The Birth of the Corps - 28 October
King Charles II sanctioned the formation of the Duke of York and
Albany's Maritime Regiment of Foot - the first Regiment to be formed
specifically for service afloat. The Regiment was raised mainly
from the Trained Bands of the City of London from which the RM derive
the privilege of marching through the City of London with Colours
flying, drums beating and bayonets fixed. The yellow stripe in our
present-day Regimental flash commemorates the yellow uniforms of
the Duke of York and Albany's Regiment.
The Capture of Gibraltar - 24 July
The famous attack upon Gibraltar, which led to its surrender to
the British, on 24 July 1704 was carried out by a brigade of British
and Dutch Marines, 1,800 strong, under the command of Prince George
of Hesse-Darmstadt. In the following October, Gibraltar was besieged
by the French and Spanish. The Marine brigade, which had been reinforced
shortly before by a further 400 Marines from the British Fleet,
held the fortress against repeated attacks until the siege was raised
on 9 March 1705. In one incident in this fighting, Captain Fisher
of the Marines with 17 of his men, successfully defended the Round
Tower against the continued assaults of 500 French Grenadiers. A
contemporary report of this noted defence says,
"Encouraged by the Prince of Hesse, the garrison did more than
could humanly be expected, and the English Marines gained an immortal
The Battle of Trafalgar - 21 October
The Corps was present at Lord Nelson's victory over the combined
fleets at Trafalgar, the most decisive sea fight in British history.
Ninety officers and over 3,600 NCOs, and men of the RM at their
traditional stations on the upper decks of the British ships bore
a brave and important part in the success of the day. The losses
were particularly heavy on board the leading ships; in Lord Nelson's
flagship, the Victory, 4 RM officers and 27 men of the RM detachment
were killed or wounded. The total RM casualties during the battle
were 4 officers and 117 men killed or died of wounds and 14 officers
and 226 men wounded.
The Battle of Belleisle - 7 June
Two battalions of Marines, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel
John McKenzie, served with great distinction at the siege of Belleisle,
an island off the north-west coast of France near St Nazaire in
Quiberon Bay. With the 19th Regiment, these two units effected their
first successful seaborne landing in the face of stiff opposition.
They took part in all subsequent fighting on the island. The Marine
battalions gained great fame at the final storming of the redoubts
in June. Of their conduct on this occasion the Annual Register for
No action of greater spirit and gallantry has been performed during
the whole war.
The laurel wreath borne on the Colours and appointments of the RM
is believed to have been adopted in honour of the distinguished
service of the Corps during this operation.
The Battle of Bunker Hill -17 June
On the night of 16 June 1775 a rebel American force occupied dominating
high ground to the north of the town of Boston where a British garrison
was based. On the following morning General Sir William Howe launched
an attack to dislodge the Americans which was repulsed with heavy
losses. A second attack was also unsuccessful but the third, after
Howe had been reinforced by a Marine Force and the 47th Regiment,
finally took the position. The Marine Force under Major John Pitcairn
consisted of the First and Second Marine Battalions. It suffered
casualties of 29 killed and 87 wounded in storming the heights.
A contemporary report said:
"The reputation of the Marines was never more nobly sustained.
Their unshaken steadiness was conspicuous and their valour in closing
with the enemy when part of the attacking column wavered gained
them not only the admiration of their comrades but the commendation
of their distinguished chief."
Gallipoli - 28 April 1915
During February and March 915 elements of the 3rd Royal Marines
Brigade (Brigadier C N Trotman RMLI), landed largely unopposed on
the Gallipoli Peninsula to dismantle Turkish defensive positions.
After the unsuccessful naval attempts to force the Narrows in March,
the Turkish Army reinforced the peninsula in strength. Thereafter
a major amphibious operation was required. The Plymouth Battalion
RMLI took park in the initial landing on 25 April but the Brigade
did not land until the night of 28/29 April when it went ashore
at Anzac Cover to relieve 1 and 3 Australian Brigades. On 30 April
it was joined in the line by 1 Royal Navy Brigade (Brigadier D Mercer
RMLI) which contained the Deal RMLI Battalion. For the next 13 days
both brigades were engaged in continuous heavy fighting, bearing
the brunt of the Turkish attacks and displaying great resolution.
After a counter-attack in the Monash Valley by Chatham and Portsmouth
Battalions on 3 May 1915 the Turks were driven back with heavy losses.
Major Quinn, a great Australian VC, said to Major Jerram of the
RM Brigade "The bravest thing I've seen so far was the charge
of your two Battalions up that hill on Bloody Sunday."
