Spean Bridge

In June 1940, after the British evacuated parts of the British Expeditionary Force from Dunkirk in north-eastern France, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill decided to create a corps of elite soldiers to be sent to occupied countries to carry out missions. These could include sabotage, reconnaissance, fire attacks and even murder on individuals. This corps was called the Kommandos, which, in Churchill’s own words, would set occupied Europe on fire and spread fear among the German occupiers.

The Kommandos consisted not only of Britons but also of other young men who had fled to Britain from their home countries and the German occupation. But men from countries that were allies or members of the British Commonwealth also joined the Kommandos. Regardless where they came from, they came from different social classes and branches of service. The training was voluntary and those who signed up had to meet stringent mental and physical requirements. Above all, they had to be motivated for the training and aware of the risks of the missions they might be sent on after completing the training.

In 1942, the training was conducted at a castle in Achnacarry in the Scottish Highlands. The area was well isolated with only small villages in the surroundings and could thus be kept secret and isolated. The area is large, the landscape varied and barren with changing weather which overall made the area ideal. Here they trained close combat, weapon exercise, orientation, physics, survival, long marches, regardless of the season, the commandos most be prepared for everything. Many who started the training failed to cope with it and were sent back to their original military unit. Those who passed the training and tests then came to belong to one of the about thirty units assembled during the war. Not infrequently, French-speaking commandos were sent on missions to France, Norwegian to Norway, Czech to Czechoslovakia, etc.

The Commandos were to perform all kinds of missions in all theater of war and in various environments. Not only in Europe, but also in North Africa and Asia. As a commando behind enemy lines, the pressure on each individual was higher and one could not necessarily expect the enemy to treat captured commandos according to the Geneva Convention. Hitler issued the infamous Commando directive that captured commandos could be murdered on the spot and/or without trial. During the war, about 1700 commandos were killed on missions.

Current status: Preserved with monument (2001).

Location: 56°53' 53.79" N 04°56' 41.16" W

Get there: Car.

My comment:

The Monument is located on the road between the village Spean Bridge and Achnacarry. It was at Spean Bridge the cadets arrived by train and then had to March about ten kilometres to Achnacarry where the training was held. It is located on a hill overlooking the landscape where the training took place. Since I was there, a memorial has been set up where former commandos can have their ashes scattered.

Follow up in books: Mackenzie, W.J.M.: The Secret History of SOE: The Special Operations Executive 1940 – 1945 (2002).