The Royal Marines

"I never knew an appeal to them for honour, courage or loyalty, that they did not more than realise my highest expectations. If ever the hour of real danger should come to England, they will be found the Country's Sheet Anchor." Admiral Lord St. Vincent.

 

"SOLDIER AN' SAILOR TOO."

Drawn by Capt. J.S. Hicks RMLI.

"All over the world, a doin' all kinds of things." Rudyard Kipling.

(Globe & Laurel, June 1918).


 

The following article was published in The Mexborough & Swinton Times, August 21st 1915. Its publishing date coincided with Jack Clegg's arrival on the Gallipoli Peninsula & is a fine example of contemporary Royal Marine history. Many of the friends & family of Marines from South Yorkshire would have read this, perhaps their first introduction to their place in history. As such it provides as good an introduction now.

 

THE ROYAL MARINES. A CORPS OF GREAT TRADITIONS.

(By E. CHARLES VIVIAN.)

 

Somebody once went to Eastney Barracks, one of the four Divisions whence the Royal Marines go out to the ships of the fleet & to work of every kind in every part of the world: that somebody was shown round the various shops & drill grounds & appliances with which a Marine becomes familiar in the course of his training, & finally that somebody turned to the man who had acted as his guide:- "But nobody ever hears of the Marines," he said. "What do you do?" "Oh, nothing," his guide answered, rather wearily. The reproof took effect, & the visitor apologised. For the Marines do everything, & the man who sets out to compile a record of what they do is as venturesome an individual as he who sets out to compile the history of the corps. In the first case, one might set down every form of military & naval activity, & in the second case, one might set to work to write the histories of the Navy & Army, omitting only the military work on the Indian frontier.

Ordinary regiments have their colours, on which are inscribed the actions & campaigns in which the owners of the colours distinguish themselves: the Marines adopt as their badge the globe, this stating simply that no colours (though the Royal Marines Light Infantry have them) could contain their world-wide distinction, & their motto - "Per Mare Per Terram," - backs the tacit statement. The word "Gibraltar," at which place they put up their long & memorable defence, & a laurel wreath which commemorates their gallantry in the taking of Belleisle, complete the badge. Such a list of distinctions as regiments place on their colours would, in the case of the Marines be a recital of practically every campaign, & nearly every action, in which the British Navy & Army have taken part.

 

Raised first when Charles was on the British Throne, abolished as a corps & then raised again, the Marines retain one small distinction until this day that calls for mention. In the bad old days when seamen mutinied - as in the mutiny at Nore, for instance - the Marines alone could be depended on to support lawful authority, & the trust thus reposed in them was never once abused. In consequence of this, the mess deck of the Marines on battleships & cruisers is placed between that of the seamen & the officers' mess; all cause for this has long since disappeared, but the unshakeable loyalty of this Royal regiment in earlier days is still marked by the position of their mess deck on every capital ship of the senior service. As already noted, their history is as lengthy a record as a list of their achievements, & thus it has no place here in detail. We are more concerned with the Marines of to-day, with the men themselves, than with any dry record of facts. As a corps, they are lacking in one particular; they have never mastered the art of self-advertisement: The man in the street knows that such a body of men as the Royal Marines is in existence, & usually he has a vague idea that they do something on ships. There, however, his knowledge ends.

On entering the Barracks one is struck by the mere atmosphere of the place in which these men are trained; outside the barrackgate are jerry-built houses, little shops, & all that one would expect in this suburb of a naval town; inside is cleanliness, solidity & neat efficiency, - one passes into a world that is better ordered, better managed, & of more healthy atmosphere than the civilian world outside. From the magnificent mess room of the officers' mess to the great central kitchen in which the men's meals are prepared, one gathers a sense of things done in the best possible way, & that sense persists in surveying the training of the men, the provisions for their comfort, the range of sport & recreation provided for their spare time - for every detail of their lives in the period of training. From this period they pass equipped, mentally & physically, to take their places in the ships of the Fleet, with the Armies in France & the Dardanelles, in German South-West Africa, or on anti-aircraft service in the United Kingdom. For the Marines are ubiquitous & in every aspect of this present campaign they have their share.

 

 

Primarily, of course, the Marines are intended for service at sea, where they man the guns of the Fleet. In every capital ship of the service, a certain proportion of the guns are manned by Marines, & in times of peace there is a perpetual & healthy rivalry between the Marines & the seamen with regard to gun-drill & shooting capabilities; the magnificent shooting records of the Marines prove that this rivalry is not without its uses. On land, the Marines are used for manning coast defences & certain naval bases, for manning siege & heavy artillery in France, Belgium & South Africa; for contributing to the strength of colonial expeditionary forces, in manning anti-aircraft guns where needed, in working all the motor transport used in connection with their duties, & as an infantry brigade now forming part of the Royal Naval Division in the Dardanelles.

