Commando General. The Life of Major General Sir Robert Laycock KCMG CB DSO


The author has thoroughly researched this fascinating book about the 
life of Bob Laycock. This provides a new insight into Laycock and 
the development of British Special Forces during WWII. 
Highly Recommended.


NAME: Commando General. The Life of Major General Sir Robert Laycock 
FILE: R2413
AUTHOR:  Richard Mead
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword
BINDING: hard back 
PAGES:  240
PRICE: £25.00
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: WWII, World War 1I, World War Two, Second World War, Middle 
East, Staff officer, Special Service Brigade, Rommel Raid, Sicily, 
Salerno, Combined Operations Normandy, Sword Beach, Gold Beach, 
liberation of Europe, Caen break out, SAS, Governor of Malta
ISBN: 1-47385-407-5
IMAGE: B2413.jpg
LINKS: Current Discount Offers 
DESCRIPTION:  The author has thoroughly researched this fascinating 
book about the life of Bob Laycock. This provides a new insight into 
Laycock and the development of British Special Forces during WWII. 
Highly Recommended.

Special Forces were not new to Britain in 1940. The Royal Marines 
were essentially a Special Force from their inception, in the 17th 
Century, specifically created to provide the Royal Navy with soldiers 
who could be employed in 'cutting-out' raids and other actions ashore 
and afloat where a small but highly trained unit could be profitably 
employed. The British Army also produced a number of Special Forces, 
often in response to a new military technology or new tactics that 
demanded skills not existing in the Regiments and Corps that were 
used to form armies. This dates back to the Middle Ages with the 
creation of artillery units, and continued with the formation of the 
Rifles and their use in Portugal by Wellington as special units and 
as small groups of marksmen assigned to regular Regiments of Foot. 
In WWI, the Machine Gun Corps and the Tank Regiment were examples of 
special forces that were deployed with regular established Regiments 
to provide new skills and technology.

What marked the Special Forces of WWII out from previous special 
formations and units was that they were specifically intended to be 
used where regular troops could not reliably be deployed. They became 
a family of 'private armies' that were specially equipped with 
vehicles, boats and even aircraft. Some units survived only in the 
period of hostilities, but most units were to become a permanent part 
of the forces available to the Royal Navy and the Army for special 

In 1940, the withdrawal of the BEF and large numbers of French 
soldiers from the beaches of Dunkirk marked effectively the end of 
the Battle of France. As most of the BEF's equipment had been left 
behind, and those unable to get off the beaches were POWs, Britain 
was in a difficult position. The industrial complex performed 
miracles in turning out new tanks, guns and aircraft. Emergency 
purchasing from the US was stepped up to add to the necessary 
equipment, and a series of new training programs started to turn out 
large numbers of sailors, soldiers and airmen to use this equipment. 
In the beginning this was directed to building defences against any 
attempted German invasion of the British Isles. There was not even 
the expectation that the hastily rebuilt resources might be used to 
attack the Germans in the Occupied Territories.

Churchill proved to be an aggressive and creative war leader. One of 
his first actions on taking office was to demand plans to take the 
war to the Germans. This featured a massive aircraft building program 
to produce long range heavy bombers that could carry a large bomb 
load to the furthest reaches of Germany itself. Shipbuilding was 
expended and some very creative programs got underway to produce very 
large numbers of Coastal Forces craft for coastal convoy escort, mine 
sweeping and attacks on enemy shipping. To augment this warship 
construction, fishing vessels were taken and adapted as armed trawlers 
for mine sweeping and additional convoy escorts. The more difficult 
matter was how soldiers might be equipped and trained to raid the 
enemy coast and to perform special duties in support of infantry and 
armour in theatres such as North Africa.

In 1940, Bob Laycock was a 33 yr old captain, bound for a staff job. 
His career was transformed when he was selected to command 8 Commando 
which was one of the first Special Forces units to be formed. In a 
month he went from Captain to Lt. Colonel. One of the officers he 
recruited into 8 Commando was David Sterling who was to go on to 
found the SAS which has become a classic Special Operations force 
that has been much copied by military organizations around the world.

During 1940, British Commandos began raiding Occupied Europe. 
Initially, this was in very small groups against specific targets. One 
target was to be port installations and another was to be German radar 
sites, the latter to capture technology and bring it back to Britain 
for analysis. One of the early challenges was finding methods of 
transport. This often meant that a small Commando unit would be 
parachuted into enemy territory, achieve its objective and be 
extracted from the nearest beach by gunboats or submarines. As 
confidence grew, and suitable transport became available, raids 
became more frequent and larger numbers of Commandos were used.

In Laycock's case, he was sent to the Middle East. This was not as 
successful as hoped, and after heavy losses, without reinforcements 
being available, his unit was disbanded and he was brought back to 
command the Special Service Brigade which was the umbrella  formation 
for the Commandos.

In 1943, Laycock led his Brigade in the landings on Sicily and 
Salerno. He was then brought back to Britain to take over Combined 
Operations from Mountbatten and became the youngest Maj Gen in the 
British Army. His contribution to the development of Special Forces 
was considerable for the rest of the war.

In 1947, he resigned from the Army and served as Governor of Malta 
from 1954 to 1959. He was later to become Colonel of the SAS. This 
was an incredible career and makes great reading.