STC Lochailort - Cradle of Special Forces

Discussion in 'Special Forces' started by Jedburgh22, Dec 20, 2010.

  1. Jedburgh22

    Jedburgh22 Very Senior Member

    The Special Training Centre at Lochailort in the Scotish Highlands was set up by MI(R) in 1940 almost by accident. A six-man team that should have deployed to Norway was forced to return to Scotland when their submarine HMS Truant was damaged by enemy action and their mission overtaken by events in Norway (Operation KNIFE).

    The team consisted of the fiollowing personnel:
    Lt Col Bryan Mayfield - Scots Guards
    Peter Kemp
    Bill Stirling - Scots Guards
    Jim Gavin -RE
    Ralph Farrant
    David Stacey

    Mayfield and Stirling suggested that a training school be set up to enable the team's experise to be passed on to others, this plan was given immediate approval by MI(R).
    Initially the team set up shop at the Stirling Estate of Keir, but Bill Stirling decided that a more remote location was necessary and settled on Lochailort.

    Other staff were collected from the 5th Bn Scots Guards a strange hybrid unit designed for operations in Finland consisting mainly of officers, NCOs and civilians with mountain or ski-ing experience, from here came Martin Lindsay and Freddy Spencer Chapman pre-war Arctic explorers. Lord Lovat was recruited as an instructor, and tradition locally states that Shimie Lovat selected Inverailort as a base in May 1940.

    The original M/E* of the Special Training Centre consisted of 203 personnel which could cater for the training of 100 officer and 500 other ranks at any one time, in the establishment there were 55 instructors - including some civilians who had special experience including some Highland ghillies who taught fieldcraft, there was also a mule and pony section with staff to look after them, by June the scheme had been increased by adding another 27 instructors and futher admin staff which enabled training numers of 150 officer and 2,500 other ranks.

    Among the names who passed through either as trainees or instructors were David Niven of the Rifle Brigade, David Sutherland, Fitzroy Maclean, Arthur Kellas, Hugh Stockwell, Anthony Quayle and Mike Calvert. Captain P A Walbridge and Cyril Mackworth Praed were both weapons instructors. Also present were arctic explorers Andrew Croft, Jimmy Scott and the veteran explorer George Murrat Levick who had been on the Scott Polar expedition. In June David Stirling became an instructor in the fieldcraft wing. The climber Sandy Wedderburn taught climbing techniques. Mike Calvert was a demolitions instructor. Fairbairn and Sykes were also on the roster as CQB instructors who while at Lochailort designed the F/S fighting knife, the famed Commando dagger an emblem of the Commandos to this day.

    The Signals Wing at Lochailort included Peter Fleming and a trio of Sergeants, Bryant, Beriff, and Austen the first two had deployed to Norway as the signals element of Operation KNIFE with Fleming in command.

    Later a Special Wing was added for the training of foreign troops including Poles, French, and Dutchmen.

    Lochailort also ran a 30 day course for assault troops a precusor to the Battle Schools that were formed later in the war.

    The names mentioned above went on to impart Lochailort's lessons and philosophy to such units as the Commandos, Parachute Regiment, SAS, Chindits, Auxiliary Units and SOE - Lochailort can truely be considered the birthplace of many of Britain's SF during WWII.

    *M/E - Military Establishment - the number of troops allowed to a unit split down into specialities - with the M/E number a commanding officer could have people, equipment and pay allocated to him.
  2. Grahame

    Grahame Junior Member

    Hi Jedburgh22

    Do you have info on LochAilort STC during the period Sept-Dec 1944 when the survivors of Arnhem were sent for a period of 'R&R' to Lochailort? I understand that although the centre had effectively 'closed' by this time, speaking with some of the veterans of the Battle, they say that the centre was still under military control but very 'laid back'.

    In essence i am trying to find some record or otherwise of:-

    1.Why, specifically, was Lochailort used as an 'semi -R&R' posting base
    2. Are there any records you might know of in existence to add some weight to the period?

    Some of the Para Vets have recollections of throwing grendes into the loch to obtain salmon which were eagerly consumed! The other recollection they have is that of the remoteness and 'boredom they all suffered at the Loch, when, they all wanted to get back to their units!

    Any help woulf be appreciated


  3. wtid45

    wtid45 Very Senior Member

  4. Jedburgh22

    Jedburgh22 Very Senior Member

    Hi, the area was used for small boat handling courses by SOE and Commandos mainly for Dutch and Danish operations in late 44 early '45

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