1902 Encyclopedia > Marines


MARINES. With all maritime nations, especially if they be insular and capable of taking the offensive in war, there must frequently be cases in which naval operations can be supplemented by the landing of a force. The armament, equipment, and discipline of the armies and navies of such nations were in early days practically alike. But with the introduction of more regular levies and better organization arose the necessity for having on board ships-of-war an armed body organized to meet the altered condition of things. Sailors were but engaged for periods during which ships were commissioned; and their previous history and training did not tend to furnish the material required. Regular armies on shore called for disciplined forces afloat,—that is to say, for marines, or sea soldiers, who should have the steadiness of the troops of the line, be accustomed to the peculiar duties of ship life, and be subordinate to the naval authorities.

Previous to 1664 the British navy had been manned chiefly by " impress " ; but in that year an order in council appeared, authorizing the formation of a force of 1200 soldiers, in six companies, to be raised for sea service during the Dutch War. Probably it was recruited from the London Trained Bands, as the Royal Marines, with the 3d battalion of the Grenadier Guards, the East Kent Regiment, and the Royal London Militia, alone possess the privilege of marching through the city with colours flying and bayonets fixed. Recruits were also obtained from the foot guards; and in 1672 companies of the guards were employed on shipboard. The Army List of 1684 shows for the first time the organized battalion of marines, in H.R.H. the duke of York and Albany's maritime regiment of foot or "Admiral's Regiment," which, in that year, mustered on Putney Heath twelve companies, with a full proportion of officers. This stood third in seniority in the line, and eventually became the Coldstream Guards; the 4th, or " Holland Regiment," which also sent companies to sea, and had like the above regiment been raised by the City of London, taking its place as 3d or " Old Buffs." Several other maritime regiments were successively formed and disbanded, until, in 1702, Queen Anne directed the addition to the army of six regiments as a marine corps, while six existing regiments were also appointed " for sea service." These were done away with in 1714, three only being retained, as the 30th, 31st, and 32d of the line. Independent companies, for service in the West Indies, were also formed, becoming in 1742 the 49th foot. In 1739 six fresh regiments were levied, and augmented in 1742 to ten, of 1000 men in ten companies each; while three others were collected in America for colonial duty. Though commanded by generals and colonels of the army, they were to be quartered in the neighbourhood of the dockyards at Portsmouth, Sheerness, Chatham, Deptford, Woolwich, and Plymouth ; and the proportion of officers, viz., 100 men with a captain to twenty with a subaltern, was fixed for the different classes of vessels. No field officer was embarked unless a full battalion were sent. In 1745 two other battalions were specially raised for service at Cape Breton, becoming finally the 50th and 51st foot; and in 1746 the ten regiments were restored to the army, taking rank from the 44th to the 53d. Previous to their disbandment as marines they had been partially under the orders of the lord high admiral.

By an order in council of 1755 a force of 5000 men in 50 companies was raised and definitely placed under the naval authorities. They were to be stationed at Chatham, Portsmouth, and Plymouth, the 4th or Woolwich division not being added until 1805 ; and this body was gradually increased to 19,000 men in 1762, but reduced in 1763 to about 4000. Commissions ceased to be purchasable, but exchange with the army was, for a time, sanctioned. Naval admirals and captains were appointed generals and colonels of marines in 1760, in consequence of a represen-tation from the commandants of divisions that there was an insufficient number of field officers "for the discipline of the service." This absurd anomaly existed until 1833, when these useless sinecures were abolished.

