James collects the coveted Commando green beret – from his dad!


A 22-year-old Royal Marines Reservist from Somerset is celebrating the award of the famous Commando green beret.

And James Spencer, from Taunton, will never forget the very special moment of the presentation – because the officer performing the ceremony was none other than his father, Brigadier Richard Spencer, Deputy Commandant General, Royal Marines.

It took place in a Dartmoor woodland clearing moments after James and other members of the Royal Marines Reserve completed the final test that every would-be Commando must undertake – a 30-mile yomp carrying a weapon and 30lbs of kit in less than eight hours.

Previously, James had battled through a tough fortnight also comprising a field exercise, plus:

  • a nine-mile speed march inside 90 minutes carrying full fighting order.
  • a six-mile endurance course through rough terrain including tunnels, wading pool and an underwater culvert, followed by a four-mile run home and marksmanship test.
  • the ‘Tarzan’ assault course, ending in a rope climb up a 30ft near-vertical wall – in full kit.

James, a former pupil of Queen’s College, Taunton, and Taunton School, serves in the Royal Marines Reserve unit based at Clifton in Bristol. He has just completed his final year studying sports science at Gloucestershire University.

The final Commando challenges were, he says, “the toughest thing I have ever done, even though the training we undertake builds us up for something we know will be very serious.

“The most painful moment for me was reaching the 20-mile marker on the 30-miler, although I did succeed in falling off the rope on the Tarzan assault course!”

James, who has a passion for classic cars and rugby, is due to follow his father into the Royal Marines – he begins training with the Regulars in September. It was, he adds, a hugely satisfying moment when he pulled on the green beret for the first time. “It meant crossing a bridge that I have imagined myself doing for the last five years or so.

“It’s an iconic moment that every Royal Marine looks forward to – and receiving the award from my father meant the experience was a good as you can make it.”

Brigadier Spencer, who himself ran the last 12 miles of the 30-mile course, told the newly-qualified Commandos that he won his own beret 35 years ago.

He added: “You have all just completed a remarkable achievement and join a pretty special organisation as qualified members of the Royal Marines and Army Commandos – something no one can ever take from you.”

RMR Bristol, which includes detachments at Poole, Plymouth, Cardiff and Lympstone, near Exeter, has a specialist amphibious landing role. It operates in support of Regular Royal Marines units, providing General Duties Marines and/or specialist weapon operators.

Other specialisms include landing craft coxswains, media and information operators, physical training instructors, signals, drivers, Special Forces and civil-military co-operation.

Recruits, typically aged 19-30, undergo 14 months of training before they get the chance to claim their green beret as fully-fledged commandos.

For further information contact RMR Bristol on 01179 733 267 or visit http://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/our-organisation/maritime-reserves/royal-marines-reserve/rmr-bristol .

Reserve Forces