1er Bataillon de Fusiliers Marins Commandos

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1er Bataillon de Fusiliers Marins Commandos was a Fusiliers Marins commando unit of the Free French Navy which served during the Second World War. Initially its Commandant was then-Lieutenant de Vaisseau (Lieutenant) Philippe Kieffer of the Free French Navy, under whose command they participated in the Normandy landings.

Overview[edit]

The creation of the battalion was initially planned in March 1941,[1] but its creation did not begin until 1942 as the Troop 1, "Commandos Français" with the intention of raising the unit to a battalion of 400 in readiness for the expected operations in Europe. Initially the unit was headquartered in the vicinity of Portsmouth while undergoing training with other units at the Commando training center Achnacarry, Scotland.

Initially the battalion was organized into the headquarters section, medical, radio, and transportation sections, and three troops, 1, 8 and 9, the last responsible for using Depth Charge Projector Mark 6, Mod 1, commonly called the "K-Gun"; 177 men in all. In 1944 the battalion was expanded to three troops, with the Headquarters troop and the A & B troops performing the usual land commando role. A large number of battalion members came from Brittany.

Members of the Troop 1 under the command of Lieutenant (Navy) Kieffer took part in the raid on Dieppe (Operation Jubilee) with the British and Canadian commandos,[2] and in November 1942 became officially known as the 1ère compagnie de fusiliers marins commandos,[3] with members of the unit participating in the night raid on the bridge at Plouézec on the 11 and 12 November 1942.[4]

French commandos took part in the raid on the beach of Wassenaar in Holland, the site of V-2 rocket launches, during which five of them, including captain Charles Trepel were killed.

In March 1944 the battalion received its official designation,[5] and in May 1944, a few weeks before the Normandy landings, they receive their own badge; ecu of bronze charged with a brig (representing adventure) and barred dagger of the commandos with, in the sinistral corner, the Cross of Lorraine and underlined of a streamer carrying the inscription "1er Bn F.M.Commando". The green beret was worn in the British fashion, pulled right with badge over the left eye or temple.[6] The battalion was initially assigned to the No.4 Commando of the British Army 1st Special Service Brigade, serving as its 5th and 6th Troops.

In March 1944 it participated in the training for the impending invasion of France,[7] In the days which precede the Normandy landings, the commandos were issued with poor quality photographs of the objectives. Because some of the French commandos were from Normandy, they recognised the sites, which created a concern by the Brigade's English staff, causing them to be temporarily confined in their camp with prohibition of exit before the landings.

Promoted June 5, Capitaine de Corvette (Lieutenant Commander) Philippe Kieffer commanded the operations of the 177 men of the 1er Bataillon de Fusiliers Marins Commandos, from June 6 in Normandy.[8] They disembarked from landing craft at 0731 hours on Sword beach with Colleville-Montgomery forces in the east of the allied landing.[9] They were the first to be unloaded in this sector with the craft of the No.4 British commandos having to let them pass to the lead as initially planned. Their specific objective was to achieve a breach within 500 meters to the west of Riva Bella supporting the 3rd Infantry Division.[10]

In spite of significant losses, the commandos seized the 50mm anti-tank gun encuvée[11] that disabled LCI 523 (1Re Troop), then took the former Casino de Riva-Bella before advancing between Colleville and Saint-Aubin-d'Arquenay to meet the British paratroopers of the 6th Airborne Division at the Pegasus Bridge (Bénouville) where they arrived towards 1630 hours. There the commandos occupied the perimeter of the lime pit towards 2000 hours. By the evening of June 6, the 1er BFMC had lost almost 25% of its personnel with 27 killed in combat in Normandy, with their commander Kieffer wounded twice in the course of the day.

The French Commandos Marine fought in Normandy until 27 August 1944, when the battalion was returned to the United Kingdom for rest and to receive replacements. In November 1944, the 1er BFMC was landed on the island of Walcheren in Holland and took Flessingue as part of the Allied combined arms operation of the British commandos.[12] By October 1944, the commando Battalion had three companies.

Since the Second World War the unit serves as the Naval Commandos of the French Navy and continues to wear the green beret and bronze shield badge.

Citations and notes[edit]

  1. ^ p.148, Giard
  2. ^ p.60, van der Bijl & Chapman
  3. ^ p.51, Fleury
  4. ^ p.3, Guillou
  5. ^ p.74, Guillou
  6. ^ p.155, Pichavant
  7. ^ p.149, Ingouf-Knocker
  8. ^ p.209, Coquart, Huet
  9. ^ p.13, Tenor
  10. ^ p.136, Le Marec
  11. ^ armoured artillery position like a small bunker
  12. ^ p.180, Lemoine

References[edit]

  • van der Bijl, Nick, & Chapman, Robert, No. 10 (Inter-Allied) Commando 1942-45: Britain's Secret Commando, Osprey Publishing, 2006
  • Fleury, Georges, Fusiliers marins et commandos: baroudeurs de la royale, Copernic, 1980
  • Le Marec, Bernard, Les Français libres et leurs emblèmes, Lavauzelle, 1994
  • Giard, Michel, Mousses et marins au combat: 1914-1954, Corlet, 2001
  • Ingouf-Knocker, Paul, Juin 40-44 en Cotentin: objectif(s) Cherbourg, Eurocibles, 2004
  • Guillou, Michel, Opération "Fa[h]renheit": raid des commandos britanniques, pointe de Plouézec, nuit du 11 au 12 novembre 1942, A.E.R.H.D.G.M., 1994
  • Pichavant, René, Clandestins de l'Iroise: récits d'histoire, Morgane, 1988
  • Tenor, Auguste, (ed.), Debarquement, Editions Le Manuscrit
  • Lemoine, André Herman, Forteresse Escaut: novembre 1944, le dernier débarquemet des Bérets verts, Published by Albin Michel, 1994
  • Coquart, Elizabeth & Huet, Philippe, Le jour le plus fou: 6 juin 1944 : les civils dans la tourmente, Published by Albin Michel, 1994
  • De La Sierra Raymond, "Le Commando du 6 Juin" Presses de la Cité

Recommended reading[edit]

  • Caroff, Archives de la Marine (France), Les Formations de la marine aux armées, 1939-1945, Marine nationale, Service historique de la Marine, 1953
  • Hattu, Guy, Journal d'un commando français: novembre 1943-7 juin 1944 :4-Commando Kiefer, "Troop" 1 Guy Vourc'h, Librarie bleue, 1994