Royal Marines

Template:Royal Navy The Corps of Royal Marines, usually just known as the Royal Marines (RM), are the United Kingdom's amphibious forces and a core component of the country's Rapid Deployment Force. They are lightly equipped, able to operate independently in all terrains, and highly trained as a commando force. Royal Marines undergo the longest basic training in the world and it is largely because of this that they are regarded by many as the world's best fighting force.

The Royal Marines are a component part of the Royal Navy.



The first unit of English naval infantry, originally called the Duke of York and Albany's Maritime Regiment of Foot and soon becoming known as the Admiral's Regiment, was formed on October 28, 1664, and the name "Marines" first appeared in official records in 1672. However, the naval infantry remained a part of the British Army until 1755, when His Majesty's Marine Forces, fifty companies in three divisions, headquartered at Chatham, Portsmouth, and Plymouth, were formed under Admiralty control. In 1802, they were titled the Royal Marines.

The Royal Marine Artillery (RMA) was formed as a separate unit in 1804. As their uniforms were the blue of the Royal Regiment of Artillery this group was nicknamed the "Blue Marines" and the infantry element, who wore the scarlet uniforms of the British infantry, became known as the "Red Marines", often given the derogatory nickname "Lobsters" by ordinary sailors. Pursuing a career in the marines was considered social suicide - the marine corps was deeply unpopular in society as most marines were failures in life running away from their problems on land. Marine officers, unlike their counterparts in the regular army or navy, faced obstacles when trying to climb the social ladder, as officers in the marine corps were widely perceived as failures unable to obtain commissions in the army. During the Napoleonic Wars, the Royal Navy suffered from manpower problems in the marine corps, and so regular infantry units from the army often had to be used as shipboard replacements. In 1855 the infantry forces were renamed the Royal Marines Light Infantry (RMLI) and in 1862 the name was slightly altered to Royal Marine Light Infantry. It was not until 1923 that the separate artillery and light infantry forces were formally amalgamated into the Corps of Royal Marines.

For the first part of the 20th Century, the Royal Marines' role was the traditional one of providing shipboard infantry for security, boarding parties and small-scale landings, and also manning gun turrets on cruisers and battleships.

During the First World War, Royal Marines took part in the amphibious landing at Gallipoli in 1915, and, in 1918, led the raid at Zeebrugge.

During the Second World War, a small party of Royal Marines were first ashore at Namsos in April 1940, seizing the approaches to the Norwegian town preparatory to a landing by the British Army two days later. In 1942 the Royal Marines infantry battalions were reorganised as Commandos, joining the Army Commandos.

A total of four Commando brigades were raised during the war, and Royal Marines were represented in all of them. A total of nine RM Commandos (battalions) were raised during the war, numbered from 40 to 48.

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

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

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

In 1946 the Army Commandos were disbanded, leaving the Royal Marines to continue the Commando role (with supporting Army elements).

A small number of Royal Marines served as pilots in World War II. It was a Royal Marines officer who led the attack by a formation of Blackburn Skuas that sank the German cruiser Königsberg.

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

After playing a part in the long-running Malayan Emergency, the next action came in 1956, during the Suez Crisis. Headquarters 3 Commando Brigade, and Nos 40, 42 and 45 Commandos took part in the operation. It marked the first time that a helicopter assault was used operationally to land troops. British and French forces defeated the Egyptians, but after pressure from the United States, and French domestic pressure, they backed down.

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

From 1969 onwards Royal Marine units regularly deployed to Northern Ireland during The Troubles.

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

3 Commando Brigade was not deployed in the 1991 Gulf War, but was deployed to northern Iraq in the aftermath to provide aid to the Kurds. The remainder of the 1990s saw no major warfighting deployments, other than a divisional headquarters to control land forces during the short NATO intervention that ended the Bosnian war.

More recently Royal Marine detachments have been involved in operations in Kosovo, Sierra Leone, and East Timor.

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

From 2000 onwards, the Royal Marines began converting from their traditional light infantry role towards an expanded force protection type role, with the introduction of the Commando 21 concept (see below). This has led to the introduction of the Viking, the first armoured vehicle to be operated by the Royal Marines for half a century.


Marines undergo a long basic training regime at the Commando Training Centre Royal Marines (CTCRM) at Lympstone, Devon. The Royal Marines is the only part of the British forces in which both officers and recruits are trained in the same place. Much of the basic training is carried out on the rugged terrain of Dartmoor. A large amount of training is done at night.

Basic training

The first weeks of training are spent learning basic skills which will be used later. This includes much time spent on the parade ground and on the rifle ranges. Physical training at this stage emphasizes all-round body strength, in order to develop the muscles necessary to carry the heavy weights a marine will use in an operational unit. Key milestones include a test to climb a thirty foot rope, a battle swimming test, and learning to do a "regain" (i.e. climb back onto a rope suspended over a water tank). All these tests are completed with the ever present "fighting order" of 32lbs of equipment. Individual fieldcraft skills are also taught at this basic stage.

