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Units That Used The Vickers

The Royal Marines and Army Commandos


The Great War

During the Great War, the Royal Marines and Royal Marines Light Infantry Battalions were armed with the Maxim. Upon formation of the Machine Gun Corps, the machine gun elements of the Battalions were disbanded and the Vickers MG assets were provided by the MGC unis of the 63rd (Royal Naval) Division.


Inter-war Period


Second World War

At the start of the Second World War, the units of the Royal Marines were operating in their traditional roles of supporting the Royal Navy in landing parties and ship-based operations. This developed, in August 1940, with the formation of the Royal Marines Division. This Division, in common with Infantry Divisions of the period, on which it was based, had a Machine Gun Battalion as part of it. This was No. 15 (Machine Gun) Battalion, Royal Marines.

It took part in a number of operations in Africa between 1940 and 1943, when it was disbanded, with the Infantry Battalions of the Division being formed into Commandos and other supporting elements distributed to become gun crews of support landing craft.

Early in 1940 plans were being made to provide support units for the RM Division and in May 1940 the first draft of 62 recruits left Exton for the MG Companies. These were apparently to serve with each RM Battalion and in the Land Defence Forces (11th and 12th Bns). During December there was a reorganisation proposed, the MG Companies (except those with Land Defence Forces) forming the 15th RM MG Bn with an HQ formed in March 1941 at Hayling Island; the Battalion had an HQ Coy and Nos 1, 2, and 3 MG Coys. Further drafts did not join until October 1941 and in January and March 1942. In all over 43021 recruits were drafted to the Battalion from the Depot for training in Wales.

In the summer of 1942 the Battalion moved to Dalditch for combined training with infantry battalions, the main party arriving on 3 July. Later the Battalion was reorganised into three independent companies, to serve with the Brigade Groups formed for possible operations in North Africa. Although the formation of a Support Battalion for each Brigade was suggested early in 1942, this was not accepted by the Chiefs of Staff. But from December 1942 the Battalion CO was appointed adviser to the Divisional GOC on tactical handling of MG Coys. Although the formation of a Support Battalion for each Brigade was again considered in 1942, this was not accepted by the Chiefs of Staff. In August/September 1943 the Battalion was disbanded, many of the men being posted to the gun crews of support landing craft.

Commando Units

Combined Operations

With the formation of Commando units from 1940, Army volunteers began to form the Army Commandos. Their initial raiding role did not require them to have support weapons so it was not until a re-organisation, in 1943, that they began to use the Vickers MG .303-inch Mk. I and the Vickers .303-inch GO No. 2 Mk. I (Modified) in the Heavy Weapons Troop of the Commando. The MMGs were subsituted for the GO guns during assault operations.

With the disbandment of the Royal Marines Division, the Royal Marines began to form their own Commando units.

  • No. 1 Commando

    Formed in 1941, the Special Service Battalions were formed into Commandos and became part of the Special Service Brigade.

    From 1943, following reoganisation and expansion, No. 1 Commando, became part of 3rd Special Service Brigade. It took part in the following battles and engagements.
    DatesBattle
    09 July to 12 July, 1943Landing in Sicily
    01 January to 12 June, 1944North Arakan
    12 January to 29 April, 1945Arakan Beaches

  • No. 2 Commando

    Formed in 1941, the Special Service Battalions were formed into Commandos and became part of the Special Service Brigade.

    From 1943, following reoganisation and expansion, No. 2 Commando, became part of 2nd Special Service Brigade. It took part in the following battles and engagements.
    DatesBattle
    09 September to 18 September, 1943Salerno
    22 January to 22 May, 1944Anzio
    13 April to 21 April, 1945Argenta Gap

  • No. 3 Commando

    Formed in 1941, the Special Service Battalions were formed into Commandos and became part of the Special Service Brigade.

    From 1943, following reoganisation and expansion, No. 3 Commando, became part of 1st Special Service Brigade. It took part in the following battles and engagements.
    DatesBattle
    09 July to 12 July, 1943Landing in Sicily
    6 June, 1944Normandy Landing
    08 February to 10 March, 1945The Rhineland
    23 March to 01 April, 1945The Rhine

  • No. 4 Commando

    No. 4 Commando 'K' Troop, No. 4 Commando, Ouisterham - 1944

    Formed in 1941, the Special Service Battalions were formed into Commandos and became part of the Special Service Brigade.

    From 1943, following reoganisation and expansion, No. 4 Commando, became part of 1st Special Service Brigade. It took part in the following battles and engagements.
    DatesBattle
    09 July to 12 July, 1943Landing in Sicily
    6 June, 1944Normandy Landing
    08 February to 10 March, 1945The Rhineland
    23 March to 01 April, 1945The Rhine

  • No. 5 Commando

    Formed in 1941, the Special Service Battalions were formed into Commandos and became part of the Special Service Brigade.