 

The corps is the most self-contained, the most nearly self-supporting of any branch of the Services; even the clothing & boots worn by the men are manufactured by & under auspices of the authorities at the Barracks; trained as both sailors & soldiers, Marines comprise shoemakers, tailors, & mechanics of every kind; on a foundation of infantry training they build a knowledge of every gun in use in both Navy & Army, &, if the camels used in the Egyptian campaign may be counted, there have also been mounted Marines. The colloquialism, "Tell that to the Marines," is in the nature of a compliment to the corps, in reality, though it may appear as ridicule on the surface; its origin lay in the fact that a Marine is so well instructed & so intelligent that, if he will believe a thing, it must be true, & if it were not true the teller would meet his just reward.

 

In the matter of instruction, the range of subjects is too great for a detailed list to be given. As an outline, however, it may be said that the foundation of training is instruction in infantry drill & in musketry, together with the physical training that every soldier undergoes. Then the men are taught to row, to swim, & are instructed in signalling & after that they come to gunnery. There are guns of every calibre & kind up to the six-inch & models & working parts of the larger guns. Ingenious devices reproduce the actual conditions on a cruiser or battleship rolling at sea, & under these conditions the men are taught to use the guns, & to pass out at gun-laying before they are drafted to the Fleet.

 

There are courses of instruction in coast defence & appliances, of siege guns & appliances, & even in the use of such mighty weapons as correspond to the howitzers with which the Germans battered down the defences of Liege & Maubeuge. There is training in the use, construction & repair of field telephones, in motor transport work, both heavy & light, in field battery work, & in a score of other subjects. It is not generally known that the Royal Naval School of Music is at Eastney, & that all the bands of British Navy are sent out from the great training establishment of the Royal Marines.

 

 

From this very brief summary of the work of the Royal Marines two or three inevitable conclusions arise. First of these is the unending interest of the work. An infantryman trains to a certain routine - & there he ends. He can go on perfecting himself in his work, developing himself, but there is no unending list of new things such as is at the command of the Marine, who is infantryman, artilleryman, & generally sailor as well by training. The driving force of the soldier are discipline & initiative, or perhaps it might be better put as discipline backed by initiative; the driving force of the sailor is handiness - he has to get things done & he gets them done; but the Marine, hybrid by training, has to combine discipline, initiative, & handiness with an uncanny quickness in getting things done, & it is safe to say that there is more scope for intelligence in the Royal Marines than in any branch of either Navy or Army.

 

Given average intelligence & the desire to learn, the man in the Marines has more chance of fitting himself for & taking promotion than any other man. As an instance of this, at the outbreak of war the Royal Marines furnished a number of instructors to the Army - & many of those men have already been granted commissions from the units to which they were sent. Yet another point with regard to this diversity of training is the fitness of the men for almost any kind of employment on their return to civil life. Infantry, cavalry, or artillery, on putting off uniform, are still soldiers by habit: the Marine, having been everything & done everything, is able to take up any form of civilian work as easily as he turned from the use of a big gun to the repair of a field telephone or the running of a motor-car. And the popularity of the Marine service among the men who have served is evidenced by the fact that generation after generation of a family enrols, while not infrequently father & sons are serving at the same time in the same corps.

 

The second conclusion is the value of the work. Ultimately, the very bread we eat is dependent on the shooting ability of the Marine & his kind, for there is not a capital ship in the Navy that is without Marines to man its guns, & on those guns depends the national food supply - & the life of the nation itself.

 

Coast defence service, anti-aircraft service, service with the big guns, & as an infantry brigade in France & the Dardanelles, are all part of the vital work of guarding the Empire, auxiliary to that maintenance of sea-power with which the Royal Marines have always been so closely connected. From a patriotic standpoint, there is no higher form of service than with the Royal Marines.

 

And then, a last conclusion, there is the spirit in which the men of the corps are trained, & the resulting spirit of the men themselves. One may see things in the classes training at gun-laying, where every man knows that the score on his card must be good, for the credit of the corps of which he is a member; in the squads swinging out to drill, made up of finely-developed, bronzed healthy-looking men, from which the best is asked & by whom the best is given, for the credit of the corps: in the care, the individual instruction, the study of best methods, with which every instructor devotes himself to his task, for the credit of the corps; in the disciplined efficiency evident at every turn, by reason of which the Royal Marines consider themselves - & with justice - the finest body of men in the British forces. It is a corps of great traditions; of unequalled distinctions. It is "nobody's-child," soldiers trained for sea service, & sailors ashore, capable of doing the work of both. This lack of official parentage has given rise to self-reliance & self-sufficiency, so that whatever arises to be done, the Marine can do it. In their work & their manner of doing it, as in the matter of pre-eminence in sport, the Marines yield place to none; the man who joins this corps is not only fitting himself for service with the best trained body of men that the Navy & Army possess, but he is also educating himself in ways that will be useful for the rest of his life

"Old Bill becomes One Of Britain's Sheet Anchors."

From a character by Captain Bruce Bairnsfather. (Drawn by Musician W.G. Hammerton, RM Band). (Globe & Laurel, Feb. 1918).


 

Unknown Private, RMLI, WW1.

 

The Royal Marines in 1914.

