Not a Clear Picture of When training Occurred

One of the specialized training courses that the future airmen were to take part in was Commando training. It is not always mentioned or dealt with in many of the airmen's stories. Sometimes just a short paragraph. Along with information collected from a number of contacts and sources I have put together some details

The courses were sometimes a combination of survival training, combat and hand to hand fighting. And other times the survival training was a separate exercise. When the training was conducted it also seems to vary, at first it seem to be determined by what year. Two accounts mention that it was after arrival at Bournemouth Reception Center during both 1943 and 1944. While in the case of future 419 pilot F/O William Smith, his course was in Nova Scotia at Maitland and he clearly labels it in his notes as "Commando" training.

A Walk in The Woods

UK survival courses were held in the Downs of Northern England, a rugged and hilly area with scatterings of small woods. Very rural in nature it would be a good vacation spot for hikers. The course though had nothing to do with vacationing, although hiking was on the menu. Long marches or walks of 20 to 40 miles were all part of the conditioning. Lunches supplied by Mother Nature if you could catch one.

UK Commando Training

The hand to hand combat training was sometimes held in Devon. The Instructors if you were unlucky were real Commando Instructors. Some who looked down upon the air force trainees placed under their gentle care.
Other camps were run by the RAF Servicing Commando units. Who although were RAF and trained in the different trades such as Fitters, Aero-Mechanics, Armourers were also trained to defend their forward bases as well as maintain aircraft based in Europe.
One airmen and future pilot described the training he received from yet another group, the RAF Regiment as "being reduced to ribbons with their toughing up courses".

All Were Invited

The aircrew were not the only ones to be placed in the combat courses, although they would be most likely to need it. Even ground crews stationed in England were placed in the hand to hand combat courses and they were taught some methods that stayed with them through their whole lives. My father, late in his 60's could still remember the holds and throws he was taught some 30 years later.

Canadian Courses

The photos to the right taken at Maitland in February of 1944 and part of the collection of William Smith show future pilot Smith on an obstacle course, camouflage and target practise.


Photos from the
F/O William J. Smith collection.