th Troop of No.10 Commando.[5] While members of the Belgian 3rd Parachute Battalion have gone through the same training as 2nd Commando, including the commando course, they wear maroon berets instead of green ones.

French commandos[edit]

Commandos Marine

The Commandos Marine are an élite special operations unit of the French navy. Formed from Fusiliers-Marins during the Second World War in Britain, they wear the same green berets, pulled right, as the British commandos. They are called bérets verts (green berets).

Dutch commandos[edit]

The Special Forces of the Netherlands consist mainly of the KCT (Korps Commando Troepen). Their motto is 'Nunc aut Nunquam' which is Latin for 'Now or Never'. The roots of the KCT go back to World War II. Under the name No. 2 (Dutch) Troop, the first Dutch commandos were trained in Achnacarry, Scotland, as part of No. 10 (Inter-Allied) Commando. The unit was formed on March 22, 1942, the birthday of the present KCT.

Members of the Royal Netherlands Marine Corps also receive upon completion of the Commando Course a green beret, but with the gold anchor on a red back ground.

Royal Marine Commandos[edit]

Royal Marine (2002)

In the United Kingdom all Royal Marines who have passed the Commando Course wear the green beret. Personnel from the Royal Navy, British Army, and Royal Air Force volunteering for service with 3 Commando Brigade undertake the All Arms Commando Course, completion of which allows the individual to wear the headdress. Commando-qualified Royal Marines always wear the green beret, with the Globe and Laurel cap badge, but commando-qualified personnel from other services wear the beret, with their own cap badge, when serving with commando units unless otherwise authorised.[6]

The Commando Badge of a Fairbairn-Sykes [7] fighting knife on a triangular patch is worn on the sleeve in perpetuity by those who have passed the course.[8]

Rhodesia Commandos[edit]

Rhodesian Light Infantry (Commando) The 1st Battalion, The Rhodesian Light Infantry, commonly the Rhodesian Light Infantry (1RLI or RLI), was a regiment formed in 1961 at Brady Barracks, Bulawayo, Southern Rhodesia as a light infantry unit within the army of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. A year after its creation it relocated to Cranborne Barracks, Salisbury, where its headquarters remained for the rest of its existence. The Regiment became part of the Southern Rhodesian Army when the Federation dissolved at the start of 1964 and later that year reformed into a commando battalion.

After Rhodesia's[n 1] Unilateral Declaration of Independence on 11 November 1965, the RLI became one of the country's main counter-insurgency units during the Rhodesian Bush War, which pitted the government security forces against the rival guerrilla campaigns of the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA) and Zimbabwe People's Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA).

An exclusively white regiment, the RLI was made up wholly of professional soldiers until 1973, when conscripted national servicemen were first introduced. Foreign volunteers from across the world, many veterans of foreign conflicts, also joined and became a key part of the Regiment. The RLI was nicknamed "The Saints" or "The Incredibles", and regarded, through astounding success with both internal Fireforce operations in Rhodesia and external preemptive strikes against guerrillas based in Mozambique and Zambia, as one of the world's foremost exponents of counter-insurgency warfare.

So prominent were the airborne aspects of typical RLI operations that the Battalion became an airborne parachute battalion in 1977. The RLI served under the short-lived government of Zimbabwe Rhodesia in 1979, the interim British government that followed and briefly in Zimbabwe before it was disbanded in October 1980.

The RLI's tactics and training contributed to repeated successes in its counter-insurgency operations. "The advantage this gave them," says United States Army Lieutenant-Colonel Dave Grossman, "added up to nothing less than total tactical superiority."[22] Alexandre Binda writes that the RLI "earned for itself an enviable reputation as one of the world's foremost anti-terrorist forces,"[1] while Major Charles D. Melson, chief historian of the United States Marine Corps, calls it "The Killing Machine".[12]


(n1) Jump up to: a b c d e f Binda 2008, p. 20 (12) Jump up to: a b c d e "The home of the RLIRA". The Rhodesian Light Infantry Regimental Association. Retrieved 25 September 2011.

