45 Royal Marine Commando
- Sword Beach, Normandy.
This account of 45 Royal Marine Commando, concentrates on the amphibious landings on the beaches of
Normandy and the immediate aftermath. Front lines were often unclear and
transient, as troops on both sides moved around the contested area. This is
graphically illustrated in the detailed descriptions of the many actions 45
Commando was involved in. But first, the amphibious phase of Operation
Men of 45 (RM) Commando,
1st Special Service Brigade with piper, Bill Millin,
entertaining them, © IWM (H 39039).]
Since the beginning of the war,
the Royal Marines had been fighting on land and at sea. However, one
formation of the Corps, the Royal Marines Division, had been specifically
organised for land warfare but had never been in action. The RM Division was
broken up and formed into two Commando units, together with two Commando groups
from the Army. The four, together, made up the Special Service Group. In August
1943, 45 Commando Royal Marines, was formed. They were ideally suited for the
Commandos, because of their own rigorous training, which, for the most part,
fulfilled the high standard required.
After the British Expeditionary
Force's withdrawal from Dunkirk in early June,1940, Major General, Robert Laycock
was charged with raising and training units for special operations, which included raids on the
Vaagso, Dieppe, Boulogne,
St Nazaire and countless others. The term ‘Commando’ was first
Laycock for troops trained
for special duties of a hazardous nature.
From lessons learned on operations, a
training programme evolved, which produced a fit, highly trained band of shock
troops, schooled in the art of close combat warfare. They were agile and lightly
equipped, enabling them to mobilise quickly and deploy swiftly when required. Their
nimbleness was frequently used in surprise night attacks, where they gained their reputation for fierce and
resourceful combat. The commando stiletto dagger was an
essential part of their weaponry.
[Photo; In high spirits as they prepare to embark for the invasion, 3 June 1944.
H E Harden, VC, is in the right foreground.
© IWM (H 39038).]
A typical Commando Unit comprised; a
Headquarters including Signal and Medical sections, five Fighting Troops, each
of three officers, 62 Other Ranks and a Heavy Weapons Troop, normally equipped
with two 3 inch mortars and two medium machine Guns. The total
battle strength of a typical Commando Unit was approximately 400.
the 7th May 1938, two months after his 18th Birthday,
Bernard Charles Sydney FENTON enlisted as a regular in the Royal Marines
at Eastney Barracks, Portsmouth. They were trained
for land and sea operations, infantrymen for the former and gunners for the
latter. On completion of his initial training at Eastney, he served aboard
HMS Belfast from August 1939 to December 1939;
HMS Erebus from July 1940 to February 1941;
HMS Nelson from April1941 to February 1942 and
HMS Despatch from July 1942 to September 1943.
In between postings, he
married Celia Hepple in July 1940. A son, Bernard,
was born in November, 1941 and a daughter, Maureen, followed in January, 1943.
In November of 1943, Marine Fenton
joined 45 Commando and embarked on their rigorous training programme. In the
ensuing weeks, those struggling to keep up, were RTU'd - returned to their units. Most of the early training was
undertaken in the rugged Argyllshire mountain terrain of the west of Scotland.
In March 1944, 45 Commando moved to Eastbourne in Sussex, where techniques in
amphibious landings and river crossings, using rubber boats, were perfected.
[Photo; marine Fenton.]
the 26th May 1944, they left Eastbourne for a staging camp at
Southampton, where they were regularly briefed for their task part in the
greatest amphibious invasion in history; Operation Neptune, the amphibious
phase, and Operation Overlord, the land assault
on Hitler’s Fortress Europe. However, for security reasons there was no
mention of their destination or timing of the invasion.
5th June, 1944, 45 Commando RM moved to Warsash at the
entrance to the Solent where they embarked in five LCI(S)s,
Landing Craft Infantry (Small).
At 1700 hours, they slipped anchor and formed up in the Solent, to take
their place in a vast armada of craft destined for the Normandy beaches.
