Today Im recreating the training and combat dress of the famed 1st Ranger Infantry Battalion. Also known as “Darby’s Rangers” after the iconic leader, Col. William Orlando Darby. Many of his men referred to him as “El Darbo”.
The Ranger concept began after Officers in the U.S. Military decided an American equivalent of the British “Commandos” should be formed for special assaults and action behind the line. Two notable units were formed early during the war, the US Marine Corps’ own ‘Raider’ Battalions. These units while extremely elite were mostly used as regular infantry and disbanded in 1944 much to the chagrin of the men, the second – The Rangers. The Rangers were named after an American historical unit that existed from Roberts’ Rangers in the French and Indian war, to the Texas Rangers’ legacy in the west. This Ranger unit would be formed from existing troops then in early 1942 in England. More than half of the men volunteered were from the National Guard unit, the 34th Infantry Division “Red Bulls”.
The training that Darby’s Rangers faced were from a veteran Commando cadre in the Scottish highlands. Emphasis on night fighting, hand to hand combat, speed marching, special assaults, and critical thinking were key to the elite curriculum. The Rangers trained on the same Obstacle course as the British Commandos. It is worth noting, that even after graduating there was no special shoulder patch, or sleeve insignia denoting them as Rangers.
1st Rangers – England, early 1942
The Rangers while in England trained in the Herringbone Twill coverall uniform. Commonly referred to as HBT, this uniform was the newer replacement to the outdated indigo blue denim uniform model M1937/1940. Early cartridge belts from the First World War were still being issued, as our Ranger here wears (Mills pattern M1910 Cartridge belt). Along with the early belt he wears the M1910 First Aid pouch, also from WW1. The Rangers, especially the 1st Battalion were large proponents of the “cut down” leggings. They were commonly cut down for ease of use and minimize chaffing. The leggings you see here are modified early brass hardware versions. Other unique pieces are the M1917a1 “Kelly” helmet used early by American forces before being replaced by the iconic M1 helmet. In his hands is the unique Fairbairn-Sykes Commando dagger. A dagger by which many were based off of, such as the Raider Stiletto and First Special Service Forces’ V-42. For Ranger enthusiasts, one of the more unique pieces of equipment the 1st Battalion recieved were the “Commando boots”, or so called “SV boots”. A British Commando sole “Sole, Vibram” boot was issued to the 1st Ranger men.
1st Ranger Battalion Attached to No. 4 Commando- Dieppe, France – August 1942
Ranger dress was somewhat iconic due to their extensive use of British items. The standard M1937 wool uniform is worn with cartridge belt. The inclusion of a Royal Navy life preserver, Cap Comforter and British 1937 Pattern Small Pack with demolitions. Although post raid photos show the Cap Comforter, looks as if they wore their own M1917a1 Kelly helmets during the raid.
The Rangers first action was along side the Commandos and Canadians during the ill-fated Dieppe fiasco. Code named Operation Jubilee, the men were dispersed among the units as such
-4 Officer’s and 36 Enlisted Men attached to No.3 Commando
-4 Enlisted Men attached to No.4 Commando
-2 Officer’s and 4 Enlisted Men attached to ‘various’ units within 2nd Canadian Division
Rangers suffered their first casualties there. Although the raid was largely a failure, it is generally accepted that the Commandos and Rangers acquitted themselves well and seizing objectives.