 

Today it would be most unusual to find anyone who has not heard of the Royal Marines, so famous is the Corps. They are best known as elite troops, "The Royal Marines Commandos," given the toughest training & tasked with the most difficult operations & assaults. However, their identity of specialist commando troops really began during the Second World War. Before this, their role in the British Forces was organised around the reinforcement of HM Ship's crews & manning a proportion of the Guns, with fairly limited opportunities for land service. One of the greater of these opportunities began in August 1914. The Royal Marines consisted of three separate branches at this time: Royal Marine Artillery (RMA). Royal Marine Light Infantry (RMLI). Royal Marine Band (RMB).

 

Mobilisation 2nd August 1914.

At the outbreak of WW1 there were approx. 18000 Marines, of which 13425 were RMLI, 3393 RMA & 1442 RMB. The latter is a proud & very necessary part of the Corps, even more so then with no media entertainment. The Bands of the Royal Marines cheered & heartened souls wherever they played. The Marines of the RFR consisted of four classes: 401 Immediate Class, 1676 Class 'A', 2984 Class 'B' & 1790 RM Pensioners under 55 years of age. All were mobilised.

The (3rd) Royal Marine Brigade, Royal Naval Division.

As soon as war was declared, orders were issued for the formation of a Royal Marine Brigade (RM Bde.) for service in the newly formed Royal Naval Division (RND). Marine Battalions & RM units had served in every campaign since their formation, most recently in the Boer War 1899-1902 & the Boxer Rebellion/China War of 1900.

The new RM Bde. (consisting of 3 RMLI Bns. & an RMA Bn.) served briefly at Ostend from 26/8/14 to 1/9/14, then returned to England. The RMA Bn. was withdrawn & a 4th RMLI Bn. (Deal Bn.) replaced them.

The RM Bde. (now of 4 RMLI Bns.) landed at Dunkirk 19/9/14 & was severely engaged in the "Defence of Antwerp" in October 1914. Over 300 Marines of the Portsmouth Bn. (& nearly 3 entire RNVR Battalions of the RND) were taken prisoner or crossed into Holland & interned during their retreat. The RM Brigade returned to England via Ostend 11/10/14. All Marines serving in the RM Bde. at this time were long-servicemen, with the exception the RMA Bn. who took 60 of their new short-service recruits to Dunkirk as Motor Drivers.

Long-service Marines.

Prior to WW1 all Royal Marines were engaged for long-service, that is they signed on for a 12 year term. Youths could join at the age of 17, but their term of service would be 12 years plus the number of days deficient to their 18th birthday. It was also possible for boys to join the Corps from the age of 14, as a Bugler or in the 'Drums.' The same rule applied, 12 years plus the number of years/days to their 18th birthday. It was not unusual for Marines, on completion of their first 12 years, to sign on for a further 9 years to complete their time for pension (21 years). Even after 21 years, many would then enrol with the Royal Fleet Reserve (RFR).

 

Deal Recruit Depot, early 1915. Long-service RMLI eager for a crack at the boche.

The Marine at front right with accordion & pipe is believed to be Barnsley's CH/19450 Pte. Richard Dixon. This photo was amongst his album of postcards & papers, kindly loaned by his granddaughter, Debra. Some of the boys look much younger than the regulation minimum age of 17. A 14 year old boy could join the Marines as a Bugler; but I doubt if all of these lads were Buglers.


 

Short-service Marines.

In early September 1914, for the first time in 250 years of RM history, short service recruitment began. The RMLI Divisions Plymouth (Ply), Portsmouth (Po) & Chatham (Ch), all opened enlistment for three years/duration of war (also the RMA). Long-service enlistment continued, but with a wider acceptance of candidates than pre-war preferences would have allowed; that is to say, almost anybody would now be accepted, due to the urgency of the required numbers & competition between the services for volunteers. Before the war, only men of proven good character were enlisted. A man/youth wishing to enlist for long-service would have to wait while letters & enquiries were sent from the RM Recruiting Officer to the local Police & former employers to affirm his good character. Only on receipt of these references could his enlistment proceed. This practice continued until November 1914 but would then appear to have ceased. Recruits were so badly needed that any size or shape could now join the Corps. This new policy was really put into action with the transfer of 600 men of "Kitchener's Army" to RMLI short-service (see the "Kitchener's Marines" page).

Training for the short-service RMLI differed greatly from their long service counterparts. Short-servicemen were trained for just over six weeks in infantry skills only, before joining their respective battalions in the RM Bde. They received no examination certificates for their attainment of the required standards in Musketry or any other drills. Their training was undertaken at the Division's home barracks, unlike long-servicemen, who were sent to the Recruit Depot at Deal on enlistment, where they were trained & tested in Naval Gunnery, Musketry, School Certificates (3rd, 2nd or 1st Class) & swimming. The results of all these examinations were entered on their service sheets & certificates issued for some. Long-service training took nearly six months to complete, before they were dispatched to their Parent Division's barracks to await their postings. Before the war, long-servicemen were trained at Deal for a whole year, so their six months of training was actually a shortened course, to facilitate their early disposal for active service.

At the end of 1914 the Royal Marines had over 10000 men serving in the Fleet, with a further 4500 in the RM Bde. & many others serving in numerous foreign stations or home base commitments. Almost all the short-service RMLI were committed to the ranks of the RM Bde, making up about a quarter of their numbers, the rest being long-service RMLI. It was the exploits of the RMLI & RNVR of the RND at Ostend & Antwerp in 1914, that no doubt caught the imagination of many future recruits, reading of their adventures in their local papers.

