Oct 28, 2019 06:52 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"
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
An' they done it, the Jollies-'Er
Majesty's Dollies-soldiers and
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Oct 25, 2019 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
ILLUSTRATED LONDON NEWS
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.
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Oct 23, 2019 06:51 am
Cedric Delves commanded D Squadron, 22 SAS, in the Falklands. As the campaign to retake the islands reached its climax in June 1982, with British troops advancing on Port Stanley, Delves and his men were ordered to mount a diversionary attack in support of the main force.
Landing at night, we were received by a Special Boat Service (SBS) patrol. They gave us a quick situation report, sounding sparky and very much on the ball. They believed the immediate area clear of enemy but could not vouch for the hills a little further to the east overlooking Berkeley Sound. Operating in daylight would be something of a departure but the risks sat comfortably with our understanding of things, our instincts, and with what the SBS had reported.
The sweep through Twelve o’Clock Mountain and beyond proved the area clear of enemy, save for an eight-man patrol that made off into the distance. We attempted to cut them off, but the Argentinians had a head start and could move at pace, knowing the ground and what lay before them. We abandoned our pursuit for lack of time, the light fading as the evening drew in.
Back on Beagle Ridge, a short satellite radio conversation with our commanding officer established that the rigid raiding craft had made it to Cochon Island undetected, ready to be called forward for a squadron-size diversionary attack in support of the Paras’ assault of Wireless Ridge that very evening.
This pulled me up. I had been holding to the idea that we would be doing things in our proven way, to our timings. We had been observing Stanley during the day through optics, but had come up with nothing suitable as a squadron target. But now here we were about to lunge off into the largely unknown in no time flat, probably using up our one and only large-scale shot.
I disliked the feeling of not being in full control of our actions, but settled down with map, pencil and paper to knock out a set of orders. Of necessity, the plan of attack would have to be simple, if not downright rudimentary. We had no immediately obvious high-value target to go for. We didn’t even have proven ways in and out. As for surprise: possibly yes, but most likely in the “they must be kidding” sense.
The “team” gathered for orders. I explained our purpose as being to help the Paras’ attack on to Wireless Ridge in a few hours’ time by drawing attention to ourselves. If it worked we might tie down any enemy reserve for a crucial period. More likely, we should bring artillery defensive fire down on ourselves. Nobody liked the sound of that, noting that we had no body armour, not even a single steel helmet between the lot of us.
As everyone dispersed to make their preparations in the limited time remaining, Ted stayed back. His was a central role. He and his troop would go across Hernden Water to Cortley Hill by rigid raiding craft to hit whatever they could find in front of them and then come back out, no hanging around. The rest of the squadron would support as best they could with fire from the “home bank”. I knew Ted and his people were probably in for a bit of a rough night. We all knew it.
There wasn’t much to see: a dark, still night, quiet. Distant noises drifted in on the gentle breeze, some shell-fire and small arms, not loud, sporadic. An occasional illumination round cast an orange glow off to our right. I had expected more.
Was that a motor? Perhaps I imagined it. Moments later the peace was shattered by a ferocious crash of small-arms fire of every possible type: assault-rifles, machineguns, heavy machine-guns, the crump of grenades.
My radio crackled into life. It was Ted. He had landed. Got stuck. Couldn’t get forward. Still on the beach. Couldn’t move, not at all. About to take hits. Not sure if he could get back out.
It hardly needed me to tell them, but I radioed nevertheless, urging the “home bank” to give what covering fire they could, to keep it off the beach for fear of hitting our own, placing as much as possible onto the hill above. They did, and with that things got really bad. From the hillside to our front, across the narrow stretch of water, enemy fire poured into us, anti-aircraft guns, machineguns, heavy machineguns, kitchen sink too as far as I could tell. The whole bloody hill lit up, ablaze with muzzle flashes.
