The Royal Marines Museum is located at Eastney Barracks near Portsmouth, Hampshire. During 2011 it formally became part of the National Museum of the Royal Navy. Established in October 1958, the Museum represents the history of the Royal Marines from their beginnings in 1664 through to the present day. The Eastney Barracks were originally constructed as the Headquarters of the Royal Marine Artillery in the 1860s.
The 'first official' unit of English Naval Infantry, originally called the Duke of York and Albany's Maritime Regiment of Foot and soon becoming known as the Admiral's Regiment, was formed on 28 October 1664, with an initial strength of 1,200 infantrymen recruited from the Trained Bands of London as part of the mobilisation for the Second Anglo-Dutch War. James (later King James VII & II), the Duke of York and Albany, Lord High Admiral and brother of King Charles II, was Captain-General of the Artillery Company, now the Honourable Artillery Company, the unit that trained the Trained Bands. It was the fourth European Marine unit formed, being preceded by the Spain's Infantería de Marina (1537), the Portuguese Marine Corps (1610) and France's Troupes de marine (1622). It consisted of six 200 man companies and was initially commanded by Colonel Sir William Killigrew with Sir Charles Lyttleton as Lieutenant-Colonel. Killigrew had commanded an English regiment in Dutch service and many of the regiment's initial complement of officers had served there as well. The Holland Regiment (later The Buffs) was also raised to serve at sea and both of these "Naval" regiments were paid for by the Treasurer of the Navy by Order of Council of 11 July 1665. John Churchill, later the 1st Duke of Marlborough, was a famous member of this regiment. A Company of Foot Guards served as Marines to augment the Marines of the Admiral's Regiment during the key sea battle the Battle of Solebay in 1672. The regiment was disbanded in 1689 shortly after James II was deposed in the Glorious Revolution.
Two marine regiments of the army were raised in 1690. They were the Earl of Pembroke's and Torrington's, later Lord Berkeley's. These two regiments participated in an opposed landing during the Williamite War in Ireland at Cork, Ireland on 21 September 1690 under the command of John Churchill, now the Duke of Marlborough. In 1698, the Marine establishment was reformed: the two existing regiments were reformed into a single one under the command of Thomas Brudenell, while the foot regiments of William Seymour, Edward Dutton Colt, and Harry Mordaunt were converted into Marine regiments. These regiments were disbanded in 1699. In 1702, six Regiments of Marines and six Sea Service Regiments of Foot were formed for the War of the Spanish Succession. When on land, the Marines were commanded by Brigadier-General William Seymour, formerly of the 4th Foot. The most historic achievement of these Marines was the capture of the mole during the assault on Gibraltar (sailors of the Royal Navy captured the Rock itself) and the subsequent defence of the fortress alongside the Dutch Marines in 1704. In 1713, after the Treaty of Utrecht, three of these Regiments were transferred to the Line, where they became the 30th through the 32nd Foot.
Six Marine Regiments (1st to 6th Marines, 44th to 49th Foot) were raised on 17 November–22 November 1739 for the War of Jenkins' Ear, with four more being raised later. One large Marine Regiment (Spotswood's Regiment, later Gooch's Marines, the 43rd Foot) was formed of American colonists and served alongside British Marines at the Battle of Cartagena de Indias, Colombia and Guantánamo Bay, Cuba in the War of Jenkins' Ear (1741). Among its officers was Lawrence Washington, the half-brother of George Washington. In 1747, the remaining regiments were transferred to the Admiralty and then disbanded in 1748. Many of the disbanded men were offered transportation to Nova Scotia and helped form the city of Halifax, Nova Scotia. On 5 April 1755, His Majesty's Marine Forces, fifty Companies in three Divisions, headquartered at Portsmouth, Chatham and Plymouth, were formed by Order of Council under Admiralty control. Initially, all field officers were Royal Navy officers as the Royal Navy felt that the ranks of Marine field officers were largely honorary. This meant that the farthest a Marine officer could advance was to Lieutenant Colonel. It was not until 1771 that the first Marine was promoted to Colonel. This situation persisted well into the 1800s. During the rest of the 18th century, they served in numerous landings all over the world, the most famous being the landing at Bellisle on the Brittany coast in 1761. They also served in the American War of Independence. A company of Marines under the command of Major John Pitcairn broke the rebel resistance in the Battle of Bunker Hill and took possession of the enemy redoubt. These Marines also often took to the ship's boats to repel attackers in small boats when RN ships were becalmed on close blockade. On 14 February 1779, Captain James Cook took with him four marines, Corporal James Thomas, Private Theophilus Hinks, Private Thomas Fatchett and Private John Allen.