The Raid on Zeebrugge - 23 April 1918
In another incident Lance Corporal W R Parker (Portsmouth Battalion
RMLI) was awarded the Victoria Cross for his gallantry in evacuating
a party of wounded men under fire. The RM Brigade's casualties during
this period were 21 officers and 217 men killed, 29 officers and
764 men wounded and 122 men missing. On 12 May both brigades were
deployed to Cape Helles to rejoin the RN Division for the remainder
of the campaign.
The 4th Battalion RM under the command of Lieutenant Colonel B
N Elliot DSO took a leading part in the gallant enterprise against
the German naval base at Zeebrugge, on St George's Day, 1918. The
RMLI companies landed on the Mole in the face of determined opposition
and held their positions while the entrance to the canal was successfully
blocked and the Mole destroyed. Lieutenant Colonel Elliot, the last
of a family who had served in the Corps from father to son since
1755, Major Cordner, his second-in-command, 9 other officers and
109 NCOs and men lost their lives in this gallant affair, while
233 all ranks were wounded and 13 taken prisoner. Two Victoria Crosses
were awarded to the RM for their conduct during the operation.
The Landings in Normandy - 6 June
Over 16000 Royal Marines took part in the largest amphibious operation
in history. Most of the minor landing craft were manned by Royal
Marines, as also were the guns of the support craft, and all capital
ships carried an RM detachment. Five RM Commandos (41, 45, 46, 47
and 48) landed during the assault phase, grouped with three Army
Commandos into two Special Service Brigades. In addition the Corps
provided a number of specialist units including an Armoured Support
Group, beach clearance and control parties and engineers. The first
48 hours of the operation were the most critical, involving a seaborne
assault against a heavily protected and strongly held coastline.
Most of the RM Commandos were ashore by 0900 hours on 6 June and
had achieved their initial objectives by early on 7 June. The Corps
thus played a leading role in the establishment of secure beach-heads
from which subsequent operations to defeat the German Army in the
west were developed. Nine officers and 85 men were killed in action
on 6 June. The number of wounded is not known. The following gallantry
awards were conferred upon Royal Marines during the Normandy campaign,
most of them for actions on 6 June: 5 DSOs, 3 OBEs, 13 DSCs, 10
MCs, 1 CGM, 26 DSMs and 13 MMs.
The Assault on Walcheren -1 November
The leading troops in the successful seaborne attack on Walcheren
in November 1944, were the 4th Special Service Brigade (Brigadier
B W Leicester DSO) consisting of Numbers 41, 47 and 48 Commandos
and Number 4 Army Commando. The three RM Commandos attacked Westkapelle
with little support, owing to the weather, other than that provided
by the naval support craft, the guns of which were manned by RM
crews. The success of the landing was in no small measure due to
the self-sacrifice and gallantry of the naval support craft, and
after some days' heavy fighting ashore, the batteries covering the
mouth of the Scheldt were captured. The clearing of the entrance
to the river, in which the RM thus performed a gallant and leading
part, was of the greatest importance to the operations of the Allied
Armies in Flanders.
Recapture of the Falklands -14 June
The Corps was involved in virtually every significant aspect of
the South Atlantic campaign, starting on 2 April when Naval Party
8901 opposed the Argentine assault on the Islands. A company group
from 42 Commando RM recaptured South Georgia on 25 April. From 1
May, SB Squadron carried out intelligence-gathering patrols which
were critical to the success of the main amphibious landing in San
Carlos Water on 21 May. The main landing was planned and executed
by 3 Commando Brigade RM (Brigadier J H A Thompson OBE), which had
been reinforced by two parachute battalions and other Army subunits.
RM detachments served in many ships of the Task Force, and manned
all landing craft. On 30 May, Major General J J Moore OBE MC* arrived
in San Carlos with his headquarters, based upon HQ Commando Forces
RM, and assumed command of all land forces which by then included
5 Infantry Brigade. 3 Commando Brigade RM, however, bore the brunt
of the fighting throughout the campaign, commanding most of the
battles which led to the surrender of the Argentine forces on 14
June. The professionalism and resilience of the Marines who took
part were major factors in the success of this unique amphibious
operation conducted at a range of nearly 8000 miles from the UK
mounting base. A total of 3520 Royal Marines, approximately 50 per
cent of the Corps, took part in the campaign. Two officers and 25
men of the Corps were killed in action during the campaign, and
67 were wounded. The following honours and awards were subsequently
conferred upon Royal Marines: 1 KCB, 1 CB, 2 DSOs, 6 OBEs, 3 MBEs,
2 DSCs, 5 MCs, 2 DFCs, 10 MMs, 1 DCM, 3 DSMs, 1 DFM and 1 QGM.