One of the basic, tactical battle-drills is to “win the firefight”. Our fire gradually slackened as the enemy imposed their superiority. I thought I would give it a go myself, a more personal shot at winning the firefight, to encourage the others to increase their fire. I shot off a magazine at the hill above where I reckoned Ted and his troop to be, in the direction of the airport, where a few moments earlier I had heard a C-130 land.
Horror! In all the excitement I had forgotten my practice of loading a few rounds of tracer at the bottom of the magazine, to signal the imminent need for a magazine change. The tracer sped away, an unmissable stream of intermittent light leading back to my exact fold in the ground. Instantly, the ground around us churned over and over, great dense clods of earth flying, thrashed by the anti-aircraft gun opposite and a lot else besides. The din was crushing.
Ted was still not sure he could get out the way he had gone in. I warned our liaison officer at Brigade that the troop might have to fight its way out.
The “home bank” troops were taking careful, well aimed, well considered shots at identifiable enemy locations across the water. Over on the far bank Ted and his team were beginning to get a handle on their part of the engagement. They realised that the enemy couldn’t bring fire to bear on the beach itself. To do so they must leave the protection of their trenches; at the moment the enemy showed no interest in doing that, either to improve their marksmanship, or to mount a counterattack.
1 Raiding Squadron Royal Marines with Mk1 RRC during the Falklands Conflict
Of course, the longer Ted left it, the more likely it was that the enemy would overcome his reservations. Ted had to act soon. He warned me that he intended to re-embark and make a dash for safety, relying on the rigid raiding crafts’ impressive speed and manoeuvrability. If he got his timings right, perhaps he could get out into the darkness of Blanco Bay before the enemy reacted with effective, well aimed fire. I told him to crack on. We would do what we could, putting down covering fire — just give us the word.
Ted embarked his troops. The boats pushed carefully back from the beach to prowl quietly, slowly, to and fro, keeping to the calm, still water, hoping not to alert the enemy with the noise of their idling engines, watching the fire-churned sea beyond, alert for any pause or easing of the enemy’s barrage.
Back and forth his boats cruised, alert, fully primed, ready to seize their moment, but nothing, no let up. Then we put down our covering fire, only to get a devastating broadside in return, a wall of sheeting, cracking, banging and spitting hot metal. It felt cataclysmic. The boats made their move, taking advantage of the din and turmoil all about. The boats leapt forward with a roar, charging at the wall of enemy fire, towards the beckoning safety of the darkness beyond.
Time to go. Time to draw a line under the night, before something went wrong! We slipped away, crouching low, scurrying off to one side, fast. As we neared the rallying point, there came the unmistakeable swish of heavy artillery rounds shuffling close-by overhead; lots of them, a whole battery’s worth, moaning, droning, dropping down. It had to be 155mm. They were seriously big bangs. The pond and the surrounding area erupted, churned, perhaps a mere 100 yards in front of the leading troops.
The shock waves powered through us, then came a shower of detritus, bits of rock, metal, water and plenty of muddy turf and a confetti of shredded vegetation. Our respect for Argentine artillery increased. We pressed on fast.
At the squadron rendezvous we took stock. The “home bank” troops were all back in, no casualties; miraculous, not a scratch. I couldn’t quite believe we had got away with it. So far, so good. We waited for Ted’s people. Their last report had indicated that they had made it across Blanco Bay, taking fire as they landed, the raiding craft a write-off.
We didn’t have long to wait. Shadowy figures slipped in to take their place on the squadron’s defensive perimeter. Somebody came across to report that the shadows were indeed Ted’s people, all accounted for. We had two casualties, both walking wounded.
Dawn broke with us back on Murrell Ridge in a strong defensive position, where we had started an age ago it seemed. We were tired, somewhat drained. A certain fuzzy apathy had descended. It was often like that after a stiff contact. The calm had an unreal, strangely intense quality. Senses were heightened and yet mushy; but then my ears were still not right. I felt cocooned in “white noise”. Little was quite as it should be. My hearing never fully really recovered.
