The history of the Royal Marines is a roll-call of daring deeds and valiant victories, beginning in the reign of Charles II.
Birth of the Corps - 28th
Following the outbreak of the second Dutch War, by order of the Privy Council the "Admiral's Regiment" of 1200 men was raised to fight the Dutch at sea. The regiment became third of the line and was known initially as the the Duke of York and Albany's Maritime Regiment of Foot.
The men were strikingly arrayed in a uniform of yellow coats (the favourite colour of the Duke of York), red facings, sashes and stockings. Their susequent gallantry laid the foundation for the Royal Marines' reputation ever since.
Following the Dutch War was the war of the Spanish Succession, when Britain was part of a coalition fighting France and Spain.
The Rock of Gibraltar was a major strategic target, on 21st July 1704, a force of 1,900 Marines landed with 400 Dutch Marines forcing the garrison to surrender. The Marines then gained further prestige in its defence during the subsequent 9 month siege. Their bravery and achievements in this campaign are commemorated by Gibraltar being the only battle honour worn on the Royal Marines badge and on the colours.
The Marines 1755
On 3rd April 1755 an Order-in-Council authorised 5,000 Marines to be raised, split up into 50 companies and 3 Grand Divisions, housed at Chatham, Portsmouth and Plymouth.
The Seven Years' War 1756
War with France again saw the Marines in action. They fought and won a battle near Lagos West Africa; at Quiberon Bay in France where Admiral Hawke destroyed the French Fleet; and at Quebec with General Wolfe. It is said that the Marines laurels were won for bravery at the capture of the French island of "Belle Isle".
"The Glorious First"
of June 1794
During the war following the French Revolution, the Marines took part in all the great sea battles including Nelson's victories on the Nile and at Copenhagen, and at the decisive routing of the French Fleet by Lord Howe's fleet in the North Atlantic on "The Glorious First" of June 1794. It was in battles such as these that the Royal Marines were employed against marksmen in the rigging of enemy ships.
The Royal Marines 1802
George III conferred the 'Royal' title in approbation of their services in many battles.
Napoleonic War from 1803 -
The conflicts which had occurred at more and more frequent intervals, now culminated in the Napoleonic War. The French Grande Armee cut swathes of destruction the length and breadth of Europe. However, the stern bulwark of the Royal Navy supported by 2,600 Royal Marines thwarted Napoleon's ambitions at sea at the Battle of Trafalgar on 21st October 1805.
In August 1814 the Naval
Brigade under Admiral Cockburn played a considerable part in the capture of
Washington from the Americans who were allied with the French. Washington and
the Whitehouse were then duly burnt in retaliation for the American sacking of
Napoleon was finally
defeated in 1815 at the Battle of Waterloo, within Europe a long period of
relative calm and tranquillity followed. The British Empire continued to expand
and the small wars of annexation, pacification and rebellion provided the Royal
Marines with the greater part of their fighting, with combat at sea becoming a
The Capture of Canton 1841
When Chinese junks harassed British ships in the 19th Century, the Marines distinguished themselves, especially by the capture of Canton, which lead to the Chinese surrender.
The Siege of Sevastopol
During the Crimean War, when Britain joined forces with the French to halt Russia's attack on the Turkish Empire, the defence of Balaclava, the battle of Inkerman, and the siege of Sevastopol. During this war, they won their first three Victoria Crosses.
The Royal Marines Light
Infantry and Artillery 1855
The Corps was redesignated a 'Light Corps' and reconstituted as the The Royal Marines Light Infantry (RMLI) and Royal Marines Artillery (RMA).
The Boer War 1899 - 1902
In the South Africa war the Marines were used mainly at sea as extra gun crews on the ships carrying troops and patrolling important routes. However, they were in the thick of things at the Battle of Graspan on 25th November 1899, where 190 Marines spearheaded an assault on Boer positions dug in atop the Graspan kopje in support of the British forces attempt to raise th siege of Kimberley. As the Marines began advancing across the vast featureless veldt in open order they were exposed to heavy and accurate fire from the Boer riflemen which swept through the advancing British line, marines falling at every step. Having suffered almost 50 percent casualties the marines pushed on, but were denied the fruits of their valour as the Boers had already fled carrying their dead and wounded. The Boer Commandos who were skillful and well armed marksmen, operating in small groups, preferring hit and run attacks to orthodox stand up fights had taught the Marines a salutory lesson.
