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How it started 60 years ago.

Discussion in 'Royal Marines History and Knowledge' started by Rover, Mar 15, 2020.

  1. Rover

    Rover Moderator

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    News

    Royal Marines 'most successful chapter' began 60 years ago this weekend in Plymouth

    The old HMS Bulwark, 42 Commando and RNAS 848 Naval Squadron left city on a mission would change the way amphibious troops deployed into battle - and stop Iraq from invading Kuwait

    By

    Max ChannonLive and Trending Editor

    · 05:00, 15 MAR 2020

    News

    On March 15, 1960, the Royal Navy and Royal Marines from Bickleigh-based 42 Commando set sail from Plymouth on a mission that would shape the way the UK's expeditionary forces operated for the next 60 years.

    The commando force concept they were tasked with creating would, less than 18 months later, prevent Iraq from invading Kuwait - 30 years before Saddam Hussein’s invasion sparked the first Gulf war in 1991. And it would enable the UK to liberate the Falklands from Argentinean occupation in 1982 – and play a major role operations including the Second Gulf War, and in disaster relief efforts all around the globe.

    It all began sixty years ago this weekend, when 600 commandos marched through Plymouth. They, and a radically transformed HMS Bulwark, left HMNB Devonport on a mission that retired Royal Marine Colonel Ian Moore says “started the most successful chapter in Royal Navy and Royal Marine history”.

    “On embarkation day 42 Commando marched through the city, colours flying, bayonets fixed, drums beating',” recalls Col Moore.

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    600 Royal Marines from 42 Commando march through Plymouth to embark on HMS Bulwark in March, 1960

    Royal Marines had been given the Freedom of Plymouth five years earlier, and the First Lord of the Admiralty, Lord Carrington, and the Lord Mayor, took the salute.

    Back then, Col Moore was a teenaged second lieutenant who was about play his part in a pivotal moment in the history of the UK’s Armed Forces.

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    Fixed wing aircraft carrier HMS Bulkwark had been converted into the Royal Navy’s first Commando Carrier, replete with Whirlwind helicopters from RNAS 848 Naval Squadron. This new concept, of deploying Royal Marines from ships by helicopter, would revolutionise the way troops deployed to theatres of conflict around the world.

    Other elements, like landing craft for bringing in land vehicles were also added to the military mix.

    “You could put a Land Rover on landing craft, but you couldn’t hang one under a Whirlwind,” explains Col Moore.

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    Retired Royal Marine Colonel Ian Moore with his scrapbook of photos and newspaper clippings (Image: Max Channon)

    “The trick was to get in where the enemy was not expecting us, so we didn’t get fired on.

    “It was a brand new concept. It was a brilliant concept ,” says Col Moore – and the Marines and HMS Bulkwark were leaving Plymouth on a mission to evaluate its potential and “work up” the idea into an operational amphibious force that could deploy from ship to shore by helicopters.

    “42 Commando had been handpicked – it had lots of talent in its midst. Four people in the unit would become Generals,” says Col Moore.

    • “We had to work out how this fascinating concept would work. It was a brand new chapter.

      “We felt ourselves to be special unit, as did the ship [HMS Bulwark]. 848 Squadron felt they were special too.”

      The mission would see HMS Bulwark take 42 Commando and 848 Squadron to the jungles of Borneo, the mountains of Kenya and the deserts of Libya, via Gibraltar, Malta the Maldives, Ceylon and Singapore.

      “We really did get around,” says Col Moore.

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      'Sticks' of Commandos board Whirlwind helicopters on HMS Bulwark during a concept work-up off the coast of Libya

      As they travelled the globe, this new-look amphibious force began to take shape, with sailors and Marines “living cheek by jowl” according to Col Moore. Together, they worked out the complicated logistics of deploying troops from ships to shore by helicopters.

      “The Amphibious Operations Officer was vital,” says Col Moore. “They were the jam in the sandwich, between ship and commando.