    From 1943, following reoganisation and expansion, No. 5 Commando, became part of 3rd Special Service Brigade. It took part in the following battles and engagements.
    DatesBattle
    09 July to 12 July, 1943Landing in Sicily
    01 January to 12 June, 1944North Arakan
    12 January to 29 April, 1945Arakan Beaches

  • No. 6 Commando

    Formed in 1941, the Special Service Battalions were formed into Commandos and became part of the Special Service Brigade.

    From 1943, following reoganisation and expansion, No. 6 Commando, became part of 1st Special Service Brigade. It took part in the following battles and engagements.
    DatesBattle
    09 July to 12 July, 1943Landing in Sicily
    6 June, 1944Normandy Landing
    08 February to 10 March, 1945The Rhineland
    23 March to 01 April, 1945The Rhine

  • No. 9 Commando

    Formed in 1941, the Special Service Battalions were formed into Commandos and became part of the Special Service Brigade.

    From 1943, following reoganisation and expansion, No. 9 Commando, became part of 2nd Special Service Brigade. It took part in the following battles and engagements.
    DatesBattle
    09 Septembet to 18 September, 1943Salerno
    22 January to 22 May, 1944Anzio
    13 April to 21 April, 1945Argenta Gap

  • No. 10 (Inter-Allied) Commando

    Formed in 1941, the Special Service Battalions were formed into Commandos and became part of the Special Service Brigade.

    From 1943, following reoganisation and expansion, No. 10 (IA) Commando, became part of 4th Special Service Brigade. It then became independingtly commanded in April 1944.

  • No. 30 Commando

    More commonly known by its later title of 30 Assault Unit, No. 30 Commando was tasked with retrieving documents and items of specific intelligence value before they could be destroyed. In doing so, they were equipped with a range of vehicles and weapons as their specific task required. This included Vickers GO mounted on jeeps in a similar stlye to the SAS.

  • No. 40 (Royal Marines) Commando

    Formed in 1941, the Special Service Battalions were formed into Commandos and became part of the Special Service Brigade.

    From 1943, following reoganisation and expansion, No. 40 (RM) Commando, became part of 2nd Special Service Brigade. It took part in the following battles and engagements.
    DatesBattle
    09 September to 18 September, 1943Salerno
    22 January to 22 May, 1944Anzio
    13 April to 21 April, 1945Argenta Gap

  • No. 41 (Royal Marines) Commando

    Formed in 1941, the Special Service Battalions were formed into Commandos and became part of the Special Service Brigade.

    From 1943, following reoganisation and expansion, No. 41 (RM) Commando, became part of 4th Special Service Brigade. It took part in the following battles and engagements.
    DatesBattle
    6 June, 1944Normandy Landing
    01 October to 08 November, 1944The Scheldt

  • No. 43 (Royal Marines) Commando

    Formed in 1941, the Special Service Battalions were formed into Commandos and became part of the Special Service Brigade.

    From 1943, following reoganisation and expansion, No. 43 (RM) Commando, became part of 2nd Special Service Brigade. It took part in the following battles and engagements.
    DatesBattle
    09 September to 18 September, 1943Salerno
    22 January to 22 May, 1944Anzio
    13 April to 21 April, 1945Argenta Gap

  • No. 45 (Royal Marines) Commando

    1st Commando Brigade, Rhine Crossing - 1945

    Formed in 1941, the Special Service Battalions were formed into Commandos and became part of the Special Service Brigade.

    From 1943, following reoganisation and expansion, No. 45 (RM) Commando, became part of 1st Special Service Brigade. It took part in the following battles and engagements.
    DatesBattle
    09 July to 12 July, 1943Landing in Sicily
    6 June, 1944Normandy Landing
    08 February to 10 March, 1945The Rhineland
    23 March to 01 April, 1945The Rhine

  • No. 46 (Royal Marines) Commando

    Formed in 1941, the Special Service Battalions were formed into Commandos and became part of the Special Service Brigade.

    From 1943, following reoganisation and expansion, No. 46 (RM) Commando, became part of 4th Special Service Brigade. It took part in the following battles and engagements.
    DatesBattle
    6 June, 1944Normandy Landing
    01 October to 08 November, 1944The Scheldt

  • No. 47 (Royal Marines) Commando

    Formed in 1941, the Special Service Battalions were formed into Commandos and became part of the Special Service Brigade.

    From 1943, following reoganisation and expansion, No. 47 (RM) Commando, became part of 4th Special Service Brigade. It took part in the following battles and engagements.
    DatesBattle
    6 June, 1944Normandy Landing
    01 October to 08 November, 1944The Scheldt

  • No. 48 (Royal Marines) Commando

    In March 1944, this Commando was formed and in April 1944, No. 48 (RM) Commando, became part of 4th Special Service Brigade. It took part in the following battles and engagements.
    DatesBattle
    6 June, 1944Normandy Landing
    01 October to 08 November, 1944The Scheldt


    Post-Second World War

    The Royal Marines were the last unit in British Service to use the Vickers MG. From various accounts, this is believed to be in 1974 in the Middle East, by which time the Vickers was being used alongside the General Purpose Machine Gun.


    Sources

  • Laws, 1944a
  • Norris, 1945a
  • Royal Marines Museum, 2014a
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