We had got off lightly. Our two casualties had been airlifted to Ajax Bay, the field hospital back at San Carlos; we knew that the field surgical team had yet to lose a single casualty making it that far. And 2 Para had triumphed. I liked to think we had helped.
That left Stanley. We would start to think about that after breakfast.
©Cedric Delves 2018. Extracted from Across an Angry Sea: The SAS in the Falklands War by Cedric Delves, published by Hurst
The 4 Rigid Raiding Craft were from 1st Raiding Squadron Royal Marines and coxswained by Sergeant Plym Buckley, L/Cpl Barry Gilbert and Marines Bill Kavanagh and Geoff Nordass.
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Oct 22, 2019 07:48 am
Captain Derek Oakley MBE, born October 27 1926, died September 22 2019
Captain Derek Oakley, who has died aged 92, was an author, thespian and cricketer who in 42 years of service in the Royal Marines saw active service worldwide in Malaya, the Middle East, at Port Said, in Northern Ireland, Brunei and Borneo.
At first light on November 6 1956 – three months after President Nasser nationalised the Suez Canal – Oakley was B Troop commander of 42 Commando, Royal Marines in the leading wave of Buffalo LVT (Landing Vehicle Tracked) as they nosed at five knots towards the beaches of Port Said.
With a roar, the 4.5-guns of the destroyer Decoy, her oversized battle ensign “almost obliterating” (in Oakley's words) her superstructure, rent the Mediterranean stillness. Glancing eastwards Oakley saw the statue of Ferdinand de Lesseps proudly guarding the entrance to the Suez Canal but, as he looked around, he realised that his LVT was too far ahead. Ordering his driver to slow down, he was told that the Buffalo was the fastest in the squadron and the driver was determined to be first ashore. With only 400 yards to go, Oakley saw shells exploding on the shore and two naval Sea Hawks swooped overhead.
At 100 yards to go, Oakley felt the LVT’s tracks grip the sand and slowly lift out of the water. Above the din of the engines he heard sniper shots, reminding him that this was no exercise. But the sea and air bombardment had quelled most resistance, Oakley’s troop was first to land, and suffered no casualties.
As the Royal Marines regrouped along the waterfront, some took the chance for a quick brew-up, while Oakley was surprised and pleased to see the Commandant General Royal Marines, General Sir Campbell Hardy, strolling along their ranks.
In the second phase of the landing, during a dash south through the town to secure the Nile cold storage depot and the Port Said power station on the southern outskirts, Oakley was at the front of a flying column of tanks and LVTs.
As Oakley’s LVT advanced the driver (who sat below him) tugged the bottom of his trousers and asked “Sir! Do they drive on the right or left in this country?”. Not satisfied with the response to this joke, a few moments later the man gave Oakley another tug. “What’s wrong now?” Oakley cried over the roar of the engine. The voice from below shouted back “Look, sir, the traffic lights are at red. Do we stop?”
As they lumbered through the streets, an Egyptian threw a grenade from a tower block which landed in the LVT, only for Oakley’s rugby-playing subaltern, Lt David Westwood, to kick it away. Nevertheless, Sgt Maj GC Casey was wounded in the head by splinters. Quickly treated, Casey split the band of his coveted green beret so he could wear it over his bandages.
Halting at his destination “in uncanny silence”, Oakley reported that there appeared to be no enemy to the south and the way was open, only to learn to his dismay that a ceasefire had been ordered by London.
On December 9 1956, 42 Commando was greeted in Plymouth by mist, rain, cold and customs officers. A few families were gathered on the quayside, but there was no heroes’ welcome.
Joining in 1944 he served in the Royal Marines for over 42 years, the last eighteen of which was as Editor of the regimental journal The Globe and Laurel. He also continued to act as Honorary RNCC Secretary during this period.
He has many publications to his name, including a book on Commando Uniforms and numerous military articles.
