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Si Biggs

Come and see over 356 years of History, search by Unit, Year, Month, Conflict, RM People or Historic Period mapped out with 615 pins and growing! RM a Geo History

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In this months edition;

Private Gerrighty RMLI Albert Medal

By Si Biggs on Jul 27, 2021 09:14 am

Unit/ Formation: RM People

Location: Western Mediterranean Sea

Period/ Conflict: 1800's

Year: 1878

Date/s: 27th July 1878

Private Gerrighty RMLI was the first Royal Marine to win the Albert Medal but also was awarded the Royal Humane Society’s Bronze Medal for the same action.

The citation reads:-. "On the night of the 27th July last (1878), at 10 pm, a lunatic named Field, on his passage home in the transport ship Baron Colonsay, of Greenock, broke away from the sentry in the sick berth and climbed to the foretop-gallant yard. Men were sent aloft to try and prevent his falling. However on their approach, he struck one of them on the head.

After remaining aloft all night calling ‘murder’ etc., he came down about 5 am on the 28th. The sentries placed to watch him tried to secure him but he jumped overboard. Gerrighty instantly jumped after him and though struck at with a knife, which Field had in his hand, succeeded in rescuing him. This occurrence took place in latitude 36 deg. 26 min. N., longitude 2 deg 52 min W., the ship going eight knots and a fresh breeze blowing".

It is recorded in The Globe and Laurel, of March 1919 that Gerrighty

presented his Albert Medal and Royal Humane Society Medal to the Officers of his old division. The R.H.S. Medal held by R.M. Museum has a small ‘R’ alongside the naming on the rim, suggesting it is an official replacement and that the medal above is an original.

R.M. service papers show that he had been entered into the defaulter’s book many times. He was also imprisoned for desertion two years before his act of gallantry. When he deserted from the R.M.L.I. he appears to have joined the 17th Lancers.

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Advance to Eshowe - Battle of Ginghilovo

By Si Biggs on Jul 21, 2021 12:11 pm

Unit/ Formation: Royal Marines (RMA/RMLI)

Location: Ginghilovo - South Africa

Period/ Conflict: Zulu Wars

Year: 1879

Date/s: 2nd April 1879

Reinforcements were now arriving; HMS Shah, on her way home from South America embarked one Company of the 88th and a battery of artillery at St. Helena and reached Durban on 6th March, where she also landed her Naval Brigade of 400 including her RM detachment under Captain J Phillips RMLI and Lieutenant Lambert RMA; HMS Boadicea also landed her Brigade of 200 including the RM under Lieutenant Robyns RMLI, on the 15th.

The total Royal Marines numbered about 100.

Heavy floods in the Buffalo and Tugela Rivers had stopped the Zulus. A column was at once formed for the relief of Etshowe; it was assembled at Fort Pearson and consisted of the 57th, 91st, 2/60th and 99th Regiments, with 2 companies of the Buffs and the Naval Brigade from the Shah, Tenedoa, Boadicea, with mounted volunteers; they had two 9 pdr guns, two Gatlings and 4 rocket tubes.

The troops were divided into two Brigades.

On 28th March they were on the left bank of the Tugela and on the 29th the advance commenced near the coast and over more open country; heavy rain on the 27th and 28th had made the progress slow; an entrenched camp was formed at the Inyoni River. On 30th they moved to the Amatikulu River, crossing on the 31st.

On lst April they made an entrenched camp one mile from the Inyezane River close to the Gingihlovo stream, which was free from bush, but the long grass gave cover to the enemy, large numbers of whom were seen. At dawn on the 2nd, mounted men went out to reconnoitre and at 6 am the Zulu army was reported to be advancing; two columns appeared on the further bank of the river.

One column attacked the south and west faces and in spite of the heavy fire the Zulus pushed on to within 20 yards of the shelter trench, but at last recoiled; mounted men then attacking their right flank they turned and fled, incurring heavy loss in the ensuing pursuit.

The Naval Brigade had 6 wounded; the Zulus - who were about 10,000 strong - lost about 1,200. The 2nd April was spent in lager, and on the 3rd, a portion being left in camp, Lord Chelmsford moved on with a force including 190 Seamen and 100 Royal Marines who belonged to the 2nd Brigade; they marched 15 miles and did not reach Etshowe till midnight; the other 350 of the RN Brigade were attached to the lst Brigade.

On 3 April, the relief column entered Eshowe, led by the pipers of the 91st Highlanders. The two-month siege had been lifted.

On 4th April a small force including the Royal Marines destroyed Dabulmanzi's kraal about 8 miles away and the whole force then returned to the Tugela.

Chelmsford concluded that Eshowe did not need to be retained, and the laboriously constructed defences were demolished. Bivouacking on the first night after their departure from it on 6 April, Pearson's men could see that the Zulus had set Eshowe alight.

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Major Thomas Oldfield - Consulted by Nelson; His Gallantry spoken of by Napoleon

By Si Biggs on Jul 19, 2021 07:54 pm

On the night before the landings at Tenerife on 21 July 1797 Rear-Admiral Horatio Nelson held his war council where Captain Thomas Oldfield of Marines was to be one of the attendees. In Nelson‘s 'Detail of the Proceedings of the Expedition,‘ he stated that before the landing he called together 'Captains Troubridge and Bowen with Captain Oldfield of the Marines…to consult with me what was best to be done and were of opinion they could possess themselves of the heights‘

Napoleon, when on passage to St. Helena, spoke of Oldfield's gallantry to the marine officers on board the Northumberland.

Bunker's Hill 1756 (Volunteer Marine)

Seige of Charleston 1780

Capitalation of Yorktown

​St. Domingo 1794

Bombardments of Cadiz 1797

Tenerife 1797

Battle of the Nile 1798

Defence of St. Jean d'Acre 1799 (Killed)

Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Oldfield, Thomas (1755-1799)

OLDFIELD, THOMAS (1755–1799), major royal marines, third son of Humphrey Oldfield, an officer in her majesty's marine forces, was born at Stone, Staffordshire, on 21 June 1756. His mother was a daughter of Major-general Nicholls, of the Honourable East India Company's service. His father died in America shortly after the affair of Bunker's Hill.

