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This month as a Corps family we mourn the sad loss of Major General Matthew John Holmes, CBE DSO (29 June 1967 - 2 October 2021). Commandant General Royal Marines from 2019 to 2021.Major General Matt Holmes CBE DSO.jpg

Thankyou for continuing to subscribe, I hope you enjoy this monthly blog 'dits'.

As always I' am happy to receive new articles, posts and podcasts from other authors or veterans, if you have a story or know someone that has please let me know.

Yours Aye,

Si Biggs

Come and see over 356 years of History, search by Unit, Year, Month, Conflict, RM People or Historic Period mapped out with 622 pins and growing! RM a Geo History

Or listen to the first episode of the RM History PodCast:
In this months edition;

Hell Ship - Lisbon Maru

By Si Biggs on Oct 29, 2021 05:42 pm

Unit/ Formation: Royal Marines

Location: Chinese coast

Period/ Conflict: World War II

Year: 1942

Date/s: 1 October 1942

1942 Lisbon Maru, Japanese steamship carrying POWs mainly from Hong Kong sunk by US submarine Grouper off Shanghai, many died, but others escaped, some of whom died over the succeeding weeks.

On her final voyage she was carrying, in addition to 700 Japanese Army personnel, 1,816 British and Canadian prisoners of war captured after the Battle of Hong Kong in December 1941. The POWs were held in "appalling conditions ... [those] at the bottom of the hold ... showered by the diarrhea of sick soldiers above".

On 1 October 1942, the ship was torpedoed by the submarine USS Grouper. The Japanese troops were evacuated from the ship but the POWs were not; instead the hatches were battened down above them and they were left on the listing ship. After 24 hours it became apparent that the ship was sinking and the POWs were able to break through the hatch covers. Some were able to escape from the ship before it sank. The ladder from one of the holds to the deck failed, and the Royal Artillery POWs in the hold could not escape; they were last heard singing "It's a Long Way to Tipperary". Survivors reported that Japanese guards first fired on the POWs who reached the deck; and that other Japanese ships used machine guns to fire at POWs who were in the water. Later, however, after some Chinese fishermen started rescuing survivors, the Japanese ships also rescued survivors.

The British government insisted that over 800 of these men died either directly as a result of the sinking, or were shot or otherwise killed by the Japanese while swimming away from the wreck.[6] The ship was not marked to alert Allied forces to the nature of its passengers. The Japanese Government insisted that British prisoners were in fact not deliberately killed by Japanese soldiers and criticised the British statement.

A memorial was placed in the chapel of Stanley Fort, Hong Kong, which was moved to the chapel of St. Stephen's College, Hong Kong, due to Hong Kong's change in sovereignty.

A reunion of survivors was held on board HMS Belfast on 2 October 2007 to mark the 65th anniversary of their escape. Six former prisoners attended, alongside many bereaved families of the escapees. (Wikipedia)

11 Royal Marines killed plus others died later of wounds as POWs











WALL, THOMAS M, Sergeant

Lisbon Maru Roll of Honour

We knew we'd been hit by a torpedo. And the ship started listing. That was it
It was at that time they battened us down. They meant us to go down with the ship - drown.

Dennis Morley a 22-year-old in the Royal Scots regiment. (BBC)

More 'Dits'

,Hell Ship Toyofuku Maru/ Hofuku Maru

The Battle of Hong Kong

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43 Commando - Landing at Dubrovnik

By Si Biggs on Oct 29, 2021 10:02 am

Unit/ Formation: 43 Cdo RM

Location: Yugoslavia

Period/ Conflict: World War II

Year: 1944

Date/s: 29th October 1944

Floydforce was the name given to the British Army intervention unit in Yugoslavia in October 1944, during the Second World War. Its main objective was to aid Yugoslav Partisans, lead by Marshall Tito, in preventing German withdrawal from Greece and Albania via Montenegro, and "to give the greatest possible artillery support to the Yugoslav National Army of Liberation". It was a continuation of the British Government policy of support and supply that started with the Maclean Mission and culminated in Tito's meeting with Winston Churchill in Naples in August 1943.

The force consisted of batteries from the 111 Field Regiment, No. 43 Commando Unit and a field unit of Royal Engineers. Commanded by Brigadier J P O'Brien-Twohig, it sailed in four Tank Landing Craft (LCT) and three Infantry Landing Craft (LCI) from Bari to Dubrovnik on 27 October 1944 and arrived the following day.

