COMMANDO - THE STORY OF THE GREEN BERET (long version) [Main Title]

Catalogue number
  • ADM 5071
Department
Film
Production date
1945-10
Place made
GB
Subject period
Dimensions
  • whole: Number Of Items/reels/tapes 7
Creator
Category
film

© IWM

License Film
Object description

A part-dramatised film about the rigorous and tough physical fitness and combat training that awaits each Commando volunteer before he can qualify for the Royal Marines' coveted green beret.

Physical description

35mm

Full description

10:00:00 START Reel 1. Opening titles and roller caption with a dedication to the 'aggressive spirit and matchless bravery' of the Commandos and 'their loyalty and devotion' signed by Lord Louis Mountbatten, head of Combined Operations from October 1941 to August 1943.

Full description

10:01:03 A montage of marching boots and Royal Marine Commandos in their green berets smartly marching across a parade ground over which the commentary declares that the Second World War produced a "new type of fighting man - the Commando. Not just a tough guy but a sapper, signaller, marksman, parachutist, scout, seaborne raider. A specialist in modern warfare....The keynote of the training is realism!". An 'opposed landing' exercise with live ammunition is seen taking place at the Achnacarry Commando Basic Training Centre, Inverness-shire, Scotland, in which trainees wearing 1944-pattern British steel helmets paddle their way across a loch towards a landing beach in Folding Boat Equipment (FBE) Mk III pontoons pressed into service as assault craft. They come under fire from tracer-firing Bren guns and 3-inch mortars firing smoke bombs and, once they disembark from their craft, they charge inland under past exploding charges. A Very flare signifies the end of a successful beach assault.

Full description

10:03:11 A scene in a barber shop where two friends, Fusilier Gordon Blake and Royal Marine 'Stiffy' Porter are having a shave. Gordon announces that he has volunteered for the Commandos to become a highly-trained amphibious soldier. His barber, a First World war veteran expresses whole-hearted approval but 'Stiffy' views his friend's ambition with scepticism. The sound made by an exploding V2 rocket reminds everybody in the barber shop that the war has yet to be won. The barber reckons that war has become so terrible that only a highly trained fighter like a Commando - "the soldier of the future" - will be good enough to protect the country from "super rockets and even more devilish things, should another war come along". As they leave the barber shop, 'Stiffy' asks Gordon to write to him about the Commando training. Gordon reckons that his pal will end up joining him.

Full description

10:07:10 Gordon arrives at Wrexham Station in Denbighshire, North Wales and is directed by a Royal Marine (RM) Commando Sergeant-Major to Hermitage Camp. As he arrives at the camp entrance, a platoon of RM Commandos marches smartly past him. At the guard house he inspects a sign which reads "The name and reputation of this unit depends entirely on the men who are in it". Gordon writes a letter to 'Stiffy' describing his first days as a Commando trainee over shots of him and his training platoon being inspected by a short RM Commando Sergeant-Major with parachutist's wings.

Full description

10:09:39 Reel 2. Over scenes showing Royal Marines doing some 'square-bashing' at Hermitage Camp, Gordon urges 'Stiffy' to volunteer.

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10:10:13 The film cuts to a notice board in the Royal Marine Lympstone barracks at Deal, Kent, summoning all ranks to a lecture on the Commandos. A Commando Captain concludes his talk to a new batch of volunteers by pointing out that they have a chance to become "first-class" British fighting soldiers but he warns them that he doesn't want anybody looking for "cheap glamour". 'Stiffy' is seen to be present among the volunteers at the briefing. The following morning, he receives his medical examination and is interviewed by the RM Commando Captain. In the next scene, he is at the Royal Marine Training Centre at Towyn in North Wales, writing to Gordon to tell him he too has volunteered for the Commandos - "You must have hypnotised me!"

