World War One: Royal Marines

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Conflict, change and the Royal Marines, World War One

During the World War One Royal Marines exhibited skills that crossed over from their traditional seafaring roles.

By the beginning of the war the 'Royals' had already branched into areas of naval gunnery and the landing of heavy artillery as well as serving as land forces alongside the Army.

As a consequence, World War One saw the Royal Marines in every major sea battle, undertaking amphibious raids, fighting in trenches on the Western Front and performing the very first air bombing raids.

First Sea Lord, Lord John Fisher’s reforms before the war, affected the Royal Marines badly. The Admiralty introduced the Selbourne Scheme of officer entry into the Royal Navy in 1903.

Under the Scheme all new officers would enter for naval training before choosing to enter the Royal Marines.

The Royal Marines found the Scheme unsuitable and it was scrapped after only two years. The result was that by the beginning of the Great War the two Corps’ suffered a severe lack of young officers.

The lessons learned from the Great War would ensure the survival of the Royal Marines following the difficult processes of demobilisation and disarmament that characterised the interwar period.

By the end of the War the Royal Marines had grown to a strength of 55 000. They again proved themselves to be versatile and adaptable, earning them distinction on land, at sea and in the air.

Howitzer Brigade, RMA. (RMM)
Howitzer Brigade, RMA. (RMM)


Follow the links to find more about -

  • Sea service - the Battle of Jutland

  • Amphibious raiders - Gallipoli and the Zeebrugge Raid

  • Land service - the Western Front

  • Flying Marines