Their first target was to block the German breakout at Risan, along the coastal route of the Bay of Kotor. Dedicated group, named Finney Force was assembled for the task. It consisted of 211 Field Battery with eight field-guns and 'C' Troop of the No. 43 Commando. The Battery Commander Major Pat Turner was in overall command, while the 'C' Troop was led by Captain Robert Loundoun.

The two commanders travelled via Trebinje, Bileća i Vilusi, to reach Podhan - a strategic location from which they could see and shell the German troops in the town of Risan, Ledenice barracks and in five old Imperial Austrian forts nearby. They arrived on 29 October, preparing for the first battle the following morning.

For three months they fought the crack German XXI (Mountain) Corps in inhospitable terrain. However, as Hitler, suspecting an eventual Allied landing in the northern Adriatic, diverted reinforcements to the Dalmatian coast, the campaign faltered.

Images from Commando Veterans .Archive

Floydforce on Wikipedia

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Sinking of SS Abosso

By Si Biggs on Oct 29, 2021 12:28 am

Unit/ Formation: Royal Marines

Location: Atlantic Ocean

Period/ Conflict: World War II

Year: 1942

Date/s: 29th October 1942

SS Abosso, MV, torpedoed by U.575 in mid-Atlantic. Sergeant Dobson RM serving as a DEMS gunner killed.

MV Abosso was a passenger, mail, and cargo liner, the flagship of Elder Dempster Lines. In peacetime she ran scheduled services between Liverpool and West Africa. In the Second World War she was a troop ship, running between the United Kingdom, West Africa, and South Africa.

Abosso was built in 1935 and sunk by German submarine U-575 in 1942, killing 362 of the 393 people aboard. She carried the same name as an earlier Elder Dempster ship, SS Abosso, which had been built in 1912 and sunk by the submarine U-43 in 1917.

n the Second World War Abosso was converted into a Defensively Equipped Merchant Ship, and 20 DEMS gunners were added to her regular crew. She served primarily as a troop ship but also continued to carry civilian passengers between Africa and the UK.

On 24 May 1941 a Luftwaffe Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Condor aircraft attacked Abosso, but the ship survived with only slight damage.

On 8 October 1942 Abosso left Cape Town, South Africa for Liverpool carrying 210 passengers: 149 military and 61 civilians, including 44 internees, among them the German-born and Jewish author Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz, 10 women with children and two or three British distressed seamen (the official term for abandoned seamen away from home without a ship for various reasons). Her DEMS gunners were 13 from the Royal Artillery Maritime Regiment and seven from the Royal Navy. She was also carrying 400 bags of mail in her mail room and 3,000 tons of wool in her holds.

Her military passengers included 50 or 51 Dutch conscripts, 44 newly trained pilots fresh from No 23 Service Flying Training School, X Flight, Advanced Training Squadron, at Heany, Bulawayo, Southern Rhodesia (40 for the RAF and four for the Fleet Air Arm), and 33 or 34 Dutch submariners being transferred to a new submarine. The submariners were from three Royal Netherlands Navy submarines: HNLMS K IX and HNLMS K XII, both of which had been transferred to the Royal Australian Navy; and HNLMS K X, which had been scuttled in the Dutch East Indies to prevent her capture by invading Japanese forces. They were travelling to take over a U-class submarine that Vickers-Armstrongs was building at Barrow-in-Furness and was intended to be launched as HNLMS Haai.

Abosso sailed alone and unescorted, despite having a top speed of only 14.5 knots (26.9 km/h). A commander of the Dutch submariners, Luitenant ter zee der 1e klasse Henry Coumou, objected beforehand that this was an unreasonable risk to take, but British authorities overruled him.[4]

At 22:13 on Thursday 29 October 1942 Abosso was in the Atlantic about 589 nautical miles (1,091 km) north of the Azores when German submarine U-575, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Günther Heydemann, fired a spread of four torpedoes at her.[4] One hit Abosso's port side abaft her bridge. The ship's engines stopped, all her lights failed, and she started to list heavily to port. Heydemann survived the war and became a successful businessman in Germany.

Abosso had 12 lifeboats. The even-numbered boats were on her port side and it is not clear whether any of them was launched. The odd-numbered boats were on her starboard side. As No. 3 boat was being lowered, one of its falls was let go and all of the boat's occupants were thrown into the water. No. 3 boat seems to have been carrying most of the Dutch submariners. No. 5 boat was launched successfully and managed to rescue four of the Dutch from the water. No. 9 boat was also launched successfully. It was a motor boat and moved around picking up survivors from the water.