Full description

10:12:31 Pleased to hear 'Stiffy's' latest news, Gordon writes to let him know that he is now up in Scotland and over shots of his platoon of Commando trainees marching smartly for their passing-out parade at Hermitage Camp expresses satisfaction in getting to this stage in his training. He tells him about his arrival in Scotland with shots of a steam train arriving at the railway station at Spean Bridge and how the training started as soon as they arrived at the station. All the trainees in Full Service Marching Order (FSMO) have to leave the train by jumping down onto the rails from their passenger coaches. A Scots pipe and drum band and a platoon of RM Commandos lead them the seven miles from Spean Bridge to Achnacarry Commando Basic Training Centre across the bridge over the Caledonian Canal at Gairlochy. As they arrive at the camp, they pass conspicuously marked graves of men who died during training and put there as a warning to all newcomers not to be careless during their training.

Full description

10:15:31 Training for Gordon and his fellow trainees begins with them wearing just shorts and taking part in a series of exercises designed to test their strength, stamina and physical agility. "Talk about Strength-through-Joy! I'm a new man already!", he quips. During the 'Tarzan' course, they learn to use ropes and netting to climb trees, move through a wood and cross a river without touching the ground or ending up in the water.

Full description

10:17:59 A sniper halfway up a tree fires three rounds at targets with his SMLE No. 4 rifle and slides down to the ground on a rope. The toughening-up process continues with trainees crossing a river with the aid of ropes strung out between trees as an aerial walkway and gliding over a river on a single rope whilst getting a thorough soaking from explosions in the water produced either by electronically detonated explosive charges or by live mortar fire.

Full description

10:19:19 Reel 3. RM Commando officers join trainees on an arduous cross-country obstacle course in combat marching order. In an unarmed combat class, a RM sergeant instructor demonstrates on a man dressed up as German soldier how to overpower an enemy sentry by creeping up on him from behind and grabbing his lower legs, and gets members of his class to use the same method on each other. Armed with a Thompson .45-inch sub machine-gun, Gordon joins in an exercise in which trainees advance stealthily up to a faked jungle cottage and open fire with their weapons at targets at short range.

Full description

10:21:33 In a class about different types of Allied and Axis infantry weapons, captured enemy light machine-guns - MG34s, MG42s and a single Breda M30 - and three MP40 sub machine-guns and a single Luger pistol are laid out on display. The RM sergeant instructor selects one of his class of trainees to operate an MG42 and helps him by acting as his ammunition number. The trainee directs short bursts of fire at targets about 100 yards away. He ends his turn at the MG42 by lift up its breech cover, removing the ammunition belt and clearing the cocking device by squeezing on the trigger.

Full description

10:22:40 Gordon Blake and his chum 'Stiffy' meet up as the latter arrives at Achnacarry for his basic commando training, Gordon tells him that he's only got the seven miles' speed march to go before he gets his green beret. The next day, he and his class set off on the run with SMLE No. 4 rifles in their hands and packs on their backs; at regular intervals, the trainees break into a quick march before resuming a run. After they have completed the course, they are seen taking part in a tactical exercise in the hills above Achnacarry and firing at targets 300 yards away with their rifles.

Full description

10:25:45 Green Commando berets are stacked high on a wooden trestle table for the passing out parade for Gordon Blake and his class. The officer handing them out is probably Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Vaughan, the commanding officer at Achnacarry. A mix through from Gordon in his training fatigues to him standing at attention in his new green beret. Afterwards, the Colonel takes the salute at the march-past by the Commandos. As he departs on foot from Achnacarry with the rest of his intake in their new green berets, he spots and waves to 'Stiffy' Porter, who is just beginning his basic training.

Full description

10:27:11 At this point in the film, 'Stiffy' takes over the film's narrative. In a letter to Gordon, he describes how he and 'Modgy', a fellow Commando trainee, have been taught to live rough in the countryside in a simple shelter made of tree branches.

Full description

10:28:36 Reel 4. In the bivouac or 'bivvy' area at Achnacarry, different types of improvised shelter and cookers are on display. An instructor shows Stiffy's class how to skin a deer and how to cook fish in foil paper over an open fire.