[Photo left; Captain H N Smith RAMC and Marine Bott watching the
The voyage through the night proved uneventful, though the sea was rough. The secrecy over the Commandos' mission was
when the precise details of their landing beach were revealed; 0910 hours on "Queen Red" beach, two miles west of Ouistreham
Their approach to the beach was
under the cover of a very heavy bombardment of shells and rockets from Allied naval forces. One
mile offshore, enemy shells fell around the long column of landing craft, many of
which were ablaze. As 45’s flotilla approached the beach, enemy anti-tank guns
opened fire from the flank. Two craft were hit and some casualties
were sustained. On reaching the beach, a few troops managed ashore dry footed but the
majority waded ashore, leaving the remainder facing the almost impossible task of swimming
ashore carrying between 60 and 80 lbs on their backs.
The beach area was exceedingly
hazardous with mines, beach obstacles and rapid fire from flanking pillboxes,
not to mention the activities of enemy mortar units and heavy guns. About a hundred yards inland,
they passed through the line of the assault battalion (2nd Battalion
East Yorks) as they made their way to their check point. Their advance
well, although harried intermittently by mortar and shell fire.
Their first objective was to
bridges over the River Orne and the Caen Canal. It transpired that they were
already in the hands of the Parachute Brigade, who had parachuted into the area
seven hours earlier. The Commandos decided to use the bridges instead of the
rubber boats they had carried but, during the crossing, the CO suffered injuries
and was evacuated, while several others were wounded by snipers and a machine
gun firing from upstream.
The Brigade's objectives were to hold the high ground in the area of Hauger, Le Plein and
Amfreville, providing support and protection for those holding the vital bridges over the River Orne and the
canal, whilst safeguarding the invasion force’s left flank and to capture Franceville Plage and "infest" the coastal area eastwards towards
[Map courtesy of Google Map
The task of 45 Commando,
within the Brigade plan,
was to capture the coastal battery of Merville, if this had not already been
achieved by the 9th Battalion Parachute Regiment and then
to capture Franceville Plage. The Brigade Commander ordered the unit to proceed
independently to Merville to determine who controlled it. Meanwhile No 6
Commando, who had been first across the bridges, pushed their attack on the high ground
at Le Plein, while No 3 Commando moved on the coastal area east of Franceville
Commando moved off at a fast pace, with cycle Troop (C Troop), under the
command of Major J N Rushforth, acting as advance guard. They were followed by
‘A’ Troop under Capt E E Grewcock, the Reconnaissance Group (C.O. and remaining
Troop Commanders) and the rest of the unit. After passing through the village of Sallanelles, the two leading Troops turned off to the right but, owing to a sharp
bend in the road, the manoeuvre was not seen by the following Reconnaissance
They continued along the main
coast road until they saw some enemy troops running towards a strong point on the left, about 250 yards away. Fire was immediately opened by both sides and Marine
G B Irvine (E Troop) hit his target at 200 yards range, firing from the standing
position. Mne B Fenton was a member of C Troop.
The enemy had the road well
covered and kept the Reconnaissance Group and the leading section of ‘E’ Troop,
pinned to the ground. Enemy mortars and machine guns swept the area, leaving the
leading elements to painfully crawl back to the cover of nearby houses.
The 3 inch Mortar Detachments (‘F’
Troop) were now ordered into action. They engaged the strong point and dropped
some 30 mortar bombs in and around the enemy position. During this action, the
unit withdrew slightly and continued its advance towards its original objective,
the Merville battery. By then, they knew the battery had
been silenced by the 9th
Battalion Parachute Regiment earlier that morning. However, the leading Troop
was fired on by the enemy, who had returned in strength to this heavily defended
During the reconnaissance, prior to
launching an attack on the battery, the unit was ordered to
hold Merville for the night and not to advance on the Franceville Plage. The
battery was therefore by-passed, Merville village cleared and an all-round
defensive position taken up by 19.00 hours. The village had been badly damaged
by RAF bombing and all the civilians had disappeared. However, the demolished
buildings made good cover and the unit quickly dug in for the night. Commando
Headquarters was established in two broken-down cottages, which had a
thick-walled garden. Longing eyes saw a large undamaged farm house but
it was decided to sacrifice comfort for safety. It was a
sound decision since the farm was later demolished
and set on fire by an enemy self-propelled gun.
