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Joined: 09/02/2017 13:10:21
Messages: 1

I am trying to research my grandfather Ernest Farley and we understood that he served in the Commandos during WW2. I can't seem to find any information. Am I missing anything? Would greatly appreciate some help please.
Research & Administrator

Joined: 10/04/2007 22:56:27
Messages: 2988
Location: Godmanchester, Cambridgeshire

Hi Louise,

Welcome to the CVA Website & Forums.
No you're not missing anything but I feel I need to explain a couple of things and then we'll try and help you in your research.

The original Commandos were formed during the Second World War in June 1940, following a request from the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill. They were formed, by individual volunteers from all the regiments of the Army...

The commandos were only 'on loan' from their parent regiments and were described as 'Irregular' Units. Each individual wore his regimental cap badge on his head-wear and the Regiments, who already resented losing their best men, found themselves responsible for his payroll & financing his equipment...

In 1942, Churchill suggested that there should be more Commando Units and suggested that a number of Royal Marine Battalions were converted to the Commando role.

The Royal Marines (RM) had been in existence in one form or another since 1664 - but not in a Commando role. The RMs consisted, essentially, of RM Artillery & RM Infantry and it was units of the RM Infantry that it was decided should become RM Commandos.
So in 1942 the first Royal Marines commando unit was formed at Deal in Kent and designated 'The Royal Marine Commando'. Before long it was re-designated RM 'A' Commando but after suffering significant losses during a raid on Dieppe was re-designated 40 RM Commando...
Other RM Battalions were converted to become RM Commandos but, at this time not all the RMs were commandos.

At the end of the War, the 'powers that be' decided to disband the Army Commandos - the volunteers either returned to their parent regiment or, seeking more adventure, volunteered to join the Parachute Regiment etc.

The Commando Role now passed to the Royal Marines and it was decided that all RMs should be trained as commandos. This was not achieved overnight so it wasn't until 1964 that the whole of the RM Corps were commando trained and were entitled to wear the green beret which we associate with the RMs today. Prior to the total conversion to Commando only those who completed Commando Training wore the green beret - those who hadn't completed training wore a navy blue beret.

So back to your grandfather, it is not unusual to find that commandos are missing from our Nominal Roles - there was never a definitive Nominal Role for Commandos that we are aware of as, if you remember, the Army Commandos were volunteers and still 'belonged' to their regiment (so they'd be on the regimental records).
Formed during the War, the Commando Association did have a list of members - but not all commandos joined the Association and, when it Stood Down in 2005, all records were archived in the National Army Museum.

The present association, The Commando Veterans Association, was formed in 2005 by some of the Veterans who decided that they still wanted to belong to an association for commandos. The CVA mission statement states that the CVA was formed to ensure that the unique spirit, tradition and camaraderie of the Commandos does not fade but are kept alive, for present and future generations...
And that is why the Commando Nominal Rolls started - I wanted to list everyone who served with my father in No.5 Commando. This involved quite a bit of reading and research and cross referencing but, after some hard graft, I did have a reasonable list of names.
It was then suggested that I try to compile nominal roles for all the Commando Units! I knew this would be a huge task but thankfully, there were others who volunteered to help and eventually and thanks to a few stalwarts, we have a fantastic collection of Commando Nominal Rolls.
However, there will always be some names that escape us and here we rely on relatives, such as yourself, to give us the names (and reliable evidence) that their father, grandfather, uncle, cousin etc served as a commando...

Do you know whether your grandfather was in the Army or the Royal Marines?
Do you have any photos of him from the War - preferably in uniform?

Are you aware that the Next of Kin or family(with the consent of the NoK) can apply to the MoD for a scan of your grandfather's original, handwritten service record - the MoD is THE only custodian of WWII service records ( don't be suckered in by online commercial sites that will tell you they have WWII records - they don't and it will cost you to find that out!) and will charge 30 admin fees. But you will receive everything from when he signed on the dotted line, his regiment, training, promotions ( and demotions, if applicable), conversion to commando, Commando Unit, embarkation for overseas etc, wounds, hospitalisations, up to his demob.
I would recommend this.

If you decide to follow this path then - if we know whether he was Army or RM - I can forward the relevant forms to you.
Then, after you receive confirmation that he was a commando, I would be honoured to add him to our Commando Nominal Rolls.

Please remember we're here to help so if you have any questions or need any help - ask away...


This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 10/02/2017 11:50:12

Nick Collins

CVA Forum Administrator

Proud son of Cpl Mick Collins, 5 Troop, No5 Cdo

"We may feel that nothing of which we have any knowledge or record has ever been done by mortal men, which surpasses their feats of arms. Truly we may say of them, when shall their glory fade?"

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