Full description

10:29:44 At a loch near Achnacarry, 'Stiffy' and his class are taught by a Royal Navy Petty Officer how to tie nautical rope knots and are seen learning how to row and sail in long boats. He and other Commando trainees run to board three assault landing craft or LCAs and take part in a beach landing. Some men are seen carrying ladders which are used to flatten barbed wire on top of the beach and allow them to get inland. Others carry sections of Bangalore torpedo which are quickly assembled and pushed under a barbed wire entanglement next to a tall wooden fence. The Sergeant instructor lights as fuse after everybody else has taken cover and the obstacle is blown up. The trainees, armed with SMLE No. 4 rifles, Bren guns and Thomson sub machine-guns, then scale the fence with the help of their ladders and drop down on the other side.

Full description

10:33:24 'Stiffy's' next class is in field craft in which he and two comrades learn how to move through a wood, communicate with each other silently by using hand signals and crawl across-country on their stomachs.

Full description

10:34:37 'Stiffy' and other members of his class take part in a night raid exercise. They paddle silently towards an 'enemy' beach in three folding assault boats and are illuminated by illumination flares and come under live tracer fire from Bren guns on shore. Men from all three craft disembark as they reach the shore under fierce 'enemy' fire.

Full description

10:36:52 Reel 5. The film picks up with Gordon, now back at Wrexham; he writes to 'Stiffy' about the specialist training he is receiving. Wearing a Denison smock instead of a normal battledress tunic and netting over his head, Gordon conceals himself in grass and takes up a firing position with his SMLE No. 4 rifle fitted with telescopic sights.

Full description

10:37:20 Training continues with heavy weapons: RM Commandos alight from three jeeps and quickly set up two Vickers medium machine guns and establish a range-finder position nearby. The Corporal in charge of the two machine guns gives the order to open fire. The same three jeeps deliver a mortar detachment to the same location. Its members quickly assemble the base-plates, legs and tube of their two three-inch mortar teams and line up their sights whilst the jeeps are driven away to safety. The officer in charge shouts an order to open fire down a loud hailer; the mortar men fire two rounds at a deliberate pace before loosing off five more rounds in quick succession.

Full description

10:39:12 Two RM Commando signallers are seen at work in the field, testing the circuit on a field telephone switch board and connecting up telephone wires and laying a field telephone cable across country. Commandos demonstrate two methods of crossing a river, one in folding storm boats and the other by constructing two bridges consisting of chespalings laid on cables stretched tightly from one side of a stream to the other. Rigged like a suspension bridge with the aid of additional ropes, the structure's weight-carrying capacity is tested by having a jeep and 1/2-ton trailer driven across it. During a land mine-clearing training session with other Commandos, Gordon uncovers a German Tellermine, attaches a hook to it on the end of a piece of string and, after retreating to a safe distance, tugs on it sharply, thus detonating it.

Full description

10:42:15 RM Commandos take part in an attack on a prefabricated concrete hut on a cliff top in a manner similar to an assault on an enemy-held pillbox. Covered by fire from SMLE No. 4 rifles and Bren guns, a Commando detonates a Bangalore torpedo to create a gap in the 'pill box's' barbed wire defences. Two men equipped with the British 'Lifebuoy' portable flamethrower squirt burst of flaming oil at the building. A Commando plants a satchel bomb against it, unreels a length of fuse wire and dashes for cover, leaving his Sergeant to light it. In the resulting explosion, the entire building is destroyed.

Full description

10:44:05 Reel 6. 'Stiffy' Porter finally catches up with his pal Gordon Blake at Wrexham. A conversation ensues in which Gordon looks up the origins of the term 'Commando' in a dictionary and discovers that it originally meant 'a body of armed Burghers' or Boer citizens who fought the British during the 1899-1902 Anglo-Boer War. At this point, the Sergeant Major enters with Marine Harvey, a combat veteran from No. 4 Commando Brigade. Everybody is impressed, especially Gordon, who pumps the newcomer for information about St Ives, his next posting.

Full description

10:46:03 Marine Harvey takes over the narrative to explain the training regime in Cornwall. Scenes on the seafront at St Ives in Cornwall where small boats used in Commando operations are displayed at the water's edge - a fishing dory, a Cockle two-man canoe, a rubber dinghy used by airmen, and a inflatable canoe. Two Commandos attach the bow and stern sections to the collapsible canoe and inflate it with a foot pump. Men rush down onto the beach, launch the boats into the water and paddle through the crowded fishing harbour. A Commando boards a small motor boat equipped with an 'S' Phone (?) and dons his headset; his comrade hops in to a rubber dinghy and pays out a floating telephone cable and tests the line.

