Advancing amphibious capabilities

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The Royal Marines had already been involved with landing trials with the Royal Navy, but with this impetus, the Corps established a scheme for a Mobile Naval Base Defence Organisation (MNBDO).

An MNBDO would be able to set up an advanced base for the fleet in a time of war. Admiralty’s staff had worked up the experiments in 1920, but extra Government money was not forthcoming.

Therefore, much of what occurred during the early years of the MNBDO was funded on a shoestring budget. During the period of 1924 - 1930 only £10 000 was spent and the Corps utilised cast-offs from the Army’s Royal Engineers, including tractors and scaffolding.

In 1925 X Unit, the experimental branch of the MNBDO developed of techniques for landing artillery for advanced bases in Langstone Harbour, near Portsmouth.

Preparing to revolve the gun. MNBDO training exercise, Eastney, summer 1934. (RMM)
Preparing to revolve the gun. MNBDO training exercise, Eastney, summer 1934. (RMM)

During these experiments the Royal Marines developed their knowledge into beach inclines, the effect of the tide and the structure of the landing craft to ensure maximum effectiveness.

Later, they also developed techniques for landing tanks, provisions for mining equipment and the installation of searchlight and communications.

The MNBDO proved its worth in Alexandria, Egypt, following the Italian invasion of Abyssinia in 1935.

On their return, the Government allocated them more funding and a greater emphasis was put on the unit’s anti-aircraft capabilities.

During World War Two, the MNBDO and its sub-units were vital for the defence of the British Empire when they established advanced bases around the British Isles and in places such as Crete and the Indian Ocean.