PLY/364/S Pte. Thomas DUTSON one of the finest short-servicemen to serve in the RM Brigade. Pictured at Plymouth (Stonehouse Barracks) in 1914 age 22.

Born: Radcliffe, Manchester 26/1/1892. NOK: Brother, Wm, 3 School St, Radcliffe, Manchester. Ht: 5 ft. 5 1/2 ins. A Packer in a Cotton Mill, enlisted at Manchester 23/9/14.

He embarked with the Plymouth Bn. RMLI for the Dardanelles 6/2/15 & served continuously, with no wounds or sickness, throughout the Gallipoli Campaign. The actual Company of the Plymouth Bn. Dutson served in is unknown; but other short-servicemen with near service numbers served in No.4 Coy; therefore he may have landed at Sedd-ul-Bahr 4/3/15; but definately saw action at 'Y' Beach 25-26/4/15.

He was one of only 62 lucky Marines from 2RM who were granted UK leave at Mudros (Feb.1916) & earned his ticket home on the HMT "Olympic" (along with Val Littlewood & 99 Marines from 1RM). He rejoined 2RM 6/6/16 (as did the majority of the RND leave party) & served until wounded in the face near Beaumont Hamel 26/10/16 (invalided home 31/10/16). He missed the RNDs first action at the Ancre 13/11/16 & their second at Miraumont 17/2/17. However, he was posted back to France 1/3/17, this time to 1RM, joining them 21/3/17. Apparently surviving Gavrelle unscathed, he again served continuously until succumbing to "Trench Foot" at Passchendaele 28/10/17 (invalided home 1/11/17). He did not return to RND service & remained at the Plymouth UK HQ until demobilised in March 1919.

MEF (Dardanelles) 25/4/15-9/1/16.
MEF (Mudros)
10/1/16-26/2/16.
BEF (France)
6/6/16-31/10/16.
BEF (France & Belgium)
1/3/17-1/11/17.


 

The Wartime Evolution of the Royal Marine Battalions.

The RM Battalions in the RND underwent several drastic reorganisations during their four years war service. They began the war with four Battalions & finished with only one.

Chatham Bn. RMLI (disbanded & formed 'A' & 'B' Coys. of the new 1st RM Bn. 27/7/15).

Deal Bn. RMLI (disbanded & formed 'C' & 'D' Coys. of the new 1st RM Bn. 27/7/15).

Portsmouth Bn. RMLI (disbanded & formed 'A' & 'B' Coys. of the new 2nd RM Bn. 27/7/15).

Plymouth Bn. RMLI (disbanded & formed 'C' & 'D' Coys. of the new 2nd RM Bn. 27/7/15).

2nd RM Bn. (aka 2nd Bn. RMLI) 27/7/15-28/4/18 disbanded. Surviving Marines transferred to 1st RM Bn.

1st RM Bn. (aka 1st Bn. RMLI) 27/7/15- 5/5/19 disbanded.

Four RMLI Battalions landed at Gallipoli in April 1915.

The four Companies per Battalion (each Company containing 250 Marines) were the first to undergo change. On the 19th of May 1915, after heavy losses at ANZAC Beachhead (Ports, Chatham & Deal) & 'Y' Beach/Second Krithia (Plymouth) the battalions were reduced to three Companies only; Plymouth Bn. to two Coys. only.

On the 30th of May, with the arrival of the 1st RND Draft containing 500 Marines, Plymouth Bn. managed to form a new No.3 Coy. with their allocation of 125 Marines. However, the three Coys. in all four RMLI Bns. were all still well under strength. Plymouth Bn. also dropped their unique numbering system for their Coys. at this time (Number 1,2, 3 & 4 Coy.) reverting to the standard 'A' 'B' & 'C'.

From June to July 1915, one Coy. of the Deal Bn. was attached to each of the other three RMLI Bns.

On the 27th of July 1915 the four RMLI Bns. were amalgamated into two Bns. only; known as Chatham & Deal Bn. & Portsmouth & Plymouth Bn. until the 12th of August, when they were renamed the 1st & 2nd RM Bns. The two new RM Bns. remained in being for over two & a half years; until the 28th of April 1918, when severe losses in the 'March Retreat' forced the disbandment of 2RM, leaving only 1RM. The remaining Marines of 2RM were transferred to 1RM. 1RM continued to the war's end.

It became common, after severe losses (at Gavrelle & Passchendaele) to reform the few survivors of each Bn. into two Coys only, named 'X' & 'Y' Coys, until sufficient reinforcements allowed the reconstitution of the usual four Coys.

