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Royal Marines

The Royal Marines are the United Kingdom's amphibious forces and a component of their Rapid Reaction Force. The first unit of English naval infantry, the "Admiral's Regiment," formed on October 28, 1664, and the name "Marines" first appeared in official records in 1672. However, the naval infantry remained a part of the Army until 1755, when "His Majesty's Marine Forces," fifty companies in three divisions, headquartered at Chatham, Portsmouth, and Plymouth, were formed under Admiralty control. In 1802, they were titled the "Royal Marines."

The "Royal Marine Artillery" were formed as a separate unit in 1804. In 1855, the naval infantry forces were renamed the "Royal Marines, Light Infantry" and in 1862 the name was slightly altered to "Royal Marine Light Infantry." It was not until 1923 that the separate artillery and light infantry forces were formally amalgamated into the "Corps of Royal Marines."

During World War II the Marine's infantry battalions were reorganised as Commandos from 1942 to join the Army Commandos. In 1946 the Army Commandos were disbanded, leaving the Royal Marines to continue the Commando role (with supporting Army elements).


All Royal Marines, except those in the Royal Marines Band Service, are Commando soldiers, trained to work in all terrains and environments. They undergo a long and demanding infantry training regime at the Commando Training Centre Royal Marines at Lympstone, Devonshire. Most basic training is carried out on the rugged, inhospitable terrain of Dartmoor; other training areas include the Middle East for "hot, arid" conditions, Belize or Brunei for "humid jungle," or Scotland and Norway for "cold mountainous" conditions.

The culmination of the training is the Commando Course, a series of tests which have remained virtually unchanged since World War II. Until a Royal Marine has passed his Commando Course he can wear neither the Green Beret nor the Royal Marines Commando flash on his uniform.

After basic training, a Royal Marine will be selected for specialist training, and possibly for the Special Forces with the Special Boat Service. Upon completion of that training, a Commando will normally join a unit of 3 Commando Brigade. There are three Royal Marines Commando infantry units in the Brigade: 40 Commando located at Norton Manor near Taunton in Somerset, 42 Commando at Bickleigh, near Plymouth, Devon, and 45 Commando at Arbroath on the east coast of Scotland.


Royal Marines are organized around four-man fire team. Until recently, they were structured similarly to Army battalions, but beginning in the 1990s, Commando units were reorganised to meet the new challenges present after the end of the Cold War, and no longer resemble the Army.

The Amphibious Ready Group is a highly mobile, balanced amphibious force at sea, based on a Commando Group and its supporting assets, that can be kept at high readiness to deploy forward into an area of likely contingency operations. The Amphibious Ready Group is normally based around specialist amphibious shipping, most notably HMS Ocean, the largest ship in the fleet. Ocean was designed and built to accommodate an embarked Commando unit and its associated stores and equipment. The Amphibious Ready Group is designed to wait beyond the horizon and move swiftly as directed by HM Government. The concept was successfully tested in operations in Sierra Leone.

The Headquarters of 3 Commando Brigade is based in Plymouth and it was from there that the Brigade was mounted out during the Falklands War of 1982. The Commando Brigade not only consists of Royal Marines units, but also of the essential combat support elements provided by the Army, most notably 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery (based in Plymouth) and 59 Independent Commando Squadron Royal Engineers (based in Barnstaple). These units provide the specialist artillery and engineer support for the Brigade.

All ranks serving with these Army units also undergo Commando training on the All Arms Commando Course. In addition, Army ranks provide some of the specialist combat service logistic support to the Brigade, in the form of the Commando Logistic Regiment, also located in Barnstaple. The whole Brigade provides a balanced amphibious force, which, with its associated amphibious shipping, is self sustaining and capable of operating without host-nation support.

Traditions and Insignia

The Royal Marines have a proud history and unique traditions; they have so many battle honours that the "globe itself" has become the symbol of the Corps.

The badge of the Royal Marines is designed to commemorate the history of the Corps. The Lion and Crown denotes a Royal regiment. King George III conferred this honour in 1802 "in consideration of the very meritorious services of the Marines in the late war."

The "Great Globe itself" surrounded by laurels was chosen by King George IV as a symbol of the Marines' successes in every quarter of the world. The laurels are believed to honour the gallantry they displayed during the capture of Belle Isle in 1761.

The word "Gibraltar" refers to the Siege of Gibraltar in 1704. It was considered by George IV to be one of the most glorious achievements of the Marines and he decided that the word should represent the honours they had earned.