The Commando Course

The culmination of training is a period known as the Commando Course. Since the creation of the British Commandos during World War II, all Royal Marines, except those in the Royal Marines Band Service, complete the Commando course as part of their training (see below). Key aspects of the course include climbing and ropework techniques, patrolling, and amphibious operations.

This intense phase ends with a series of tests which have remained virtually unchanged since World War II. Again these tests, and indeed virtually all the training, is done with a "fighting order" of 32lbs of equipment.

The commando tests are taken on consecutive days, they include;

  • A six-mile (10 km) speed march, carrying full fighting order, to be completed in 60 minutes; the pace is thus 10 minutes per mile (6 min/km).
  • The Endurance course is a one-and-a-half mile (2.4 km) course across rough terrain at Woodbury Common near Lympstone, which includes tunnels, pipes, wading pools, and an underwater culvert. The course ends with a four-mile run back to CTCRM. Followed by a marksmanship test. To be completed in 72 minutes, 70 minutes for Royal Marine officers.
  • The Tarzan Assault Course. This is an assault course combined with an aerial confidence test. It starts with a death slide and ends with a rope climb up a thirty foot vertical wall. It must be completed with full fighting order in 13 minutes, 12 minutes for Royal Marine officers.
  • A nine mile (14 km) speed march. This test requires recruits to speed march 9 miles (14 km) in 90 minutes carrying full fighting order.
  • The Thirty miler. This is a 30 mile (48 km) march across Dartmoor, wearing fighting order, and additional safety equipment. It must be completed in 8 hours for recruits and 7 hours for Royal Marine officers, who must also navigate the route themselves, rather than following a DS with the rest of a syndicate.

The day after the 30 mile (48 km) march, any who failed any of the tests may attempt to retake them.

Completing the Commando Course successfully entitles the recruit or officer to wear the coveted green beret but does not mean that the Royal Marine has finished his training. That decision will be made by the troop or batch training team and will depend on the recruits or young officer's overall performance.

After basic and commando training, a Royal Marine Commando will normally join a unit of 3 Commando Brigade. There are three Royal Marines Commando infantry units in the Brigade: 40 Commando located at Norton Manor near Taunton in Somerset, 42 Commando at Bickleigh, near Plymouth, Devon, and 45 Commando at Arbroath on the east coast of Scotland.

Specialist training

Royal Marines may then go on to undertake specialist training in a variety of skills. Possibly volunteering for the Special Forces with the Special Boat Service. Other specializations include, sniper training, platoon weapons, drill instructor, PT instructor, mountain leader (specialists in ski-ing and arctic warfare), support weapons, pilot training, or AAT (advanced amphibious training). The most recently formed specialist unit of the Royal Marines is the Electronic Warfare Department (EWD), whose members are trained to interrogate and attack enemy communications networks and to defend British military networks.

Current weapons

  • The SA80A2 - Controversial 5.56 mm assault rifle (accepts M16A2 magazines)
  • The Minimi Light Machine Gun 5.56 mm belt or magazine (from SA80/M16) procured as an ad hoc stop gap due to the failings of the LSW
  • The Light Support Weapon (LSW) - Controversial 5.56 mm magazine fed light machine gun based on SA80
  • The Barret 50 Calibre Rifle - 0.5 inch (12.7 mm) BMG (Browning Machine gun) anti-material sniper rifle
  • The L96A1 Sniper Rifle - 7.62 x 51 mm bolt-action sniper rifle
  • The 7.62 mm General Purpose Machine Gun - the famous FN MAG 7.62 x 51 belt fed machine gun with option of tripod for sustained fire role
  • The 0.5 inch (12.7 mm) Browning Heavy Machine Gun
  • The LAW94 Light Anti Tank Rocket
  • The MILAN wire guided anti-tank missile
  • The 81 mm Mortar
  • The Accuracy International .338 Lapua Long Range Rifle
  • The Browning Hi-Power - 9 mm parabellum semi automatic pistol
  • The Sig Sauer P228 - 9 mm parabellum semi automatic pistol


Within the Corps, there are three types of units:

  • Combat
  • Support
  • Training


There are four battalion sized combat units within the Royal Marines. Of these, three are designated as "Commandos":

  • 40 Commando
  • 42 Commando
  • 45 Commando

Until recently, Commandos were structured similarly to Army battalions, but beginning in the late 1990s, commandos were reorganised to meet the new challenges present after the end of the Cold War, and their formation structure and equipment now differs from that of British Army infantry battalions.

A commando is now commanded by a full colonel, as opposed to the lieutenant-colonels who command infantry battalions (and previously also commanded RM commandos).

