Special Service Brigade
The Special Service Brigade was a formation of the British Army during the Second World War.
It was formed in 1940, after the call for volunteers for Special Service who eventually became the British Commandos
British Commandos
The British Commandos were formed during the Second World War in June 1940, following a request from the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, for a force that could carry out raids against German-occupied Europe...



In 1940, volunteers were called for from serving Army soldiers within certain formations still in Britain and men of the disbanding Divisional Independent Companies originally raised from Territorial Army Divisions and who had seen service in Norway. In November 1940 these army units were organised into a Special Service Brigade under Brigadier
Brigadier is a senior military rank, the meaning of which is somewhat different in different military services. The brigadier rank is generally superior to the rank of colonel, and subordinate to major general....

 J. C. Haydon with five Special Service Battalions. By the autumn of 1940 more than 2,000 men had volunteered for Commando training, and the Special Service Brigade now consisted of 12 units which were now called Commandos. Each Commando would number around 450 men, commanded by a Lieutenant Colonel
Lieutenant colonel
Lieutenant colonel is a rank of commissioned officer in the armies and most marine forces and some air forces of the world, typically ranking above a major and below a colonel. The rank of lieutenant colonel is often shortened to simply "colonel" in conversation and in unofficial correspondence...

. They were divided into Troops of 75 men and further divided into 15 man sections
Section (military unit)
A section is a small military unit in some armies. In many armies, it is a squad of seven to twelve soldiers. However in France and armies based on the French model, it is the sub-division of a company .-Australian Army:...

. The Commandos were all volunteers, seconded from other British Army regiments, but they retained their own regimental cap badge
Cap badge
A cap badge, also known as head badge or hat badge, is a badge worn on uniform headgear and distinguishes the wearer's nationality and/or organisation. The wearing of cap badges is a convention commonly found among military and police forces, as well as uniformed civilian groups such as the Boy...

s and remained on their regimental roll for pay.


The Special Service Brigade consisted of five Special Service battalions numbered one to five. These Special Service battalions were eventually re-designated commandos. The No. 1 Special Service Battalion
No. 1 Special Service Battalion
The No. 1 Special Service Battalion was part of the Special Service Brigade and was broken up to form No. 1 Commando and No. 2 Commandos....

 became No. 1 and No. 2 Commandos. The No. 2 Special Service Battalion became No. 9 Commando. The No. 3 Special Service Battalion became No. 4 Commando. The No. 4 Special Service Battalion became No. 3 Commando. The No. 5 Special Service Battalion
No. 5 Special Service Battalion
The No. 5 Special Service Battalion was part of the Special Service Brigade and was broken up to form No. 5 Commando and No. 6 Commandos....

 became No. 5 and No. 6 Commandos.

Commando brigades

In 1943 the Commandos started to move away from smaller raiding operations. They had been formed into brigade
A brigade is a major tactical military formation that is typically composed of two to five battalions, plus supporting elements depending on the era and nationality of a given army and could be perceived as an enlarged/reinforced regiment...

s of assault infantry to spearhead future Allied landing operations. Of the remaining 20 Commandos, 17 were used in the formation of the four Special Service brigades. The three remaining units No. 12, No. 14 (Arctic) and No. 62 Commandos were left to carry out smaller scale raids. But by the end of the year these three Commandos had all been disbanded, to supply replacements for the other commando units.

The formation of the brigades was:
  • 1st Special Service Brigade
    1st Special Service Brigade
    The 1st Special Service Brigade was a brigade of the British Army. Formed during World War II, it consisted of elements of the army and the Royal Marines. The brigade's component units saw action individually in Norway and the Dieppe Raid , before being combined under one commander for service in...

     with No. 3, No. 4, No. 6 and No.45 (RM) Commandos.
  • 2nd Special Service Brigade
    2nd Special Service Brigade
    The 2nd Special Service Brigade was formed in late 1943 in the Middle East and saw service in Italy, the Adriatic, the landings at Anzio and took part in operations in Yugoslavia....

     with No. 3, No. 9, No. 40 (RM) and No. 43 (RM) Commandos.
  • 3rd Special Service Brigade with No. 1, No. 5, No. 42 (RM) and No. 44 (RM) Commandos.
  • 4th Special Service Brigade
    4th Special Service Brigade
    The 4th Special Service Brigade was created in March 1944 from units of the Royal Marines. Due to the success of the Army Commandos’ operations in Norway, the Channel Islands, St...

     with No. 10 (Inter-Allied), No. 41 (RM), No. 46 (RM), No. 47 (RM) and No. 48 (RM) Commandos.

The previous Special Service Brigade Headquarters was replaced by Headquarters Special Services Group under Major General
Major General
Major general or major-general is a military rank used in many countries. It is derived from the older rank of sergeant major general. A major general is a high-ranking officer, normally subordinate to the rank of lieutenant general and senior to the ranks of brigadier and brigadier general...

 Robert Sturges
Robert Sturges
Lieutenant General Sir Robert Grice Sturges KBE, CB, DSO was an officer in the Royal Marines.In World War I, Sturges fought in the Gallipoli Campaign and the Battle of Jutland....

. The four brigades were to destined to serve in different theatres of war. The 1st and 4th brigades were based in the United Kingdom and destined for service in North West Europe. The 2nd brigade was based in the Mediterranean for service in Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 and the Balkans
The Balkans is a geopolitical and cultural region of southeastern Europe...

. The 3rd brigade was based in India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 for service in Burma and the Pacific.
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