The fouled anchor, incorporated into the emblem in 1747, is the badge of the Lord High Admiral and shows that the Corps is part of the Royal Navy.

Per Mare Per Terram ("By Sea, By Land"), the motto of the Marines, is believed to have been used for the first time in 1785.


In the 20th century, the Royal Marines took part in most of the major conflicts that the United Kingdom was involved in. For the first part of the century, their role was the traditional one of shipboard infantry for boarding parties and small landings, and also manning turrets on cruisers and battleships. That continued during the Second World War, but a new role came into being, that of the Commandos.

Commandos were first raised from the British Army as elite forces to be used in raiding operations and to seize particularly tough objectives in larger operations. The first Royal Marine Commandos came into being not much later. A total of four Commando brigades were raised during the war, and Royal Marines were represented in all of them. A total of nine battalions of RM Commandos were raised during the war, numbered from 40 to 48.

1 Commando Brigade had just one RM battalion, No 45 Commando. 2 Commando Brigade had two RM battalions, Nos 40 and 43 Commandos, 3 Commando Brigade again two, Nos 42 and 44 Commandos. 4 Commando Brigade was entirely Royal Marine after March 1944, comprising Nos 41, 46, 47 and 48 Commandos.

1 Commando Brigade took part in the assaults on Sicily and Normandy, and campaigns in the Rhineland and crossing the Rhine; 2 Commando Brigade was involved in the Salerno landings, Anzio, Comacchio and operations in the Argenta Gap; 3 Commando Brigade in Sicily, and Burma; and 4 Commando Brigade in Normandy and operations in the Schledt Estuary during the clearing of Antwerp.

In January 1945, two further RM brigades were formed, 116th Brigade and 117th Brigade. Both were conventional infantry, rather than in the Commando role. 116th Brigade saw some action in the Netherlands, but 117th Brigade was hardly used operationally.

Royal Marines were involved in the Korean War, although often, little is said about their presence. No 41 Commando was reformed in 1950, and was originally envisaged as a raiding force for use against North Korea. It performed this role until after the landing of X Corps at Wonsan. It was then put into the line, as part of 1st Marine Division, and took part in the famous retreat from Chosin Reservoir. After that, a small amount of raiding followed, before the Marines were withdrawn from the conflict in 1951.

After a part in the long Malayan Emergency, the next action came in 1956, during the Suez Crisis. Headquarters 3 Commando Brigade, and Nos 40, 42 and 45 Commando took part in the operation. It marked the first time that a helicopter assault was used operationally to land troops. British and French forces defeated the Egyptians, but after pressure from the United States, they were forced into an embarrassing climbdown. That incident ended any pretensions that the UK was a superpower any longer.

Further action in the Far East was seen during the Konfrontasi. Nos 40 and 42 Commando went to Borneo at various times to help keep Indonesian forces from causing trouble in border areas. The most high profile incident of the campaign was a company strength amphibious assault was made by L Company of 40 Commando. The assault was made at the town of Limbang to rescue hostages.

The Falklands War provided the backdrop to the next action of the Marines. Argentina invaded the islands in April 1982. A British taskforce was immediately despatched to recapture them, and given that an amphibious assault was to be necessary, the Royal Marines were heavily involved. 3 Commando Brigade was brought to full warfighting strength, with not only Nos 40, 42 and 45 Commando, but the 2nd and 3rd battalions of the Parachute Regiment attached. The troops were landed at San Carlos Water at the western end of East Falkland, and proceeded to 'yomp' across the entire island to the capital, Port Stanley, which fell on 14 June 1982. Not only was 3 Commando Brigade deployed, but a Royal Marines divisional headquarters deployed, under Major General Jeremy Moore, who was commander of British land forces during the war.

The Marines set out the 1991 Gulf War, but they were deployed to northern Iraq in the aftermath to provide aid to the Kurds. The remainder of the 1990s saw no major warfighting deployments, other than a division headquarters to control land forces during the short NATO intervention that ended the Bosnian war.

2002, saw a deployment of Marines to Afghanistan, where contact with enemy forces was expected. However, in the end, no Al-Qaida or Taliban forces were found. Any frustrations that deployment brought at the lack of combat were relieved in early 2003, when the UK's first amphibious assault for over 20 years was mounted to capture the Al Faw peninsula in Iraq. Nos 40 and 42 Commandos, 3 Commando Brigade headquarters, and supporting units were deployed for operations. The attack proceeded well, with light casualties.


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