From May 1787, a detachment of four companies of marines, under Major Robert Ross, accompanied the First Fleet to protect a new colony at Botany Bay (New South Wales). Due to an unknown error the Fleet left Portsmouth without its main supply of ammunition, cartridge paper and tools to repair their flintlocks. The omission was noted early during the voyage and, in July 1787, a request was sent back to the British Home Office from Santa Cruz that the missing supplies be sent out in William Bligh's ship HMS Bounty. As Christopher Warren noted, this expected resupply meant that the voyage could still continue to its final destination - Botany Bay in New South Wales. However, despite the Home Office receiving the request, the resupply was never sent and consequently, after 12 months, the marines ended up in dire circumstances. Ten thousand musquet balls were obtained when the Fleet called into Rio de Janeiro. The First Fleet detachment had a strength of 212 including 160 privates. This relatively small force was arranged on the advice of Joseph Banks who advised the British government that local Aborigines were few and retiring. On arrival in New South Wales in January 1788 the Governor of the new colony, naval Captain Arthur Phillip, found that the natives were vastly more numerous than expected and also that they soon started resisting the settlers. Within 12 months, natives killed 5 or 6 First Fleeters and wounded others. Finally, in October 1788, the marines were tasked to expand the initial settlement at Sydney Cove to commence farming more fertile land at Parramatta.
In 1802, largely at the instigation of Admiral John Jervis, 1st Earl of St Vincent, they were titled the Royal Marines by King George III. The Royal Marine Artillery (RMA) was formed as an establishment within the British Royal Marines in 1804 to man the artillery in bomb vessels. This had been done by the Royal Regiment of Artillery, but a lawsuit by a Royal Artillery officer resulted in a court decision that Army officers were not subject to Naval orders. As their coats were the blue of the Royal Regiment of Artillery, this group was nicknamed the "Blue Marines" and the Infantry element, who wore the scarlet coats of the British infantry, became known as the "Red Marines", often given the derogatory nickname "Lobsters" by sailors.
During the Napoleonic Wars the Royal Marines participated in every notable naval battle on board the Royal Navy's ships and also took part in multiple amphibious actions. Marines had a dual function aboard ships of the Royal Navy in this period; routinely, they ensured the security of the ship's officers and supported their maintenance of discipline in the ship's crew, and in battle, they engaged the enemy's crews, whether firing from positions on their own ship, or fighting in boarding actions. The number of marines on board Royal Naval ships depended on the size of the ship and was generally kept at a ratio of one marine per ship gun, plus officers. For example: a First Rate Ship of the Line contained 104 marines while a 28 gun Frigate had 29. Between 1807 and 1814, the total marine establishment number was 31,400 men. Manpower (recruitment and retention) problems saw regular infantry units from the British Army being used as shipboard replacements on numerous occasions. One result of the Royal Navy's dominance of the seas in Europe, and the blockading of the French Navy's ports, was that manpower constraints became less of an issue at the end of the Napoleonic Wars. From 1812, such maritime supremacy meant the Mediterranean and Channel Fleets were assigned additional marines for use 'in destroying signal communications and other petty harassing modes of warfare'.