With defences in good order, tea
was brewed, providing the Commandos with their first and very welcome hot drink
since landing. Just before dusk they were greatly heartened by the sight of the
6th Air-landing Brigade being towed to the bridgehead in their
So ended the first day. Apart from
the short clash outside Sallanelles, there had been little close contact with the
enemy but there were some casualties: Lt W Kennedy and three other
ranks were killed; Lt-Colonel N Ries, Lt P Nelson and 14 other ranks were
wounded and Lt
P Winston and 20 other ranks were missing.
The Commando had a quiet night,
although the beach area to the west, had been heavily bombed. At 03.00 hours,
orders were received to move back to the Brigade’s defensive position in the
area of Le Plein. By 04.00 hours, the unit was on the move and just as they left
the village, enemy patrols were entering it from the other end.
[Photo; A Troop 45 Commando July 1945,
courtesy of John McCabe. Sgt Peter Maxwell 2nd from right in 2nd row and
Arthur Silson bottom row 2nd on the left.]
It was a three mile trek back to
Le Plein, which was accomplished in the half light, without incident. The
silence was punctuated by the muted curses of the unfortunate Cycle
Troop who struggled manfully with their steeds, up and down immense bomb craters,
so liberally supplied by the RAF. On passing through the deserted main street of Sallanelles,
some witnessed the astonishing sight of Major Rushforth, the leading Troop
Commander, looking most warlike and poking his rifle into a window, while yelling: "Come
out! I’ve got you covered." An aged Madame, with hair in
curling papers and looking equally warlike, peered from the next window
exclaiming "Ah, ‘ces Anglais!"
The unit eventually reached a
valley sloping away from the coast road and dug in under some apple trees to the
left of the Brigade’s position. This was adjacent to No. 4 Commando, who had
returned from Ouistreham, having suffered heavy casualties in capturing the
[Photo; right, B Troop in
Portsmouth Hilsea Barracks received from Craig Summerhill whose grandfather,
Cpl Jack T Williams is in the
3rd row, seventh from right.]
Later that morning, accurate enemy
mortar fire, from a strong point at Sallenelles, homed in. The Commando's 3 inch
mortars returned fire, but were quickly spotted by the enemy and duly "stonked".
The position sustained direct hits, causing two casualties, so the mortar
detachment made a very rapid move to alternative positions.
Fully laden Jeeps, which were last
seen at Eastbourne (such a very long time ago, it seemed), now began to arrive.
Much needed ammunition, signal stores, medical supplies and weapons were quickly
unloaded and the jeeps sent back with the wounded.
About this time, a 'warning order'
was received preparing the Commando to attack Franceville Plage. An Order
Group quickly assembled and issued appropriate orders for action, greatly
assisted by knowledge gained from models and aerial photographs of the town during briefings, prior to embarkation.
The attack had been
rehearsed many times while the Commando was in Eastbourne, so each man knew the
overall plan and his part in it.
[Left, E Troop
courtesy of Steve Worsley whose father, Stanley Worsley, is 3rd from the right,
Two Troops of No 3 Commando, were
in support of the mission by engaging with the enemy hold up in the Merville
battery. In addition, one six-pounder anti-tank gun, with the Brigade’s MMGs,
covered the advance through Sallanelles. Two Royal Artillery Officers from
their Forward Observation Base (FOB), who
directed Naval supporting guns by radio, were attached to call on naval shell
bombardment if needed. Half way through the CO’s orders, the Order Group came
under mortar fire and took refuge in a ditch, from where orders continued to be
issued between explosions.
Mortaring and shelling of the
Commandos continued with increasing intensity and accuracy, as they moved along
the road and through Sallenelles. The advanced party lost their 3inch mortar barrels and the men carrying them. A jeep carrying ammunition,
also received a direct hit and, taken together, these
losses proved to be a serious handicap. Brigade HQ was contacted for
replacements but the advancing
party could not wait for them to be delivered. It later proved to
be impossible for them to get through.
At about 16.00 hours, the Commando
came under fire from the Merville battery. One Troop engaged with it, while the
remainder passed on to Merville itself. Final orders for the attack were given
here and, while the Commandos formed up, their objective was bombarded by two
cruisers and two destroyers, which were on call to the FOB.