Full description

10:47:44 Somewhere on the Cornish coast, Commandos are taught in pairs how to scale a cliff face with the help of ropes tied to grapnel irons which they use to haul each other to the top. Two men scale a rockface just by using their hands and feet. Others begin to scale a cliff with the help of ropes trailing from the top. Men disembark from dorys and take part in a cliff-climbing exercise. They practise the evacuation of battle casualties by attaching a 'casualty' bound up in a tight harness to a safety line and hauling him further inland. A Commando grabs hold of another 'casualty' being hauled up the cliff face and uses him as a lift in order to get to the top. Men abseil down the cliff. Others with specially strong nerves descend by leaping from one rock ledge to the next and one man demonstrates his balancing skills by doing headstands on a pinnacle of rock high above the sea.

Full description

10:51:53 The film cuts back to Harvey concluding his description of the St Ives training course. Gordon is keen to go. A montage of dates slipping off a wall calendar brings the story forward to the point where Gordon has completing his Commando seafaring and rock-climbing course and everybody has his kit bag and rifle to hand and ready to leave Wrexham for active service.

Full description

10:52:25 Reel 7. The Sergeant Major hurries the men up. Gordon, 'Stiffy' and Harvey march proudly out of Hermitage Camp with the rest of their platoon. 'Stiffy' has a pocket Atlas - "Anyway in the world, chum - that's us!", remarks Gordon.

Full description

10:53:10 Over shots of 'Stiffy', Harvey and Gordon doing some sight-seeing and enjoying a beer in a cafe on the busy Market Square in Bruges, Belgium, overlooked by the tall thirteenth century Belfry, the commentary proclaims, "Anywhere in the world, Commandos are at hand in any country....There's not always an immediate plunge into the harsh realities of war but perhaps a few days' rest at a holding base waiting for the word - Go!". The three off-duty Commandos take a ride in a horse-drawn carriage along one of Bruges' picturesque streets and go rowing on one of the city's many canals with three Belgian girls - "Time also to get to know a foreign town and the people who live in them - the prettier the better!"

Full description

10:54:43 Royal Marine Commandos wearing Denison smocks and shouldering SMLE No. 4 rifles and backpacks are driven around Bruges in a three-ton truck and dropped off in small groups to be billeted in pairs in private Belgium homes. One of the men catches the eye of a pretty young Belgian blonde he passes in the street. Two Royal Marines are assigned the same billet and make their first acquaintanceship with their landlord. "The Commando is a good ambassador. Barriers of language and customs don't exist", the commentary optimistically informs the viewer.

Full description

10:56:07 Over shots of RM Commandos patrolling wrecked towns in North-West Europe in CMP 15-cwt trucks and living in the front line, the commentary asks rhetorically, "What is the story of these men, whose ancestors fought in the fields of Agincourt?" and goes on to describe the formation of the Commandos in the weeks after the Dunkirk evacuation in May-June 1940 and their subsequent role as a force of raiders against enemy-held coastlines. Quickly-cut images assembled for dramatic effect in no chronological order show 'Gordon, 'Stiffy' and Harvey in action and British military operations in Vaagso, Arnhem (!), Walcheren, the Rhine Crossing, Sicily, Italy and Burma, over which are superimposed in letters of burning flame the names of Dieppe, Crete, Kangaw, St Nazaire, Salerno and Vaagso. Over a B movie shot of Gordon, 'Stiffy' and Harvey advancing fearlessly into action and images of marching ranks of Royal Marine Commandos, the commentary proclaims, "We will never forget what they did for us....All honour to these brave men. Brothers of the Green Beret - Commandos!"

Full description

10:59:27 Intertitle 'British - Most Secret. American - Secret. This film must not be reproduced nor must the contents be shown or discussed with any personel not duly authorised'.

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END 10:59:36

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