No. 62 Commando
|No. 62 Commando|
|Role||Coastal raiding force|
|Size||55 men maximum|
|Part of||Combined Operations
Special Operations Executive
|Garrison/HQ||Anderson Manor, Poole|
|Nickname||Small Scale Raiding Force|
|Combined Operations Shoulder Patch|
No. 62 Commando or the Small Scale Raiding Force (SSRF) was a British Commando unit of the British Army during the Second World War. The unit was formed around a small group of commandos under the command of the Special Operations Executive (SOE). They carried out a number of raids before being disbanded in 1943.
The commandos were formed in 1940, by the order of Winston Churchill the British Prime Minister. He called for specially trained troops that would "develop a reign of terror down the enemy coast". At first they were a small force of volunteers who carried out small raids against enemy occupied territory,  but by 1943 their role had changed into lightly equipped assault infantry which specialised in spearheading amphibious landings.
The man initially selected as the overall commander of the force was Admiral Sir Roger Keyes himself a veteran of the landings at Galipoli and the Zeebrugge raid in the First World War. Keyes resigned in October 1941 and was replaced by Admiral Louis Mountbatten.
By the autumn of 1940 more than 2,000 men had volunteered for Commando training, and what became known as the Special Service Brigade was formed into 12 units called Commandos. Each Commando would number around 450 men commanded by a Lieutenant Colonel. They were sub divided into Troops of 75 men and further divided into 15 man sections. Commandos were all volunteers seconded from other British Army regiments and retained their own cap badges and remained on their regimental roll for pay. All volunteers went through the six week intensive commando course at Achnacarry. The course in the Scottish Highlands concentrated on fitness, speed marches, weapons training, map reading, climbing, small boat operations and demolitions both by day and by night.
By 1943 the Commandos had moved away from small raiding operations and had been formed in brigades of assault infantry to spearhead future Allied landing operations. Three units were left un-brigaded to carry out smaller scale raids.
No. 62 Commando was formed in 1941, and consisted of a small group of 55 commando-trained personnel working under the Special Operations Executive (SOE) where they were also known as the Small Scale Raiding Force. While being under operational control of Combined Operations Headquarters, No. 62 Commando itself was under command Major Gustavus Henry March-Phillipps. Their first operation, Operation Postmaster, was in January 1942, when they seized an Italian liner, a German tanker and a yacht from Fernando Po. The SSRF used HM MTB 344, a Motor Torpedo Boat colloquially nicknamed The Little Pisser from its outstanding turn of speed. The SSRF carried out a number of cross-channel operations. The SSRF had mixed fortunes in their raids, their next raids Operation Barricade and Operation Dryad were complete successes. The following operation, Operation Aquatint, on 12/13 September 1942 at Sainte-Honorine on the Normandy coast, resulted in the loss of all the men involved, including March-Phillipps. One member of the raid, Captain Graham Hayes MC, managed to reach France and eventually made his way to Spain. He was betrayed by a French double agent and handed to the Germans.  After nine months solitary confinement in Fresnes Prison, he was executed (shot) on 13 July 1943. With the loss of March-Phillipps, Major Geoffrey Appleyard was given command. On 3/4 October 1942, they carried out a raid of the Channel Island of Sark Operation Basalt with men from No. 12 Commando attached. After the raid, a number of dead and wounded Germans were found tied up, (they had been shot while trying to escape) which is claimed to have resulted in the prisoners captured in the Dieppe raid being tied up and the Commando Order ordering the execution of all captured commandos.
In early 1943, No. 62 Commando was disbanded and its members dispersed amongst other formations. A number went to the Middle East and served in the Special Boat Squadron, most notably Major Anders Lassen - the only member of the United Kingdom Special Forces to have been awarded the Victoria Cross. Appleyard also went to the Middle East and helped form the 2nd Special Air Service from a detachment of No. 62 Commando under the command of Bill Stirling, elder brother of David Stirling. Neither Lassen nor Appleyard survived the war.
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