Oldfied accompanied his father to America in the autumn of 1774, or in the following spring. He served as a volunteer with the marine battalion at Bunker's Hill on 17 June 1775. In this action he was twice wounded, and his wrist was permanently injured. After the action Oldfield accepted a commission in a provincial corps -it is believed Tarleton‘s legion. In 1775 he took up a commission in the royal marines which was intended for his brother, although it was by an error made out in his name.

Oldfield, who did not join the marines until the close of the American war, served with the 83rd regiment at the seige of Charleston, South Carolinia, in 1780. He was promoted to a first lieutenancy in the royal marines on 16 April 1778, and, being distinguished by his intelligence and gallantry, was placed on the stall of the quartermaster-general's department. As deputy assistant-quartermaster-general he was attached to the headquarters of the Marquis (then Lord) Cornwallis and to lord Rawdon (afterwards Marquis of Hastings). He was constantly engaged under their immediate eye, and the repeatedly bore testimony to his zeal, gallantry, and ability.

Oldfield was taken prisoner with Lord Cornwallis at the capitalation of Yorktown.

At the termination of the war Oldfield went to England, and was quartered at Portsmouth, when he purchased a small place in the parish of Westbourne. He named it O1dfield Lawn, and it is still in possession of the family. In 1788 Oldfield went to the West Indies, returning in very bad health. In 1798 he was promoted captain, and again went to the West Indies in the Sceptre, 64 guns, Captain Dacres.

In 1794 Oldfield commanded the royal marines landed from the squadron to co-operate with the army in the island of St. Domingo. Oldfield distinguished himself on every occasion that offered. In storming one of the enemy's works at Cape Nicholas mole, he was the first to enter it, and with his own hand struck the enemy's colours, which are now in possession of the family. He returned to England in the autumn of 1795 in precarious health.

In 1796 Oldfield was employed on the recruiting service at Manchester and Warrington. The following year he embarked on board the Theseus, 74 guns, and sailed to join the squadron under the orders of the Earl of Saincent of Cadiz. Upon the Theseus reaching her destination she became the flagship of Nelson, then a rear-admiral. Oldfield was engaged in two bombardments of Cadiz in June 1797, in one of which he was wounded while in the host with the admiral.

Immediately after the second bombard​ment he sailed in the Theseus, accompanied by a small squadron, for Teneriffe. In the pliant but unsuccessful attempt upon this island Oldfield commanded the force of royal marines which effected a landing from the squadron. His boat was swamped, but he swam to shore, and on landing received a contusion in the right knee. He materially contributed to the saving of the British detachment, whose temerity in attacking with so inferior a force was only equalled by the gallantry with which they carried the attack into execution.

Its failure may be attributed to the loss of the cutter Fox, 10 guns, which was sunk by the enemy's fire, with a considerable part of the force destined for the enterprise. It was in this affair that Nelson lost his arm. In a private letter, written after the battle of the Nile, Oldfield said that 'it was by no means so severe as the affair at Teneriffe, or the second night of the bombardment of Cadiz.'

Until the Theseus was detached to join Nelson (who had shifted his flag to the Vanguard, and gone in pursuit of the French squadron up the Mediterranean), Oldfield remaining with the fleet under the orders of the Earl of St. Vincent.

At the battle of the Nile Oldfield was the senior officer of royal marines in the fleet, and obtained the rank of major for his services, his commission dating 7 Oct. 1798. Oldfield relates in a private letter how, after the disappointment of not finding the French fleet at Alexandria, the Zealous made the signal at midday on 1 Aug. that it was in the bay of Aboukir. At half-past three the French fleet was plainly seen, and an hour afterwards Nelson bade the Theseus go ahead of him. Oldfield in the Theseus was alongside the Guerrier at a quarter to seven o'clock, and having poured in a broadside which carried away ner main and mizen masts, he passed on to the Sparticle and anchored abreast of her, the admiral anchoring on the other side ten minutes later. After the action Oldfield was sent with his marines on board the Tonnant, and from 1 to 14 Aug. he only occasionally lay down on deck. Upwards of six hundred prisoners were on board, of whom 150 were wounded. Nelson sent word to Oldfield that nothing would give him greater pleasure than to serve him; but Oldfield replied that he wanted nothing.

The Theseus remained for some time at Gibraltar and Lisbon to repair damages. Early in the spring of 1799 she sailed to join Sir Sidney Smith off the coast of Syria, and Oldfield took part in the defence of St. Jean d'Acre. On 7 April, at daybreak, a sortie in three columns was made, Oldfield commanding the centre column, which was to penetrate to the entrance of the French mine.

The French narrative of General Berthier, chef d'état-major of the French army in Egypt, relates how Oldfield's column advanced to the entrance of the mine and attacked like heroes ; how Oldfield's body was carried off by their grenadiers and brought to the French headquarters. He was dying when taken, and breathed his last before he reached headquarters. 'His sword,' says Berthier, 'to which he had done so much honour, was also honoured after his death. . . . He was buried among us, and he has carried with him to the grave the esteem of the French army.'

His gallant conduct was eulogised in the official despatch of Sir Sidney Smith, and Napoleon, when on passage to St. Helena, spoke of Oldfield's gallantry to the marine officers on board the Northumberland.

Oldfield was of middle stature and dark complexion. He was of a social and generous disposition, and had a strong sense of religion. A tablet in his memory has been erected in the garrison chapel at Portsmouth.