As Abosso settled in the water, she temporarily righted herself, her crew got her emergency generator working, and her floodlights were switched on to help the evacuation. Almost immediately after this, U-575 fired a torpedo from one of her stern torpedo tubes, which hit Abosso at 22:28 (Berlin time) forward of her bridge. At 2305 hrs (Berlin time) Abosso sank bow first. The submarine then surfaced, approached the débris area, and scanned the boats with her searchlights. Kptlt. Heydemann reported about 10 lifeboats and 15 to 20 liferafts afloat and occupied. Heydemann did not try to question survivors to identify the ship, and claimed in his report that this was because the weather was poor.

HMS Bideford rescued the only survivors from Abosso

No. 5 boat was leaking badly and her crew were busy using their seaboots and empty cans to bale water out of her. At about 01:30 (local time) on 30 October they lost contact with the other lifeboats. Overnight the boat's crew rowed to keep the boat headed into the sea; at daybreak they raised her mast and hoisted a sail. At about 16:00 (local time) they deployed the boat's sea anchor overnight. At daybreak on 31 October they resumed sailing, and a few hours later sailed into sight of an Allied convoy.

This was Convoy KMS-2, which was sailing from the UK to the Mediterranean for Operation Torch, the Allied invasion of Vichy French North Africa. One of the convoy's escorts, the Shoreham-class sloop HMS Bideford, sighted No. 5 boat and at 11:00 rescued its 31 occupants. HMS Bideford, part of Operation Torch, stopped to pick up the survivors only after permission was given by the admiralty in London by radio communication. Normally stopping for survivors was forbidden. They were 17 military and civilian passengers, 12 crew, and two DEMS gunners.

Among the survivors were one of the 10 women passengers, an RAMC Captain, and an RAF pilot officer, William Thomson. Bideford landed them at Gibraltar three days later. No. 5 boat's occupants were the only survivors: the other lifeboats and rafts were never found. A total of 362 people had died, including Abosso's Master, Reginald Tate and another Merchant Navy captain, Edward Davies. Boschwitz also perished.

Among the few survivors were Lieutenant Coumou and three of his fellow-submariners. The Dutch Navy was unable to replace its 30 lost men, so the U-class submarine at Barrow was launched not for the Dutch Navy but as the Royal Norwegian Navy submarine HNoMS Ula.

The 362 people killed in Abosso's sinking have no grave but the sea. The Second World War part of the Tower Hill Memorial in the City of London lists those who were members of her Merchant Navy crew. The Brookwood Memorial in Surrey lists those who were UK or Commonwealth military personnel, such as the newly qualified RAF and Fleet Air Arm pilots.

21 of the victims are commemorated at Singapore's War Memorial, 19 on the War Memorial at El Alamein in Egypt, and one on the Australian War Memorial at Canberra. Corporal Hendrik Roelof Drost is commemorated on the memorial of Dutch Citizens from South Africa which was erected in the gardens of the Dutch Embassy in Pretoria, Gauteng, South Africa.

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Happy 357th Birthday Royal Marines Projecting Global Power Since 1664

By Si Biggs on Oct 28, 2021 08:06 am

Formed in the reign of King Charles II on October 28, 1664 as the Duke of York and Albany’s Maritime Regiment of Foot (or Admiral’s Regiment), the name Marines first appeared in the records in 1672 and in 1802 they were titled the Royal Marines by King George III.

Since then, Marines have taken part in more battles on land and sea around the world than any other branch of the British Armed Forces; so numerous are the Corps’ battle honours they are simply represented by the famous Globe and the single honour ‘Gibraltar’

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

-Lord St. Vincent

Of the Royal Marines, 1802

"Soldier 'an Sailor too"

Rudyard Kipling

To take your chance in the thick

of a rush, with firing all about,

Is nothing so bad when you've cover

to `and, an' leave an' likin' to shout;

But to stand an' be still to the

Birken ead dri114 is a damn' tough bul

let to chew,

An' they done it, in the Dollies-'Er

Majesty's Dollies-soldier and sailor


Their work was done when it

`and't begun; they was younger nor

me an' you'

Their choice it was plain between

drownin' in `eaps an' bein' mopped

by the screw.

So they stood an' was still to the

Biirken 'ead drill, soldier and sailor too!

We're most of us liars, we're `arf

of us thieves, an' the rest are as rank

as can be,

But once in a while we can finish

in style (which I `ope won't `appen to


But it makes you think better o'

you an' your friend, an' the work yo

may `ave to do,

When you think o' the sinkin'

Victorier's Jollies-soldiers and sailor too!