Three of the four original RMLI Bns. (up to 27/7/15) contained only Marines from their respective Division i.e. Chatham Bn. contained only Chatham Marines. The exception being Deal Bn. RMLI, which contained a mix of Marines from all three RMLI Divisions. However, when Chatham & Deal Bns. amalgamated (27/7/15), the new Bn. (1RM) consequently contained a mix from all three RMLI Divisions. When Portsmouth & Plymouth Bns. amalgamated, their Marines came from only two Divisions. It became usual for Chatham Marine reinforcements to be posted to 1RM only, but Portsmouth & Plymouth Marines could join either 1 or 2RM. (There are always exceptions to this rule; notably a few Chatham reinforcements which arrived 30/5/15 & joined the Portsmouth Bn. & therefore ended up in 2RM). The practise of Chatham Marines joining 1RM only, persisted until after Beaumont Hamel 13-15/11/16, when severe losses forced a change. From late 1916 a Chatham Marine could join either of the RM battalions. Evidence of this can be seen in the list of casualties suffered by 1 & 2RM at Beaumont Hamel. All Chatham Marines killed 13-15/11/16 were in 1RM; 2RM casualties were all Portsmouth & Plymouth Marines.

 

A fine example of full-bearded RMLI Privates in France, circa late 1916.

Unlike the Army, the Navy & Marines gave their men 'leave to grow.' On the night of the 12th of October 1916, senior staff officers of the RND & RM Bns. visited the trench system east of Colincamps. Whilst making their way up a communication trench, a German 5.9 inch shell landed amongst them, killing Major E.F.P. Sketchley DSO RMLI & severely wounding General Paris in the left leg, which was later amputated. A firing party of 200 Marines from 1RM attended the funeral of Mjr. Sketchley at Forceville Military Cemetery 13/10/16. Major-General Sir Archibald Paris KCB RMA was succeeded as GOC by Major-General C.D. Shute CMG DSO; a proper bastard of an Army commander, with a particular dislike of the naval traditions & customs of his new command. He alienated officers & men alike with his efforts to 'shake up' the Division. Amongst his proposed changes was the insistence that Army rank insignia should be worn. So they began to wear Naval rank on one arm & the equivalent Army rank on the other. (The Marines were unaffected by this as they already used army ranks). Shute also tried to stop the age-old naval right to grow beards. He was defeated in this effort by one Sub-Lt. Codner RNVR, who invoked King's Regulations & refused the order. A.P. Herbert, an officer in the Hawke Bn, RND, at this time, wrote of this incident in his poem "The Ballad of Codson's Beard." It was later published in 'Punch' in January 1918, amended for anonymity, it was less than complimentary to Shute. To the men in the RND, Shute became known as 'Schultz the Hun.' The trenches were in a terrible state by October 1916; the rain & constant shell damage had reduced them to no more than muddy ditches, impossible to keep clean. The men's rifles & equipment were equally difficult to keep clean, but 'Schultz' would complain that the RND were to blame for the state of their kit & their trenches. Again, A.P. Herbert put pen to paper & wrote a poem about this injustice. It was adapted into a song, at first sung by the RND, then by the whole Army, to the tune of "Wrap me up in my tarpaulin jacket."


 

 

The General inspecting the trenches

exclaimed with a horrified shout,

"I refuse to command a Division

which leaves its excreta about."

 

And certain responsible critics

made haste to reply to his words,

observing that his Staff advisers

consisted entirely of turds.

 

But nobody took any notice

No one was prepared to refute,

That the presence of shit was congenial

Compared with the presence of Shute.

 

For shit may be shot at odd corners

and paper supplied there to suit,

but a shit would be shot without mourners

if somebody shot that shit Shute.

 

 


 

First Onlooker: "Bunker's Hill was child's play to this."

Second Onlooker: "So was Trafalgar, but the Old Corps is going forward, just the same."

(Globe & Laurel, August 1917).


 

Major Actions & Engagements of Royal Marines in the RND 1914-18.

(or: dates to avoid if desirous of remaining whole & unperforated)

4th to 9th October 1914: Defence of Antwerp: (Portsmouth, Plymouth, Chatham & Deal Bns. RMLI) (Only the Portsmouth Bn. suffered significantly at Antwerp, with about 300 Marines interned in Holland. Very few Marines were killed).

4th March 1915: Demolition Covering Parties landed at Sedd-ul-Bahr & Kum Kale, Dardanelles: (Nos. 3 & 4 Coys. Plymouth Bn. RMLI, 25 Marines killed)

Gallipoli Peninsula 25/4/15 to 9/1/16 : No area of the Peninsula was safe from Turkish fire. The so-called 'Rest Camps' were as dangerous as the firing line. The majority of Marine casualties occurred with the major actions listed below, but other local advances accounted for many more (i.e. the Portsmouth Battalions' night attack at "Wilson's Post" 23-24/6/15). Up until early September 1915 casualties regularly occurred during the normal trench routine, when sickness & disease took over as the main cause of deaths. The latter part of 1915 saw a slight reduction in Marine casualties, but in late December 1915 & early January 1916, when the Turks began to shell Cape Helles with renewed intensity, casualties again rose to an uncomfortable level.

25th to 26th April 1915 Landing & Withdrawal at ' Y ' Beach, Cape Helles: (Plymouth Bn. RMLI, 54 Marines Killed)

28th April to 13th May 1915 Defence of ANZAC Beachhead: (Portsmouth & Chatham Bns. RMLI suffer heavy loss; Deal Bn. slight losses).

