Special Forces during the war

Discussion in 'Special Forces' started by Wise1, Apr 8, 2004.

  1. Wise1

    Wise1 There We Are Then

    Has anyone got some information on what Special forces units from all countries were operating during the war and what they were doing?

    I have never really spent much time looking at this area but I would like to find a place to start.

    Any help or advice appreciated.

  2. Thomas McCall

    Thomas McCall Senior Member

    Chindits operating in the Burmease jungle behind japaneae lines, trying to disrupt troop movement by destroying bridges etc. Chindits comprised British troops as well as natives.

    SAS operating in the Western Desert, disrupting Rommel's supply lines and by blowing up Berka Satellite airfield.

    SOE behind German lines in occupied Europe. Responsible for destroing the German Heavy Water plant at Telemark. They usually collabarated with resistance groups such as the French resistance and Tito's partisans.
  3. Wise1

    Wise1 There We Are Then

    Thanks for that thomas, gives me a place to start
  4. hmsk212

    hmsk212 Junior Member

    Special Boat Service - (Levant Schooner Flotilla) operated in the Aegean Sea from a covert base on the Turkish Coastline.

  5. Andrew Pittaway

    Andrew Pittaway Junior Member

    Australia had about 8 commando squadrons working in the islands. These were the forerunners to the Australian SAS. They were called 2/1st Commando Squadron
    2/2nd, 2/3rd, 2/4th, 2/5th, 2/6th, 2/7th & 2/8th.
    The 2/2nd independent Company also had a very interesting history on Timor. The island was captured by the Japanese by this unit never surrendered but kept a guerilla war with the help of the local population.

  6. Brownag

    Brownag Member

    Here's some of the top of my head

    British - LRDG (Desert), SAS (Desert, Balkans, France), Popski's Private Army (Desert & Italy), Army and Navy Commandos (N-W Europe, Italy, Balkans, N. Africa, Burma) also troops from occupied countries in Europe in No. 10 Commando

    Germans - Brandenburg Regt., Otto Skorzeny's SS parachute troops.

    Joint American-Canadian 1st Special Service Force (Italy)
  7. Kiwiwriter

    Kiwiwriter Very Senior Member

    You also have the US Rangers. There were four battalions in Europe and one in the Pacific, which carried out the Cabanatuan Raid.

    In Burma, we see the famous Chindits and the US 5307th Composite Task Group, Provisional, better known as Merrill's Marauders. British commandos of Force 136 also operated in Burma.

    The Japanese weren't much for commando units, but their SNLF and parachute units tried to fill the role. They used the Indian National Army for some deception operations.

    The Soviets used some German renegades of the Armee Freies Deutschland to deceive German defenders late in the war.

    The Americans had an OSS commando unit of German-speakers and a like unit of Italian speakers.
  8. Force 136,which I believe operated behind the Japanese Lines with British Officers & NCOs & the Native Tribesmen & with Chiang Kai Shek's Chinese Forces in Malaya & Thailand{see Spencer Chapman's "The Jungle is Neutral" for further information;Pub:~ 1950s}
  9. laufer

    laufer Senior Member

    There was a 1st Independent Polish Commando Company operating as a part of 2nd Polish Corps in Italy. British SOE has also trained and dropped in occupied Poland hundreds of Polish officers. Many of them were the best partisan and conspiracy commanders of the Home Army. Several were sent to Albania, Greece, France, Italy and Yugoslavia to cooperate with local resistance movements.
  10. No.9

    No.9 Senior Member

    The above should be expanded and explained. Poland never originated any Special Forces. In 1942 the Commandos formed No.10 (Inter Allied) Commando in Britain which comprised ten Troops of varying numbers of which the Poles formed one, 6 Troop. No.10 (IA) never fought as a Commando and in the case of 3 Troop, which comprised German speaking eastern Europeans, they never fought as a Troop.

    In September 1943 the Polish Troop (95 men) was sent on its first assignment, to Italy, together with one of the Belgium Troops to augment 2 Commando Brigade, which itself was to comprise Nos.2, 9, 40 and 43 Commandos. The Belgians and the Poles were given combat experience by several weeks patrolling in the western mountains of the Gustav Line, where the Belgians got the tougher position.

