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Stalwart Royal Marine Gary stands down after 43 years as a commando

Chatting with the Duke of Edinburgh at the end of the 1664 Challenge in 2017
13 October 2022
After 43 years’ service, one of the last Royal Marines to see action in the Falklands has retired from the Corps.

Lieutenant Colonel Gary Green, who has seen action in the South Atlantic, Balkans and Afghanistan in a career spanning six decades and tremendous changes in society, technology and warfare, has finally called it a day and retired from active service.

 

“It’s a long time and it’s quite sad, but everyone has to leave in the end,” says the 59-year-old from West Sussex.

 

And he believes the future of the Corps is in safe hands with the quality of recruits passing through the gates of the Commando Training Centre in Lympstone.

 

“When I was Corps Colonel I found that the quality of people joining now was better than when I joined. Today’s recruits are fitter, more determined, slightly older and significantly better educated,” he explains.

 

“And one thing which really struck me: they look after each other first and think about themselves last. That’s a fantastic quality, that’s the commando spirit we’re looking for. So I certainly don’t recognise tags like ‘snowflake generation’. I see people who are determined to serve their country.”

 

They also receive considerably better kit than that issued to one Recruit Gary Green in 1979.

 

“When I began training I was issued equipment going back to the 1950s, nothing was weatherproof, everything was heavy, and we were even given puttees [coverings for boots/lower legs generally associated with WW1 in the trenches],” he recalls.

 

“Today you’re given Gore-Tex water and weather-proof kit, tiny radios, the latest weapons and tech – the battlefield has changed out of all recognition with the likes of drones, artificial intelligence. It’s a different way of fighting.”

 

Gary’s interest in the commandos was sparked as a teenager working on a milk round when he was looking to escape a broken home, saw an advert for the Royal Marines in a national newspaper and wrote off for details.

 

Eight months later he was walking through the gates of Lympstone… followed by walking out of them after another 32 weeks, proudly wearing the green beret as a qualified Royal Marines Commando aged just 17.

 

Two years later he was one of 27,000 men and women sent south to liberate the Falklands. After initially landing at San Carlos with Kilo Company, 42 Commando, he was sent forward by helicopter with a small group of about 40 marines to support SAS troops engaged with Argentine troops on Mount Kent, with minimal food, ammunition, snow on the ground and temperatures frequently below zero.

 

“That’s when the commando mindset kicks in, all the training pays off and you overcome adversity, surviving to fight in the harshest of conditions,” Gary says.

 

His unit was subsequently sent to draw out/test Argentine defences on another peak west of the Falklands capital Stanley, Mount Harriet – 20 Royal Marines versus several hundred enemy soldiers.

 

“It was a bit hairy,” he says with typical British understatement. “The mountain erupted with fire – tracers racing through the night, parachute flares lighting up the battlefield.

 

“Nothing today compares with the Falklands – it was the last conventional conflict.”

 

If our country owes a debt of gratitude to Gary and his comrades for deeds in the elsewhere, he believes he owes a lot to the Corps and military for the opportunities and experiences it’s provided.

 

“I joined at 16 with no education. I leave having passed my GCSEs, went on to complete a Master’s degree, received the OBE from the Duke of Cambridge," he adds.

 

That OBE was awarded for Gary’s fundraising drive, the 1664 Challenge, which is the umbrella for some remarkable physical challenges commandos have undertaken to support the Royal Marines Charity, from a 1,664-mile run which ended at Buckingham Palace in front of the Duke of Edinburgh – his final official public engagement – to this year’s Commando 80 challenge.

 

In all the various events and activities have raised around £800,000 to help fellow marines past and present.

 

“For every Royal Marine – serving or retired – wearing the green beret is an honour and privilege. You are following in the footsteps of those who have gone before and have worn that beret with distinction for generations,” Gary adds.

 

So after 43 years as a Royal Marine, what’s Gary’s first job no longer as a serving green beret?

 

Corps Secretary – a civil service job which involves working with the Commandant General Royal Marines and units on regimental and heraldic issues (such as possible changes to badges, crests and insignia with the accession of King Charles and a new royal cypher).

 

Once a Royal Marine, always a Royal Marine…
The quality of people joining now is better than when I joined. Today’s recruits are fitter, more determined, slightly older and significantly better educated.

Lt Col Gary Green

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