His coverage of the Falklands Campaign won awards from the United States Marine Corps' Historical Society and the Royal Marines' Historical Society. He was awarded the MBE in 1984 and was a Freeman of the City of London.
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Oct 21, 2019 10:49 am
Royal Marines Museum Collection
Charles William Adair (Captain Royal Marines)
On joining HMS VICTORY Adair, Charles William. Rank: Captain Royal Marines, ship’s book number M001, age 29, nationality Irish County Antrim. Killed at Trafalgar 21st October 1805. Received a Government grant of £161-0-0 and prize money of £65-11-0. Joined Victory on the 14th April 1803 from Chatham Head Quarters. Adair was an Irishman from a family of distinguished Royal Marine officers. Father was Colonel Benjamin Adair, Royal Marines, and his uncle was Captain William Prowse, Royal Navy, who commanded the SIRIUS at Trafalgar.
A stain glass window at the Allen and Adair Memorial Hall Derrykeighan Parish Church Hall depicts the deck of Admiral Lord Nelson’s flagship, HMS Victory, on October 21st 1805, included in the heroic scene is Captain Charles Adair arms folded was killed close to Nelson.
Charles William Adair joined the Royal Marines as a 2nd Lieutenant in 1782. He was appointed to the VICTORY on her commissioning at Chatham in April 1803 in command of a detachment of 144 Royal Marines nearly all from the Chatham and Plymouth divisions. He was also at the same time Inspecting Officer for Recruiting in the Mediterranean. His three officers were 1st Lieutenant James Goodwin Peake and 2nd Lieutenants Lewis Roatley and Lewis Buckle Reeves. At Trafalgar, Adair behaved with great gallantry, and as he stood on the Gangway encouraging his men to repel boarders from the French ship REDOUTABLE which was close alongside the starboard (right hand side). He was killed by a musket ball in the back of his neck.
The pistol he carried that day resides in the Royal Marines Museum
Ninety-three officers and 2610 other ranks of the Royal Marines were at their traditional stations on the upper decks of the British ships, Nelsons Flagship HMS Victory carried 165 Marines, and it was a Marine Sergeant-Major Robert Adair who assisted by 2 seaman carried Nelson below after being shot.
By the end of the battle the Marines had 17 officers and 332 men killed or wounded.
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Oct 21, 2019 10:28 am
Lord Nelson's victory over the combined fleets at Trafalgar, the most decisive sea battle in British history.
Ninety-three officers and 2610 other ranks of the Royal Marines were at their traditional stations on the upper decks of the British ships, Nelsons Flagship HMS Victory carried 165 Marines, and it was a Marine Sergeant who carried Nelson below after being shot.
At 11:45, Nelson sent the famous flag signal, "England expects that every man will do his duty".
His Lordship came to me on the poop, and after ordering certain signals to be made, about a quarter to noon, he said, "Mr. Pasco, I wish to say to the fleet, ENGLAND CONFIDES THAT EVERY MAN WILL DO HIS DUTY" and he added "You must be quick, for I have one more to make which is for close action." I replied, "If your Lordship will permit me to substitute 'expects' for 'confides' the signal will soon be completed, because the word 'expects' is in the vocabulary, and 'confides' must be spelt," His Lordship replied, in haste, and with seeming satisfaction, "That will do, Pasco, make it directly."
At noon, Villeneuve sent the signal "engage the enemy", and Fougueux fired her first trial shot at Royal Sovereign. Royal Sovereign had all sails out and, having recently had her bottom cleaned, outran the rest of the British fleet and broke into the Franco-Spanish line so beginning the battle.
The Victor yengaged the 74-gun Redoutable, general mêlée ensued and, during that fight, Victory locked masts with the French Redoutable. The crew of Redoutable, which included a strong infantry corps (with three captains and four lieutenants), gathered for an attempt to board and seize Victory.
