1964/65 efforts were made to trace the history of the Club back to
its origins, in an attempt to discover when the Officers of the Corps
first dined together. The attempt did not wholly succeed and the Club's
origins remain obscure. A certain amount of information dating from
the period about the turn of the century was obtained from the "Globe
and Laurel", or was received in replies which a number of senior
officers were kind enough to make to the enquiries of the committees;
from these sources this note has been compiled.
The earliest firm date is 1892 when a notice in the first copy
of the "Globe and Laurel announced that the annual dinner would
be held in the Whitehall Rooms, Hotel Metropole, on 9th June 1892.
The charge for dinner was 25/- to members and the annual subscription
was then 5/-. The Duke of Edinburgh presided at the dinner and there
are a number of familiar names on the list of those who dined. The
committee consisted of 11 senior officers and there were also five
representatives of the Divisions and Depots.
Colonel Grover believes that previously there were dinners at Woolwich
until the abolition of the 4th Division in 1869, and that the Woolwich
Tree (which was never erected except on special occasions because
it was too heavy) appears symbolic of this. He also thinks that,
by tradition, the Barham portrait, - formerly of Woolwich, then
Forton, now Eastney - was carried round and toasted on those occasions.
In 1893 some brief rules, confirming the 5/- subscription and empowering
the Committee to fix the cost of the dinner, appeared in the "Globe
and Laurel" and the dinner was on almost exactly the same lines
as in 1892. The Duke of Edinburgh again presided, and the string
band of the Chatham Division played during dinner. In a departure
from the custom, General Schombeg proposed that members should drink
a second toast - that their President, on his promotion to the rank
of Admiral of the Fleet - and this was "heartily done with
musical honours". His Royal Highness made a brief and amusing
reply and added "that HRH The Prince of Wales was at that moment
presiding in the same building at the annual dinner of the 2nd Life
Guards, and that he had just received a note from him to the effect
that the 2nd Life Guards were then drinking the following toast,
"Success to the Royal Marines"; he therefore proposed
the toast of "HRH The Prince of Wales, Lord Howe, and the Officers
of the 2nd Life Guards", which was received most cordially
by those present.
General Halliday cannot recall when he first became a member of
the Club, or first attended what was known in his day as "The
Corps Dinner". He has a recollection of the Duke of Edinburgh
as Commander-in-Chief at Devonport, expressing a wish that the officers
of RM Plymouth should dine the officers of a German naval squadron
visiting the port; the Commander-in-Chief, though an Admiral, attended
the dinner in his scarlet tunic as Honorary Colonel Royal Marines;
the officers dined in ball dress with swords.
In 1903, as recorded in the March issue of the "Globe and
Laurel, the credit balance of the fund was £56.0s.2d, but
the accounts were insufficiently detailed to show how this had been
accumulated. Balance sheets for at least eight previous years (not
continuous) were available, but no record of subscribers was kept
and the rule that subscribers should be called on to pay up back
subscriptions (not exceeding £1, and not all when serving
abroad) had apparently not been observed - in fact, few officers
were regular subscribers. A number of serving officers and retired
officers had felt for some years that change in the conduct of the
Club's affairs was desirable and improvements had been suggested.
The committee therefore drew up and published a comprehensive list
of rules, and the club was put on a firm footing as "The Royal
Marines Dinner Club". The annual subscription remained 5/-,
with the dinner at 25/- to members and £2.00 to non-members.
General Hutton tells us that in the same year the Probationary
Second Lieutenants were given a talk on their duties with special
emphasis on joining the club, and that some resentment was felt
at this element of compulsion. General Hutton himself has been a
member from those days, but did not dine until 1926, when the then
Honorary Secretary (who may have been the Director of Naval Recruiting)
went down to Chatham with a personal appeal for support for that
year's dinner; General Hutton responded, and dined regularly thereafter.
General Bourne recalls that in the early 1900's he had to miss
three dinners because he was serving at the RN College, Osborne,
and it was an unwritten rule that officers never left the college
except to compete at the Military Tournament; he tells us, however,
that the Prince of Wales used to attend the dinner as Colonel Commandant
of the Corps, and he believes that he did so up to the time when
he became King George V.
The RM Officers Dinner Club (RMODC) has continued to exsist throughout
the 20th and into the 21st century. For many years now, we have
been fortunate in being able to dine in the Great Hall of Lincoln's
Inn. The format for the dinner is the same as a Royal Marines Regimental
Dinner in an Officers Mess but, without the after dinner speeches!