The Small Scale Raiding Force (SSRF), No. 62 Commando is the brainchild of Major Gustavus (Gus) Henry March-Phillipps. It is the logical follow up of the Maid Honor Force, used in Operation Postmaster. He intends to use the Small Scale Raiding Force to perform raids across the English Channel at selected enemy positions, with the aim of gathering intelligence and capturing German prisoners for interrogation.
At the same time there is Lord Louis Mountbatten’s desire to increase the number of commando raids across the Channel. As the commander of Combined Operations, he intends to bring together Commandos and the Royal Navy in joint attacks. In March 1942, it is agreed that Special Operations Executive would provide administerial and financial support for the unit, while it would operate under a joint command between Combined Operations and the Special Operations Executive. This would most likely solve the Special Operations Executive’s problems of getting naval permission for their operations.
On March 10th, 1942, March-Phillipps and Major John Gwynne meet Mountbatten. Gwynne is appointed as the unit’s Planning Officer for Operations.
On March 17th, 1942, during a meeting at the Combined Operations Headquarters, the principles for the Small Scale Raiding Force are discussed and agreed. Gus March-Phillipps is appointed the Force commander. It is decided that Special Operations Executive would be responsible for selecting the necessary men and provide the base to operate from. The Special Operations Executive is also responsible for training and equipping the unit. The Royal Navy and Combined Operations provide two motor launches, their crews, and armaments. Both would be responsible for fuelling and repairing them. Each motor launch would have its own naval commander, but under the overall command of March-Phillipps. Mountbatten wants a force of about fifty men. Between 15 and 20 are to be foreign nationals, to be used as guides, and interpreters with local people during operations. Mountbatten aims for Dutch, French, Belgians and Poles of suitable quality and experience to be recruited.
On March 21st, 1942, the Chiefs of Staff gives permission for the raising of the Small Scale Raiding Force.
On March 27th, 1942, March-Phillipps receives the final plan under which he was to operate his force. The unit would consist of 30 British, divided equally between officers and other ranks. The foreign contingent would consist of three officers and seventeen other ranks.
One day later, on March 28th the Special Operations Executive’s foreign sections arrange for the relevant foreign governments to give their permission for the release of their personnel to the Small Scale Raiding Force. March-Phillipps is now allowed to approach the foreign sections for suitable candidates. The men from the Maid Honor Force will form the nucleus of the Small Scale Raiding Force. Since they number only thirteen in total, March-Phillipps must start recruiting for British members too.
March-Phillips code name is W.01, or with the initials MH, after the Maid Honor Force of Operation Postmaster. The activities and personnel of the Small Scale Raiding Force are covered with the code name Fyfield. Each member of the unit is given a cover story. The objectives of the unit are labelled top secret.
The Small Scale Raiding Force base is situated in Poole area in Dorset. An easy choice since the Maid Honor Force was also based and trained there in the spring and summer of 1941. Headquarters is set at Anderson Manor at Anderson Village. This old Country House is situated about ten kilometres from Wareham and fifteen kilometres from Poole. Remote enough to provide the secrecy the unit needed. The unit moves to the country house in April 1942.
Anderson Manor receives the codenamed Station 62 and is profiled as a commando training centre. The Small Scale Raiding Force is codenamed No. 62 Commando. At the same time, the Special Operations Executive officially raise an unrelated unit also named No. 62 Commando to cover them up.
Among the new recruits are men like the Leslie Prout, Thomas Winter and Anders Larssen. Once the men start arriving, the house is equipped and as being a Commando Training Centre. An Assault Course and close quarters training building are built, and training commences in the widest range possible. Training included survival training, marches, climbing, explosives training, swimming, signals and boat training. Within the unit, rank and dress code are considered unimportant as well formal addressing of higher ranks. However, discipline is never a discussion.
In that same period of time the two Motor Torpedo Boats, among them the brand-new Motor Torpedo Boat 344, commanded by Lieutenant Freddie Bourne. The ship is nicknamed by the men of the Small Scale Raiding Force, The Little Pisser.
The Special Service Brigade nominally commands No. 62 Commando. A clash of interests between Combined Operations, Special Operations Executive, Secret Intelligence Service, and the Admiralty leads to the Small Scale Raiding Force’s eventual disbandment in 1943.