Commando Monument

Commando Monument
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

Commando Monument

Located in moorland beside the A82 Trunk Road, 1¼ miles (2 km) northwest of Spean Bridge, is the Commando Memorial. This 5.1m (17-foot) high memorial was designed by Scott Sutherland, of Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art (Dundee) and unveiled by HM Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother (1900 - 2002) on 12th September 1952. The three soldiers which comprise the memorial look out from their plinth over Leanachan Forest to the peaks of Aonach Mor and Ben Nevis. It commemorates the elite force known as the 'Commandos', which was set up in 1940 on the orders of Prime Minister Winston Churchill (1874 - 1965) to harry the axis forces and regain the initiative on the part of Britain. The force trained in the area around this monument, with their Training Centre at Achnacarry, 4 miles (6 km) to the northwest.

The plinth of the memorial records the Commando's motto United We Conquer and a plaque states: "In Memory of the Officers and men of the Commandos who died in the Second World War 1939 - 1945. This Country was their Training Ground."

A further plaque was added to the memorial on the occasion of the Freedom of Lochaber being conferred on the Commando Association on the 18th November, 1993. The plaque reads as follows:

"The Commandos 1940-45

In the summer of 1940 when Britain's fortunes in World War II were at their lowest ebb and an enemy invasion was threatened, Winston Churchill boldly ordered the raising of an elite force to raid the enemy-held coastline of Europe and regain the initiative.

The new units, which initially consisted of volunteers from the regiments and corps of the British Army, were called 'Commandos'.

Within weeks they were in action in Europe later in the Middle East and the Far East. During the next five years they fought in every theatre of war with such success that the word 'Commando' became feared by the enemy - yet respected by friendly forces.

In 1942 the Commando Basic Training Centre was established in the Scottish Highlands at Achnacarry. There potential Commando soldiers (who by then came from not only the British Army but also the Royal marines and the Allied Armies) underwent their tough and purposeful training. Only those who successfully completed all the course were accepted and privileged to wear the famous Green Beret. This distinctive head-dress was acknowledged as the hallmark of the highest standards of military training, self-discipline, physical endurance, initiative, bravery and courage whilst under their simple motto United We Conquer a comradeship beyond literary description was born, fostered and flourished.

For their valour in action the Commandos earned thirty-eight battle honours and many awards including eight Victoria Crosses, but many made the supreme sacrifice, no fewer than 1,700 Commando soldiers lost their lives and others were seriously wounded. It was a record that prompted Winston Churchill to pay the following tribute to the Commandos: "We may feel sure that nothing of which we have any knowledge or record has ever been done by mortal men which surpasses their feats of arms. Truly we may say of them when shall their glory fade."

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