Our second area of interest is in aspects of the Royal Navy in the Second World War.
The Historical Maritime Society portrays aspects of the R.N. Commando operation , and the communication aspects of Admiral Bertram Ramsay's staff.
Our replica Mk.8 motorised wooden canoe consists of 3 sections (2 being the detachable bow and stern sections) and has 2 stabilising outriggers, a small marine engine, paddles and a lateen sail. This mark of craft was used by the 'Combined Operations Pilotage Parties' units (COPPs) for reconnaissance and raiding in the latter stages of the War and it is now complete.
From the very first days of the Second World War, the Navy battled against Britain's enemies and nature itself to keep trade and supplies flowing to and from the British Isles, to its allies and the far-flung corners of the British Empire.
Our main focus is the recreation of the lesser known units formed by the Navy during the war. From Combined Operation (COPPs), formed and controlled by Louis Mountbatten, to 30 Assault Unit, an intelligence gathering detachment formed by Ian Fleming
The R.N. Commandos were formed during the War to perform the myriad duties necessary in facilitating a timely and successful landing on enemy held shores. They landed with the first waves of infantry during landing operations from Madagascar and Dieppe to Anzio and Normandy, while these names and operations are well known the exploits of the R.N. Commandos are much less widely heralded. The men operated in fierce combat conditions, fighting in the beach head, directing landing craft, clearing obstacles and a host of other tasks impressed upon them in the initial stages of the various landing operations in which they engaged.
A rating of the R.N. Commandos takes aim with a Bren gun. 30 Assault Unit
30 Assault Unit was first created by Ian Fleming and Lord Louis Mountbatten in 1942 primarily to gather naval intelligence from areas immediately passed by the front line or in many cases behind enemy lines. The men were trained to be 'ghosts on the battlefield', entering and leaving a location with the minimum of fuss, extracting valuable technological and military intelligence. The unit has been described as the most mobile of the Second World War, it had more vehicles per head than any other unit to allow very high tactical mobility. The unit served with distinction in North West Europe in its main task of liquidating the organisation of the German Navy, men from the unit also served with South East Asia Command after the cessation of hostilities in the European theatre.
Combined Operations Pilotage Parties
The Combined Operations Pilotage parties were formed to survey and gather intelligence on waterways and proposed landing beaches under the nose of enemy forces prior to Allied landing operations. This included samples of beach material and assessment of obstacles. Parties also formed guides for landing forces on many occasions, crewing marker boats close in shore and often under heavy fire during the initial stages of beach landings.
For the task of reconnaissance of enemy coasts the men of COPPs used canoes with four crewmen and capable of being propelled by paddle, sail or motor. As has already been noted HMS has built a replica Mk. 8 'Cockleshell' canoe which we now use at events.
A good set of WW2 kit should be fairly easy to come by, either real or reproduction. Most of our members wear a set of battledress, like in the picture above, or a blues uniform such as officer's working dress or seaman's square rig. This is entirely up to you and most members who do WW2 have multiple items of uniform to suit any eventuality.
For more information see R.N. Commando & COBU Uniforms.
Here is a list to start off with for a rating in the R.N. Commandos:
- A set of battledress (either 37 or 40 pattern)
- 'ROYAL NAVY' or 'R.N. COMMANDO' shoulder titles
- Combined operations insignia
- Black rating's cap
- Black ammo boots
- 37 pattern anklets
- 37 pattern webbing (belt, cross straps and some basic pouches)
Royal Navy and Combined Operations insignia placement on a Battledress Blouse.
Combined Operations insignia appears in a tombstone form earlier in the war before the more common round 'army' badges became prevalent.
Parachute insignia was worn by those men who were jump trained, primarily those serving with the Combined Operations Bombardment Units deployed with airborne troops.
Royal Navy substantive and non-substantive rate and good conduct insignia were worn in the same manner as on naval uniform.
For an overview of Royal Naval webbing of the 20th century click on the anchor link to go to the navyweb website
The site has many images - some featured below (go to the site if you wish to place the period) and also a section on further study
NavyWeb is a division of the Historical Maritime Society