[Dispatches; Memoirs printed for private circulation.],_1885-1900/Oldfield,_Thomas_(1755-1799)

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Napoleon Buonaparte Inspects the Royal Marine Guard

By Simon Biggs on Jul 16, 2021 05:47 am

Unit/ Formation: Royal Marines

Location: France

Period/ Conflict: Napoleonic Wars

Year: 1815

Date/s: 16th July 1815

From the Memoirs of Sir Frederick Lewis Maitland then Captain of HMS Bellerophon

About ten A.M. the barge was manned, and a captain's guard turned out.

When Buonaparte came on deck, he looked at the marines, who were generally fine-looking young men, with much satisfaction; went through their ranks, inspected their arms, and admired their appearance, saying to Bertrand, "How much might be done with a hundred thousand such soldiers as these."

He asked which had been longest in the corps; went up and spoke to him. His questions were put in French, which I interpreted, as well as the man's answers.

He enquired how many years he had served; on being told upwards of ten, he turned to me and said, "Is it not customary in your service, to give a man who has been in it so long some mark of distinction?"

He was informed that the person in question had been a sergeant, but was reduced to the ranks for some misconduct.

He then put the guard through part of their exercise, whilst I interpreted to the Captain of Marines, who did not understand French, the manoeuvres he wished to have performed.

He made some remarks upon the difference of the charge with the bayonet between our troops and the French; and found fault with our method of fixing the bayonet to the musquet, as being more easy to twist off, if seized by an enemy when in the act of charging.

Other linked articles:

,Major Thomas Oldfield - Consulted by Nelson; His Gallantry spoken of by Napoleon

Find the Map Pin - The Royal Marines a Geo History 1664 - Present Day

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Jim Wren Royal Marines at 100

By Royal Marines Association on Jul 15, 2021 12:00 am

Article from the Royal Marines Charity;

Visiting Jim Wren, 100-year-old veteran

The Royal Marines Association were lucky enough to secure a visit with former Royal Marine James (Jim) Wren, 100 years old, and his wife Margaret at their family home to hear him recount his amazing story first-hand.

He is truly an inspirational former Marine and Jim and Margaret are the true epitome of the Corps Family. It was an honour and a privilege to meet with them and talk about his experiences as a Japanese Prisoner of war during the 1940s.

Royal Marine Jim Wren was aboard HMS Repulse when it was sunk by Japanese bombers in 1941. Hundreds of people died, and Jim was lucky enough to count himself of one of the few survivors. He aligned himself with an Army unit who were defending the British fortress of Singapore.

Although valiant efforts were made to save the lives of hundreds of civilian men, women and children, the Japanese had taken control of the routes, blocking their escape. Jim, along with others on board, were taken prisoner.

The conditions in Japanese Prisoner of War Camps were atrocious, and many did not survive, Jim was a prisoner for three and a half years, and he was still a prisoner when he found out that the war was over.

Jim was only 19 when he tried to ‘join up’ in the war effort, he had been turned away from the RAF and the Army, when he was recruited by his uncle.

“One day, my uncle who was a retired Royal Marine said he had been recalled on reserve. He came home one weekend and said, ‘Join us, we’re taking recruits,’ and that’s how I came to be in the Royal Marines.”

After completing the 8-month training course at Stonehouse he was posted to join the Battlecruiser HMS Repulse in the Autumn of 1940. They spent months as part of the Arctic and Atlantic Convoys, delivering weapons to Allied troops. This was a dangerous job, and they were a target for German attack.

“It was gruelling, especially up in the Arctic. The small ships we were with had a particularly tough time of it. But it was all part of the job.
“HMS Repulse was a very well-organised ship. We had a great captain, and everything ran quite smoothly. The camaraderie was marvellous. I met some really super men in those days. I can never forget those men.”

HMS Repulse and HMS Prince of Wales were re-tasked with deterring Japanese aggression and arrived in Singapore on 2nd December 1941. Within 5 days Japan had declared war on the British Empire and had begun to pre-emptively attack Allied Forces. Jim was shocked at how ‘prepared’ the Japanese were and recalls thinking that they had been ‘underestimated.’

At 11:13 on the 10th of December the Japanese air force attacked, two bombs missed but the third struck.

“It all happened so quickly, we were on our usual mid-morning break, all on the mess deck having a cup of tea, and the alarm was sounded. I dropped my tea and headed to my action station.

“There was such a confusion going on. The noise was terrific, it was one big noisy battle. Gun crews of all descriptions involved. There was no panic though, we’d been through the routines so regularly that we just got on it. Everyone knew their role and we had such a good crew. We all had faith in each other.

“The first bomb that hit dropped right behind me. Fortunately, it went down 2 or 3 decks before it exploded. I didn’t have time to think about it at that point.”

HMS Repulse sank at 12:33 10th December.

Jim said that he “didn’t even hear the actual call for abandon ship” but it was only when he had left that he could see the devastation that had been caused. The sea was slick black from tar and oil, and it was every man for himself. Jim managed to find debris to stay afloat and was later dragged onto a Carley float. He was sick from the amount of oil he had swallowed.

“I lost many good friends. I can still see images of them today in the mess deck. I was with them every day. I can still see their faces and remember them.”

He was rescued by HMS Electra, and they were taken back to Singapore, where they were welcomed with a tot of rum. As the Royal Marines were one of the very few units that were trained for jungle warfare, they were sent to protect the retreating Army and suffered huge losses.

The Japanese began to get a foothold in Singapore and Jim and the other Royal Marines began to evacuate the area, loading men women and children into boats, most of which were sadly sunk or captured at sea. Jim left Singapore under the cover of darkness, facing Japanese resistance almost immediately.

On the 15th of February their boat was illuminated by the searchlight of a Japanese destroyer, they had been captured.

“I won’t ever forget seeing them. Nobody could speak Japanese, and the Japanese sailors came onboard, tearing around the ship, shouting, and hitting and striking people, and the children were absolutely frightened to death. I can see the fear on their faces even today.