    The Belgians went on take part in the battle of Monte Ornito and then went to Yugoslavia in March ‘44. While they were away, the Poles were attached to 2nd Polish Corps as a temporary measure but never returned to 2 Brigade. When the Belgians left Yugoslavia they returned to England to prepare for the assault on western Europe. With the move to the 2nd Polish, the Polish Troop received 20 replacements for casualties, recruited from the 2nd. In the 2nd they were virtually used as line infantry in assaults on the Gustav line at Colle San Angelo and were further depleted.

    They were then transferred to Oratino on the Adriatic and augmented with the Italian 111th Company (Bridge Protection Unit) Volunteers. The Italians were given Polish uniforms and ensignia. They then acted mainly as tank support troops for 2 Polish Armoured Brigade and in August ’44 ceased to be technically connected with the Commandos and were formed into a larger Motorised Battalion. The title ‘1st Independent’ was one they had given themselves. The Poles awarded their men 78 medals. The British awarded them 2.

  11. laufer

    laufer Senior Member

    I'm impressed No. 9! It seems to me you are quite an expert and Italian Campaign is your favourite one :)
  12. No.9

    No.9 Senior Member

    Mostly the ‘grey’ areas of land related warfare. Special Forces, Military Intelligence and Partisan Warfare as they are usually closely related. And yes, I find them very evident and most interesting in the Mediterranean.
  13. marek_pk

    marek_pk Senior Member

    I am new to this forum.

    I would like to know more about the 111th Bridge Protection Company as mentioned by No.9.

    Thanking you in advance.

  14. Kiwiwriter

    Kiwiwriter Very Senior Member

    Another special forces sidelight was the paradrop of the French SAS battalion in Holland to support the Canadian advance in 1945.

    The Canadian Official History covers it effectively.
  15. No.9

    No.9 Senior Member

    Sorry Marek, can’t offer very much on the 111th Company, still looking into them myself? Being ‘Company’ strength, and, as they were used to reinforce the Polish Troop of No.10 (Inter Allied) Commando - at 95 men all ranks the second smallest Troop in No.10 - I doubt if they numbered more than 100 men? They were an all volunteer force and their tag “bridge protection” suggests they were formed to operate in ‘hot spot’ locations. If the Germans were going to try and knock-out an important bridge I doubt if they would have used general conscripts for the task? There again, the Italians may have had the job of securing bridges in ahead of an Allied advance? Either way, they would have needed to have come with a first class pedigree else they wouldn’t have been considered for Commandos.

    It’s recorded that the men wore Polish uniforms and ensignia after they were attached to the Polish Troop, when the Poles were withdrawn about 65 kilometres east to the central Italy town of Oratino after Cassino. Nothing unusual about wearing other Allied uniforms as other units (and much larger ones) did this. They first went into action as Commandos in the battle of Monte Freddo during the drive to Ancona. They were also with the Poles at the battle of Case Nuove which is generally regarded as the fiercest battle for the ‘Polish’ Troop.

    The Italians joined the Poles around end May/early June 1944, and thereafter the ‘Polish’ Troop went to operate under 2 Polish Armoured Brigade on 15th July and then formally left No.10 (IA) Commando on 3rd August. What happened to the Italian Commandos and at what stage I don’t know - but I will continue to try and find out.

    No.10 (IA) was formed in 1942 and never had a formal Italian Troop, not having a large enough pool of Italian soldiers to recruit from. A very small Yugoslav Troop was raised but proved unsustainable and impractical. After 1943 and Italy’s declaration of war on Germany, Italy (Allied Italy) had a commando force of paratroopers which were very effective, and of course the non fascist men of the Decima Flottiglia MAS, who thereafter formed the Mariassalto, mainly joined the SBS and brought with them their techniques and technology of the two-man and mini-sub.

  16. marek_pk

    marek_pk Senior Member

    Dear No.9

    Thank you for your reply.

    I was hoping for more information or to confirm what I new but from an alternative source.

    Although the majority of the 111th Company was Italian it did also contain Polish soldiers. They numbered just over a quarter of the total and the Company Commander was Polish.

