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History of 45 Commando

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45 Commando Royal Marines was formed in August 1943, and played its part to the full throughout the remainder of World War II. This included the D-Day landings in Normandy, the subsequent fighting through Holland and thereafter the crossings of the Rhine, Weser and Elbe rivers.

The post-war years saw no let up, the Commando deployed on operations to Palestine, Suez (where it performed the first ever, operational helicopter assault in 1956), Malaya, Aden and Cyprus. The Commando finally returned to the UK in 1967 after 24 years operational service abroad and moved to its current base in Arbroath in 1971.

Throughout the 1970s at the height of the Cold War, the Commando honed its new mountain and cold weather warfare skills for its role to defending Norway and NATO's northern flank. Amphibious exercises north of the Arctic Circle were interspersed throughout the 70s and 80s with operational tours of duty in Northern Ireland.

Arctic Training In 1982, the Commando demonstrated its amphibious expertise, when as part of 3 Commando Brigade, it took part in Operation Corporate, the recapture of the Falkland Islands. 45 Commando 'yomped' across the island of East Falkland and successfully defeated Argentine forces in the crucial battle for Two Sisters.

In the post-Cold War era of the 1990s the unit saw no reduction in operational tempo. In 1991 it deployed to Northern Iraq on a humanitarian assistance mission to provide a safe haven for the Kurdish people, and in 1994 it was dispatched to reinforce the Kuwaiti border against renewed Iraqi aggression.

In 1998 whilst exercising in the Caribbean with HMS Ocean, the Royal Navy's new helicopter carrier, the unit was on hand to provide life saving assistance to the population and to help in repairing the infrastructure after Hurricane Mitch devastated Nicaragua and Honduras. The subsequent television and media coverage of the operation demonstrated once more the flexibility and utility of an amphibious force that was able to react quickly and effectively. In recognition of this action, the Wilkinson Sword of Peace was awarded jointly to the Commando and the ship.

In March 2002 the Unit renewed its relationship with HMS Ocean providing the Landing Force component of Amphibious Ready Group (ARG). It was from this platform that the Commando deployed into Afghanistan to conduct war-fighting operations on OP JACANA in support of the War against Terrorism. In the first land warfare operations of this type since the Falklands, the Unit moved through eastern Afghanistan to the border with Pakistan, denying territory to Al Qaeda and simultaneously destroying their infrastructure and weapon caches. The Commando recovered to RM Condor in July of the same year.

In early 2003 Parliament announced the deployment of 3 Cdo Bde to Op Telic with the objective of ridding Saddam Hussein's regime of its weapons of mass destruction. Although the unit did not deploy as a Commando Group, about 487 members deployed on operations all told. The tasking of the companies that deployed varied tremendously contributing significantly to the swift success of the Coalition forces.

In January 2004 the unit deployed to Northern Ireland for 6 months in support of peacekeeping operations, returning home in June.  On return, it became the Spearhead Lead Commando, a role assumed on a rotational basis.  The Lead Commando is at a high level of readiness, able to deploy at short notice on operations worldwide.

In September 2004, whilst still Lead Commando, the Group deployed to the United States on Exercise BLACKHORSE.  This was split into two phases, the first of which took place with the United States Marines Corps Ground-Air Combat Centre at 29 Palms, California.  This 900 hundred square miles of desert allowed realistic live firing, involving artillery and air strikes.  The second phase took place at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Centre, high in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  An early snowfall meant the Commando was able to carry out cold weather warfare training, operating between 7000 and 11,000 feet.  2006 saw the Unit deploy to Norway for further arctic training which culminated with a NATO-led exercise. 

The focus switched to preparation for deploying to Afghanistan on Op HERRICK 5 in late 2006.  This deployment saw the Commando take on a number of different roles, the principal one being that of the Operational Mentoring and Liaison Team (OMLT).  The OMLT task was to work alongside the Afghan National Army and develop it into a self-sufficient organisation.  The Unit recovered from Afghanistan in April 2007 before reforming and assuming Lead Commando Group responsibility later that year.

October 2008 saw the Commando return to Afghanistan as Northern Battle Group in Helmand Province on Operation HERRICK 9.  The operational area of responsibility was the Upper Sangin Valley which extended for 80 km along the length of the Helmand River.  The Battle Group was in excess of 1200 strong, half of whom came from 45 Commando.

The Unit was split between five Forward Operating Bases.  The main location was in the town of Sangin and consisted of the Commando HQ and Whisky Company.  The town had a population of approx 25,000.  Whisky Company was responsible for the security of Sangin, mounting daily patrols to reassure the local population.  Some parts of the town were friendlier than others, and the Company was involved in a number of battles with the Taliban in the suburbs.

The deployment was a hectic 6 months, but the successes were notable.  Most progress was in Sangin, with schools being built and shops opening in the bazaar.  Importantly, the Afghan Police are now almost exclusively responsible for security in the centre of the town.  The influence of the district governor helped spread local governance with ten times more people than predicted, from all tribal backgrounds, registering for the national elections.  The Afghan Government also delivered hundreds of tons of free wheat seed to local farmers, encouraging them to grow wheat instead of poppy. 

This progress was possible because of the security that was provided by 45 Commando.  The Unit made it harder for the enemy to intimidate local Afghans, and when attacked, the Unit responded quickly, and effectively.  45 Commando conducted a number of intelligence led, targeted operations against the Taliban.  Operation GHARTSE PALANG found hidden stores of assault rifles, explosives and ammunition.  Another, Operation DIESEL, was a night time raid by helicopter into one of the enemy’s safe havens, which included the destruction of their main heroin production factories.  45 Commando left the Upper Sangin Valley significantly safer and better developed than it had found it.

April 2009 saw the return of the Commando to Arbroath in Scotland for reorganisation ahead of a winter deployment to Norway where it will again hone its collective cold weather warfare and amphibious skills.  Thereafter, it stands ready as always to fight and win operations around the globe.




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