In the Caribbean theatre volunteers from freed French slaves on Marie-Galante were used to form the 1st Corps of Colonial Marines. These men bolstered the ranks, helping the British to hold the island until reinforcements arrived. This practice was repeated during the War of 1812, where escaped American slaves were formed into the 2nd Corps of Colonial Marines. These men were commanded by Royal Marines officers and fought alongside their regular Royal Marines counterparts at the Battle of Bladensburg in August 1814. During the battle a detachment of Royal Marine Artillery commanded by Lieutenant John Lawrence deployed Congreve rockets resulting in the rout of the US militiamen. The Royal Marines battalion and the 21st Regiment of Foot also took part in the Burning of Washington later that day. Also present on shore during the Chesapeake campaign was a composite battalion of Marines, formed from ships' Marine detachments, frequently led by Captain John Robyns. A smaller composite battalion of about 100 men (23 officers, two of whom (John Wilson 1787-1850 and John Alexander Phillips 1790-1865) were Trafalgar veterans, and 80 other ranks) also took part in the Battle of New Orleans, under the command of Brevet Major Thomas Adair, in January 1815. The only British success at New Orleans was an attack on the west bank of the Mississippi River by a 700-man force, consisting of the 100 Royal Marines, 100 sailors under Captain Rowland Money, and 3 companies of the 85th Foot. Throughout the war Royal Marines units raided up and down the east coast of America including up the Penobscot River and in the Chesapeake Bay. They later helped capture Fort Bowyer in Mobile Bay in what was the last action of the war.
In 1855, the marine Infantry forces were renamed the Royal Marines Light Infantry (RMLI) and in 1862 the name was slightly altered to Royal Marine Light Infantry. The Royal Navy only saw limited active service at sea after 1850 (until 1914) and became interested in developing the concept of landings by Naval Brigades. In these Naval Brigades, the function of the Royal Marines was to land first and act as skirmishers ahead of sailors trained as conventional infantry and artillery. This skirmishing was the traditional function of light infantry. During the Crimean War in 1854 and 1855, three Royal Marines earned the Victoria Cross, two in the Crimea and one in the Baltic. For most of their history, British Marines had been organised as fusiliers. In the rest of the 19th Century the Royal Marines served in many landings especially in the First and Second Opium Wars (1839–1842 and 1856–1860) against the Chinese. These were all successful except for the landing at the Mouth of the Peiho in 1859, where Admiral Sir James Hope ordered a landing across extensive mud flats.
The Royal Marines also played a prominent role in the Boxer Rebellion in China (1900), where a Royal Marine earned a further Corps Victoria Cross. Pursuing a career in the Marines had been considered social suicide through much of the 18th and 19th centuries since Marine officers had a lower standing than their counterparts in the Royal Navy. An effort was made in 1907 through the common entry or "Selborne Scheme" to reduce the professional differences between RN and RM officers through a system of common entry that provided for an initial period of service where both groups performed the same roles and underwent the same training. For the first part of the 20th century, the Royal Marines' role was the traditional one of providing shipboard infantry for security, boarding parties and small-scale landings. The Marines' other traditional position on a Royal Navy ship was manning 'X' and 'Y' (the aftermost) gun turrets on a battleship or cruiser.
During the First World War, in addition to their usual stations aboard ship, Royal Marines were part of the Royal Naval Division which landed in Belgium in 1914 to help defend Antwerp and later took part in the amphibious landing at Gallipoli in 1915. It also served on the Western Front. The Division's first two commanders were Royal Marine Artillery Generals. Other Royal Marines acted as landing parties in the Naval campaign against the Turkish fortifications in the Dardanelles before the Gallipoli landing. They were sent ashore to assess damage to Turkish fortifications after bombardment by British and French ships and, if necessary, to complete their destruction. The Royal Marines were the last to leave Gallipoli, replacing both British and French troops in a neatly planned and executed withdrawal from the beaches. The Royal Marines also took part in the Zeebrugge Raid in 1918. Five Royal Marines earned the Victoria Cross in the First World War, two at Zeebrugge, one at Gallipoli, one at Jutland and one on the Western Front.