In a commando, a Royal Marine is a member of "the team", a four-man fire team, the building block of commando operations. A Royal Marine works with his team in the field and lives with them in his accommodation (if he lives in barracks).

The three battalion-sized Royal Marine Commandos are each organized into six companies (themselves organised into platoon-sized troops) as follows:

  • One Command Company
  • One Logistic Company
    • A Echelon 1 (A Ech1)
    • A Echelon 2 (A Ech2)
    • FRT
    • RAP
    • B Echelon (B Ech)
  • Two Close Combat Companies
    • Company Headquarters (Coy HQ)
    • 3 Close Combat Troops (Troop HQ, 3 Rifle Sections, Manoeuvre Support Section)
  • Two Stand Off Companies
    • Company Headquarters (Coy HQ)
    • Heavy Machine Gun (HMG) Troop (0.5" heavy machine guns)
    • Anti-Tank Troop (Milan - to be replaced with Javelin)
    • Close Combat Troop

Fleet Protection Group

See Fleet Protection Group Royal Marines.

Amphibious Ready Group

The Amphibious Ready Group is a mobile, balanced amphibious force, based on a Commando Group and its supporting assets, that can be kept at high readiness to deploy into an area of operations. The Amphibious Ready Group is normally based around specialist amphibious ships, most notably HMS Ocean, the largest ship in the fleet. Ocean was designed and built to accommodate an embarked commando and its associated stores and equipment. The strategy of the Amphibious Ready Group is to wait "beyond the horizon" and then deploy swiftly as directed by HM Government. The whole amphibious force is intended to be self-sustaining and capable of operating without host-nation support. The concept was successfully tested in operations in Sierra Leone.

Supporting units

3 Commando Brigade not only consists of Royal Marines units, but also of combat support elements provided by other branches of the armed forces, mainly the Army. These include the Commando Logistic Regiment (consisting of both RM and Army personnel), 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery (based in Plymouth), and 59 Independent Commando Squadron Royal Engineers (based at Chivenor, near Barnstaple). These units provide the specialist artillery, combat service logistic, signals, and engineer support for the Brigade. All Army ranks serving with the brigade also undergo commando training on the All Arms Commando Course.

In practice in specific operations 3 Commando Brigade is configured to the task at hand with the attachment or detachment of units. For instance in the 1982 Falklands War two battalions of Parachute Regiment and a squadron of light tanks were attached to the brigade.

Units of the Royal Marines

  • 3 Commando Brigade: The main formation of the Royal Marines, 3 Commando Brigade contains the following units belonging to the Corps itself.
    • Command Support Group
    • 40 Commando
    • 42 Commando
    • 45 Commando
    • 539 Assault Squadron
    • Commando Logistic Regiment
  • 1 Assault Group: This provides training in the use of landing craft, and also serves as a parent unit for the three assault squadrons based on the Royal Navy's assault ships.
  • Fleet Protection Group: This is the home defence unit of the Royal Marines, performing various tasks outside the remit of 3 Commando Brigade, including protection of nuclear weapons and provision for the Northern Ireland patrol squadron. The FPG maintains the traditions of 43 Commando.
  • Commando Training Centre: This is the training unit for the entire corps, and consists of three separate sections:
    • Commando Training Wing: This is the initial basic commando training section for new recruits to the Royal Marines, and also provides the commando training for members of other units attached to 3 Commando Brigade.
    • Specialist Wing. This provides specialist training following completition of the initial commando course.
    • Command Wing: This provides command training for both officers and NCOs of the Royal Marines.
  • Royal Marines Band Service: The only branch of the Royal Marines which admits women and whose members are not necessarily commando-trained (and therefore may wear blue berets instead of green), the Band Service provides all the regular bands for the Royal Navy and also trains the RN Volunteer Bands.

Traditions and insignia

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

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

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

The word "Gibraltar" refers to the Siege of Gibraltar in 1704. It was considered by George IV to be one of the most glorious achievements of the Marines and he decided that the word should represent the honours they had earned. As a consequence, there are no battle honours displayed on either the colours of the four battalion sized units in the corps. The only units who carry colours are 40 Commando, 42 Commando, 45 Commando, and the Fleet Protection Group (which is the custodian of the colours of 43 Commando).

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

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

The regimental quick march of the Corps is A Life on the Ocean Wave.

Dress headgear is a white pith helmet surmounted by a ball, a distinction once standard for artillerymen. This derives from the part of the Corps that was once the Royal Marine Artillery.

As the descendent of the old marine regiments of the British Army, the Royal Marines has a position in the Order of Precedence of the infantry; this is after the 49th Regiment of Foot, the descendent of which is the Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment. Therefore, the Royal Marines would parade after the RGBW. This is because the 49th Foot was the last regiment raised prior to the formation of the Corps of Marines in 1755. However, when the Royal Navy is on parade, then the RM parades with them at the extreme right of the line.

See also

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