There is no question that when we think about beach landings as part of a military strategy, the battles that occurred on D-Day come to mind first. But because World War II was in every way a global conflict, the need to train special units that were skilled in taking a battle to the enemy with a beach offensive was necessary for all Allied powers. D-Day did point out that such operations were always tremendously risky and often resulted in a high level of casualties.
Recognizing the need to assemble and train a specialized team of commandos to use for these kind of important military operations in World War II, England’s Royal Navy had such a unit. Their work throughout the great war to make military operations that involved armed invasion by sea successful was absolutely critical to the eventual victory the Allies earned during this brutal conflict. But the Royal Navy Commandos never were fully recognized for the important role they played in delivering those victories to Great Britain and to the Allied forces.
Many armies have elite commando units. In the United States military, the most celebrated unit of this kind is the Green Beret. However, what is not commonly known is that the Green Berets were modeled after the work of the Royal Navy Commandos and the successes they achieved during World War II. The Royal Navy Commandos carried the greatest responsibility during any beach invasion. They were always the first to hit the beaches and the last ones to retreat. While the battle was underway, the security and success of the rest of the military units depended on the commandos as did the success of the strategic objectives of the battle.
In June of 1940, the military objective of invading France was organized. Part of the plan for preparing the massive undertaking of liberating France involved sending ashore small teams of Navy personnel to conduct commando missions. At the time, these commando units had no training devoted to honing their skills of sabotage, subterfuge and espionage. The raids that were made into France became known as the Royal Navy Beach Parties.
After a number of operations that resulted in large scale casualties, the Beach Parties were reorganized and given focused and customized training in the specialized role they would play in preparing beach invasions against the enemy. It was during this reorganization that these units of sabotage were renamed the Royal Navy Beach Commandos which eventually was shorted to The Royal Navy Commandos.
Over the course of the war, the Commandos were expanded and their participation was pivotal in the strategies of many of the most important military conflicts of the war including the invasion of Sicily as well as serving to coordinate allied landings in Normandy, Pantelleria, the Volturno River, Walcheren, North Africa, Anzio, Salerno, Arakan, Commachio and Elba. Without the Royal Navy Commandos, the many military victories that started with storming beaches held by enemy territory could never have been won. Nonetheless, with the victorious end of World War II, the Royal Navy Commandos were unceremoniously disbanded with little recognition or effort to document the critical role these units played in so many important battles of the war and in the final victory the allies won from the courageous work the Royal Navy Commandos showed in every theater of the war. They are without a doubt the most under recognized military unit of World War II.