The Commandos were formed in June 1940 to support the regular armed forces. Some of them were attached to the Parachute Regiment or the Royal Marines; others served in the Special Air Service (SAS) and Special Boat Service (SBS).
They specialised in irregular or unconventional campaigns in mainland Europe, operating in secrecy, often at night and in small numbers. Their job was to cause havoc and destruction, and to demoralise the Germans. Winston Churchill called it ‘butcher and bolt’ raiding.
Commandos were among the shock troops of the British Army, so they had to be highly trained. Several Commando training centres were in the Highlands, taking advantage of difficult terrain for fitness and weapons training, navigation and mountaineering skills.
The Commando Training College at Inveraray trained 260,000 personnel in amphibious and combat skills between 1940 and 1944. At Lochailort, near Fort William, a small ‘Irregular Warfare School’, trained, among others, the actor David Niven.
At Achnacarry Castle, near Spean Bridge the training area stretched 30 miles to Knoydart. There were 250,000 acres for practice in the use of explosives, guns and knives, close-quarters combat and disarming the enemy.
A small Commando museum at Spean Bridge gives an insight into some of this wartime training. The iconic Commando Memorial can be seen on a hill above Spean Bridge.
’United we Conquer’ In memory of the officers and men of the Commandos who died in the Second World War 1939-1945. This country was their training ground.
Commando Memorial, Spean Bridge