Roger Courtney

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Roger James Allen Courtney MC, known as Jumbo, established the Special Boat Sections which saw action in World War II. These would eventually lead to the formation of the UK Special Boat Service.

Roger James Allen Courtney (1902 -1949) was a bank clerk in Leeds, England, before he became a professional white hunter and gold prospector in East Africa. He was also a sergeant in the Palestinian Police Force.

When World War II began, he travelled from Africa (where he was big-game hunting) to England to join the Army as a "commando folding kayaker". When his ideas were rebuffed, he joined the King's Royal Rifle Corps as a Rifleman. Soon promoted to Corporal, he was commissioned in November 1939.

Courtney became an Army Commando recruit in mid-1940, and was sent to the Combined Training Center in Scotland. He was unsuccessful in his initial attempts to convince Admiral of the Fleet Roger Keyes and later Admiral Theodore Hallett, commander of the Combined Training Center, that his idea of a folding kayak brigade would be effective. He decided to infiltrate the HMS Glengyle, a Landing Ship, Infantry anchored in the River Clyde. Courtney paddled to the ship, climbed aboard undetected, wrote his initials on the door to the captain's cabin, and stole a deck gun cover. He presented the soaking cover to a group of high-ranking Royal Navy officers meeting at a nearby Inveraray hotel.[1] He was promoted to Captain, and given command of twelve men, the first Special Boat Section.

Courtney's brother Gruff later commanded a second section of the SBS. The units carried out several raids during the early years of the war, especially in the Mediterranean, which validated Courtney's idea of mounting small-scale attacks from the sea. But heavy losses led to its personnel being amalgamated in 1943 into the new Special Boat Squadron, led by George Jellicoe. Roger Courtney lost his command, became a colonial administrator and died in Somaliland aged 46.


  1. ^ Breuer, William B. (2001). Daring missions of World War II. John Wiley and Sons. pp. 46–47. ISBN 978-0-471-40419-4.