Whether responding to the invasion of the South Atlantic Falkland Islands in 1982 or the 11th September attacks in 2001, 3 Commando Brigade has shown it can mobilise troops and supplies quickly and efficiently. That ability is built upon generations of Marines working hard with comrades from across the services.
Since their creation in 1942 Royal Marines Commandos have engaged on active operations across the globe, every year, except 1968.
The origins of the Brigade can be traced to the formation of the first commando units after the British Army's retreat from Dunkirk in 1940, when Winston Churchill called for "specially trained troops of the hunter class, who can develop a reign of terror down these [German-occupied] coasts."
The Army formed ten commandos that year but it was not until Valentine's Day 1942 that the first Royal Marines Commando was formed. It was named RM 'A' Commando (now 40 Commando Royal Marines) and was involved in the disastrous Dieppe landings of August that year. In 1943 these commandos were grouped into brigades and 102 RM Brigade was formed.
Royal Marines Commando units fought across Europe taking part in campaigns in Sicily, Italy and the Dalmatian coast, including the landings at Salerno, Anzio and Termoli, while others in 102 RM Brigade (renamed 3 Special Service Brigade on 1 September 1943) fought in India and Burma. In October 1946 this formation was again renamed, this time 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines.
Five RM Commando units took part in the D-Day landings, the largest amphibious assault in history, when nearly two-thirds of the landing craft were manned by Royal Marines. At the end of World War Two, Army Commandos were disbanded and the commando role was assigned exclusively to the Royal Marines. Between 1945 and 1971 the Brigade acted as the mobile reserve in the Mediterranean and the Far East, with the Headquarters being based in Hong Kong, Malta and Singapore. Brigade units saw action in the Palestine emergency, the Malayan campaign, Brunei, Korea, Cyprus, Tanganyika and in the Borneo confrontation with Indonesia.
In the Anglo-French assault on Port Said at Suez in 1956, 3 Commando Brigade landed by sea and air, with 45 Commando mounting the world's first ever helicopter assault, from Royal Navy aircraft carriers. Later in 1961 Royal Marines Commandos were sent to the Gulf to prevent an Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. In 1971, after 28 years abroad, the Brigade returned to England, with its Headquarters based in Plymouth at Stonehouse Barracks, where Royal Marines have been stationed since the barracks were built in1783.
Between 1971 and 1978 the Brigade had a major commitment to NATO's southern flank, with 41 Commando Group based in Malta for much of this time. In 1975, 40 and 41 Commandos speedily deployed to Cyprus after the Turkish invasion of the island. During the 1970s increased emphasis was placed on the northern flank of NATO with 45 Commando Group training annually in arctic Norway. By 1978 annual winter deployments had started to include most Brigade units. Royal Marines Commando units were among the first troops drafted into Northern Ireland in 1969 and have served in the Province almost every year since, predominantly in the nationalist heartlands of West Belfast and South Armagh.
In 1982 after the invasion of the Falkland Islands by the Argentineans, 3 Commando Brigade, augmented by two battalions from the Parachute Regiment, sailed for the South Atlantic within five days of being warned for operations. The Brigade completed successful amphibious landings at San Carlos, and then fought throughout the six-week campaign, which resulted in the surrender of all Argentinean forces on the island. The operation was a total success and demonstrated the quality, stamina and expertise of units within the Brigade.
The Brigade's ability to deploy at speed and its unique qualification in mountain warfare resulted in it being deployed on Operation Haven, to protect Kurdish refugees from potential slaughter by Iraq's state police in 1991 following the first Gulf war. Later, in 1994, as the 'Spearhead battalion', 45 Commando was again deployed to Kuwait, as part of the Allied response to a further threat of an Iraqi invasion.
Elements of the Brigade have deployed to the Balkans since the break-up of former Yugoslavia began, in 1991, and detachments drawn from commando units led ship-based boarding parties to enforce UN sanctions in the Adriatic. In addition, Tactical Air Control Parties and a commando battery from the Brigade deployed to the region in 1995 and were among the leading elements of the multinational implementation force, which took over from the United Nations in 1996. Finally, the Brigade Headquarters, with 45 Commando and other units of the Brigade, deployed to Kosovo in 2000.
The Brigade's unique capabilities and deploy ability were again recognised in 1996 when it became one of the two core brigades within the Joint Rapid Deployment Force (JRDF); now the Joint Rapid Reaction Force (JRRF). As part of the JRRF the brigade retains a Lead Commando Group ready to deploy world-wide at very short notice. In 1998 40 Cdo and 539 Assault Sqn deployed to the Congo as part of a JRRF contingency force, while 42 Commando deployed to Sierra Leone in 2000, also at short notice.
In recent years the Corps has continued to be involved in high-profile operations and the scale and type of role has seen the Brigade in varied environments ranging from jungle to desert. Since the tragic events of 2001, the Brigade has played a key role in the UK's subsequent military operations. In 2002 the Brigade deployed at short notice to Afghanistan to assist in the neutralisation of Taliban and Al Quaeda fighters. Most recently, the Brigade conducted the first conventional ground operation of the last Gulf war, and opposed amphibious assault to secure Iraqi oil infrastructure on the Al Faw peninsula. Subsequently, the Brigade assisted in the break-in to Basra, Iraq's second city.
Recent changes to 3 Commando Brigade have brought in 30 Commando Information Exploitation Group in March 2010, formed from the UK Landing Force Command Support Group. And in April 2012, Fleet Protection Group RM moved under the remit of 3 Commando Brigade, with a change of name to 43 Commando Fleet Protection Group RM.
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