The Japanese separated the military personnel from the civilians, Jim was held in an abandoned building without water or sanitation. Jim described the treatment at that point as ‘abominable,’ they were stripped of every valuable thing they had, left only with a small amount of clothing.

Prisoners continued to arrive to the warehouse they were kept in, they slept on concrete floors and were given little to eat. Jim and the other POWs were then taken to a disused school in Palembang, Sumatra.

“Again, we were sleeping on a brick floor with no bedding, sanitation or water. Oil drums were used as toilets which had to be taken away and emptied daily. The water which was brought in was unsuitable for drinking unless boiled.

They were stripped of any basic human rights, and this was before the ‘working parties’ had begun. The men were told to sign papers saying they would not try to escape, scared of more men facing punishment and death and even further deterioration in conditions, they decided to sign. Although they had started receiving food and water again, they were being forced to work. Jim described the experience as being “slavery of the first order”.

“When the Japanese captured us, I had been sleeping on the upper deck and I took my boots off. In the confusion someone took one of my boots instead of their own, so I was left with two boots of different sizes. I could not manage with the smaller shoe, so I cut the heel off.”

For three and a half years Jim was kept as a Prisoner of War enduring barbaric conditions and suffered brutality daily. Jim witnessed horrific atrocities that he still finds difficult to talk bout years later. He recalls that a prisoner who had struck a guard, after he returned to work injured to earn food rations, was taken away and never seen again.

Despite the atrocious conditions, Jim says the bond between the prisoners was strong. Jim, and a group of around 30 Royal Marines supported each other and looked out for one another. They did their best to protect each other from being beaten if they were struggling with the work.

Prisoners of War had no contact with the outside world, they were fed information with regards to the war but had no way of knowing if what they were being told was true. This made it very difficult for the men, not knowing if or when they would be set free.

In August of 1945 working parties were stopped, that indicated to the Prisoners that help was getting closer. A few days after being stood down the men were called out to roll call, a Japanese Commander came out and said “the war is over” then fled. Jim said “You can just imagine. Some chaps just stood there, dumbfounded. Others hugged their chum, next to him, others just went to the ground and shed a few tears. I shed a few tears; I can tell you.

“It was an emotional reaction through my whole body. At that stage, we had almost got to a point of no return.”

The Allied forces came to the aid of the prisoners, and they were flown to Singapore by the Australian Air Force flew them to Singapore.

Jim was given clothing and equipment and was put on troopship HMS Antenor to return home. The journey took six weeks, and they stopped once at a port in the Suez Canal to get kitted up with winter clothing.

He arrived in Liverpool on 27th October 1945.

When Jim was posted in Scotland in 1940, he had met his future wife, Margaret, he was utterly shocked that she stood waiting for him alongside his mother and father when he arrived in Sussex.

They had not communicated for all those years, and although Margaret had set letters, they were returned to her marked ‘unknown’. Margaret had been working on munitions throughout the war, but when she received the news that Jim was coming home, she moved to Sussex so she could be there for his return.

“Fortunately, all the family (except one brother in the Army who was heading to Singapore at the same time I was leaving it) managed to get home that night and we had a whole family gathering. There were some tears that day too.”

Jim and Margaret were married the following year.

Jim served on HMS Vanguard for the remaining 6 years of his service, although his health was not what it should have been he wanted to stick it out until retirement. After 12 years in the service, Jim worked with the Parks Department in Salisbury, and then as a groundsman and gardener for a local school until he retired. He is a member of COFEPOW – The Children (& Families) of the Far East Prisoners of War organisation and wants people to remember what happened in the Far East during the war, as he continues to feel the mental scars today.

“It’s had an effect on me mentally over the years. I find it rather difficult to communicate, or converse with people. That whole experience is in the back of my mind all the time, because some things never go away.

“I’m glad the war ended, but it’s important to remember the world has changed too. The Japanese today are different people to the way they were then. And what happened at the end of war shouldn’t be forgotten either. The atom bomb saved my life, and the lives of thousands of men, but it took lives as well. It’s a thing I never want to see again. Never.”

Prince Charles has now commissioned a portrait of Jim, to be hung in Buckingham Palace. Painted by artist Eileen Hogan from the Royal School of Drawing.

Original article and more pictures here - Royal Marines Association

Read more;

,Maurice Pink, Dunkirk, Hunt for the Bismark, Sinking of Repulse, Escape from Singapore and Anzio

,Plymouth Argyll Royal Marines - Fall of Singapore

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Second Voyage of James Cook

By Si Biggs on Jul 13, 2021 08:34 am

Unit/ Formation: His Majesty's Marine Forces

Location: Plymouth Sound

Period/ Conflict:

Year: 1772

Date/s: 13 July 1772

HMS Resolution Commanded by Captain Cook, and HMS Adventure Commanded by Lieutenant Furneaux, set sail from Plymouth Sound on Monday 13 July 1772 , via Madiera (July - August) and Cape Town, South Africa (October - November), towards the Antarctic in search of the Great Southern Continent.

Resolution began her career as the 462 ton North Seacollier Marquis of Granby, launched at Whitby in 1770, purchased by the Royal Navy in 1771 for £4,151, and converted to naval specifications for a cost of £6,565. She was 111 feet (34 m) long and 35 feet (11 m) abeam. She was originally registered as HMS Drake, but fearing this would upset the Spanish, she was renamed Resolution, on 25 December 1771.

She was fitted out at Deptford with the most advanced navigational aids of the day, including an azimuth compass made by Henry Gregory, ice anchors and the latest apparatus for distilling fresh water from sea water. Twelve light 6-pounder guns and twelve swivel guns were carried.

The second voyage of James Cook, from 1772 to 1775, commissioned by the British government with advice from the Royal Society, was designed to circumnavigate the globe as far south as possible to finally determine whether there was any great southern landmass, or Terra Australis.

The Marine detachment that joined HMS Resolution;

Mollineux. John Sergeant.

Mills. Alexander Corporal.