The revolt of the American colonies in 1775 led, again, to an increase in the establishment, which by 1783 had reached 25,291 men,—followed by a reduction to 4495 the ensuing year. So urgent was the demand for marines during the struggle that men were frequently embarked untrained; yet, so popular was the service, they still " recruited better in every part of the island" than the army. Owing to this unwise policy of reduction, the force, on the outbreak of the French War in 1793, had to be supplemented, as formerly, by companies from the line; and at its conclusion the marine corps again reached a total strength of more than 30,000 men. But there had been differences between the military and naval authorities as to the employment of soldiers from the army; so that from 1815, when the numbers again fell to about 6000, there has been a steady increase, until an establishment suitable to the wants of the navy has been fixed. During the long war, moreover, the necessity for the formation of a body of marine artillery had become increasingly apparent. The services of marines in this capacity had been previously demanded during the American War, when they were employed in the half-moon battery and citadel at Halifax, and elsewhere in batteries on shore, as some of them had been "trained in the service of great guns" by Lieutenant Gillespie of the Royal Artillery. By an order in council of the 18th August 1804, therefore, "in consequence of the inconvenience of embarking the Royal Artillery," it was directed that one company of marine artillery, composed of the most intelligent and experienced officers and men, should be formed at each division to be employed for the training of the infantry, so as to embark efficient artillery-men in other vessels besides "bombs." This force suffered a reduction to two companies in 1822, since which date it also has been steadily increased ; and in 1862 the artillery companies were separated from the light infantry and formed into a separate division at Fort Cumberland, Portsmouth, whence the headquarters were transferred to Eastney in 1869. In 1869 the Woolwich division was abolished, a depot for the training of recruits being formed at Walmer. At present the Royal Marine force numbers 48 companies of infantry and 16 of artillery, showing a total force of 2532 artillery and 9862 infantry, at an expendi-ture of £913,456,

Each division of Royal Marines has a total force of 16 companies, with a colonel commandant, second commandant, 4 lieutenant-colonels, 14 majors, 20 captains, and 42 subalterns, inclusive of the divisional staff of instructors of gunnery, musketry, &c. The headquarter staff, in London, consists of a deputy and an assistant adjutant-general, &e. ; and there are, in addition, three generals, three lieutenant-generals, and six major-generals on the active list. The men are recruited by special parties ; they are enlisted for twelve years, with permission to re-engage for nine more. All recruits undergo their preliminary training at Walmer, and are then drafted to the several divisions,—those who reach a higher standard being allowed to volunteer for the artillery. The standard for infantry and artillery, and the system of pay, equipment, pension, and divisional administration, are similar to those of the line and Royal Artillery respectively. Officers are obtained by open com-petition from the pass-lists for entrance to the Military Academy, Woolwich, and the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. The suc-cessful infantry candidates are drafted to their several divisions, and undergo a course of instruction under the military instructor to the corps,—those for the artillery receiving a special training for two years at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich.

The Royal Marines, reckoning as part of the naval forces, are accounted for in the navy estimates; though the names of the officers appear both in the Army and Navy Lists. They are par-ticularized in the Army Act as subject to military law at stated times, serving on shore under the Act and the regulations in force in the garrisons, where they perform the same duties as the land forces. Afloat they are subject to the Naval Discipline Act ; and a Marine Mutiny Act was formerly passed annually for the "regulation of Her Majesty's Royal Marine forces while on shore," stating that they were under the direction of the lord high admiral, &c. On board ship their duties are of a purely military character, being confined to guard mounting, assisting to man boats for shore operations, and helping to form the crews for the heavy guns. Though under the supreme command of the naval authorities, they are only obliged to aid in work on deck, and when landed are entirely commanded by their own officers.