Shortly after 1:00, Hardy realised that Nelson was not by his side. He turned to see Nelson kneeling on the deck, supporting himself with his hand, before falling onto his side. Hardy rushed to him, at which point Nelson smiled Hardy, I do believe they have done it at last ... my backbone is shot through.
He had been hit by a marksman from the Redoutable, firing at a range of 50 feet (15 m) from the MizzenTop. The bullet had entered his left shoulder, passed through his spine at the sixth and seventh thoracic vertebrae, and lodged two inches (5 cm) below his right shoulder blade in the muscles of his back.
Nelson was carried below by Royal Marine Sergeant James Secker, who had been standing next to Nelson and caught him as he fell, and two seamen. As he was being carried down, he asked them to pause while he gave some advice to a midshipman on the handling of the tiller.
He then draped a handkerchief over his face to avoid causing alarm amongst the crew. He was taken to the surgeon William Beatty, telling him
'The Death of Nelson' 1859-64, by Daniel Maclise (1806-70)
You can do nothing for me. I have but a short time to live. My back is shot through.
Nelson was made comfortable, fanned and brought lemonade and watered wine to drink after he complained of feeling hot and thirsty. He asked several times to see Hardy, who was on deck supervising the battle, and asked Beatty to remember him to Emma, his daughter and his friends.
Hardy came below decks to see Nelson just after half-past two, and informed him that a number of enemy ships had surrendered. Nelson told him that he was sure to die, and begged him to pass his possessions to Emma.
With Nelson at this point were the chaplain Alexander Scott, the purser Walter Burke, Nelson's steward, Chevalier, and Beatty. Nelson, fearing that a gale was blowing up, instructed Hardy to be sure to anchor. After reminding him to "take care of poor Lady Hamilton", Nelson said "Kiss me, Hardy". Beatty recorded that Hardy knelt and kissed Nelson on the cheek. He then stood for a minute or two before kissing him on the forehead. Nelson asked, "Who is that?", and on hearing that it was Hardy, he replied "God bless you, Hardy."
By now very weak, Nelson continued to murmur instructions to Burke and Scott, "fan, fan ... rub, rub ... drink, drink." Beatty heard Nelson murmur, "Thank God I have done my duty", and when he returned, Nelson's voice had faded and his pulse was very weak.
He looked up as Beatty took his pulse, then closed his eyes. Scott, who remained by Nelson as he died, recorded his last words as "God and my country". Nelson died at half-past four, three hours after he had been shot.
By the end of the battle the Marines had 17 officers and 332 men killed or wounded.
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Oct 16, 2019 12:51 pm
They make safe enemy bombs and mines. 16 October 1944, Boulogne.
The RMS and BDO (Render Mines Safe and Bomb Disposal Officer) and his squad at their risky work
Royal Marines of the Bomb Disposal and Render Mines Safe Squad dealing with German G mines and parachute mines recovered from under dock walls in Boulogne. © IWM (A 26045)
Removing the Primer from a German G mine. (© IWM (A 26043)
The RMS and DSO Officer Lieut G S Brydon, RNVR, aged 29, of Cartoosh, Lankarshire, disconnecting a 60 day clock and battery from a German G mine.
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Oct 06, 2019 07:57 am
Battle of the Argenta Gap, Lake Comacchio, Italy, launched on the 1st April 1945 involving the whole of 2 Commando Brigade.
'Special Boat Section'
Operation Roast was an attack across Lake Comacchio to capture the spit of land between Lake Comacchio and the Adriatic Sea, from the River Reno to the Valetta canal, a distance of about 7 miles. It was essentially a plan to draw German reserve forces away from the main offensive to be launched across to the East.
This was followed by Operation Impact Plain on the 10/11th April at the southern tip of Lake Comacchio, and Operation Impact Royal on the 15/6th April at the Fessina Canal East of Argenta.
Operation Impact Plain
Operation Impact Plain (11 April 1945) was the first of two amphibious operations carried out to support the right flank of the British advance into the Argenta Gap, the final battle for the Eighth Army in Italy.