Now there ins't no room for to

say ye don't know-they `ave proved

it plain and true

That, whether it's Widow, or

whether it's ship, Victorier's work is

to do,

An' they done it, the Jollies-'Er

Majesty's Dollies-soldiers and

sailors too!

The Royal Marines have been in action at the most extreme of Cardinal Points;

  • 62°57‘N (Arctic Convoys 1941 - 45)
  • 176°09‘E (Battle of Gate Pā Pukehinahina 1863)
  • 62°57‘S (Raid on Deception Island 1953)
  • 155°56W (Marines Killed alongside Cook 1779)

Why not come and explore this remarkable history for your self using the map here: Royal Marines a Geo History

Please also consider supporting the new Royal Marines Museum as they raise money to open a new museum telling the story of the Royal Marines.

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Hanna Snell Joins the Marines 1747

By Simon Biggs on Oct 23, 2021 08:13 am

Unit/ Formation: RM People

Location: Great Britain

Period/ Conflict:

Year: 1747

Date/s: 23 October 1747

Hannah Snell was born in Worcester, England on 23 April 1723. Locals claim that she played a soldier even as a child. In 1740, she moved to London and married James Summes on 18 January 1744. She named herself Bob Corigan so she could fight.

In 1746, she gave birth to a daughter, Susannah, who died a year later. Snell borrowed a male suit from her brother-in-law James Gray, assumed his name, and began to search for Summes, who had abandoned her while she was pregnant with his child. She later learned that her husband had been executed for murder.

According to her account, she joined John Guise's regiment, the 6th Regiment of Foot, in the army of the Duke of Cumberland against Bonnie Prince Charlie, and deserted when her sergeant gave her 500 lashes. However, the chronology of her life makes it very unlikely that she ever served in Guise's regiment and this part of the story is likely to have been a fabrication.

Following the death of her daughter, she moved to Portsmouth and joined the Marines. She boarded the ship Swallow at Portsmouth on 23 October 1747. The ship sailed to Lisbon on 1 November. Her unit was about to invade Mauritius, but the attack was called off. Her unit then sailed to India.

In August 1748, her unit was sent to an expedition to capture the French colony of Pondicherry in India. Later, she also fought in the battle in Devicottail in June 1749. She was wounded eleven times to the legs.

She was also shot in her groin and to avoid revealing her gender, she instructed a local woman to take out the bullet instead of being tended by the regimental surgeon.

In 1750, her unit returned to Britain and traveled from Portsmouth to London, where she revealed her sex to her shipmates on 2 June. She petitioned the Duke of Cumberland, the head of the army, for her pension. She also sold her story to London publisher Robert Walker, who published her account, The Female Soldier, in two different editions. She also began to appear on stage in her uniform presenting military drills and singing songs.

Three painters painted her portrait in her uniform and The Gentleman's Magazine reported her claims. She was honorably discharged and the Royal Hospital, Chelsea officially recognized Snell's military service in November and granted her a pension in 1750 (increased in 1785), a rare thing in those days.

Hannah retired to Wapping and began to keep a pub named The Female Warrior (or The Widow in Masquerade, accounts disagree) but it did not last long. By the mid-1750s, she was living in Newbury in Berkshire. In 1759, she married Richard Eyles there, with whom she had two children. In 1772, she married Richard Habgood of Welford, also in Berkshire, and the two moved to the Midlands. In 1785, she was living with her son George Spence Eyles, a clerk, on Church Street, Stoke Newington.

Gentleman's Magazine article about Snell. Wood engraving, 1750.

In 1791 her mental condition suddenly worsened. She was admitted to Bethlem Hospital on 20 August. She died on 8 February 1792.

,The Seige of Pondicherry



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Battle of Kudjwa - Indian Mutiny

By Si Biggs on Oct 14, 2021 01:54 pm

Unit/ Formation: Royal Marines

Location: India

Period/ Conflict: Indian Mutiny

Year: 1857

Date/s: 31st October 1857

After their arrival at Hong Kong, in the summer of 1857, the Sanspareil, Shannon, and Pearl were hastily despatched. to Calcutta in order that they might assist in quelling the Mutiny in India.

The Shannon, 51, screw, had been launched at Portsmouth in November 1855 she was for a time the largest steam frigate afloat. Her tonnage (B.M.) was 2667, or about one-fourth more than that of the Victory; and her nominal complement was 560 officers and men, though, on her arrival in India, she had more than that number on board.