The war services of the corps are so numerous that they can be but briefly referred to. First employed at Cork in 1690, they have been present in nearly all the actions in which the navy has since then been engaged ; and between that date and 1800 they took part in 227 sea fights and 70 important operations on shore. At Gibraltar and Manila, at Belleisle and Bunker's Hill, at Negapatam, the Cape, and Acre, they earned the special commendation of the leaders, as well as for Lord Howe's victory, and the great sea fights of Camperdown, Cape St Vincent, and the Nile. Nor were their enemies backward in recognizing their worth. At Belleisle the French, in describing the troops whose valour had been most conspicuous, designated the battalions of marines "les petits grenadiers " ; and at Acre General Berthier bore testimony to the conspicuous gallantry of Major Oldfield, who fell in the attack on the fortress. From 1800 to 1815 they saw constant service in 99 coast operations and 142 naval actions. After the landing at Aboukir Bay in 1801 the " Bull Dogs" received high praise for the way in which they had done their work. At the siege of Gaeta, at Rosas, and at Santa Maura, the marines again distinguished themselves ; and they took part in the decisive battles at Copenhagen, Trafalgar, San Domingo, and the Dardanelles. Three battalions were also specially brigaded with the line for active service in America and Holland in 1813-15. Since that period the marines have shared in the naval actions at Algiers, Navarino, Acre, the Baltic, and Black Sea, and have fought by the side of the land forces at the Cape, in India, China, New Zealand, Abyssinia, Ashantee, and Zululand, as also in those numerous petty skirmishes in which the navy has been so repeatedly engaged. In the bombardment of Alexandria (1882), and in the operations that followed it, the corps has again seen service by sea and land. Nor have their services been less important in other cases. Though forming part of the ships' companies, and therefore at times suffering from the same grievances, they have always been faithful to their trust. In 1797, a period of much sedition throughout the country, all efforts to shake their allegiance were fruitless, and the duke of York especially commended their loyalty and zeal. Between that year and 1802, after the mutinies of the Nore, Spithead, and Bantry Bay, of the "Téméraire," "Castor," "Impétueux," "Her-mione," "Gibraltar," and "Excellent," the marines were publicly thanked for their devotion.

As part of a ship's company in naval actions, as a force landed to assist in coast operations, and as troops acting in concert with the army, the marines have won distinction and the commendation of both naval and military authorities for two hundred years. The motto of the corps, ' ' Per mare per terram, " needs no explanation ; the title "Royal" was added in 1802 "for its many and varied services during the war," and its former facings were altered from white to royal blue ; it was also in 1820, by an order in council, placed next in seniority to the 49th Regiment. In 1827 the globe, surrounded by the laurel wreath, for the siege of Belleisle, together with "Gibraltar" in commemoration of the services performed there, was added by George IV. In 1855 the infantry branch of the corps became " light infantry. " Although in the ' ' armed strengths " of the great European powers marines and marine artillery are mentioned, these troops have little in common with those in the British navy. In France their duties are to garrison the five military ports and colonies, and to take part in marine and other wars. In Germany the marine battalions and artillery divisions at Kiel and Wilhelmshafen are in- tended for coast defence only. In Holland, Austria, and Italy also they have a military organization, but do not form a recognized part of the complements of sea-going ships. America alone employs marines in the same manner as England; and they have won, as their British comrades have, the approbation of the naval authorities and, on nineteen occasions, the thanks of Congress. Admiral Farra- gut's opinion that '' the marine guard is one of the great essentials of a man-of-war" is corroborated by that of Admiral Wilkes, who considered that " marines constituted the great difference between a man-of-war and a privateer." Formed in 1775 for the "publick defense," they rank as the oldest force in the American service ; and since that time they have shared in land and sea opera- tions in all parts of the world. In the famous battles between the "Bonhomme Richard" and "Serapis" in 1777, and in that between the "Chesapeake "and "Shannon," they displayed brilliant gallantry; and while on the one hand they at Derne in 1803 first planted the American flag on a fortress of the Old World, for which exploit "Tripoli" is inscribed on their colours, they on the other shared in the hard fighting of the Mexican war as well as all the import- ant coast actions of the civil war of 1861-65. A proposal to incor- porate them with the army after the struggle met with universal condemnation from the authorities best qualified to judge of their value. At present they number seventy-eight officers and two thousand men under the command of a commandant, who ranks as brigadier-general, with headquarters at Washington. Their administration, organization, and. equipment are, as in England, identical with those of the soldiers of the line. They are enlisted for five years, must be 5 feet 6 inches in height, between eighteen and thirty-five years of age, and able to read and write. The complement on board ship varies from thirteen to fifty-one officers and men, depending on the rating of the vessel. Their device is a globe resting on an anchor and surmounted by an eagle. "Ever faithful" is the title which Captain Luce, the historian of the force, appropriately applies to them. (C. C. K.)

The above article was written by: Capt. C. C. King, Professor of Tactics, &c., Royal Military College, Sandhurst.

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