Lane. John Drummer. Private.

Lear. Daniel Private.

Stewart. Donald Private.

Allden. William Private.

Reed. Richard Private.

Thomas. John Private.

Kearney. William Private.

Sommerfield. Bonaventure Private.

Rosa. Alexander Private.

Scott. James 2/Lt. Promoted on the 11th June 1772, and Joined HMS Resolution on the 7th July.

Related posts:

,John Ledyard, American Author, enlisted as a Royal Marine on Cook's Final Voyage

,Marines Killed alongside Capt. Cook

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Withdrawal from Afghanistan

By Royal Marines Association on Jul 13, 2021 12:00 am

Royal Marines Charity News | 13.07.21

A message from Commandant General Royal Marines, Lieutenant General Rob Magowan CB CBE

“You will be aware that the last UK Armed Forces personnel have begun their withdrawal from Afghanistan, the concluding act of a campaign which, for the Royal Marines, began with Operation JACANA in 2002. The events of the 11th of September 2001 started a period of operational tempo not seen since World War II – and the whole Corps Family delivered.

Amongst the first in and trusted with the most difficult tasks, Royal Marines fought with courage, tenacity and a compassion exemplifying the Commando Ethos. 161 national awards for gallantry and bravery and 82 for meritorious service recognised individual excellence, but everyone contributed – as a Corps our moral cohesion was strengthened by our shared experience.

Not everyone that contributed to our success deployed to Afghanistan. Throughout, the home base was kept strong by our families and the Royal Marines Association-The Royal Marines Charity, who continue to provide superb support to all parts of the Corps.

58 Royal Marines died on operations in Afghanistan and 78 were either very seriously or seriously injured. Many have unseen injuries that are only just emerging, or are yet to. Everyone who deployed lost friends and knows someone still affected by their experiences. As a Corps Family we must stay close. To anyone who is struggling, reach out – once a marine, always a marine.

Thank you all for your peerless contribution throughout this Afghanistan campaign. We will remember those no longer with us. We are ready to go again.”

Original Article - The Royal Marines Charity

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Royal Marines WWII Landing Craft Crews - Europe

By Si Biggs on Jul 10, 2021 08:55 am

Unit/ Formation: Landing Craft Units

Location: Great Britain

Period/ Conflict: World War II

Year: 1943

Date/s: July 1943

Of the hundreds of landing craft sent against the beaches of Normandy on D Day, at least two-thirds of the great fleet of L.C.A. that carried the assault waves of infantry to the beaches were manned by Marines, there were also Flotillas landing US Troops on Utah beaches, including RM crewed craft supporting the Rangers at Point de Hoc with fire support.

They negotiated the bristling obstacles, mines, stakes and other impedimenta with which the enemy defended the beaches with remarkable success and, generally speaking, comparatively light casualties, though many craft were blown up while retracting after landing their first waves.

Among the first men actually to set foot on the beaches on D-Day were the Landing Craft Obstruction Clearance Units. Half of these were Marines of the R.M. Engineer Commando. They accomplished a difficult and dangerous job with great expedition, clearing the beaches for the later flights of landing craft.

Behind the L.C.A. came the " build-up " squadrons of small craft, all of which were Marine-manned. Many of these made the Channel crossing under their own steam, a perilous undertaking in such frail craft in the weather conditions which prevailed. For weeks, these craft, L.C.M., L.C.V. (P) and other types worked a ferry service off the beach in the worst possible weather and the utmost discomfort. [1]

Officers and crews for minor landing craft were initially drawn from the RN, after 1st April 1943 the recruitment policy changed in favour of the Royal Marines. Under these arrangements, marine officers did a preliminary 9 week course 6 at HMS Eastney and 3 weeks in craft at HMS Northney (Hayling Island). From there they were appointed to HMS Helder or HMS Effingham for 6 week courses in training with their crews. [2]

The first 4 weeks were essentially on naval aspects and the remaining 2 in working with units. During this phase, flotillas of small landing craft were formed and allocated to Combined Operations bases, where further training of formed flotillas was undertaken. Pending allocation to Force Commanders, formed flotillas could be attached to Combined Training Centres for work with units.

In July 1943 Royal Marines from the Mobile Naval Bases Defence Organization and other shore units were drafted into the pool to crew the expanding numbers of landing craft being gathered in England for the Normandy invasion.

By 1944, 500 Royal Marine officers and 12,500 Marines had become landing craft crew.

Men were trained at various bases around Great Britain;

In the spring of 1942 work began to establish a Combined Operations Landing Craft base in Shoreham, Sussex. In May 1942, the construction of 11 purpose-built embarkation hards to serve landing craft and ships that would support Commando operations on the European coast was ordered. These 11 were all constructed in the Portsmouth Command area (between Portland and Newhaven) and completed by July of that year.


The base at Shoreham was commissioned as an independent command with the ship's name LIZARD on October 7th 1942. The base provided training facilities for men of the Royal Marines and Royal Navy in seamanship and survival skills to prepare them for their hazardous duties as landing craft crews. Crews participated in regular exercises, usually up the coast to LIZARD's sister Landing Craft Base, HMS NEWT in Newhaven.

While LIZARD handled many hundreds of landing craft over its three years as an operational naval base the first units that can be traced as being attached to the base for training are the 902 & 803LCV(P) Flotillas, Royal Marines. Both were formed at Dartmouth in 1942, the 803rd arrived at Shoreham in 1943, having formed as the 434th LCA [Landing Craft Assault] Flotilla but becoming the 803 LCV(P) Flotilla when they reached Shoreham. They received new landing craft, transferred from the Royal Navy, collecting them from their berths in the Portslade Basin. This unit was to remain at Shoreham until the spring of 1944 when it moved to Hayling Island, Hampshire to prepare for D-Day operations. LCVPs had a crew of four, three Marines and one RN stoker; most flotillas of smaller landing craft were composed of 16 vessels.