    They also unoffcially were known as the "2nd Commando Company".
    That is after the 1st Independent Polish Commando Company.

    Can you tell me the where I might read info. that you have on this company.

  17. No.9

    No.9 Senior Member

    Unfortunately Marek I don’t have any books which make any meaningful attempt to deal with the 111th else I would have suggested them to you. Such information as I have is already stated above.

    In recent years more Italian Unit Histories have emerged, in Italian, though for many only minimal records now exist and perhaps will never be improved upon. A problem time is around the 1943 Armistice and trying to piece together who did what and the reasons, events and circumstances pertaining.

    Quite likely the 111th were paratroops of pre ’43 formation and may have been part of the 10th Arditi Regiment; (The Arditi were Italy’s elite commando force formed during W.W.I and performed with distinction. Disbanded after W.W.I, the name reappears later though the original essence of the organisation was not necessarily the same.) In this guise they would have already been commando trained. This however, is just theory and hopefully at some stage it would be possible to discover accurate records, Italian or British, which sheds definitive light on them.

  18. marek_pk

    marek_pk Senior Member

    Dear No.9

    Thank you for your reply.

    I can understand that there may not be any books about the 111th, but you must have got the information that you have from some source, that was what I was enquiring after.

    The information that I have is a section from the 3rd Carpathian Infantry Division book (Polish Infantry).
    The company was called "111. Kompania Ochrony Mostów" which translates to what we have been discussing "111th Bridge Protection Company"

    It says that the 111th was made up of 63 volunteer Italians together with 4 Polish officers and 19 Polish soldiers from the Carpathian Division. No mention of paratroopers.

    It also says that they were unofficially called "2nd Commando Company".

    They fought at Monte Freddo (as you have stated) and Ancona.

    You mentioned that they wore Polish uniforms but no mention of Polish soldiers in the outfit. Is that what your source indicates?

    Later on the unit joined the Italian Partisans under the name of "Banda Maiella" with a new commander.

    I am beginning to wonder if we are talking about the same outfit, but we seem to have the same name.

  19. No.9

    No.9 Senior Member

    Marek, there are just brief mentions in passing and in notes relating to 2 Brigade in Italy and the Polish Troop of No.10 (IA). To expand upon this you could consult PRO DEFE 2/700 and PRO DEFE 2/1231 or the Troop Diary in the London Sikorsky Institute.

    Myself, I would like to trace the dissolution of Italian Special Forces in 1943 and how they divided and redeployed after Italy’s declaration of war on Germany? The Marine side is fairly well documented but not so, it would appear, that of the Army. With Italian forces in general there was a considerable amount of politicking by the Allies which hampered their redeployment, and a number ‘went their own way’ to form or join Partisan units.

    I’ll have 50P on the following hypothesis. The 111th in question were the anti-fascist derivative of the former, and larger, Italian 111th Paratroops. In common with other Italian forces, through politics, prejudice and ignorance, and, under status of co-belligerents instead of Allies, they were allocated/palmed-off to the Poles when the Polish Troop joined the Polish Corps. They were given British equipment and the Poles issued them Polish uniforms and insignia and reduced all members to the ranks and placed them under Polish officers and NCO’s, and gave them a Polish Company title [all this is record]. I contend for a Unit with its own esprit de corps and longer war service than the Poles, this was a bad approach to say the least. No surprise they performed very well in combat, probably with their original officers and NCO’s modify orders among themselves. Soon after when the Polish Troop formally left No.10, the Italians probably became an even greater anomaly, being offered the single choice of becoming virtual ‘Poles’ and going with the former Polish Troop to form a larger Motorised Battalion [which is what happened to the Polish Troop]. In preference to this they ‘slipped away’ and joined the formidable Partisan movement in the Pesaro-Ravanna region. The Maielle which you quoted, would fit the bill very well. They were in this area operating well in front of the Allied line and were among the Partisan Units who effectively engaged the Germans in numbers.

  20. marek_pk

    marek_pk Senior Member

    Dear No.9

    Thank you for your input.

    Again from the 3rd Carpathian Infantry Division book (Polish Infantry),
    the Italians would have not needed to 'slip away' as it states that the 111th actually joined the 'Banda Maiella'


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