1900: Royal Marines

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Conflict, change and the Royal Marines, 1900

At the turn of the 20th century the strength of the Royal Marines stood at around 19 000 officers and men with the majority serving at sea.

Since the mid 1800s the Royal Marines were separate bodies - the Royal Marine Light Infantry (RMLI) and the Royal Marine Artillery (RMA). These two organisations formed four home Divisions of RMLI Plymouth, Portsmouth and Chatham and RMA Portsmouth.

The Artillery branch of all the other divisions made up the RMA and served on ships from all ports, whereas the RMLI would only serve ships based at their home ports.

What is remarkable about both Corps are their ability to take on and excel in many different roles. Traditionally, Marines served aboard ships undertaking duties of guarding and defending the ship, forming landing and boarding parties and manning portions of the main and secondary armaments.

By the 1900s the Royal Marines had become recognised for their excellence in gunnery and adaptability to land warfare. Selected Royal Marine Officers took to the skies becoming some of the first Royal Naval Air Service pilots.

Both the RMA and RMLI showed they were able to adapt to the challenges posed by contemporary warfare. Adopting new skills in order to remain a relevant and essential fighting force on land, at sea and in the air.

The 12-inch drill turret at RMA Eastney Barracks, c. 1913. (RMM)
The 12-inch drill turret at RMA Eastney Barracks, c. 1913. (RMM)


Follow the links to find out more about -

  • Sea service

  • Gunnery and repository

  • The Boer War

  • The Boxer Rebellion

  • Flying Marines