Formed in 1942, from A Commando, 40 Commando was the first RM Commando Unit. It saw early action during the raid on Dieppe in August of that year. From 1943 to 1945 the Commando was involved in the Italian Campaign, at Termoli, Lake Comacchio and subsequently in Yugoslavia. For its decisive action the Commando was awarded the Termoli battle honour.
Following the second world war the Commando was deeply involved in Palestine acting as the rearguard in the Protectorate, leaving in 1948. They subsequently undertook security duties in Cyprus, Hong Kong and Egypt before moving to Singapore in 1961, where it was involved in operations during the confrontation with Indonesia throughout the following decade.
In 1971 the Commando left Singapore and re-established itself in Seaton Barracks, Plymouth. Over the next decade the Commando found itself deployed to Northern Ireland four times and also undertook an unexpected two month tour in Cyprus after the invasion by the Turkish Army.
In 1982, following the Argentinean invasion of the Falkland Islands, the Commando deployed on Operation Corporate. On 21 May the Commando were among the first troops ashore and secured the beachhead at San Carlos. The Unit was subsequently split having two companies attached to the Welsh Guards, preparing to attack Port Stanley, when the Argentinean surrender came.
On their return the Commando spent the rest of the decade involved in a variety of tasks including two Northern Ireland tours to South Armagh, a six-month Peace-Keeping tour in Cyprus and a six month operational tour in Belize. During the tour in Cyprus the Commando was awarded the Wilkinson Sword of Peace for the third time. Also during this period, in 1983, the Commando relocated to Norton Manor Camp near Taunton.
In 1991 the Unit undertook its first Norway deployment but found itself undergoing a dramatic climatic change when, due to the Gulf War, it deployed to Northern Iraq to ensure the security of Kurdish refugees. Northern Ireland tours, Norway winter deployments and a major Asia-Pacific Exercise kept the Commando busy through the following years.
In 1998 a substantial part of the Commando deployed to the Congo to ensure the safe evacuation of UK nationals from Kinshasa City.
The new millennium saw the Commando deploy to Northern Ireland and on their return they were the first Commando to reorganise under a new structural concept called Commando 21.
The Unit deployed in its entirety in January 2003, initially part of the Naval Task Group (NTG) 03 in HMS Ocean, Ark Royal and RFAs Sir Galahad and Tristram. The group sailed through the Mediterranean, after a brief stop at Cyprus, continuing through the Suez Canal bound for the Gulf. The United Nations were engaged in diplomatic efforts to avoid the need for military intervention in Iraq as the Unit was busy rehearsing in the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait for possible operations against Sadaam Hussein's repressive regime.
In March 2003 a coalition force, under the overall command of the United States, entered Iraq with the expressed intention of liberating its population from persecution and removing the intolerable threat to global security posed by its dictator.
During Operation Telic, the liberation of Iraq, on the night of 20 March 2003, 40 Commando, under the command of Lt Col G K Messenger OBE, mounted an amphibious helicopter assault to seize key Iraqi oil infrastructure on the Al Faw peninsula. As the first conventional troops on the ground, the strategic significance of the operation was immense and, as the Divisional Main Effort, the assault was supported by a vast array of coalition firepower.
The Commando Group's role in the success of the coalition operation in Iraq was pivotal and profound. In a two-week period of intense operations, it secured key oil infrastructure, cleared a large expanse of enemy held terrain, and defeated a major enemy stronghold on the periphery of Basra, killing over 150 Iraqi soldiers and taking 440 prisoners.
In 2004 the Unit returned to Iraq as part of a multi-national division peace-support operation. Under the command of Lt Col R W Watts OBE and Lt Col D King, it was instrumental in maintaining the security of the country's infrastructure with particular attention being paid to the oil-pipelines in the southern region that keep the economic 'life-blood' of Iraq flowing.
The Unit has continued to remain busy since its return in 2005, conducting a series of amphibious deployments including large joint exercises in both Senegal in autumn 2005 and Sierra Leone in 2006. Concurrently individual companies within the Unit have also undertaken operational deployments to both Afghanistan and the Middle East.
Currently the Commando is preparing to deploy to the Helmand Province of Afghanistan under the command of Lt Col S Birrell where it will continue the work of British forces and our multi-national partners to stabilise the country.
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