Category Archives: Commandos

Makeshift STEN foregrips

No matter what, you just gotta love a STEN.

British 6th Para Div on D-Day, note the Denison smocks, Skrimmed helmets, toggle ropes, and a STEN MK V. Introduced in 1944, the MK V was a better-quality, more elaborate version of the Mk II including included a wooden pistol grip, a vertical wooden foregrip, a wooden stock, and a bayonet mount for the No. 4 Enfield rifle, whose sights it borrowed.

These “plumbers’ dreams” were, even in their most finished forms, always very ad hoc not to mention dangerous to due to their open bolt design. With that being said, both the American M3 Grease gun and at least the first two varieties of the STENs were often modified in-field to make them a bit more user-friendly.

With that, The Armourer’s Bench (TAB) has a great 5-minute video, new this week, on makeshift STEN foregrips spotted in the wild.


Frogman Art

Although lots of people harp on the JFK connection to today’s SEALs, the fact is, they were just an updated rebranding of units that date back to the old UDTs and NCDUs (Naval Combat Demolition Unit) of WWII. Speaking of which, the first NCDU unit was established some 78 years ago this month when a”Naval Demolition Project” at Amphibious Training Base (ATB) Solomons, Maryland resulted in the establishment of Operational Naval Demolition Unit No. 1.

Ultimately some 34 NCDUs, largely trained at ATB, Fort Pierce, Florida, where the SEAL Museum stands today, would land at Normandy, 13 hit the beach in Southern France for the Dragoon Landings, and a further 30 see action in the Pacific before the end of the war.

With that, the Naval History and Heritage Command have a great selection of combat art involving SEAL Teams. It makes sense as so much of their training and operations are purposely off-camera.

Check out this sampling:

Seals on Ambush. Established to carry out guerrilla and anti-guerrilla operations in harbors, inland waters, and their adjacent land areas, SEAL (Sea, Air, Land) teams usually operated in 6 man units to gather intelligence and conduct raids, reconnaissance patrols, salvage dives, and, as depicted here, ambushes of enemy forces. (Painting, Acrylic on Canvas, by Marbury Brown, 1967; Framed Dimensions 38H X 50 1/2W Accession #: 88-161-EU)

Parachuting SEAL Team, (Painting by P. Granbinetti, 1974. Courtesy of Navy Experimental Diving Unit. NH 85219-KN)

93-088-a U.S. Navy SEALs Recon Beach Near Pearlis Airport, Grenada Painting, Watercolor on Paper; by Mike Leahy; 1982; Unframed Dimensions 18H X 24W

US Navy Special Warfare Team Surveys the Sava River. The Navy continued to act as part of a United Nations team peacekeeping in the Serbia and Kosovo regions. Here, a Navy SEAL team helps locate mines and underwater impediments laid in the Sava River. (Painting, Oil on Canvas Board; by John Charles Roach; 1997; Accession #: 97-141-O)

Danger Ascending: “While I have never observed U.S. Navy Seals in operations, an event from my childhood inspired this painting. I was at Norfolk Naval Station when several Seal/UDT “frogmen” entered the water about a hundred yards out in the harbor. No sign of them for a while. Then, silently they emerged from the water, climbed up onto the pier before us, dripping wet with big grins on their faces. It was a powerful impression. I painted this scene as a modern reflection from my long-ago experience.” (Painting, Oil on Canvas; by Morgan Ian Wilbur; 2013; Framed Dimension 35H X 45W Accession #: 2013-058-04)

Have a great weekend guys. Maybe do some swimming. Go to the beach. 

Keeping the Deeds Alive

I’ve always had a staunch, somewhat old school take when it comes to traditional naval ship names. In short, it is hard for a plank owner rushing aboard to bring a new ship to life if it is named after some smarmy politician who never wore a uniform or activist and be told to “live up to the legacy” of that person. Ships should be named for five things: maritime heroes (Halsey, Farragut, Munro, Puller et. al), historical former ships (Wasp, Wahoo, Ranger), places (especially if they are also former famous ships, e.g. Nevada, Brooklyn), battles (Lexington, Midway, Hue City), and aspirations (Independence, Freedom).

That goes not just for the U.S. Navy but for any fleet.

With that in mind, the word from First Sea Lord Admiral Tony Radakin this week that the first five names for the future Type 31 frigates for the Royal Navy are familiar.

Each name has been selected to represent key themes and operations which will dominate and shape the global mission of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines: carrier operations (Formidable); operational advantage in the North Atlantic (Bulldog); forward deployment of ships around the globe to protect UK interests (Active); technology and innovation (Venturer); and the Future Commando Force (Campbeltown).

We’ve covered the unsinkable aircraft carrier HMS Formidable (R67) in a past Warship Wednesday, but HMS Cambeltown (notably the ex-USS Buchanan, DD-131), famous for the St. Nazaire Raid; the sixth HMS Bulldog (H91), the destroyer whose capture of a complete Enigma machine and codebooks from the German submarine U-110 in 1941 no doubt helped shorten the war; the 12th HMS Active (F171), the frigate whose blistered 4.5-inch gun chased Argentine troops across every hill around Port Stanley in 1982; and the third HMS/m Venturer (P68), the only submarine in history to have sunk another (the very advanced Type IXD2 U-864) while both were submerged; are no less important to naval history.

The well-known image of the fifth and most famous HMS Formidable on fire after the kamikaze hit on 4 May, photograph A 29717 from the collections of the Imperial War Museum

The “Trojan Horse Destroyer” HMS Campbeltown rests on the St Nazaire dock gate shortly before she will explode, March 1942

HMS Bulldog, in her three-shades-of-blue North Atlantic camouflage. IWM Photo No.: FL 1817

RN photo of frigate HMS Active escorting Lanistes through the Straits of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, mid-1987 Armilla patrol

HMS/m Venturer in Holy Loch in 1943. Because of her, U-864 and her cargo of 65 tons of mercury as well as Junkers Jumo 004B jet engine parts (used in the Messerschmitt Me 262) never made it to Japan as a result of an amazing underwater action. IWM A-18832.

Bravo Zulu, ADM Radakin.

Z Man Loadout

The “Z Special Unit” or “Z Force” detachments, immortalized in the early Sam Neil/Mel Gibson action film Attack Force Z (which included some great suppressed M3 Grease Guns and folbot action from an Oberon-class SSK) ripped up Japanese held islands throughout WWII. There is a really fascinating history behind these units and the redoubtable men who served in them.

Check out this loadout, showing a Webley/Enfield revolver, M1 Carbine, the wicked Welrod suppressed .32 “special purpose” gun, a machete (or possibly one of William E. Fairbairn’s Smatchets), and pack, courtesy of A Secret War.

Now, that looks fun. (Photo: A Secret War)