On their right the 56th Division launched their first amphibious attack, Operation Impact Plain. This saw an infantry brigade land near Menate, about half way along the shore of the extended lake, and seven miles to the north-east of the key bridge of Bastia. The attack achieved surprise, and Menate and nearby Longastrino both fell to the amphibious attack. Another brigade advanced west from the ‘wedge’, along the north bank of the Reno, to join up with the amphibious force.
The aim of the operation was to capture the villages of Menata and Longastrino, in the narrow spit of land between the flooded area west of Lake Commachio and the Reno River. In order to take Menata, the Allies needed to capture a bridge over the Menata canal, which ran north-east from near Argenta to the lake. The flooded area had been created by blowing a hole in the Argine Dike, which ran east-west along the edge of the flooded area (and presumably now forms one bank of the canal that surrounds the drained area.
The plan was for 40 RM Commando to attack along the dike and take the bridge and pumping station at Menate, then advance along the ‘Strada del Pioppa’ (probably the modern Via Argine Pioppa, which runs west/ north west from Menate. They would be followed by three battalions from the 169th Brigade, 56th Infantry Division, moving in LVTs (Landing Vehicles, Tracked). The 2nd/5th Queen’s Royal Regiment would cross the canal bridge and take Menate, the 2nd/6th would take Longasrtrino, a short distance to the south-east and the 2nd/. 7th formed the reserve.
40 RM Commando advanced along the Argine Dike. When they reached the breach they crossed it using two rubber boats to form a pontoon bridge, but soon ran into mines on the western side of the breach. Despite the explosions, they remained undetected. They then reached the point where the canal reached the dike, and at that point came under fire. The marines attacked towards the bridge, but the entire assault party was wounded or captured and the Germans occupied the pumping station. However they were unable to blow the bridge, as the wires to the explosive charges had been destroyed in the fire fight.
Soon afterwards the leading LVTs with the 2nd/5th appeared, and the Germans surrendered. The marines were then able to cross the canal and secure the pumping station, taking 19 prisoners and capturing a self propelled gun. The two battalions from the Queens also crossed the canal, and by 2100 hours had secured both villages.
This was 40 RM Commando’s last battle of the war, and it cost them 27 dead and 45 wounded, but the attack towards Menate helped open up the Argenta Gap, which led to the Eighth Army breakthrough into the Po and the collapse of German resistance.
An account by Ron Perry of the action
In the beginning of 1945, at the end of the Italian campaign, we made our last break-through for the 8th Army. I was in Y troop of 40 Commando, Royal Marines, the leading troop in this action. We met some resistence by a canal near to what is now Lake Como. We were detailed to take two bridges and a power plant, which was our particular objective. This was along a spit of land alongside Lake Como.
We were trapped in a corner and it was here we lost so many and so many were wounded including a great pal of mine Vic Hobbs. It was impossible for us to get out of this position because we had a six foot bank forming the dyke to our right, water on our left and behind us.
We were being shelled by German 77 guns and six barrel morters until Paul di Marco our Colour Sergeant said to our CO he would attempt to go over the top . If this was possible we could then follow. Unfortunately, in the power house was a German sniper who shot and killed instantly our sergeant and he fell right beside me.
There we remained until two Spitfires flew over and one of them dropped his bomb at the gates of the power house. At this time the CO said he would give the order when the second Spitfire dropped his bomb and we would then make our dash over the top, not knowing whether the pilot realised the position we were in, which we will never know. Everyone got over except the wounded, they were left to be attended to.
I thought Vic was going to be taken to the rear. From there we rejoined our unit. It wasn't until our return to Italy in September 2004, on a Veteran's Return, that I found the Grave of Victor Hobbs.
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Oct 04, 2019 08:07 am
Frederick Joseph Ricketts (21 February 1881 – 15 May 1945) was an English composer of marches for band. Under the pen name Kenneth J. Alford, he composed marches which are considered to be great examples of the art. He was a Bandmaster in the British Army, and Royal Marines Director of Music. Conductor Sir Vivian Dunn called Ricketts "The British March King".
