3 Commando Brigade

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3rd Special Service Brigade
3rd Commando Brigade
3 Commando Brigade
Cap Badge of the Royal Marines
Active 14 February 1942–present
Country  United Kingdom
Branch Royal Marines
Type Marines
Light infantry
Role Commando/Amphibious Landing Force

8 Battalions

30 Commando Information Exploitation Group - Plymouth
40 Commando - Taunton
42 Commando - Plymouth
45 Commando - Arbroath
43 Commando Fleet Protection Group Royal Marines
Commando Logistic Regiment - Chivenor
29 Commando Regiment RA - Plymouth
24 Commando Regiment RE - Chivenor
Part of Royal Marines
Garrison/HQ HQ - Stonehouse Barracks, Plymouth
March Quick - Sarie Marais

Second World War

Operation Musketeer
Falklands War
Iraq War

War in Afghanistan
Brigade Commander Brigadier Stuart Birrell RM
3 Commando Brigade Formation Badge The dagger insignia of 3 Commando Brigade is worn on the left shoulder of combat uniforms by all personnel attached to the Brigade

3 Commando Brigade is a commando formation of the British Armed Forces and the main manoeuvre formation of the Royal Marines. Its personnel are predominantly Royal Marines, supported by units of Royal Engineers, Royal Artillery, and the Fleet Air Arm, together with other Commando Qualified sailors, soldiers and airmen.

The brigade was formed in 1943, during the Second World War, with a mixture of army commando and Royal Marine commando units and served in the Burma Campaign. After the Second World War, the army commandos were disbanded and the brigade became a Royal Marine formation. Recently, the brigade has again become a mixed army and marine formation with the addition of an army infantry battalion, artillery regiment and engineer regiment alongside three Royal Marine battalions and support services. Since the end of the Second World War, it has served in the Suez crisis, Falklands War, Gulf War and the War in Afghanistan.


3 Commando Brigade can trace its origins back to World War II, when it was formed as the 3rd Special Service Brigade. The Commandos were formed as forces to perform raids on occupied Europe. Many of these raids were relatively small affairs, but some were very large, such as the 1942 Dieppe Raid, and the attack on St. Nazaire to cripple the dry dock there.

The 3rd Special Service Brigade was formed in 1943 and sailed for the Far East and saw action against the Japanese in the Burma Campaign. On 6 December 1944, the brigade was renamed 3rd Commando Brigade, removing the hated title Special Service and its association with the German SS.[1] In January 1945, the Brigade was involved in the battles to secure the Myebon peninsula and Kangaw, holding a key position during the battle of Hill 170 against repeated Japanese attacks.

The brigade was then withdrawn to India to prepare for the amphibious assault on Malaya, but the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan ended the war before the planned invasion. Instead, the brigade moved to Hong Kong to secure the Crown Colony.

In 1946, the Army Commandos in the brigade were disbanded and the brigade became a Royal Marine Commando formation.[2]

Formation in World War II[edit]

Post World War II[edit]

3 Commando Brigade was at the forefront of many actions over the next 25 years, acting as a strategic reserve for the Far East and Mediterranean areas. Its most high profile operation during this time was the Suez Crisis, when it took part in the amphibious assault against Egyptian targets. During Operation Musketeer, units of the brigade made the first British helicopter-borne assault in history.

1971 saw the withdrawal of British forces from the Far East and Persian Gulf. The brigade returned to the UK with other British units. It moved to Stonehouse Barracks in Plymouth, where it remains to this day.

The Royal Marines served on many occasions in Northern Ireland as part of Operation BANNER and had a number of successful interdictions against paramilitary groups.

Operation Corporate[edit]

The brigade's next large operation was in 1982. Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands, and 3 Commando Brigade, reinforced by 2 Para and 3 Para, was one of the two main British land formations that took part in operations to recapture the islands. The Brigade landed at San Carlos Water and marched across East Falkland to Stanley. Argentine units were defeated in several sharp engagements, and their forces surrendered on 14 June.