The frigate had been commissioned at Portsmouth on September 13th, 1856, by Captain William Peel, C.B., V.C. On August 6th, 1857, she arrived in the mouth of the Ganges, and Peel at once offered the services of himself and his people to proceed to the front, and co-operate with the army.

On the 14th, the Captain, several officers, and about 390 seamen and Marines, embarked in a flat, and were towed up the Hoogly to join the Lucknow relief force; and on the 18th they were followed by another party of 5 officers and 120 men (some of these were recruited from merchant vessels at Calcutta).

Royal Marines Officers were Captain Thomas Carstairs Grey, R.M.; Second Lieutenant William Stirling, R.M

As the Brigade took with it both guns and howitzers, as the towing vessels were of but small power and shallow draught, and as the current was strong, progress was slow; and Peel did not reach Allahabad, near the junction of the Jumna with the Ganges, until the second half of October. By the 20th the strength of the brigade assembled there was 516 of all ranks. Of these about 240, under Lieutenants Wilson, Wratislaw, and af Hazeby, were left in garrison at Allahabad.

On October 23rd 100 more, under Lieutenants Vaughan and Salmon, with four siege-train 24-prs., went to Cawnpur, and thence joined the army before Lucknow; and on the 27th and 28th the rest of the brigade, with four 24-prs. and two 8-in. howitzers, followed, and was presently amalgamated with a small force which, under Lieutenant-Colonel Powell, of the 53rd regiment, was marching in the same direction.

Late on October 31st the column camped near Fatehpur, and, on the following day, marched twenty-four miles and defeated 4,000 of the enemy at Kudjwa, capturing two guns.

Powell fell, and Peel took command, and completed the rout of the mutineers, ultimately securing a third gun.

The British lost 95 in killed and wounded, among the latter being Lieutenants Hay, R.N., and Stirling, R.M.; but the rebels lost 300 in killed alone. Peel then pressed on for Cawnpur.

Writing to Sir Michael Seymour on November 6th, from a camp between Cawnpur and Lucknow, he said: -

"Since that battle was fought, with the exception of one day's rest for the footsore men who had marched seventy-two miles in three days, besides fighting a severe engagement, we have made daily marches.... At Cawnpur I was obliged to leave Lieutenant Hay with fifty men to serve as artillerymen for that important position.... I am much gratified with the conduct of all the Brigade; and there is no departure whatever from the ordinary rules and customs of the service."

Portrait of Captain William Peel (1824–1858) by John Lucas (1807–1874) National Maritime Museum

A posthumous full-length portrait of Peel, wearing a captain’s frock coat, and with a rose in his buttonhole. In his right hand he holds a fighting sword and he waves a solar topee with his left. The action leading up to the relief of Lucknow is taking place behind him. Close behind Peel on the left is a soldier of the 53rd Foot and on the right a crew loads a gun. In the distance a bridge is lined with soldiers advancing on the city of Lucknow, implied in the distance on the left.

As with other nineteenth-century naval officers, Peel’s distinction rests on the fighting he did on land. He repeatedly distinguished himself fighting the Russians in the Crimea in 1854 to 1855. At Inkerman he fought with the Grenadier Guards. At the assault on Redan he was severely wounded and became one of the first officers to receive the newly created Victoria Cross. In 1856 he commissioned the ‘Shannon’ to go to the Far East, but was diverted to India after the outbreak of the Mutiny.

Landing at Calcutta, he formed such an effective Naval Brigade of 450 sailors, marines and soldiers, that in January 1858 he was made a KCB. In March he was severely wounded at the second relief of Lucknow, and on his way home to England he died of smallpox contracted at Cawnpore.

This highly dramatised portrait commemorating the last act of bravery in his distinguished career was painted between 1859 and 1860. It was commissioned by subscription and was ordered to be placed in the Painted Hall at Greenwich by the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty in 1860. Read More/ Web Link: The Naval Brigades in the Indian Mutiny

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Balaclava - Marine Heights and the Charge of the Heavy and Light Brigade

By SImon Biggs on Oct 14, 2021 05:43 am

After the Battle of the Alma, the Armies marched towards Sebastopol; moving round the East side, they invested the fortress on the South and East Sides, the British on the right and the French on the left. It was therefore necessary to move the main bases of both Armies; the French moved theirs to Kameisch Bay, which was very convenient for them; the British had to be content with the small harbour of Balaclava, which was to their left rear and not covered by their siege lines and was also open to attack from the North-East.