6th to 11th May 1915 Second Battle of Krithia, Cape Helles: (Plymouth Bn. RMLI, moderate losses)

4th June 1915 Third Battle of Krithia, Cape Helles: (The Four RMLI Bns. in Reserve, a few casualties)

12th to 13th July 1915 Action of Achi Baba Nullah: (The Four RMLI Bns. in Support, a few casualties)

France & Belgium May 1916 to November 1918. While the vast majority of RM casualties occurred during the actions listed below, certain 'quiet' periods might see a complete absence of deaths. Therefore, deaths recorded outside of the dates of major attacks were the unlucky few who 'copped it' either in accidents or in the normal trench routine & duties in holding the line. The firing line was a dangerous place, even during the long periods of stalemate that preceded & followed the comparatively few occasions of going 'over the top.' Trench Mortars, shellfire, gas, trench raids & laying barbed wire defences (Wiring Parties) were the most common causes of deaths outside of the dates normally expected, while deaths from wounds received during the attacks, sometimes months later, accounted for many more.

 

Senior NCO's of 'B' Company, 2nd RM Bn, early 1917.

Text (in italics) written by Colin Alvey 1977. Text: courtesy of Mjr. Jack Alvey RM (Rtd).; Photo: RM Museum.

Back Row: "Taylor, Ludbrooke, O'Brien, Reinforcement Man unknown.

Centre Row: Wagner, Quinn, Coy. Sgt Major Milne, Batt. Sgt. Major, names unknown.

Front Row: Llewellyn, Sergeant Alvey, now regular Sergeant No.5 Platoon.

All with the exception of Llewellyn & myself were killed or wounded at "Oppy Wood" 28th April 1917. I survived, indeed all my Platoon survived because of dead ground & order not to stand up."

 

Researched details:

Back Row L to R:

PLY 315/S Sgt. Charles Henry Taylor Missing from 'B' Coy. 2RM 28/4/17; Reported POW Germany 24/8/17.

PO 15284 A/Sgt. (Cpl.) Edward Rowland Ludbrook MM (MM for Gavrelle 28/4/17); Wounded (accidentally) 23/8/17 - Bomb wound abdomen & R.thigh.

PLY 16032 A/Sgt. (Cpl.) Patrick O'Brien Missing from 8th Platoon, 'B' Coy. 2RM 28/4/17 - later reported POW.

Sgt. Reinforcement man unidentified.

 

Centre Row L to R:

PLY 14151 A/Sgt. (Cpl.) Lawrence Bramleigh Wagner MM MM for Beaumont Hamel 13/11/16; KIA 28/4/17.

PLY 14226 A/Sgt. (Cpl.) John Quinn KIA 28/4/17.

PO 10828 A/CSM (Sgt.) Richard Milne MM & Fr. Medaille Militaire Awarded Royal Life Saving Society's Bronze Medal & Proficiency Cert. 24/1/08; MM for Miraumont 17-19/2/17; KIA 28/4/17.

CH 7771 A/Sgt.Mjr. WO1 (Sgt.) John Bushell MM. MM for Gavrelle 28/4/17; Wounded 20/5/17 GSW Arm & R.side of Face (severe), invalided to UK.

Two Sgts. (reinforcement men?) Unidentified.

 

Front Row L to R:

Llewellyn? Error on Colin's part? Only one Llewellyn served in 2RM: PLY 17186 L/Cpl. W.D. Llewellyn, KIA13/11/16. Unfortunate that Colin should get this man's name wrong when he was such a key character/survivor.

PLY 825/S Sgt. Colin Alvey 5th Platoon 'B' Coy. 2RM. Commissioned 2/Lt. RM July 1918.

Although Colin wrote that all were killed or wounded at 'Oppy Wood', two were taken POW. Colin was reporting what he believed had become of them, never learning of their true fate. Gavrelle was the Marines 'Waterloo.' The core of experienced Marines who had served at Gallipoli & at Beaumont Hamel were either killed, wounded or POWs. It was many months before they were reinforced sufficiently for further offensive action. Despite this, they achieved a great success with the capture of the key position: Gavrelle Windmill, & secured the Gavrelle front for many months to come. 2/Lt. Newling, Sgt. Alvey's Platoon Commander, was awarded the Military Cross for his leadership & achievement in capturing the Windmill & holding it against many furious counter-attacks. Sgt. Alvey's Platoon saved the face, of what was otherwise a complete disaster for the Corps.


(Major Actions & Engagements Continued)

13th to 15th November 1916 The Battle of the Ancre: (1RM: 127 killed; 2RM 105 killed).

Nose cap and fuse from a German five inch shrapnel shell, found on the RND front line on the Ancre 26.9.2000. If anyone has any further information concerning this shell fuse type or internal details please contact me.

Above: Mills Bomb found on the RND front line 26.9.2000

Left: Four-inch shell found as above.

In a fine display of "Don't do as I do, DO AS I SAY" I must warn people not to touch live ordnance. It was my first time on the battlefield & I moved both devices to safer locations. At the time, I thought there was very little chance of their detonation, & thought I would be doing some Farmer a favour; "he might whack it with his tractor & set it off" I said. However, somebody later pointed out that the Farmers had armoured seats in their tractors & I had nowt.