By January 1944 the base was very busy with as many as 94 craft in residence; the base was now home to elements of Force “J” working up for the Normandy landing on Juno Beach: these included 3 of the 5 flotillas of "A" (L.C.V. (P)) Build Up Squadron, 802, 803 and 804 flotillas (the H.Q. and 800, 801, were at HMS NEWT at Newhaven). Also present were "D" (L.C.M.) Build Up Squadron, comprising of the 600th and 601st Build Up Flotillas and their H.Q. (these were later absorbed into “F” Build Up Squadron). Also present were the 707th (L.C.P. (L)) Assault Flotilla and the 35th Landing Barge (Supply and Repair) Flotilla.

The 600th & 601st Build Up Flotillas operated 16 L.C.M. each; the 802nd, 803rd & 804th Build Up Flotillas operated 16 L.C.V.(P) each; the 707th Assault Flotilla operated 12 L.C.P. (L); the 35th L. B. (Supply and Repair) Flotilla operated 19 specialist Landing barges - 6 L.B. (Engineering)., 10 L.B.(Oil). & 2 L.B.(Water), most detached to bases along the south coast.

[Royal Navy Research Archive - HMS Lizard]

HMS Cricket

‘HMS Cricket’ in Burseldon on the River Hamble was a training base for the flotilla of landing craft taking men, tanks and supplies across the channel from Warsash and Hamble.

HMS Cricket was commissioned on 15 July 1943. Initially it was a “Royal Marine Landing Craft Crew Training Base”. The base was later used to assemble troops and landing craft in the build-up to D-day. From 23 May 1944, during the final preparations for D-Day, the base was completely sealed.

Stan Blacker;

The local rector arrived in the camp and there was a parade. We all attended and knelt in the main road coming into the camp, the rector stood on a box and gave a short speech “God teach us not to show cowardice, God give us the strength to face the enemy” and the Lords Prayer.
“The whole unit was called to attention and formed columns, the CO took his place and we marched through the camp down to the river and to the Landing Craft and set sail for the Normandy beaches and D-day had begun.”

It was decided to close HMS Cricket after the end of the Second World War, a decision taken on 1 March 1946. The last arrivals were on 20 May 1946 and Cricket was probably decommissioned on 15 July 1946, three years after commissioning.

Its many buildings were subsequently used for temporary post-war accommodation for the civilian population of Southampton. Manor Farm Country Park now occupies this site.

[More on HMS Cricket Here; The Corn Poppy Blog]

814 HM Landing Craft Vehicle (Personnel) Flotilla, (814 LCV (P)), took part in the D-Day landings. Royal Marine, Roy Nelson, was on board LCV (P) 1155, one of 16 identical craft hoisted aboard a Landing Ship Tank (LST) for the journey across the English Channel to the beaches of Normandy. [3]

7 of the 16 craft in the flotilla were recorded as war losses and two Royal Marines from the flotilla were killed.

George Pargeter was awarded the DCM (Distinguished Conduct Medal). A rhino barge was being loaded with ammunition from a supply ship, when it received a direct hit and caught fire, putting the ship at great risk. George and his crew secured a line to the barge and towed it away from the side of the ship, averting a possible disaster - a selfless action that put the lives of George and his crew at great risk.

East of Utah beach was the formidable cliff face of Pointe du Hoc, atop which, intelligence sources believed, were heavy enemy guns. In the D-Day plan, Pointe du hoc was within the Omaha area but its heavy guns could range over incoming craft and troops making for both Omaha and Utah beaches. It was essential to silence these guns.

The task was assigned to the men of the US 2nd Ranger Battalion under the command of Colonel James Rudder. Royal Marine, John Lambourne was present serving with the LCS(M) (Landing Craft Support (Medium) 102 of 901 Flotilla. He and his crew were assigned to the troopship Prince Leopold, which carried the LCAs of the Royal Navy’s 504 Flotilla.

LCS(M) 102 was also present in support as LCAs carrying the Rangers made their way to the beach. Lambourne watched in awe as the Rangers attained the beach and began scaling the cliff by way of grappling hooks fired from their LCAs. The memory of the bravery he witnessed remained forever with him. [4]

LCS(M) 102 and 101 are listed as sunk 1.11.1944 probably as a part of Force T during Operation Infatuate.

LCS(M) LC Support (Medium) These craft provided fire support and smoke cover for assault flotillas, and had been manned by seamen crews with a small RM detachment of gunners, until they were taken over by all– RM crews. The LCS(Medium), of which both Mark 2s and 3s were in action on 6 June 1944 off Normandy, with twin–.5 machine guns, a 4–in smoke mortar (later firing an HE bomb) and smoke generators. The following RM LCS(M) Flotillas have been identified: 901 and 903–6, and there is one reference to No. 902 as an RM Flotilla of 1945.

By 1945, personnel priorities had changed once more. Marines of landing craft flotillas were formed into two infantry brigades 116 & 117 to address the manpower shortage in ending the war in Germany.

,The LCA (Landing Craft Assault) - Norway to Aden

,Landing Craft Support Squadron - Operation Infatuate

,DayForce - Bougainville Campaign

Other references;

[1] A Review of Royal Marines Operations 1939 - 1945

[2] Combined Operations - UK Land Based Training Establishments

[3]Combined Operations - 814 LCV (P) 'Build Up' Flotilla - D Day

[4] Combined Operations - D-Day Landing Craft and Normandy Beaches

[5] RM Museum Major Landing Craft of WW2

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HMS Vanguard Explosion

By Si Biggs on Jul 09, 2021 09:17 am

Unit/ Formation: Royal Marines

Location: Scapa Flow

Period/ Conflict: World War I

Year: 1917

Date/s: 9 July 1917

Shortly before midnight on 9 July 1917 at Scapa Flow, Vanguard suffered a series of magazine explosions. She sank almost instantly, killing 843 of the 845 men aboard. The wreck was heavily salvaged after the war, but was eventually protected as a war grave in 1984.