The British position was on a plateau with heights looking to their rear over the plain of the River Tchernaya; these were known later as the Marine Heights. In order to protect his rear and flank Lord Raglan, the British Commander, requested Admiral Dundas to land his Royal Marines.

On 28th September accordingly a Battalion of 25 Officers and 988 NCOs and Men were landed from the squadron under Lieutenant Colonel T Hurdle RM, and two days later a further draft of 10 Officers and 212 Men were landed, making a total of 35 Officers and 1200 Men.

They were formed into two Battalions. The Brigade was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Hurdle with Captain Aslett as Brigade Major. The 1st Battalion was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel F A Campbell, Adjutant Lieutenant H G Elliot; and the 2nd Battalion at first by Major McLeux(?) and later by Lieutenant Colonel T Holloway.

They were stationed on the heights 1200 feet above the sea and proceeded to construct a continuous entrenchment about two miles long, extending to Kadikoi - a small village where Colonel C Campbell, commanding at Balaclava, had his Headquarters. At intervals along these entrenchments Batteries were made, armed with an assortment of guns from 6 pdr field pieces to 32 pdr ships' guns. To work the guns a certain number of Marines were allotted from the two Battalions.

General Fraser records that the tents were old and dilapidated and that they suffered great hardships from wet and cold and bad food. The outer line of defence was a chain of smaller redoubts upon a low range of heights, which stretch across the plain at a distance about one and a half miles from the gorge leading into Balaclava; these were manned by the Turks. The 93rd Highlanders with a field battery were in Kadikoi.

Huts and Tents of the Rifles and Royal Marines, on the Heights of Balaclava. 1855


The RM Batteries were manned, No 1 by Captain Alexander and 78 RM, No. 2 by Lieutenant Joliffe or Pym and 56 RMLI, No. 3 by Captain S Fraser and a company of Royal Marines from the 1st Battalion, No. 4 by Captain Blyth and a party of RMLI Lieutenant Bradley Roberts RMA acted as Gunnery Officer to the Batteries helping them cut fuses, etc. The landing of the RM allowed all available troops to be employed in the actual siege works.

The Navy also landed a Brigade with 50 guns, which were employed in the trenches and siege batteries; to this Brigade were attached Lieutenants Douglas and Steele and a party of RMA. Both officers were wounded and specially mentioned in dispatches. By 17th October the Fleet had landed 1786 Officers and Seamen and 1,530 Royal Marines, besides 400 Marines at Eupatoria.

The Royal Marines had their first brush with the enemy on 6th October when the Russians drove in a Marine picket, but the 12 pdrs opened fire and the Russians retired.

On 17th October there was a heavy bombardment by the land batteries assisted by the squadron. Owing to the position of the Allied investing lines, the isthmus of Perekop was open to the Russians, who were thus able to pour troops and supplies into the Crimea, and they had also a large field army operating outside the invested fortress.

On 18th October the Russians, about 10,000 strong, appeared in the plain below the Marine Heights and with them large bodies of cavalry. They were met by our cavalry, and retired across the river. The 2nd RM was moved to the lower part of the Heights to keep up communication with the Cavalry and Artillery; the 93rd Regiment were on the right, with one wing between the 1st and 2nd Battalions RM. It proved however only to be a reconnaissance in force.

On 20th October the Russians advanced again and the whole of the forces at Balaclava were under arms; two companies RM under Captain Timpson were sent to left of the RM lines, about the centre of the position, but it proved to be a false alarm.

On 25th October, however, the Russians really advanced in force on the redoubts held by the Turks before described. The Turks were driven out of them, but the guns of Nos I and 2 Batteries RM covered them, rendering useful service - "a fire was opened with good effect upon the Russians as they followed up the Turks who were running across the open after having been driven out of the advanced redoubts."

The Russians came on and then took place the magnificent charges of the Heavy and Light Cavalry which are of immortal memory.

Before the charge of the Heavy Cavalry, the RM Batteries opened fire on the Cossacks at about 200 yards range, but had to cease fire after the first round as the Heavy Cavalry had closed with the enemy.

No. 2 Battery however opened on the Russian cavalry reserve and caused them to withdraw. No. 1 Battery fired into the Cossack right as they were reforming to charge again, and dispersed them and shelled them as they retired across the plain.