 

 

 

17th to 21st February 1917 Miraumont: (1RM advance with heavy loss 17/2/17 (approx. 95 killed; 2RM relieve 1RM 19/2/17: 32 killed)

28th to 29th April 1917 Battle of Gavrelle Windmill: (1RM: 169 killed & 29 POW; 2RM 166 killed & 176 POW)

26th to 28th October 1917 Second Battle of Passchendaele: (Both RM Bns. suffer heavy losses)

30th to 31st December 1917 Welsh Ridge, Cambrai: (1RM repulse German attack; 2RM relieve 1RM 31/12/17)

21st to 27th March 1918 March Retreat: (Both RM Bns. fall back nearly 40 miles with heavy losses. Many POWs)

5th to 7th April 1918 Aveluy Wood: (Both RM Bns. engaged in the counter-attack & stop the rot)

21st to 23rd August 1918 "Advance to Victory" Battle of Albert (Logeast Wood): (1RM suffers moderate losses)

2nd to 3rd September 1918 Battle & Breaching of the Drocourt-Queant Line: (1RM suffers moderate losses)

27th September to 1st October 1918 Battle of the Canal Du Nord: (1RM suffers moderate/heavy losses)

8th to 9th October 1918 Battle of Cambrai & Capture of Niergnies: (1RM suffers moderate losses)

 

 

RMLI Privates, RND & Sea-service, England, circa 1918.

Some of the lads are slightly the worse for a drink. Note the Marine sat at front with four Blue War Chevrons & two Wound Stripes. Three Marines are wearing single Medal ribbons; possibly the 1914 Star ribbon, or Gallantry awards. Photo: Alan Higham (son of Barnsley's PLY/17703 Pte. Harry Higham RMLI 1914-1922.

 


 

Royal Marines Discipline & Punishments

1914-18.

 

"Obscene Language" was a common cause of trouble, when used in the presence of an officer or (more usually) directed at a NCO. Similarly, "improper" "insolent" or "insubordinate" remarks to superior officers were common charges on Marine Conduct Sheets. Obscene or "disgusting" language was used in copious quantities by all the British Imperial Forces. In Barnsley it was known as "Pit Language", unfit for use outside the Collieries or within earshot of ladies. Nothing has changed in 85 years; the "F" & the "C" words are still top of the list. However, "Bugger" & "Bastard" were regarded as being far worse than we think of them today. In 1915 a 'Bugger' was defined as 'a sexually perverted man or his actions' (not as a homosexual). A 'Bastard' was more correctly known as a child born out of wedlock; expressed in legal terms in a claim upon the father in a "Bastardy Order" for a "Bastard child of the body of Miss X." To call any man this was to insult both the man & his mother; & the sparks would fly. Both these 'B' words were commonly used, but usually with reference to inanimate objects or Germans.

"FP" (Field Punishment Nos.1 & 2). The two most commonly found with RND Marines. Field Punishment Nos.1 & 2 were administered only on active service. In the UK, in training or in barracks, the standard punishments were 'Confined to barracks' (CB), forfeiture of pay & detention (in cells).

FP No.1: The offender may, unless the court-martial or CO otherwise directs: (a) Be kept in irons. (b) Be attached by straps, irons or ropes for not more than 2 hours in 1 day to a fixed object. Must not be attached for more than 3 out of 4 consecutive days, or for more than 21 days in all. (c) Be made to labour as if he were undergoing imprisonment with hard labour.

FP No.2: Same as No.1, except he may not be treated as above in (b). FP is to be carried out regimentally when the unit is actually on the move; when the unit is halted it is carried out under a Provost Marshall, or assistant PM. When a unit is on the move an offender sentenced to FP No.1 is exempt from the operation of (b), but all offenders sentenced to FP are to march with their units, carry their arms & accoutrements, perform all their military duties as well as extra fatigue duties & be treated as defaulters. FP for a period not exceeding 3 months may be awarded by a court-martial for any offence committed on active service. It may also under the same conditions be awarded by a CO to a soldier not being a NCO for a period not exceeding 28 days.

 

"Summary Punishments"

Usually administered only on active service aboard ship. Punishments by which it may be accompanied, if applicable at the time to the offence & the offender, are shown in brackets.

No.1: Discharge with Disgrace. (Either 3,4,5, or 9).

No.2: Discharge as Objectionable. (Either 3,4,5, or 9).

No.3: Corporal Punishment. Not to exceed 48 lashes. For Mutiny only, except for boys, & men in the 2nd Class for Conduct. (6,7 & 8).

No.4: Imprisonment for Desertion. Not to exceed 3 months. (6,7,8 & 11).

No.5: Imprisonment for other offences. Not to exceed 3 months. For AWOL limited to 10 weeks. (6,7,8, & 11).

No.6: Disrating, or Reduction in class, or to the ranks. (7,8,11,12, & 13).

No.7: Deprivation of GCB's & of GC Medals. (8,9,10,11,12,13 & 14).

No.8: Reduction to 2nd Class for Conduct. (9,10,11,12,13 & 14).

No.9: Solitary Confinement in a Cell or under a Canvas Screen on Board. Not to exceed 14 days. (11,12,13 & 14).