Gulf War[edit]

In the aftermath of the Gulf War, the brigade was deployed on a non-combat task in northern Iraq. The Kurds had suffered immensely during the war and its immediate aftermath, and the brigade was used due to its rapid deployment ability. It provided humanitarian aid to the Kurds and saved many from starvation.[citation needed]

21st century[edit]

A Jackal armoured vehicle of 3 Commando Brigade, Royal Marines on patrol during Operation Fibonacci near Kuh-e Baba and Shin Ghar, Helmand, Afghanistan

Recently, the brigade has been involved in two major campaigns, including Operation Veritas in Afghanistan, 2001 and 2002, and Operation Telic during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. In Afghanistan, no contact was made with enemy forces, despite contrary predictions. Iraq, however, saw heavy fighting occur in the early stages of the campaign, as the brigade made its first amphibious assault in over 20 years by landing on the Al-Faw peninsula in south east Iraq. Both operations were successful, and demonstrated the brigade's ability to perform its traditional role as one of the United Kingdom's elite fighting forces.

In 2006, the brigade returned to Afghanistan on Operation Herrick, replacing 16 Air Assault Brigade, where intense fighting occurred and the brigade suffered a loss of 15 men (KIA).


The brigade is commanded by a Royal Marines brigadier and contains Royal Marines, Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force personnel. Brigade headquarters staff are located at Stonehouse Barracks, Plymouth, Devon with the majority of the subordinate formations in South West England. By 2003, the brigade's constituent Commando units had been re-organised in accordance with the Commando 21 re-structuring.

The Commando Helicopter Force (CHF), of the Fleet Air Arm, based at RNAS Yeovilton provides helicopter support.

The Special Forces (SF) element is provided by units of the Special Boat Service (SBS). SF support will be allocated from the Director Special Forces, as required for tasking.

The attached army units consist of commando-trained units from the British Army. They are attached to the brigade and provide close-support, field artillery and integral combat engineer support.

When the brigade is operating as the United Kingdom/Netherlands Landing Force, the operational control of one Marine Infantry Battalion, a Mortar Company, 7th SBS Troop (NL) and a Combat Service Support element of the Korps Mariniers are delegated to the formation.[citation needed]

The brigade structure has recently been enhanced with the formation of 24 Commando Regiment Royal Engineers, which subsumed 59 and 131 Squadrons and increased its capacity, bringing it into line with the deployable brigades of the British Army.

The subordinate units as of 2013 are:

Royal Marines British Army
30 Commando Information Exploitation Group
(Stonehouse Barracks, Plymouth)
24 Commando Regiment Royal Engineers
(RM Chivenor, Devon)
40 Commando
(Norton Manor Camp, Taunton)
29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery
(Royal Citadel, Plymouth)
42 Commando
(Bickleigh Barracks, Plymouth)
383 Commando Petroleum Troop, Royal Logistic Corps
45 Commando
(RM Condor, Arbroath)
Korps Mariniers
(as part of UK/NL Landing Force)
43 Commando Fleet Protection Group
(HMNB Clyde, Argyll and Bute)
1st Marine Combat Group
(Doorn, Utrechtse Heuvelrug)
539 Assault Squadron
(HMNB Devonport, Plymouth)
Royal Marines Armoured Support Group
(RNAS Yeovilton, Somerset)
Commando Logistic Regiment
(RM Chivenor, Devon)


Commanders have included:[5]

Battle honours[edit]

The following Battle honours were awarded to the British Commandos during the Second World War.[6][7]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Moreman 2008, p. 32.
  2. ^ Chappell 1996, p. 31.
  3. ^ "burmastar". 
  4. ^ Chappell 1996, p. 28.
  5. ^ Royal Navy Senior Appointments
  6. ^ Moreman, p.94
  7. ^ Commando Forces at regiments.org by T.F.Mills at the Wayback Machine (archived 7 November 2007)


  • Chappell, Mike (1996). Army Commandos 1940–1945. Elite Series # 64. London: Osprey Military Publishing. ISBN 1-85532-579-9. 
  • Moreman, Tim (2008). British Commandos 1940–46. Battle Orders. London: Osprey Military Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84176-986-8. 
  • Southby-Tailyour, Ewen (2009). 3 Commando Brigade. Ebury Press. ISBN 978-0-09-192696-0. 
  • Neillands, Robin (2004). By Sea and Land: The Story of the Royal Marine Commandos. Barnsley: Pen & Sword Classics. ISBN 1-84415-043-7. 
  • Philip, Sea soldiers' readied for a new world disorder,' Jane's Navy International, September 2001 - re Commando 21 and COMUKMARFOR reorganisations

External links[edit]