Charge of the Heavy Brigade at the Battle of Balaclava on 25th October 1854 in the Crimean War: picture by Henri Dupray

No. 4 Battery was also heavily engaged Colonel Campbell in his reports says, "During this period our batteries on the hills manned by the RMA and RM made most excellent practice on the enemy cavalry which came up the hilly ground in front." General Fraser gives a graphic account of the firing of No. 3 Battery on the Russian Cavalry after the charge of the Light Brigade but it is probable that he refers to the Heavy Cavalry charge.

Charge of the Light Brigade at the Battle of Balaclava on 25th October 1854 in the Crimean War: picture by Simpson

Lord Raglan became doubtful of holding the base at Balaclava, but Admiral Sir E. Lyons was against any change, and it continued to be used as the Main Base until the end.

History of the Royal Marines 1837-1914 HE Blumberg

#RMA #RMLI #CrimeanWar

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The Trenches of Colincamps

By Si Biggs on Oct 12, 2021 12:00 am

Unit/ Formation: Royal Marines

Location: France

Period/ Conflict: World War I

Year: 1916

Date/s: 12th October 1916

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 Battle of Codson's Beard

A.P. Herbert

Now I'll tell you a yarn of a sailorman

With a face more fierce than fair,

He got over that on the Navy's plan

By hiding it all with hair.

He was one of the rough old sailor breed

And had lived all his life at sea,

But he took to the beach at the Nation's heed

And fought in the R.N.D.

Now Brigadier General Blank's Brigade

Was tidy, neat and trim,

And the sight of a beard on his parade

Was a bit too much for him,

"What is that?" he cried, with a terrible oath,

"Of all that's wild and weird",

His staff replied "a curious growth,

But it looks very much like a beard".

The General said "I've seen six wars,

And many a ghastly sight

Men with locks that gave men shocks,

And buttons none too bright,

But never a man in my brigade

With a face all fringed with fur,

So you'll hurry away and shave today."

But Godson said "you err".

"For this old beard of which you're scared,

It stands for a lot to me,

For the great North gales and the sharks and whales,

And the smell of the dear grey sea."

Then Generals gathered around the spot,

And urged him to behave,

But Codson said "You talk a lot

But can you make me shave?

For the Navy allows a beard at the laws

And thus a beard is the sign for me,

That, where'er I go, the world may know,

I belong to the King's Navy."

So they gave him jobs in distant parts,

Where none might see his face,

Town Major jobs that break men's hearts,

and bullets at the base.

But, whenever he knew a fight was due,

He hurried there by train

And when he had done for every Hun,

He hurried back again.

Then spake another old sailor,

"It seems you can't have heard,

Begging you pardon General Blank,

The reason for this man's beard,

So I've brought you this 'ere photograph

Of what he used to be,

Before he stuck that fluffy muck,

Upon his Physionomy."

"It's a kind of a sort of a 'camouflage',

And that I take to mean

A kind of a thing that hides something

Which ought not to be seen."

The General looked and fainting cried:

"The situation's grave,

His beard was bad but Kamerad,

He simply cannot shave."

So when these thin lines sage and sag

And man goes down to man,

That great black beard is always in the van,

I've been in many a hot spot,

Where death is the least men feared,

But I've never seen anything quite so hot

As the 'Battle of Codson's Beard.'

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."

Read More/ Web Link: Jack

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Operation Mercerised - Attack on Sarandë and Surrender of Corfu

By Si Biggs on Oct 09, 2021 12:00 am

Unit/ Formation: 40 Cdo RM

Location: Albania

Period/ Conflict: World War II

Year: 1944

Date/s: 9 - 12 October 1944

No. 2 Commando reinforce with No. 40 (Royal Marine) Commando and 25-pdr guns of the 111th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery, in order to attack and capture Sarandë.

The attack was launched on 9 October when the weather broke. The attack led to the capture of the port, in the process taking prisoner some 600 Germans; the number of prisoners taken by the British and Albanians in this area later rose to about 1,000. The two commando units suffered 81 casualties.

As soon as Sarandë had been taken, the British dropped leaflets on Corfu advising the Germans to surrender. On 12 October white flags were seen and two days later No. 40 Commando crossed to Corfu to accept the surrender of what were only a few German stragglers as the bulk of the garrison had been successfully evacuated through Greece while Sarandë was under attack.

Extract from

Cloverdale resident, and Royal Marine, Reginald Wise revisits Battle for Sarande in WWII

by MALIN JORDAN; Nov. 5, 2020

After a few weeks of surveillance, the commandos gathered enough intelligence to launch their attack into Sarande and moved on the inland side of the port city.