No.10A: Grog to be stopped; eat meals under Sentry's charge; after half an hour to dinner to stand for the remainder of the dinner time on the lee side of the Quarter Deck; extra work in watch below; to be deprived of smoking & to be under the Sentry's charge during smoking hours. If in harbour, or an idler at sea, to stand on the lee side of the Quarter Deck from 8pm to 10pm. Not to exceed 14 days. (11,12,13 & 14).

No.10B: Grog to be stopped; after half an hour to dinner to stand for the remainder of the dinner time on lee side of the Quarter Deck. Not to exceed 7 days. (11,12,13 & 14).

No.11: Stoppage of Leave. Not to exceed 3 months. (12,13 & 14).

No.12: Deductions from Pay for leave-breaking & for unfitness for duty from drinking. (13 & 14).

No.13: Reduction to a lower class for leave.

No.14: Stoppage of Grog. Never to exceed 30 days, except for habitual drunkenness.

No.15: Carrying hammock or bag. Not to exceed one hour a day for 3 days.

No.16: Reprimand by the Captain.

No.17: Extra lee wheel, or to stand on the lee side of the Quarter Deck, after taking proper turn of duty at the wheel, look-out, & C. Not to exceed two hours, nor to extend beyond the period of the Watch.

No.18: For Marines. Extra Guard. Not to exceed 7 days.

No.19: For Boys only. Birching on the bare breech. Not to exceed 24 cuts or blows. (11,12 & 14)

No.20: For Boys only. Caning on the breech with clothes on. Not to exceed 12 cuts or blows with an ordinary cane. (11,12 & 14).

 


 

Royal Marine Light Infantry, England, circa 1918.

Photo: Ian Wilson.

A very senior Marine Private is sat centre; note his five Good Conduct Stripes, three blue War Chevrons & two medal ribbons (the RN LSGC & either QSA or China War); he would have a minimum of 24 years continuous service. The Marine to his right also sports the same ribbons, but, strangely, no Good Conduct stripes, & four blue War Chevrons. As only one Marine here is in RND khaki, the remainder were likely sea-service Marines, all but two it would appear, of wartime recruits (only single or an absence of Good Conduct stripes. The Marine sat middle second from right, sports four blue War Chevrons, one Good Conduct stripe & one Wound Stripe; the only man wounded from the sleeve badges visible.

"Wound Stripes" show, via a 2" vertical stripe worn on the lower left forearm (below the GCB badge), the number of occasions a man had been wounded (not the number of wounds). Instituted in August 1916. Also known as 'Gold Stripes'. Tip: Photographs which contain War Chevrons, have to date from early 1918 on; photos with Wound Stripes date from August 1916 on.

Royal Navy Long Service and Good Conduct Medal.

The 1st Good Conduct Badge (GCB) was awarded on completion of two years service, unless the Marine was under-age on enlistment, in which case he would first have to attain the age of 18 years before beginning the two-year qualifying period. The 2nd GCB was granted after a further four years (six years total service) & the 3rd GCB after another six years (12 years total service). Further GCB's were awarded every six years. A large inverted chevron was worn on the lower left forearm to denote the award of a GCB, with subsequent GCB's represented by additional chevrons. A Marine could be deprived a GCB for certain offences, or the next award delayed, losing the accumulated time served towards his next GCB. A deprived GCB could be restored at any time following the offence. After 15 years service & being in possession of three GCB's, a Marine qualified for the RN Long Service & Good Conduct Medal (LSGC). The LSGC was/is known as the "Undetected Crime Medal", from the belief that no one could serve 15 years without some transgression & that the recipient had merely escaped detection by luck or other means. Marines who were discharged & enrolled with the RFR became eligible for the RFR LSGC, their time served in the Marines/RN counting towards the award. RFR LSGC's are very common to Marine recipients, as so many were discharged in the early post-WW1 period & immediately enrolled in the RFR.

 


 

"General Character" assessment on discharge.

Upon a Marine's discharge (except for those discharged dead, or deserted & not recovered), a summary character assessment of the man's total service was given. This was based on annual assessments of character made during a Marine's service. Character assessments were also made when embarked aboard ship or disembarked to HQ.

There were only four classifications, all are ambiguous & need some explanation, as follows: -

"Very Good" the normal standard achieved by most Marines, even those with a few recorded offences.

"Good" which in Marine terminology actually equates to "bad." The Marine in question had probably committed a serious offence in his recent history with a custodial sentence, or had committed multiple lesser offences, or both.

"Fair" which actually equates to 'bloody awful.' The Marine had probably deserted (Run) & had been recovered & imprisoned. Usually accompanied by masses of offences filling his Company Conduct Sheets.

"Indifferent" of the lowest character; usually reserved for deserters with the worst conduct, persistent offenders, always accompanied by a string of serious offences incurring detention or imprisonment.

"Ability" was assessed in conjunction with 'character' as detailed above. There were four classifications for ability: - "Exemplary", "Superior", "Satisfactory" (The normal rating expected) & "Moderate" (below standard). Only occasionally does one see "Superior" on Marines' records & very rarely "Exemplary."

 

"The King, God Bless him!"