[Photo; June 1945 E Troop
taken in Princes Park, Eastbourne. Courtesy of Clive Yaxley whose father, Bob
Yaxley is 6th from the left 2nd row down. Third row from the front – far right,
is WJE Hill. John Parry is
in the 3rd row down 8th in from the left.
correspondence below for more information
about John + photos. The 58 on a red square is the Arms of
Service number used to Identify 45 RM commando vehicles.]
Franceville Plage was a small
coastal resort, consisting mainly of detached villas and divided in two by a
long straight road, which, for the purposes of the operation, was code named
Piccadilly. The plan was to advance along Piccadilly; E Troop on the left and B
Troop on the right. C Troop was to clear some enemy posts to the west and also
to give left flank protection; A & D Troops were to follow E & B and would
eventually pass through them, when they reached the sea, to take some enemy
positions to the east.
17.05 hours, the attack started. The distance between Merville and the outskirts
of Franceville was about five hundred yards across flat open country. C and E
Troops advanced simultaneously, followed by B with A Troop prepared to give
covering fire. The edge of the town was reached and cleared without any fire
being drawn from the enemy.
C Troop, swinging left, cleared
the wood to the west of the town and took up a position on the left flank with
the object of providing protection to the main assault. The
wood was full of slit trenches and dugouts and these were quickly cleared using
The sound of firing from the
direction of the Merville battery, indicated that the two Troops of No 3 Commando
were in action. Owing to casualties in wireless sets and signallers, there was
no communication with them or with Brigade HQ. This resulted in Captain Hodgkin
of the FOB, attached
to 3 Commando, becoming detached from his unit. Since communications with 45's
own FOB had been lost, Captain Hodgkin was ordered to remain. Meanwhile E & B
Troops, followed by D & A, moved up Piccadilly with little opposition.
The two forward Troops
reached the main strong point at the northern end of Piccadilly, where they came
under heavy mortar fire. They took up positions in the houses facing the strong
point. In a gallant attempt to smash the strong point, ‘E’ Troop Piat Group,
L/Cpl Davis, Marines Lee and Lowe, led by Captain Beadle, made their way forward,
hoping to get a Piat bomb through the pillbox slits. They fired one bomb, which
fell short and, before they could correct their aim, they came under heavy fire.
L/Cpl Davis was killed and Marine Lowe wounded. Captain Beadle and Marine Lee
managed to recover the Piat and help the wounded man to relative safety.
temporarily lost radio contact with C Troop, the CO visited the left flank to
make contact with them. He decided to move forward but, before he had moved
fifty yards down Piccadilly, an anti-tank gun, firing from a pillbox at the end
of the street, scored a direct hit on the patrol. RSM John Henry Grimsey (photo
opposite) and Cpl Watson were killed and two others wounded.
A & D Troops now began to advance
on either side of Piccadilly. As A Troop reached the bottom of the street, they
met with heavy fire from some houses to the East. They immediately fanned out
and, by "leap-frogging" from house to house, eventually drove the enemy from their
post near the beach.
It was decided to hold the
existing Commando position. Private Arnold of No.10 (Inter-Allied) Commando,
approached the enemy with a white flag, telling them to surrender as we had
three divisions behind us and it was useless to fight on. The only answer to
this appeal was a heavy burst of machine gun fire followed by even heavier
At the same time, the enemy put in
a strong counter-attack to the right rear. After some close fighting, with heavy
casualties on both sides, it became obvious that the enemy was much stronger
than had been expected and that they were trying to cut off our advance and to
push us onto their beach defences. The CO decided to fight out from the beach
area and to take up a position on the Southern side of Franceville.
During the withdrawal, hard and
confused fighting took place at close quarters. The enemy knew the ground well
and seemed to appear from all sides at once. It became difficult to distinguish
friend from foe, as fleeting figures slipped from shadow to shadow and as rifle
shots came from the flanks.
The CO, now with A Troop, had
taken up a position on a sandy knoll on the outskirts of Franceville, which
dominated the surrounding area. Here the unit gathered, while patrols were sent
out to bring in stragglers and wounded. The enemy, who was, by then, working
around to the rear, began to close in on the knoll. Fortunately radio contact
with C Troop was restored - they were still on their own protecting the left
flank. C Troop were now ordered to counter-attack the enemy to the rear and also
to clear the right flank.