Aboard HMS Vanguard were a total of 92 Marines - 15 RM Bandsmen 36 RM Artillery 41 RM Light Infantry

The ship anchored in the northern part of Scapa Flow at about 18:30 on 9 July 1917 after having spent the afternoon practising the routine for abandoning ship.

There is no record of anyone detecting anything amiss until the first explosion at 23:20. Vanguard sank almost instantly, with only three of the crew surviving, one of whom died soon afterwards.

A total of 843 men were lost, including two Australian stokers from the light cruiser HMAS Sydney who were serving time in the battleship's brig. Another casualty was Captain Kyōsuke Eto, a military observer from the Imperial Japanese Navy, which was allied with the Royal Navy at the time through the Anglo-Japanese Alliance.

The bodies of 17 of the 22 men recovered after the explosion, plus that of Lieutenant Commander Alan Duke, who died after being rescued, were buried at the Royal Naval Cemetery at Lyness, not far from the site of the explosion.

The others are commemorated on the Chatham, Plymouth and Portsmouth Naval Memorials.

Crew Image: @vanguard1917 Searching for a photograph of every casualty killed in the HMS Vanguard 1917 explosion.

Read More/ Web Link: @vanguard1917

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Independence of the New Hebrides “Coconut War” with France

By Si Biggs on Jul 09, 2021 08:37 am

Unit/ Formation: 42 Cdo RM

Location: South Pacific Ocean

Period/ Conflict: 20th Century

Year: 1980

Date/s: July 1980

The Coconut War erupted when the Andrew Christopher Stuart was forced to quell a rebellion by bow-and-arrow-wielding cargo-cult devotees on the eve of independence in July 1980.

Andrew Christopher Stuart was the last resident commissioner on Santo, the largest of the 80 islands of the New Hebrides, now Vanuatu in the South Pacific. He arrived there in 1978, with the brief of bringing the islands to independence. That he managed to see this through in the face of a local rebellion and machinations by the French was tribute to his cool-headedness under pressure.

Prior to Vanuatu's independence, the islands were known as the New Hebrides. The New Hebrides were governed by a condominium of France and the United Kingdom. In 1980, France and the United Kingdom agreed that Vanuatu would be granted independence on 30 July 1980.

Beginning in June 1980, Jimmy Stevens, head of the Nagriamel movement, led an uprising against the colonial officials and the plans for independence. The uprising lasted about 12 weeks. The rebels blockaded Santo-Pekoa International Airport, destroyed two bridges, and declared the independence of Espiritu Santo island as the "State of Vemerana".

Stevens was supported by French-speaking landowners and by the Phoenix Foundation, an American business foundation that supported the establishment of a libertarian tax haven in the New Hebrides

Stuart requested military support and 200 Royal Marines of 42 Commando were sent to the South Pacific island nation by Margaret Thatcher from their base in Plymouth.

Stuart then ensured that the Marines stayed for three weeks after July 30, independence day, paving the way for a successful peacekeeping operation by troops invited in from Papua New Guinea by Vanuatu's first independent Prime Minister, Walter Lini.

Andrew Stuart The Independent Obit here

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Capture of the Battery at Cruxhaven

By Si Biggs on Jul 08, 2021 08:34 am

Unit/ Formation: Royal Marines

Location: Cruxhaven

Period/ Conflict: Napoleonic Wars

Year: 1809

Date/s: 8 July 1809

A small force consisting of Musquito, the two Cherokee-class brig-sloops Briseis and Ephira, five gun-brigs, including Basilisk, and Patriot and Alert entered the Elbe. There was a battery at Cuxhaven so they anchored out range of its cannons on the 7th July.

Next morning at daylight Goate led a landing party of Marines and Sailors ashore. They were fired on by an advnaced post of the French who then retreated to the battery, before they could attack the battery its 80-man garrison retreated, abandoning their guns.

The British then loaded the battery’s six 24-pounders into vessels lying in the harbour, together with all the shot and military stores they could find and some other small guns.

Next, they blew up the fort and seized two French gunboats, each of two guns. Lastly, the landing party handed the town of Cuxhaven back to the civil governor before returning to its vessels.

Later, Mosquito, Basilisk and Aimable would share in the prize money. Read More/ Web Link: The Naval Chronicles Vol 22

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Normandy - A successful Recce Patrol

By Si Biggs on Jul 08, 2021 12:00 am

Unit/ Formation: 46 Cdo RM

Location: France

Period/ Conflict: World War II

Year: 1944

Date/s: 8 July 1944

Task To answer the following questions:-

(i) Is there any wire fwd of enemy's FDLs along line of hedgerow 142770 - 141772?

(ii) If so, what type and thickness of wire - is it a Bangalore task.

(iii) Distance of obstacle from line of FDLs.

(iv) Are there any indications of mines - in the wire, or fwd, or in rear of it?

(v) What is the best route for a small raiding party up to line of FDLs.

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Major Reginald Ingleton Executed by Beheading - 7 July 1945 - Operation Rimau

By Si Biggs on Jul 07, 2021 10:39 pm

Operation Rimau was an attack on Japanese shipping in Singapore Harbour, carried out by an Allied commando unit Z Special Unit, during World War II using Australian built Hoehn military MKIII folboats. It was a follow-up to the successful Operation Jaywick which had taken place in September 1943, and was again led by Lieutenant Colonel Ivan Lyon of the Gordon Highlanders, an infantry regiment of the British Army.

Ivan Lyon, now a lieutenant colonel, believing that the Japanese would not expect another attack on Singapore, proposed a second, larger attack. British Special Operations approved it, and Lyon went to England to check on all the latest materials and equipment. There he examined a large minelaying submarine, the Porpoise, and tried out a Sleeping Beauty (SB), a 13-foot craft that could carry a man at four and one-half knots on the surface of the water or three and one-half knots underwater and had a range of 12 miles on a fully charged battery. The minelaying submarine and SBs were just what he wanted.