United States Army Special Forces[edit]

US Army Special Forces

In the U.S. armed forces, the green beret may be worn only by soldiers awarded the Special Forces Tab, signifying they have been qualified as Special Forces (SF) soldiers. The Special Forces beret is officially designated "beret, man's, wool, rifle green, army shade 297."

U.S. Special Forces wear the green beret because of a shared tradition which goes back to the British Commandos of World War II. The first Ranger unit, commonly known as Darby's Rangers, was formed in Northern Ireland during the summer of 1942. On completion of training at the Commando Training Depot at Achnacarry Castle in Scotland, those Rangers had the right to wear the British Commando green beret, but it was not part of the regulation uniform at the time and was disallowed by the U.S. Army.[9]

The 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) had many veterans of World War II in their ranks when it was formed in 1952. They began to unofficially wear a variety of berets while training, some favouring the crimson or maroon airborne beret, the black Ranger beret, or the green commando beret. The 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) deployed to Bad Tolz, Germany in September 1953. The remaining cadre at Fort Bragg formed the 77th Special Forces Group. Members of the 77th SFG began searching through their collections of berets and settled on the Rifle Green colour of the British Rifle Regiments (as opposed to the Lovat Green of the Commandos) from Captain Mike de la Pena's collection. Captain Frank Dallas had the new beret designed and produced in small numbers for the members of the Special Forces.[10]

Their new headdress was first worn at a retirement parade at Fort Bragg on 12 June 1955 for Lieutenant General Joseph P. Cleland, the now-former commander of the XVIII Airborne Corps. Onlookers thought that the commandos were a foreign delegation from NATO.[11]

In 1956 General Paul D. Adams, the post commander at Fort Bragg, banned its wear, even though it was worn surreptitiously when deployed overseas. This was reversed on 25 September 1961 by Department of the Army Message 578636, which designated the green beret as the exclusive headdress of the Army Special Forces.

When visiting the Special Forces at Fort Bragg on 12 October 1961, President John F. Kennedy asked Brigadier General William P. Yarborough to make sure that the men under his command wore green berets for the visit. Later that day, Kennedy sent a memorandum which included the line: "I am sure that the green beret will be a mark of distinction in the trying times ahead." By America's entry into the Vietnam War, the green beret had become a symbol of excellence throughout the US Army. On April 11, 1962 in a White House memorandum to the United States Army, President Kennedy reiterated his view: "The green beret is a symbol of excellence, a badge of courage, a mark of distinction in the fight for freedom." To no avail, both Yarborough and Edson Raff had previously petitioned the Pentagon to allow wearing of the green beret. The President, however, did not fail them.

In addition to being the headdress of the United States Army Special Forces, "Green Berets" is also a well known nickname of the organization.


  1. ^ a b RM staff.
  2. ^ a b c d Oakley.
  3. ^ There is a dependency in the sources. The Royal Marines Museum write "tam-oshanter makers in Irvine (Ayrshire)" while Oakley writes "Luckily there was a factory close by at Ardrossan specialising in the manufacture of Scottish bonnets, etc." (RM staff, Oakley)
  4. ^ 4 RAR Associations of Australia: The beret:
  5. ^ (French)
    (1) Royal Marines Commandos All ranks serving with 3 Cdo Bde who have passed the RM Commando Course may wear the green beret. When on parade with RM, green berets are only to be worn if RM are wearing them on that parade themselves.
    (2) All ranks posted out of 3 Cdo Bde cease to wear the RM green beret, except for those qualified other ranks serving in RA, RE and RLC Cdo units."
  7. ^ "The Fairbairn-Sykes Commando Dagger" by Leroy Thompson and "Knives of War: An International Guide to Military Knives from World War I to the Present by Gordon Hughes, Barry Jenkins, and Robert A. Buerlein
  9. ^ Army Black Beret: A Short History of the Use of Berets in the U.S. Army
  10. ^ "History: Special Forces Green Beret". Special Forces Search Engine. Retrieved 8 March 2007. 
  11. ^ P.32, "Inside the Green Berets" by Charles Simpson III