Led by Major Rushforth, C Troop
put in a most gallant and dashing attack. After fifteen minutes of intense
fighting, they captured a large school building which dominated the area and thus
freed the Commando’s rear. During this attack Major Rushforth was wounded
leading the assault and Lieutenant Jackson took over command of C Troop. A
defensive position was quickly organised just in time to meet a strong
counter-attack by an enemy most determined to finish off the Troop. However, C
Troop’s courage and tenacity and the dominating position which they held,
enabled them to beat
off these attacks and the Commando was saved for the time being. For his courage
and leadership in leading the counter-attack Major Rushforth was later awarded
the M.C. Sergeant Stuart and Corporal Harrison both received the M.M. for their
gallantry and leadership during the attack and in beating off the
It was now 23.00 hours, darkness
had fallen and ammunition supplies were very low. The CO decided to return to
Merville. B & E Troops were given orders to move to Merville as quickly as
possible and to re-occupy their old positions. The rest of the unit would follow
on, carrying as many of the wounded as could be safely moved. It was decided to
leave the very badly wounded men behind. Two Medical Orderlies, Cpl. Relf
(himself slightly wounded) and Cpl Dunlop of the Royal Army Medical Corps,
volunteered to remain behind to safeguard the wounded. Both were later reported
as prisoners of war. This spirit was typical of the RAMC personnel. Their work
with the Commando was always magnificent and beyond praise. Throughout the
confused street fighting in Franceville the Medical Orderlies, led by Captain
Smith and Sgt Curren, had worked wonders in tending the wounded under fire and
bringing them into cover. Captain Smith later received the MC for his gallantry
during this action.
By 23.45 hours, the Commando had
taken up a tight all-round position in Merville, occupying almost the same
positions as the previous night. There were traces of the enemy in most places
but the speedy arrival of B & E Troops caused them to move quickly in the
opposite direction. C Troop were delighted to find a few Germans digging their
old trenches even deeper, so they allowed them to continue, but this time for C
Troops benefit. A Troop, on the other hand, had a short scrap for their former
So ended the second day. The
Commando were now well and truly blooded. Mistakes had been made and lessons
learned. There had been periods of great danger but thanks to the courage and
determination of all ranks and the timely counter-attack by C Troop the job was
done. Casualties during the day were... killed - Lt. Gale and fifteen other
ranks; wounded - one officer and thirty-eight other ranks (several other
officers and men were slightly wounded but remained with the unit); missing - Lt
Dunkerley and twenty-three other ranks (most of whom were wounded and later
reported as Prisoners of War).
The night passed comparatively
quietly, probably because both sides were feeling exhausted. Just after dawn,
Sgt Hemmings returned from Brigade HQ bringing with him relief signallers and
spare wireless sets. His outward trip had been quite lively. Soon after leaving
friendly lines, he made contact with six men from D Troop, who had been cut off at Franceville and were trying to return to their unit. He took them under his wing
and continued on towards the Brigade lines. About half a mile further on, the
patrol walked into a German position. In the ensuing melee, all except Sgt Hemmings and Mne Crouch, were taken prisoner. Hemmings and Crouch later reached
As the light improved, small enemy
patrols began probing the Commando defences and the activities of snipers became
irritating. At 08.30 hours, a signal was received from Brigade saying that an
attack was expected that day and that 'Merville must be held at all costs.' We
learnt later that a German prisoner had obligingly informed the Brigadier that
on the 8th June the English would be driven into the sea.
An Order Group was called and
everything possible was done to tighten up our defences. Ammunition was by now
very limited and the HQ personnel shared their allocation amongst the troops.
By 09.00 hours, both enemy patrols and sniping had increased and movement was
reduced to an absolute minimum, while counter sniping parties were organised.
These achieved some success, in particular Cpl Emuss of E Troop and Cpl
Bartholomew of C Troop.
At 09.30 hours, the Commando was
heavily mortared, HQ, A and C Troops getting most of it. This was quickly
followed by an attack from the direction of the Merville battery. A & C Troops
bore the brunt of the attack, which was broken up by close range small arms fire
with few casualties. After this, spasmodic mortaring and the intense sniping by
the enemy bore down on Allied positions. During this last attack Mne B Fenton
suffered a head wound and he became a casualty.