The Battle for Sarande began Oct. 9 at 4 a.m. with a bombardment of German positions. Troops began their advance at 4:30 a.m. and were met with heavy resistance as they were caught in the crossfire of several Spandau machine guns.

“It was hard, close-quarter fighting in darkness pierced frequently by incendiary ammunition and star shell chandeliers, which illuminated the ugly reality on the ground,” Major Jeff Beadle writes about the battle in his book The Blue Lanyard: 50 years with 40 Commando, Royal Marines.

Beadle notes the Royal Marines held their ground against a severe German counterattack and outlasted an all-out onslaught for more than an hour.

The Royal Marines advanced through more heavy fighting to finally reach Sarande.

Wise recalls the fighting in town being brutal, house-to-house combat. “Very close fighting and very difficult.”

“After four hours of savage street fighting, the German resistance was finally broken and the garrison of 750 men surrendered,” writes Beadle.

The commandos were quite successful in the operation to take the town. They only suffered 57 casualties: nine dead and 48 wounded.

“The men were all battle-hardened,” recalls Wise. “They knew exactly what to do. You didn’t have to tell them anything. That’s why we did so well and why our casualties were so low.”

Early in the evening the garrison commander from Corfu sailed across with four boats full of German soldiers. They were immediately taken prisoner when they reached shore.

“He was quite surprised,” remembers Wise. “We were as well. No one expected him to fall into our hands like that.”

Wise and his pals took the flag from the commander’s boat. Later, in November on Corfu, Wise and his fellow commandos would snap their famous pic.

Read More/ Web Link:

Royal Marine, Reginald Wise revisits Battle for Sarande in WWII Commando Veterans Archive

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Evacuation of Abadan Oil workers

By Si Biggs on Oct 03, 2021 12:00 am

Unit/ Formation: HM Ships

Location: Abadan Iraq

Period/ Conflict:

Year: 1951

Date/s: 3 October 1951

The Abadan Crisis occurred from 1951 to 1954 ("Iran Oil Crisis"), after Iran nationalised the Iranian assets of the BP controlled Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC) and expelled Western companies from oil refineries in the city of Abadan

I have to inform the House that the latest developments in the Persian oil situation are very serious.
The Persian Prime Minister and Government must understand that they are responsible under international law for ensuring the protection of any British subjects in Persia. Should they prove incapable of discharging that task, His Majesty's Government would be compelled to assume it themselves, using such means as are necessary for that purpose. The House may rest assured that we have made preparations to this end and can take action at very short notice. The House will not expect me at this juncture to give details of what these preparations are, but I can inform hon. Members that the cruiser H.M.S. "Mauritius" has been ordered to proceed forthwith to the vicinity of Abadan.

The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Herbert Morrison)

[PERSIA (ANGLO-IRANIAN OIL COMPANY) HC Deb 26 June 1951 vol 489 cc1184-9]

HMS MAURITIUS. Abadan crisis.

Thursday 28th June - Wednesday 11th July; and Saturday 15th September - Wednesday 3rd October 1951.

Buoy-up off Abadan prepared to land to assist protecting/evacuating civilians caught up in the disturbances. Providing boarding parties to protect oil-tankers going to and from Basra.

Providing "cutting-out" parties for recovering tugs and small craft concealed in various creeks and backwaters. All civilians were eventually evacuated and taken to safety.

Ship at "cruising stations" for both periods in horrendous temperatures for which the ship was hardly suitable. No official acknowledgement for this unpleasant period. (by Jim Porter)

At 12.32 hours on 3 October 1951 the cruiser HMS Mauritius cast off from Abadan for Basra. The ship’s band was playing – reportedly, the ‘Colonel Bogey’ march was prominent in its repertoire – but the occasion was far from joyful.

Sailing along the Shatt-al-Arab waterway, the warship passed the vast Abadan oil refinery, formerly the property of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC), but nationalized in May 1951 by the Iranian government headed by Mohammad Mossadegh.

Subsequently, escalating tension, punctuated by abortive diplomatic initiatives, culminated in the refinery’s closure and eventual British evacuation on 3 October, when HMS Mauritius was used to withdraw some 280 members of the AIOC’s British staff still remaining in the country.

Terminating Britain’s involvement in Iran’s oil industry dating back to the 1901 D’Arcy concession, evacuation was represented by The Times as ‘a humiliating defeat’ for a country still regarding itself as a major world power: ‘The British have been forced out of Persia because the Persian Government was resolved to force them out and because the British Government were not … resolved to stay.’

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