2,000 men organised into four “Special Service” Battalions
British 6th Division
Second World War
Battle of Crete
Siege of Tobruk
Twin Pimples raid
Layforce was an ad hoc military formation of the British Army consisting of a number of commando units during the Second World War. Formed in February 1941 under the command of Colonel Robert Laycock, after whom the force was named, it consisted of approximately 2,000 men and served in the Middle Eastern theatre of operations. Initially tasked with conducting raiding operations to disrupt Axis lines of communication in the Mediterranean it was planned that they would take part in operations to capture the Greek island of Rhodes.
As the strategic situation in the theatre turned against the Allies, however, the commandos were largely diverted from their original role and were used primarily to reinforce regular troops throughout the Mediterranean theatre. Elements of the force saw action in Bardia, Crete, Syria and Tobruk before they were disbanded in August 1941. Afterwards its personnel either returned to their former units or went on to serve with other special forces units raised in the Middle East.
In February 1941, a force of commandos under Colonel Robert Laycock were sent to the Middle East to carry out raids in the eastern Mediterranean. This force became known as ‘Layforce’ after their commander and initially they were drawn from ‘A’ Troop from No. 3 Commando, No. 7, No. 8 (Guards) Commando and No. 11 (Scottish) Commando, with additional personnel being drawn from No. 50 Commando and No. 52 Commando upon their arrival in Egypt in March.
Laycock held the rank of a colonel (rather than brigadier) on the staff, because his command was not formally and organisationally a full brigade, with all its supporting elements, although, with a strength of over 2,000 men it was equivalent.[Note 1] For reasons of security, the commandos were organised into four battalions and were renamed, No. 7 Commando became ‘A’ Battalion, No. 8 (Guards) became ‘B’ Battalion, No. 11 (Scottish) became ‘C’ Battalion and No. 50