He returned to Australia, and at Careening Bay near Fremantle in Western Australia he began selecting and training volunteers for the operation he codenamed Rimau, the Malay word for tiger.

He decided to use four of the men who had been on the Jaywick operation, Davidson, Page, Falls and Huston, and 17 other British and Australian sailors and commandos. Major Reginald Ingleton of the Royal Marines would go with them as an observer, but he quickly joined in as one of the team

Originally part of a much larger operation called Operation Hornbill, the aim of Rimau was to sink Japanese shipping by paddling the folboats in the dark and placing limpet mines on ships. It was originally intended that motorised semi-submersible canoes, known as "Sleeping Beauties", would be used to gain access to the harbour, however, they resorted to folboats.

After the raiding party's discovery by local Malay authorities, a total of thirteen men (including raid commander Lyon) were killed during battles with the Japanese military at a number of island locations or were captured and died of their wounds in Japanese captivity.

In all, 10 of the team including Major Ingleton were brought as prisoners to Singapore. The Japanese considered them warriors in the spirit of Bushido, who had fought and had been captured, not surrendered. They treated them with respect. They were questioned repeatedly but not badly treated even thought they refused to tell anything of real importance about the operation.

At the end of May 1945, a new Japanese commander in Singapore ordered that they be court-martialed. The court martial was held in early July, apparently against strong opposition by many in the Japanese military. The team was accused of being involved in a covert operation, not wearing full military uniform, and displaying the Japanese flag to confuse their enemies. They were found guilty and sentenced to death.

On July 7, approximately one month before World War II in the Pacific came to an end, they were taken to a hill outside Singapore where they talked, smoked last cigarettes, and shook hands with one another. They were then ceremonially executed by the sword in the warrior tradition, their bodies falling into the graves prepared for them.

Later evidence stated it took guards more than half an hour to execute the men, sometimes requiring two or three blows to complete beheading.

After the war, the bodies of the 10 were exhumed and, together with the bodies of those who died on the islands near Singapore, including Ivan Lyon, were buried in the Kranji war cemetery on Singapore Island.

Read the Full Story Here

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Landing & Infiltration in Somaliland

By Si Biggs on Jul 07, 2021 03:06 am

Unit/ Formation: 539 ASRM

Location: Somaliland

Period/ Conflict: 21st Century

Year: 2011

Date/s: July 2011

In July 2011 a landing craft from RFA Cardigan Bay landed two Vikings and Royal Marines of 539 ASRM (Assault Squadron Royal Marines) in Somaliland.

They penetrated several miles of "bandit country" to meet up with an important clan chief and take him back to Cardigan Bay for a meeting with MI6 and Foreign Office officials.

This was part of Exercise Somaliland Cougar, an operation to train Somali coastguards in anti-piracy techniques and to establish relationships with tribal leaders.

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Supporting the Rangers at Pointe Du Hoc

By Si Biggs on Jul 02, 2021 12:00 am

Unit/ Formation: Landing Craft Units

Location: Pointe Du Hoc

Period/ Conflict: World War II

Year: 1944

Date/s: 6th June 1944

East of Utah beach was the formidable cliff face of Pointe du Hoc, atop which, intelligence sources believed, were heavy enemy guns.

In the D-Day plan, Pointe du hoc was within the Omaha area but its heavy guns could range over incoming craft and troops making for both Omaha and Utah beaches. It was essential to silence these guns.

The task was assigned to the men of the US 2nd Ranger Battalion under the command of Colonel James Rudder.

A field modification was developed by US Rangers with assistance from LCA crews and Commandos, for the famous Pointe du Hoc assault of 6 June 1944. Each of the 10 LCAs of Flotillas 510 and 522 which carried the 2nd Ranger Battalion to Pointe du Hoc was fitted with 3 pairs of rocket tubes, firing six-tine grapnels. These pulled up (by pairs) ¾" plain ropes, toggle ropes, and rope ladders.

The ropes and ladders were stowed in three large tackle boxes mounted down either side of the LCA decks and the rocket tubes were positioned down either side behind the corresponding boxes. In addition, each craft carried a pair of small hand-projector-type rockets, which could be easily carried ashore and fired small 100 ft ropes. These could carry to full extension provided the line was dry and used in moderate weather conditions.

Each craft also carried tubular-steel extension ladders made up of light, four-foot sections suitable for quick assembly. These modified craft had the central bench in the well removed. At least some of the LCAs also had smoke floats on the stern and the armament in the gunner's shelter was a Lewis gun, but a variety of Brens and other light weapons were also carried.

Royal Marine, John Lambourne was present serving with the LCS(M) (Landing Craft Support (Medium)) 102 of 901 Flotilla. He and his crew were assigned to the troopship Prince Leopold, which carried the LCAs of the Royal Navy’s 504 Flotilla in support as LCAs carrying the Rangers made their way to the beach.

Lambourne watched in awe as the Rangers attained the beach and began scaling the cliff by way of grappling hooks fired from their LCAs. The memory of the bravery he witnessed remained forever with him.

The LCS(M) provided fire support and smoke cover for assault flotillas, and had been manned by seamen crews with a small RM detachment of gunners, until they were taken over by all RM crews.

'We were with the British. They were the best.'

Lieutenant Ray Nance, a veteran of and second in command of A Company of 116th Infantry Regiment

The LCS(Medium), of which both Mark 2s and 3s were in action on 6 June 1944 off Normandy, with twin–.5 machine guns, a 4–in smoke mortar (later firing an HE bomb) and smoke generators. The following RM LCS(M) Flotillas have been identified: 901 and 903–6, and there is one reference to No. 902 as an RM Flotilla of 1945.

Other articles of interest;

,Royal Marines WWII Landing Craft Crews - Europe

The story of the Royal Navy on Omaha Beach

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