• Si Biggs

539 Assault Squadron Royal Marines

Updated: Mar 9

Unit/ Formation: 539 ASRM


Location: Great Britain


Period/ Conflict: 1900's


Year: 1984


Date/s: 2nd April 1984


539 Raiding Squadron is 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines Amphibious asset equipped with various types of raiding craft and vehicles, manned by over 100 Royal Marines and support personnel.


Originally 539 ASRM (Assault Squadron Royal Marines) the unit was formed on 2 April 1984 and commissioned operational on 24 July 1984.


Contrary to common belief, rather than in direct response to the war in the South Atlantic, Operation Corporate merely confirmed what was well known and had been well practiced over the years in north Norway.


As Major-General Sir Jeremy Moore’s subsequent Report of Proceedings states, in effect, No new lessons were learned but some old ones emphasised. Instead, the campaign actually delayed the formation of the squadron by two years. [1]


An LCU MK9R (713) with black and brown arctic camouflage and extendable Igloo (here folded away) to provide environmental protection for embarked forces.

Named in commemoration of 19 year-old acting temporary Corporal George Ernest Tandy (Ch.X.110723) who served in 539 Assault Flotilla and took part in Operation Neptune beginning on 6th June 1944.


On launching from the SS Empire Halberd the steering gear of his LCA number 786 was damaged yet, without hesitation, he climbed over the stern and steered the vessel with one foot on the port rudder and one on the rudder-guard. It was nine nautical miles to Gold Beach and nine back, under fire and in a cold, unpleasantly-choppy sea. His award of the DSM was announced in the London Gazette of 29 August, 1944. Consequently, in 1981, when deciding what to name this latest landing craft squadron the number 539 was chosen in order to honour George Tandy’s courage while, at the same time, perpetuating the memory of all those landing craft rates that took part in the seaborne invasion of the Normandy beaches. Who actually suggested this title remains unclear. [1]


A section of MK 1 RRC (Rigid Raiding Craft) of 539 ASRM under the Bridge of Lorne supporting the RM Officer final training exercise (Authors own picture)

Originally equipped with 2 x LCU's (Landing Craft Utility MK9), 4 x LCVP's (Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel MK4), RRC (Rigid Raiding Craft MK1) and Gemini IRC (Inflatable Raiding Craft), the unit developed over the years, first homed at Royal William Yard next to Stonehouse Barracks.


The Unit moved to a purpose built base in Turnchapel Plymouth, the site was established as a shipyard in the 17th century and expanded rapidly under the ownership of John Parker, 1st Earl of Morley in the 1790s. The Admiralty acquired the site in 1903 and used it as a naval oil fuel depot until it was badly damaged by aerial bombing in 1940 during the Second World War. The slipway was used as an embarkation point by troops of the US 29th Division boarding LSTs for the Normandy landings in June 1944.


The site now renamed Royal Marines Turnchapel (RMT) became a Royal Marines base in 1993 and the home of 539 Assault Squadron RM.


During its time at RMT the Squadron consists of over 100 personnel and was equipped with a variety of Landing Craft including the LCU MK9's (Both Shottel pump jet and CPP controllable Pitch Propellors versions served with the Sqn), the Griffon 2000TDX(M) and later 2400TD Hovercraft (Landing Craft Air Cushioned (Light), (LCAC(L)), Rigid Raiders (RRC) MK2 then MK3, Landing Craft Vehicle/Personnel (LCVP) MK4 and the IRC (Inflatable Raiding Craft) initially the Gemini, then teh MIB (Medium INfaltable Boat) finally replaced by the Zodiac 470.


539 ASRM's also has its own Squadron Recce Teams, these six-man teams carry out beach and hinterland reconnaissance ahead of an amphibious operation by 3 Commando Brigade.


The RRC MK 3 in both dazzle pattern and traditional camouflage (Authors own image)

In the convening years 539 ASRM deployed boat groups to support various out of area operations in 1997 a boat group deployed to the Congo, operating on the River Zaire as part of a contingency plan in case it became necessary to evacuate UK nationals from Kinshasa, Zaire.


As fighting continues in the Democratic Republic of Congo, British Royal Marines are preparing to help if any evacuations of foreign citizens are needed. Members of the 539 Squadron have swapped the English Channel for the Congo River, where they are practising with high speed boats called "Rigid Raiders." AP

The Squadron deployed on Op Telic in 2003 and was augmented with a boat group from HMS Ocean and also had US special operations craft under command, future deployments to Iraq included boat groups being deployed to patrol the waterways of the Shatt al Arab and lakes of the Maysan marshes including the operation mounted to stop infiltrations across the Iranian boarder to Al Amarah in 2005.

The Author leading a dusk patrol of Raiding Troop 539 ASRM on the lakes of Maysan in 2005

In 2006 the Rigid Raider Mk 3 was gradually replaced by the Offshore Raiding Craft (ORC) and its Gun Boat variant.

The Offshore Raiding Craft (ORC) and its Gun Boat variant pacing a Griffon 2400TD LCAC (Landing Craft Air Cushioned) in a Norwegian Fjord.

During the London Olympics of 2012 using procedures developed and lessons learnt from the protection of the International Fleet Review for HM Queen Elizabeth in 2005 the Squadron carried out maritime protection and patrol duties on the Thames and in Weymouth (the location of the Sailing events).


In July 2011 a landing craft from RFA Cardigan Bay landed two Vikings and Royal Marines of 539 ASRM in Somaliland. They penetrated several miles of insecure territory to meet up with an important clan chief and take him back to Cardigan Bay for a meeting with MI6 and Foreign Office officials.


In 2013 the squadron moved from Turnchapel to a new purpose built base in Plymouth Dockyard, RM Tamar the home of 1 Assault Group Royal Marines and 10 (Landing Craft) Training Squadron was formally opened by Prince Harry on 2nd August 2013 and also has berths for the amphibious ships Bulwark, Albion and Ocean before her decommission.


In November 2019 1st Assault Group Royal Marines was renamed 47 Commando (Raiding Group) Royal Marines, 539 ASRM was renamed 539 Raiding Squadron.


[1] 539 ASSAULT SQUADRON ROYAL MARINES - A GENESIS by Ewen Southby-Tailyour



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