Military Wiki
No. 51 Commando
Active 1940–1941
Country United Kingdom United Kingdom
Branch British Army
Type Commando
Role Coastal raiding force
Assault Infantry
Size Battalion
Part of Combined Operations
Engagements Second World War
Lieutenant Colonel Henry Cater
Combined Operations Shoulder Patch Insignia of Combined Operations units it is a combination of a red Thompson submachine gun, a pair of wings, an anchor and mortar rounds on a black backing

No. 51 Commando was a battalion sized British Commando unit of the British Army during the Second World War. The Commando was formed in 1940, from volunteers from Palestine. The Commando fought against the Italians in Abyssinia and Eritrea before it was absorbed into the Middle East Commando.


The commandos were formed in 1940, by the order of Winston Churchill the British Prime Minister. He called for specially trained troops that would "develop a reign of terror down the enemy coast".[1] At first they were a small force of volunteers who carried out small raids against enemy occupied territory,[2] but by 1943 their role had changed into lightly equipped assault Infantry which specialised in spearheading amphibious landings.[3]

The man initially selected as the overall commander of the force was Admiral Sir Roger Keyes himself a veteran of the landings at Galipoli and the Zeebrugge raid in the First World War.[4] Keyes resigned in October 1941 and was replaced by Admiral Louis Mountbatten.[5]

By the autumn of 1940 more than 2,000 men had volunteered for Commando training, and what became known as the Special Service Brigade was formed into 12 units called Commandos.[5] Each Commando would number around 450 men commanded by a Lieutenant Colonel. They were sub divided into Troops of 75 men and further divided into 15 man sections.[5] Commandos were all volunteers seconded from other British Army regiments and retained their own cap badges and remained on their regimental roll for pay.[6] All volunteers went through the six week intensive commando course at Achnacarry. The course in the Scottish Highlands concentrated on fitness, speed marches, weapons training, map reading, climbing, small boat operations and demolitions both by day and by night.[7]

By 1943 the Commandos had moved away from small raiding operations and had been formed in Brigades of assault infantry to spearhead future Allied landing operations. Three units were left un-brigaded to carry out smaller scale raids.[8]

In December 1940 a Middle East Commando depot was formed with the responsibility of training and supplying reinforcements for the Commando units in the Middle East.[9]

No. 51 Commando formation[]

No. 51 Commando was raised in October 1940, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Henry Cater from 300 Palestinian volunteers from No. 1 Company, Auxiliary Military Pioneer Corps.[10] The Commando fought against the Italians in the East African Campaign in Abyssinia and Eritrea.[11]

In 1941, Winston Churchill ordered the formation of the Middle East Commando, made up from the commandos that remained in the Middle East.[12][13] There were very few men left by this time, what men there were, were formed into six troops.[12] No. 1 and 2 Troops were made up of L Detachment based at Geneifa under the command of David Stirling,[13][14] while 60 men from the disbanded No. 11 (Scottish) Commando made up No. 3 Troop. No. 51 Commando made up No. 4 and No. 5 Troops and the Special Boat Section made up No. 6 Troop.[13] These designations, however, were largely ignored as the men referred to themselves by their old designations.[12]

Battle honours[]

The following Battle honours were awarded to the British Commandos during the Second World War.[15]



  1. Chappell, p.5
  2. Chappell, p.3
  3. Moreman, p.8
  4. Chappell, p.6
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Haskew, p.48
  6. Moreman, p.12
  7. van der Bijl, p.12
  8. Moreman, pp.84–85
  9. Moreman, p.19
  10. Moreman, p.18
  11. Chappell,p.48
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 Chappell, p17
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Parker, p. 54.
  14. Shortt and McBride 1981, pp. 6–9
  15. Moreman, p.94
  • van der Bijl, Nick (2006). No. 10 Inter-Allied Commando 1942–45. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 1-84176-999-1. 
  • Chappell, Mike (1996). Army Commandos 1940–45. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 1-85532-579-9. 
  • Haskew, Michael E (2007). Encyclopaedia of Elite Forces in the Second World War. Pen and Sword. ISBN 978-1-84415-577-4. 
  • Moreman, Timothy Robert (2006). British Commandos 1940–46. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 1-84176-986-X. 
  • Shortt, James; McBride, Angus (1981). The Special Air Service. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 0-85045-396-8. 
  • Tomblin, Barbara (2004). With utmost spirit: Allied naval operations in the Mediterranean, 1942–1945. University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 0-8131-2338-0. 

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