A few weeks before the start of World War I, the 2nd Battalion of the Argylls and the Band were stationed at Fort George in North-East Scotland, nine miles from Inverness. It was here that Ricketts composed his most famous march, "Colonel Bogey".
While there are several speculations of how the march was begun, the most accepted is probably from a note written by Ricketts' widow to the publishers in 1958.
“While playing golf on the Fort George course, one of the members whistled the first two notes (B flat and G) instead of calling 'Fore!', and with impish spontaneity was answered by my husband with the next few notes. There was little sauntering—Moray Firth's stiff breezes encouraged a good crisp stride. These little scraps of whistling appeared to 'catch on' with the golfers, and from that beginning the Quick March was built up.”
Was the original whistler the colonel? We'll probably never know for certain, but the title Colonel Bogey gives us a clue.
Shortly after hostilities began in August 1914, the adult musicians of most line bands were pressed into service as stretcher bearers and medical orderlies. Ricketts and the Band Boys of the Argylls were posted to the 3rd Battalion (Reserve) in Edinburgh for the duration. During the war Ricketts wrote several marches dedicated to the fighting forces: "The Great Little Army" (1916), "On The Quarter Deck", "The Middy", and "The Voice of the Guns" (1917), and "The Vanished Army" (1919) which was subtitled "They Never Die". By the end of the war the Band Boys had matured into a group considered by many to be the finest regimental band in the British Army. Ricketts was given the unusual honour of being Mentioned in Despatches for Commendable Service.
In 1921, when the Royal Marines announced a vacancy for bandmastership of the Band of the Plymouth Division, Ricketts applied. He was interviewed, and later informed that he was the successful candidate. But there was a complication: the sitting bandmaster of the RM Plymouth Division Band, P.S.G. O'Donnell, had applied to become the director of the Grenadier Guards Band, vacant because of retirement.
O'Donnell had the support of HRH the Prince of Wales, for whom he had acted as band director on two royal tours. Assuming O'Donnell's appointment to the Grenadiers was a mere formality, the Marines had advertised the presumed upcoming vacancy for the Plymouth Division Band, for which Ricketts was approved. Then an objection was raised by a senior army bandmaster, quoting a piece of military legislation which stated that a member of the Senior Service (Royal Navy and Royal Marines) could not be commissioned into the Army.
The objection was upheld, O'Donnell was blocked from the Grenadier Guards, and Ricketts' appointment was cancelled. The Kneller Hall vacancy had been filled by Captain Hector Adkins, so Ricketts remained with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders for another six years. To make the conductors of the Royal Marines Bands more satisfied in their positions, in June 1921 HM King George V decreed that all Royal Marine conductors would be commissioned as directors of music. This was a further incentive for Ricketts to bide his time.
In 1927 a Royal Marine vacancy occurred, and Ricketts again applied, was approved, and commissioned a lieutenant in the Royal Marines Band Service on 4 July 1927. He was posted to the Royal Marine Depot, Deal. When the headquarters of the Band Service was transferred to Deal in 1930, Ricketts was posted to the Band of the Plymouth Division, Royal Marines, the principal band of the Royal Marines. Under Ricketts' direction, this band became world-famous, traveling to Paris and Canada. Before and during World War II they made a series of 78 RPM recordings of Alford marches, which EMI reissued on an LP in 1970, and now available on CD. It was titled "The British March King --Alford conducts Alford".
From 1935 to 1939 Ricketts conducted the Plymouth Band on a one-hour biweekly BBC Radio program, and the band was in constant demand to visit military camps and war production factories throughout the Second World War. The workload at that time put a temporary hiatus to his composing, but he resumed in 1941 with "By Land and Sea" and “Army of the Nile”, and in 1942 with “Eagle Squadron” dedicated to the Americans who were flying with the Royal Air Force. It was to be his final march.