At about 10.15 hours, two Renault
Ambulances drove unto Melville, manned by rather confused German drivers, who had
no idea that the town was occupied by British troops. The ambulances were used
to transport eight stretcher cases in need of urgent medical attention back to
the Brigade lines. However, there were risks of being captured by the enemy but
it was hoped that should this happen medical treatment would be provided.
L/Cpl Saunders, an interpreter
with 10 (Inter-Allied) Commando, who was slightly wounded in the leg,
volunteered to conduct the party. The eight casualties and a badly wounded
German prisoner were loaded into the ambulances under cover of a Red Cross flag.
There is no doubt that, on this occasion, the enemy respected the flag, as the
loading was completed without interference.
The ambulances drove off in the
direction of Le Plein but they were recaptured fairly soon after leaving
Merville. L/Cpl Saunders, who escaped and rejoined his unit 24 hours later,
confirmed that the wounded were immediately despatched to a German Field
Hospital. Those POWs, who returned home at the end of hostilities, confirmed that
they had been well treated.
Marine B Fenton was one of the
stretcher cases. He was taken to a German Field Hospital at the Chateau at Pont
L’Eveque. It was there on the 13th June 1944 that he died from his
Roll of Honour
The names of all who served in 45
Royal Marine Commando and who were killed in action or died during the war.
Sergeant P. Ahern /
Marine D. A. Baker /
Corporal L. Baker /
Corporal E. B. Beach /
Sergeant W. B. Begbie /
Marine R. Bell /
Marine J. Benson /
Corporal A. Bidmead /
L /Cpl. W. G. Boniface /
Marine G. Boothroyd /
Captain M. C. Brockbank /
Corporal A. R. Brooks /
Marine F. Campbell /
Marine B. L. Cann /
Corporal W. Carter /
Lieutenant A. C. P. Caspar /
Marine R. Casson /
Marine H. J. Clarke /
Corporal R. Clarke /
Corporal J. Cocks /
Corporal J. Cohen /
Marine A. C. Conaty /
Marine A. G. A. Cook /
Marine E. P. Corbyn /
Marine W. Crompton
Marine W. Crouch /
Marine E. C. Dangerfield /
Marine G. Davidson /
Marine O. Davies /
L/Cpl. K. W. J. Davis /
Lance-Corporal A. C. Dryburgh /
Corporal J. J. Duchan /
Marine A. J. Earl /
Marine B. C. S. Fenton /
Sergeant W. Finlay /
Marine E. W. Forbes / Marine B. B. Foster
Corporal H A Gage /
Lieutenant A. Gale /
Marine R. George /
Marine E. J. Gladwin /
Corporal F. J. E. Goodenough /
Captain E. E. D. Grewcock /
R.S.M. J. H. Grimsey
Corporal E. G. Gynes /
Marine J. Hall /
Lance-Corporal H. E. Harden, V.C. /
Marine W. Hobbins /
Marine P. L. Holmes /
Lance-Corporal C. Johnson /
Marine A. J. Kemp /
Lieutenant W. Kennedy /
Marine R. J Keogh /
Sergeant F. Kerr /
Marine F. Kershaw /
Marine C. King /
Corporal J. T. Knott /
Corporal J. H. Laing /
Marine G. Lay /
Sergeant T. M. Ledger /
Marine E. J. Lee /
Marine L. L. Lee /
Marine T. A. Lovett /
Marine C. Lyon /
Corporal R. McFall /
Marine J. McFatter /
Marine N. W. McIntosh /
Marine D. McKeown /
Marine G. McPake /
Lance-Corporal H. McNulty
Marine L. H. Manley /
Marine T. B. Marshall /
Marine R. Mitchell / Corporal D. A. W. Money
Marine C. Moseley /
Marine A. Mulhall /
Marine W. H. Murphy /
Marine K. Musgrave /
Corporal L. Myers /
Cpl. / B. G. Newman /
Marine B. K. Ord /
Marine W. H. Pearce /
L/Cpl A. R. Percival /
Lance-Corporal W. Purvis /
Corporal D. W. Reed /
Corporal A. W. Rogers /
Marine R. J. Rolson /
Marine G. J. Russell /
Corporal J. R. Ruston /
Sergeant J. T. R. Smith /
Lance-Corporal F. T. Stallwood /
Marine H. J. Stapley /
Marine D. P. Sweet /
Marine R. Symes /
Marine J. Timmins /
Marine T. G. Unthank /
Marine F. Wale /
Marine J. W. Walker /
Marine G. Watson /
Corporal J. A. Watson /
Sergeant J. P. Wharton /
Marine F. Whitaker /
Captain B. G. White / Sergeant R. D. White /
Marine R. A. Wilcox /
Marine F. Wild /
Marine R. Williams /
Sergeant W. A. Wilson /
Lieutenant P. Winston /
Marine A. Wright /
Lieutenant T D Wright.