The First World War 1914 -
The outbreak of the First World War saw Royal Marines detachments deployed in all ships of destroyer size and above, where they were employed as gun crews. In this role some 5700 Marines saw action at the Battle of Jutland, the major naval engagement of the war. Royal Marines also took part in some of the famous actions ashore, being present at Gallipoli, and winning two Victoria Crosses for their bravery at the raid on Zeebrugge. They also fought in the trenches and in the artillery brigades on the Western Front.
The Royal Marines 1923
The RMLI and the RMA were amalgamated to form one Corps of only 10,000 men.
The Second World War 1939 - 1945
The first three years of the Second World War saw most of the action for the Royal Marines at sea including the actions against 'Graf Spee', 'Scharnhorst' and 'Bismark'. They were also called upon for a wide range of new tasks; landing craft crews, artilery and searchlight units and Naval Base Defence Organisations (NBDO). In 1942, the first Royal Marines Commandos were formed and took part in the Dieppe raid.
"With a courage terrible to see, the Marines went in to land determined, if fortune wished, to repeat at Dieppe what their fathers had accomplished at Zeebruge". - from the Official Admiralty account of the raid on Dieppe
By 1944 there were 9 units
fighting across Europe, taking part in campaigns in Sicily, Italy,
and the Dalmatian Coast, including the Landings at Salerno, Anzio, and Termoli,
while others fought in India and Burma. The D-Day Landings were the largest
amphibious assault in history and involved 16,000 Royal Marines. Most of the
landing craft were manned by Royal Marines and all the Royal Navy capital ships
carried a Royal Marines Detachment. Five RM Commando Units (41, 45 , 46 , 47
& 48) landed during the assault phase. By the end of the war, the Royal
Marines numbers had grown to 80,000 - their largest size ever.
During every year since the end of the Second World War the Royal Marines have been engaged on active duty somewhere in the world, apart from 1968.
In 1948 the Royal Marines, along with other British troops, secured the withdrawl from Palestine.
In 1950, 41 (Independent) Commando fought in Korea alongside the 1st USMC Division during the fighting withdrawl on the Chosin Plateau and later as a raiding force. The Commando was awarded a United States Presidential Citation. In addition other Royal Marines were involved in anti-terrorist operations in Malaya.
In 1955, 40 & 45 Commandos were involved in anti-terrorist operations against EOKA in Cyprus.
In 1956 during the Suez Crisis, as part of the Anglo-French force, 3 Commando Brigade (40, 42 & 45 Cdo) landed to take Port Said, with 45 Cdo carrying the first unit sized vertical heliborne assault.
Between 1960 and 1967 Marines of 45 Commando were involved in operations in Aden and Radafan. From 1962 to 1966, 40 & 42 Commando were involved in anti-terrorist operations in North Borneo and West Malaysia.
Royal Marines Commando Units were among the first troops drafted into Northern Ireland in 1969, and have been involved with internal security in the Province almost every year since.
In 1974 Marines of 40
& 41 Commando were deployed to Cyprus during the period of the Turkish
military invasion. 41 Commando were eventually disbanded in May 1980.
The Falklands 1982
In 1982, The Royal Marines played a leading part in the brief but bloody recapture of the Falkland Islands. Sailing thousands of miles from home, they successfully completed an amphibious landing, and after 'yomping' across very difficult terrain in harsh conditions, they contributed to the defeat of a numerically larger enemy, in fierce fighting.
In 1991 at the end of the Gulf War, 3 Commando Brigade (minus 42 Cdo) were deployed on Operation HAVEN in 1991 to protect the Kurdish refugees from potential slaughter by Iraq’s state police. 1994 saw 45 Commando deployed as the ‘Spearhead battalion’ deployed to Kuwait in response to further Iraqi threats.
Elements of Brigade have been deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina, Adriatic (ship borne UN sanctions) throughout the 90’s. In 1998, 40 Commando and 539 Assault Squadron deployed to the Congo as part of Joint Ready Reaction Force to assist in the evacuation of European nationals. In 2000 the Brigade Headquarters, 45 Commando, Headquarters and Signals Squadron and Commando Logistic Regiment deployed for 6 months on Operation AGRICOLA IV, in command of Multi-National Brigade (Centre) in Kosovo
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