      “They helped co-ordinate the order commandos went in, making sure everything was in the right place and went in the right order.”


      Some of this happened under the watchful eye of First Sea Lord Louis Mounbatten - a “cracking good naval officer” according to Col Moore - and a young Prince Philip, who was Captain General of the Royal Marines for 64 years.

      Within 16 months of setting sail from Plymouth as just a raw concept, this new amphibious helicopter task force was called into action for real – and helped prevent an invasion of Kuwait by Iraq.

      Abdul Karim Qasim seized power in Iraq in 1958 and in 1961 his tanks started rolling towards Kuwait – who asked Britain for help. The UK’s response, Operation Vantage , saw 42 Commando sent in as deterrent.

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      Whirlwind helicopters on HMS Bulwark prepare to deploy Royal Marines to Kuwait in 1961 to deter an invasion by Iraq

      “It was a very good example of the way things could now be done,” says Colonel Moore.

      “We went from Pakistan to Kuwait. The unit landed on an airfield and trekked up the Mutla Ridge. We had Wombats – a very basic anti-tank weapon. A long line of commandos, we waited for the tanks of General Qasim.

      “He turned around.”

      The new concept was a success, and Col Moore suggests it epitomises the commando mindset of “lightness of feet and the ability to adapt” that is the hallmark of the Royal Marines.

    • “HMS Bulwark and Albion, were swiftly joined by the LPDs (Landing Platforms Dock) HMS Fearless and Intrepid, all with landing craft and helicopters,” says Col Moore.

      “These major amphibious assets in Britain's armoury, played - and still certainly play - a significant part in furthering Britain's interests.

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      Whirlwind helicopters on HMS Bulwark

      “The withdrawal from Britain's colonies achieving independence; the re-enforcement of NATO allies on the littoral from Norway to Turkey, in major operations such as the Falklands, and the Second Gulf War, and in disaster relief operations from Bangladesh to the Caribbean.”

      Now, 60 years later, the current HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark continue this work - but fears have been expressed about whether this will continue in the future.


      The Royal Navy is currently perfecting it Future Commando Force concept – which, in many ways, sees the work done by Col Moore and his brothers-in-arms updated with the latest battlefield tecnohlogy.

      However, no replacements for the current HMS Albion and Bulwark – which are set to be retired from service in remain 2033 and 2034 respectively – have yet been ordered by the MoD. If the UK is to have continuous amphibious assault ship capability, and continue the work started in Plymouth in 1960, they will need to be budgeted for as part of Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy Prime Minister Boris Johnson launched this month.


     
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  2. Caversham

    Caversham Former RM Commando, Moderator

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    IMH was the Adjutant at CTC when I went through RT. He used to have a horse back then from which he used to inspect various Squads. An anecdotal dit was that he gave someone an extra parade after his horse snorted on a guy's uniform and brasses!

    Groom used to be an SQ back then at Deal, CTC, Eastney and I believe that Bickleigh also had stables back then.

    Alan
     
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  3. Chelonian

    Chelonian Moderator

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    I saw a KSPO in the summer of 1984. It happened to be on the same day that there was another function going on which I attended.

    The Adjutant on that occasion was on horseback and he had clearly put considerable time and practice into appearing nonchalant and relaxed. Horses are unpredictable and I probably wasn't alone in those watching by secretly hoping for a minor equine disaster. :)
     
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  4. Rover

    Rover Moderator

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    Horses? What about Camels!

    Royal Marines Camel Corps - Battle of Abu Klea

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    upload_2020-3-15_16-37-21.png
    ;)

     
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  5. Chelonian

    Chelonian Moderator

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    Camels are considerably more unpredictable than horses. :) Very pretty eyelashes though.

    As an aside, back in the day I once met an old boy whom I was told had served in the "Camel Corps" during WW2.
    I took the comment at face value until someone explained that the "Camel Corps" was non-existent and actually a jokey reference to a dodgy bunch of often misfit military ruffians engaged in irregular warfare in the Middle East.
     
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