45 RM Commando in North Africa and Sicily.
See BBC Antiques Roadshow clip about 45 Royal
Marine Commando Peter Thomas -
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name is Andrew Renton PERCIVAL, born in Glasgow and now retired in
France. My uncle, L/Cpl Andrew Renton PERCIVAL, EX/4169, was killed on 7
June 1944 and is buried in the Tilly sur Suilles cemetery.
I have a book by Julian Thompson, 'The
Royal Marines from Sea Soldiers to a Special Force' which includes the
D-Day landings as well as personal accounts. Page 328 covers a witness
report by Marine Walker of D Troop on 7 June 1944. "We went into the
first house to attack from the back gardens. Lt Gale and seven others
got over to the second house. I was one of them when we came under heavy
fire. I am sorry to say only I and Mne Murray escaped by crawling round
the back porch of the house. Lt Gale, Sgt Nutter and all the others
were killed. Ted Murrey and I got back to the rest of the section. We
decided that we would go and attack from the front of the house, we came
under fire again and more were killed or wounded".
Sgt Nutter is buried next to my uncle at Tilly-sur-Seulles cemetery. Lt
Gale is also buried there on the last row behind Sgt Nutter and L Cpl
Percival. Next to Lt Gale, there are others including Sgt Major J H Grimsey. I have visited this and other cemeteries on a number of
occasions and on completion of the last visit asked the War Graves
department if I could pay for a bench to be placed there, as I and
others, are not as mobile as we once were! This request was refused.
During my last visit 2 years ago, I visited Merville and Franceville. I
have attached a photo of the memorial stone to the 45 RMC as well as one
of my uncle L/Cpl AR Percival (left) and his friend Marine Russell
Mitchell (right), who was also killed.
I hope the above is of interest and useful,
I've just found your website and account of 45 Royal Marine
Commando. My wife’s father, John Parry, service number Ch/x 104126,
served in 45 RM Commando and he's in the photo of E company on your
web page. We're very confident that the E Company photo was taken in
Princes Park, Eastbourne. We live in the town and recognise the tree
line behind them. John is in the third row down, 8th in from left.
He never spoke about his war service but, in reading your account,
it's clear he and his mates went through a lot together.
Marine Parry is top middle of the photo with the flag and top right
of the 2nd photo. Courtesy of John's family.]
to know that this association with the town may be the reason he
moved there after the war. With his wife, Ivy, mum, dad and brother,
they ran a guest house near the pier for many years. Later John
worked at the Birds Eye factory until he retired. He was very active
in running local social events and entering floats in the Eastbourne
carnival, which he won many times.
plans to visit the landing beaches but had to cancel due to Covid.
However, we now look forward to doing this when travel restrictions
are lifted armed with the location information from your website.
RM Commando. This, and other photos I've seen of 45 RM
Commando, show what appears to be half a troop with only forty or so in the
picture. I wonder if they are officers and NCOs only. 45 RMC was, at the
outset, 450 men strong, so each troop would amount to about 90.
In the photo, perhaps taken in 1943, there
are at least 4 officers I know of. However, one of them was not 45 RMC as
far as I recall, but he was 'with them' as my father explained. He has a
lighter tie than the other three, and a cap. The ones I recognise are from A
and E troops of 45 RMC and one from Royal Artillery.
If anyone can shed any light on the
occasion this photo was taken, or if they recognise anyone in it, I'd be
very grateful if they would let me know. Thank you in anticipation.
My Father, Francis Gerard Burton,
MM, was a radio operator. He left for Normandy from Warsash in a landing craft
and when the ramp was lowered at Red Queen the first two to disembark were
killed. My dad was next in line.