Ricketts was promoted to Brevet Major on 31 December 1938 (an acting rank without the pay grade), and confirmed as a full Major on 4 July 1942.
Ricketts retired from the Royal Marines on 1 June 1944 because of ill health and died at his home in Reigate, Surrey, on 15 May 1945, after an operation for cancer.
He had given almost 50 years of distinguished service to the Crown. From 1907 until 1930 Ricketts had never spent more than two years in one place, and this made his 14-year-stay in Plymouth all the more pleasant. He became well-known and well-liked as leader of the Band of the Royal Marines.
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Oct 02, 2019 07:53 am
IWM Archive Film: IWM 201
King George V inspects Royal Marine cadets and officers at Deal, 1917
The King, in Field Marshal's uniform, with a number of Royal Marine officers also in khaki, inspects the cadets.
Older cadets are drawn up on parade in blues for a drill demonstration. Another group does physical training. Young cadets march past the King and establishment staff at a table covered with Union Jacks (one upside down).
A posed group of the King with the staff. Cadets in blues on an assault training course.
The King presents medals to three officers of the Dover Patrol (Royal Navy) (not identified).
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Oct 01, 2019 06:08 am
The RMA Howitzer Brigade in France
In October 1914 the RMA was reorganised to provide two artillery brigades for the Western Front. One of these became an anti-aircraft unit, but the second was equipped with twelve heavy 15 inch howitzers to form the RM Howitzer Brigade. The brigade totalled around 1,000 all ranks, but never fought as a complete unit.
Although originally organised with a brigade headquarters and arrangements made that each pair of howitzers should form a battery, this organisation was not retained once in France. Lieutenant-Colonel G. R. Poole remained in command of the brigade throughout the war after August 1915, but in May 1916 was appointed to command the 26th Heavy Artillery Group and only dealt with the RMA howitzers administratively.
The huge weapons were deployed as single units – each requiring a crew of 60 men – along the front line. The first landed in France on 15 February 1915.
A training base was established at Fort Cumberland at Portsmouth.
WWI, 27 Sept 1917; Battle of Polygon Wood. A member of the Royal Marine Artillery prepares to fire the 15 inch Mk. II howitzer 'Grannie' near Ypres. © IWM (Q 11656)
The RMA guns were strange misfits, owing their existence to the private enterprise of the Coventry Ordnance Works and their presence in France to the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill.
The Coventry Works had designed and built the modern 9.2″ howitzers, which had first arrived in France for the RGA Siege Batteries in November 1914 and, after the success of this equipment, had on their own initiative decided to build something altogether bigger and more powerful. Thus was born the 15 inch Breech Loading Siege Howitzer, which had a maximum range of 10,795 yards, firing a 1,400 pound shell.
In order to gain acceptance within the military establishment, a Coventry Ordnance Works Director, Admiral Bacon, exploited his connections with the Admiralty in order to effect an introduction to the Ordnance Board of the Army. Churchill, as was his wont, intervened. Spotting an opportunity for the Navy to get embroiled in the action on the Western Front – as well as sensing a good story for the press – Churchill manned the first gun with a team of Royal Marine artillerymen and sent them post haste to France.
They would be followed by another eleven of the 10 ton 15 hundredweight behemoths. Churchill’s enthusiasm for his Royal Marine Artillery soon waned and the twelve howitzers were turned over to the army. When approached by the Director of Artillery for further information about these unwanted ‘gifts’ the Ordnance Board commented acidly “These equipments were obtained by the Navy in direct negotiation with the manufacturers, and the Board was not consulted. In view of the poor range achieved, it is felt that these weapons are a waste of money and material”.
The guns were declared obsolete and scrapped in 1920. As will be appreciated from the photograph, the time and effort required to move, erect and fire these weapons was prodigious. Simply to move one howitzer required three specially built Foster-Daimler steam tractors.
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