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Royal Naval Commandos??

Not the Royal Marine Commandos or the SBS, but the RN Commandos. Any of you genuine naval history buffs heard of it?

I ask because I used to drink with a guy who was adamant that he led the unit during the latter part of WW2.

It was supposedly formed as a very special unit, directly under the command of Churchill or Mountbatten, to carry out sensitive behind the lines operations.

This old fella was as hard as nails, and had the scars. He showed me a VC, amongst a whole row of medals, although I never saw the provenance, which he reckoned he kept in a bank vault. The VC isn't listed, but he claimed that was because what he got it for was top secret.

His men were all hand-picked volunteers, most with a death wish. He himself lost his entire family, wife and twin daughters, in a London bombing raid. I know this part is true.

I would have thought that after more than 60 years, if these stories were true, it would have been outed by now.

He was very convincing, and I saw several old photographs of him in RN uniform as a Lt Com. I knew him for some ten years, and he never altered his story at all.... nor would he give me any details of operations, but I have never heard of the RN Commandos from any other source.



War Hero
I know that during my time in the Mob, 60's through 80's, some of the Aircraft Handlers on the Mobile Air Operation Teams were entitled to wear a green beret because they had completed the RM commando and all arm's course at Lympstone. I also remember an Aircrew rating at Culdrose, who was also entitled.
They did wear the RN Commando patch on the sleeve top too.
The All Arms Course is still going strong, although I don't think just anybody can go on it, it is only open to those who serve with Royal (please correct me if i'm wrong there :) )
mikh said:

That'll be them!

Thanks mate!

Reading through the history, I am now convinced the guy was genuine. He spoke a lot about Normandy and Arnhem, without giving his exact role away, though I now suspect he commanded one of the units there.

The history also mentions the difficultly in tracing awards because of their sensitive nature, which fits.

Respect to him. Lest we forget, eh?
One little yarn I do remember. He reckons they had laid explosives to blow up a road bridge. They were waiting in a safe hole for traffic before detonating it. Eventually a tank lumbered up, so he went back to the bridge to do the deed, but was spotted by the tank crew and blown into the river. He knew he was badly injured, and he could see his 'lads' creeping back to rescue him.

He told them to keep away, but they wouldn't. To cut the story short, they blew the bridge and the tank, then stretchered him all the way back to Blighty, not letting anyone else have him.

He spent a long time in hospital recovering from his injuries (which he still suffered from in the 1980s). The first thing he did when he was reunited with the remains of his unit was to put them on a charge for disobedience of orders under fire.

I like that! That would have been off-caps with pride!


Book Reviewer
There were also Gunfire Support Teams during the '60's, do they still exist?
One of the team would be a Sparker and they also did the Commando course


Lantern Swinger
In the latter part of WW2 my Dad who was the equivilant of a "my day" CPO TASI was in khaki in Burma, Singers and Hong Kong et al. This was of course during Mountbattens time as the UK Supremo in the far East.

Dads unit was tasked to go ashore during the early Amphib landing stages and disarm any Jap munitions found, torpedoes, mines etc and clear any booby traps left by the Nips.

I do not think he did any special commando type training or at least he never mentioned it but he was very reticent to talk about his Far East experiences other than to state he hated the Japs with a vengance.

Hope this helps



He could have served with 30 Assault Unit, also known as 30 Commando Unit. A joint services Intelligence unit that had a lot of RN Officers in it. RN/RM section was pretty active in Europe in 1944/45.

Link to a website that has some information on them :
Wikipedia link to short history of the unit :

There are a couple of books out on the unit as well :

“Attain by Surprise: Capturing Top Secret Intelligence in WW II” by David C. Nutting

“Arctic Snow to Dust of Normandy: The Extraordinary Wartime Exploits of a Naval Special Agent” by Patrick Dalzel-Job



War Hero
My Great Uncle was a CPO during WWII, he served in the South Atlantic for a couple of years and then he was trained for ''small boat ops''. I picked all this up from his memoirs, he died about three years ago. In small boats he spent time in Italy, Sicily and North Africa.