RM Commando Vehicles. I'm
currently marking up a 1943 Jeep in 48 RM Commando unit markings along with
Captain Martyn Heenan who is restoring a James ML motorbike. I wonder if anyone
knows what markings were used on RM Commando vehicles involved in the D-Day
- Combined Operations insignia or the Commando dagger? ... and did the markings
change later in the war? We know the dagger was used post war, but we have also
read that only HQ vehicles used the Combined Ops badge. Any opinions or sources
of information we could consult would be very much appreciated. Cheers, Sean.
William George Norton. My
name is Tony Norton. My father, William George Norton served in 45 royal marine
commando but rarely talked about his war experiences and was unwilling to record
his wartime experiences. Sadly he passed away in May 2010 and since then I've
been trying to find out more about his time in the Commandos.
I'd be very grateful to receive any information or photos about his service, or
sources of information I could try, as I'm very proud of him and would like to
know more about his contribution in WW2. This would help me understand what made
my father the man he was. The information I've gleaned so far from various
sources may help you identify him.
I know he enlisted at Chatham on 30 Sept 1941 as a Marine and gave his date of
birth as 7th May 1924, which was a false DOB as he was under-age. His division
and register number is CHX105546. He said he was in A Troop 45 Commando. We know
he served in the Italian campaign in 1943 and possibly 1944, but when asked
about D Day merely said he was held in reserve. I have since read in books and
on the internet that A Troop 45 Commando landed on D Day although we cannot
identify him in any pictures so far. The book Forgotten Voices of D Day,
includes a passage by Marine Edward (Tommy) Treacher who describes how 45
Commando waited on the quayside for the go sign. My Dad frequently spoke of
Tommy Treacher and we believe he was a close friend in the Commandos. Dad often
spoke of the Special Service Brigade but never spoke of D Day or being in
France; this is a puzzle to me. He also spoke of being in Holland and crossing
several rivers in Germany. My father told me about a battle in Holland where he
witnessed the actions of Lance Corporal Harden which won him his VC for bravery.
We have my father's medals and certificate of service and he’s entitled to the
39-45 Star, Italy Star, France & Germany Star and War Medal. We also know he
re-enlisted at Deal on 13 September 1950, service number RM10266 and served
until 13 January 1953 when he was discharged as being below the Royal Marine
Physical Standard. He sailed on HMS Curacoa, but was not on-board when she was
I hope this information helps trigger some connection with my father although
some of it is more speculation than substantiated fact. Thank you in advance for
your time and help in this matter.
Fred Lister, 45 Royal Marine Commando.
I'm seeking information on my father and the part he played with 45
Commando. I only have limited knowledge but believe he was with A
Troop. He was from Burnley, Lancashire. I know he landed on Sword
Beach on D-Day but all I have is a small photograph which shows only
a small portion of his unit/regiment (as the photo has been torn in
half) taken prior to June 6th and on the reverse is printed the name
of the photographer and "Shanklin" which I believe is on the Isle Of
On this page, in the picture above
right, is a group from A Troop taken prior to embarkation in
Southampton, with Lance Corporal H E Harden, VC, in the right
foreground. What interests me about this picture is that some of the
men are on the photograph I have, which means they must have known my
father and maybe he is on there in the background somewhere. My dad is
on the front row of my photo and was a L/Cpl at the time. I don't know
much else really but my sister thinks my dad may have been a Medic. We
do know he ended up in hospital with shrapnel wounds and finished his
service as a sergeant.
If anyone could help me with further
information or point me in the right direction I would be entirely
grateful. I'd like to trace his steps during 44/45 as well as put a
few names to the photo I have.
Many Thanks, John Lister, Burnley.
This account of
45 Royal Marine
Commando draws heavily on the official publication
'The Story of 45 Royal Marine Commando' written by the 45's officers and
published privately for members of the unit and their relatives. The book covers
the history of the unit from its formation in August 1943 until it returned from
Germany in June 1945.
Intermingled with this account, is
the story of Marine Bernard Charles Sydney Fenton provided by his son Bernard.
Marine Fenton joined 45
Commando late in 1943. Along with his comrades in arms he was involved in the