Small Scale Raiding Force

A Small Scale Raiding Force (SSRF) was initiated by Lord Louis Mountbatten, Chief of Combined Operations, in February/March 1942 to be a permanent "amphibious sabotage force" of fifty men directly under his command. The force was actually a reclassification of the Maid Honor Force already formed by the Special Operations Executive (SOE). The title coming from the Brixham trawler named Maid Honor which the SOE requisitioned and substantially armed and converted.

Mountbatten negotiated control of the SSRF which remained within SOE based on Station 62 Anderson Manor near Blandford. while being under operational control of Combined Operations Headquarters and with the cover name of "No.62 Commando" which was formed in 1941. Major Gus March-Phillipps continued to lead the force and be its main inspiration, as Major Geoffrey Appleyard remained its second in command. Both men formed the original "Maid Honor Force" when specially chosen for that duty by Brigadier Colin Gubbins the military head of SOE, from B Troop of No.7 Commando.

The SSRF used HM MTB 344 ,a Motor Torpedo Boat colloquially nicknamed The Little Pisser from its outstanding turn of speed, and conducted a number of raids by sea from Britain including Operation Aquatint on 12/13 September 1942 on Sainte-Honorine on the Normandy coast , where most of the 11 men on the raid were killed (including March-Phillipps) or captured. The force was made up to strength with men from No.12 Commando with Appleyard now Operational Commander, and SSRF renamed 1. SSRF. Appleyard conducted Operation Basalt on the Channel Island of Sark on 3/4 October 1942 with Lt. (later Maj.) Anders Lassen (who was to be awarded the VC whilst commanding a Squadron of the Special Boat Service in Italy in 1945) amongst his force. An incident involving prisoners having their hands tied behind them, their mouths stuffed with grass and their subsequent killing whilst attempting to escape led directly to Hitler's decision to issue his Kommandobefehl ("Commando Order") on 18 October 1942. Accounts vary as to whether the captives were knifed by Lassen himself or shot by him or another. Officially sanctioned German military accounts of the time assert unequivocably that the dead German soldiers were found with their hands bound and later German military publications make many references to captured Commando instructions ordering the tying of captives hands behind them and the use of a particularly painful method of knotting around the thumbs to enable efficient, coercive, single-handed control of the captive.

Despite No.62 Commando being made a larger force thereafter, the SSRF was absorbed into the Special Boat Squadron after Operation Pussyfoot on 3/4 April 1943, though prior to this the force had started to break up after a January decision of the Chiefs of Staff curtailed their raiding operations following "clashes of interests" objections from the SOE and the Secret Intelligence Service ("MI6"). Both Appleyard and Lassen went to the Mediterranean, where Appleyard helped to shape the new 2 Special Air Service which evolved from a Detachment of No. 62 Commando under the command of Bill Stirling, elder brother of David Stirling, and where Lassen raised the Special Boat Service from the Special Boat Squadron of 1 SAS. Neither survived the war.



  • Mike Chappell, Army Commandos 1940-45, Osprey Publishing, 1996 ISBN 1855325799
  • Tim Moreman, British Commandos 1940-46, Osprey Publishing, 2006 ISBN 184176986X
  • James D. Ladd, Inside the Commandos: A Pictorial History from World War Two to the Present, Naval Institute Press, 1984 ISBN 0870219030
  • Michael Richard Daniell Foot, SOE in France: An Account of the Work of the British Special Operations, Routledge, 2004 ISBN 0714655287
  • Patrick Howarth, Undercover: The Men and Women of the Special Operations Executive, Routledge, 1980 ISBN 0710005733
  • James Shortt, Angus McBride, The Special Air Service: And Royal Marines Special Boat Squadron, Osprey Publishing, 1981 ISBN 0850453968

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