I never quite managed to work it out, and didn't get much opportunity to talk to him about it, but it sounded like something similar. He lived in Canada so I didn't see him often. He was a bit more open with me after I joined the mob, very proud that someone in the family followed him.

I think he was in the boats which delivered the raiding parties, his memoirs talked about a couple of ops and when we spoke he was talking about night landings, small groups and similar. Fascinating to hear about.
There was a Combined Operations Section in Victory Barracks [Hms Nelson now] its badge was an anchor with a tommy gun and a set of wings.
that was a long time ago [1957]

I think they were as mentioned --small boats section that carried Marines or whoever as raiding parties on special operations and possibly joined them in action.

There was also another Naval unit -commando or otherwise trained that was with the forward elements in Europe --their job was to go ahead of the advancing forces and search out likely intelligence /experimental weapons or anything suspected as secret needing investigation .Their main task was to prevent the Germans destroying the stuff in retreating.
Also to collect it safely before the Yanks/French etc could get hold of it!!


War Hero
Karma, my old man,GR him, was on a sloop in the Adriatic, K-9 I think it was. He told me it was part of "Popskies(?) private Army, apparently they did a lot of resupply and landing of "Sneaky's" ashore during WW2. He wasn't a Commando though, PO greenie(Torpedoman)


War Hero
On reflection my GU had the Combined Ops badge in the mount with his medals, campaign stars and buttons.

Popsky does ring a bell, but that's not conclusive, after reading his memoirs about 15 or 18 years ago I read up a bit about some of what had happened out there, and in the River Plate, where he gained the DSM. I should look into getting a photo of the display from my cousin.

I know he trained at Achnacarry before serving in the Med.

The irony is that he ended up hospitalised following a road accident in Malta, rather than Ops.


Lantern Swinger
Re Naval Commandos, Sparkers who volunteered for NGS Units have been doing the All Arms Commando Course since about 1962 and a few before that. They also did/do the Army's 'P' Company training and jumps to gain their Para Wings. For a while they also had two teams Diver trained [Dive and Para pay were nice little extras] It's still up and running and AFAIK I believe open to all arms IF they can cut the mustard. Any ex-Amphibious Observation Sparkers out there............see my dit in the Social forum.


Lantern Swinger
RoofRat said:
Karma, my old man,GR him, was on a sloop in the Adriatic, K-9 I think it was. He told me it was part of "Popskies(?) private Army, apparently they did a lot of resupply and landing of "Sneaky's" ashore during WW2. He wasn't a Commando though, PO greenie(Torpedoman)

Actually, 'Popski's Private Army' rings great big bells in my mind. I remember reading a book in my youth telling me of all the different units and badges during the second world war, and Popski's lads was definately one.

Popski was a Major in the British Army, and had applied to join the forerunners of the SAS, but was declined. However, the army did permit him to form his own 'special forces' unit to harass the enemy in N. Africa. I'm a bit more shaky from this point but they then went onto the Far Eastern Front in Burma, where I think they called him the 'Mad Major'?


War Hero
Peter my interest in Popskie has been wetted now, so I have been doing a bit of research.
"Popskie" was actually Lt.Col. Vladimir Peniakoff, a Belgian son of Russian immigrants. he actually enlisted in Cairo in May 1940. he was given a Commision in the Libyan Arab Force, which he turned into a Commando company.
Anyway there is more at ;
A very interesting man and career.


Lantern Swinger
So he was asked to form an independant raiding unit, certainly different from what I remember reading, but probably no less the truth. He certainly was an interesting chap, and quite a clever one. The PPA won an awful lot of battle honours in the Desert War.

Also of note, I've just remembered that the 'Mad Major' in Burma led the 'Chindits'! Another commando-type raiding company of WWII.


Mobile Air Operations Teams (MAOT) at Yeovilton and 148 Battery Royal Artillery (shore side observers for Naval gunfire support) at Poole still have navy members - all commando and para trained.
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