After the war Royal Marines took part in the allied intervention in Russia. In 1919, the 6th Battalion RMLI mutinied and was disbanded at Murmansk. The Royal Marine Artillery (RMA) and Royal Marine Light Infantry (RMLI) were amalgamated on 22 June 1923. Post-war demobilisation had seen the Royal Marines reduced from 55,000 (1918) to 15,000 in 1922 and there was Treasury pressure for a further reduction to 6,000 or even the entire disbandment of the Corps. As a compromise an establishment of 9,500 was settled upon but this meant that two separate branches could no longer be maintained. The abandonment of the Marine's artillery role meant that the Corps would subsequently have to rely on Royal Artillery support when ashore, that the title of Royal Marines would apply to the entire Corps and that only a few specialists would now receive gunnery training. As a form of consolation the dark blue and red uniform of the Royal Marine Artillery now became the full dress of the entire Corps. Royal Marine officers and SNCO's however continue to wear the historic scarlet in mess dress to the present day. The ranks of Private, used by the RMLI, and Gunner, used by the RMA, were abolished and replaced by the rank of Marine.
During the Second World War, a small party of Royal Marines were first ashore at Namsos in April 1940, seizing the approaches to the Norwegian town preparatory to a landing by the British Army two days later. The Royal Marines formed the Royal Marine Division as an amphibiously trained division, parts of which served at Dakar and in the capture of Madagascar. After the assault on the French naval base at Antsirane in Madagascar was held up, fifty Sea Service Royal Marines from HMS Ramilles commanded by Captain Martin Price were landed on the quay of the base by the British destroyer HMS Anthony after it ran the gauntlet of French shore batteries defending Diego Suarez Bay. They then captured two of the batteries, which led to a quick surrender by the French. In addition the Royal Marines formed Mobile Naval Base Defence Organisations (MNBDOs) similar to the United States Marine Corps Defense Battalions. One of these took part in the defence of Crete. Royal Marines also served in Malaya and in Singapore, where due to losses they were joined with remnants of the 2nd Battalion, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders to form the "Plymouth Argylls". The Royal Marines formed one Commando (A Commando) which served at Dieppe. One month after Dieppe, most of the 11th Royal Marine Battalion was killed or captured in an ill staged amphibious landing at Tobruk in Operation Agreement, again the Marines were involved with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, this time the 1st Battalion. In 1942 the Infantry Battalions of the Royal Marine Division were re-organised as Commandos, joining the British Army Commandos. The Division command structure became a Special Service Brigade command. The support troops became landing craft crew and saw extensive action on D-Day in June 1944. In 1946 the Army Commandos were disbanded, leaving the Royal Marines to continue the Commando role (with supporting Army elements).
Personal stories of wars, battles and events of great significance make the history of the Royal Marines come to life. The Curators at the Museum collect and display contemporary material so that the story of their history is told up to the present day, allowing visitors to appreciate the extraordinary acts of heroism and bravery of Royal Marines deployed around the world today. The Museum depicts the history of the Royal Marines from 1664 to the present day through a unique collection of artefacts, pictures and documents. One of the most outstanding collections is the medal collection consisting of over 8000 items including gallantry, campaign and foreign awards. Over 80% of this can be seen on display in the Medal Room. The Museum also has a notable paintings collection, some of which can be seen hanging in the Minstrel’s Gallery. Most of the Museum’s collections have been generously donated by the public or serving and former Royal Marines creating a strong emphasis on individuals and their stories.
The Museum is fully wheelchair accessible and has facilities for visually-impaired visitors. Assistance dogs are welcome. Carers are admitted for free. The museum will be moving to Portsmouth Historic Dockyard in 2019.
Location : Royal Marines Museum, Eastney Esplanade, Southsea, Portsmouth, Hampshire PO4 9PX
Transport : Fratton (National Rail) then bus (1). Bus Routes : 1, 2, and 16 stop nearby.
Opening Times :Open Tuesday to Sunday and Bank Holiday Mondays 10:00 to 17:30; October to March until 17.00.
Tickets : Adults £9.00; Children (5 - 16) £4.00; Disabled £8.10
Tel. : 023 9281 9385