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The Birth of the Royal Marines, 1664-1802

The Birth of the Royal Marines, 1664-1802

Britt Zerbe
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 302
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  • Book Info
    The Birth of the Royal Marines, 1664-1802
    Book Description:

    The Royal Marines come from a long and proud tradition dating back to 1664. However, the first incarnation of the service, the Marine Regiments, was plagued by structural and operational difficulties. The formation of the British Marine Corps at the onset of the Seven Years War in 1755 was a defining moment, for this was the first time the government gave operational priority to the Navy. Following many trials and tribulations, in 1802 the British Marine Corps were made the Royal Marines, giving them official sanction and permanency that has continued to the present day. This book explores the long period between the Corps of Marines' inception and its Royal codification in 1802. Based on extensive original research, it charts the development of the marines' organisational structures and the Corps' rapid expansion and change. It examines the operations and tasks the marines were required to undertake, showing how special operational requirements and organisational structures combined to give rise to the Royal Marines' distinctive identity, quite separate from exclusively land-based or exclusively maritime-based forces. Amongst a great deal of fascinating detail, the book provides interesting information on how marines were recruited, from what social backgrounds they came, how they were trained, how they were paid, and how their key duties included guarding against mutiny and desertion, and being available as an imperial "rapid reaction force". The book includes extensive material on the many, very varied actions in which the marines were involved, worldwide, including the famous, successful action against American rebels at Boston's Bunker Hill in 1775. BRITT ZERBE completed his doctorate in maritime history at the University of Exeter.

    eISBN: 978-1-78204-177-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-vii)
    (pp. viii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)

    ‘Lord Spencer’s augmentation of that most useful body of men [my emphasis], the Corps of Marines, is, like every measure of his administration, dictated by the most earnest desire to promote the good of the Service, and the consequent welfare of his Country.’¹ The description of the Marines being ‘that most useful body of men’ was common in the press and literature in the second half of eighteenth-century Britain. The British Marine Corps, while a branch of the Royal Navy and subject to its control and pay, also had many independent elements. While the Army and Navy were always much...

  7. PART I

    • 1 What Came Before
      (pp. 17-42)

      In 1739, war with Spain was the order of the day. This war was destined to be advertised as a largely colonial affair by its proponents. During King George II’s Address to Parliament on 16 November 1739, he outlined his desire for the creation of six new Marine regiments. He proclaimed:

      And as in the prosecution of this War, a number of Soldiers, to serve on board the Fleet, may be requisite; I have judged it proper, that a body of marines should be raised, and have directed the Estimates for this purpose to be likewise prepared and laid before...

    • 2 Administration
      (pp. 43-70)

      On 23 January 1755 the government ordered a mobilisation of the fleet and general press in preparation for war with France.¹ With this mobilisation came a movement for the re-establishment of a Marine Force, as had been the case in all previous wars since the Second Anglo-Dutch War. But the government and Admiralty were slower than the public in the anticipation of this new Marine Force. By January the press was beginning to report that ‘a regiment of Marines is to be raised directly’, even stating later that there were to be ‘four regiments’.² Other papers speculated that the ten...

    • 3 Marine Corps Manpower
      (pp. 71-112)

      To understand the identity of the Marine Corps and how it was constructed, there needs to be some discussion of how, why and which men decided to serve in the British Marine Corps. Recruitment provides an important insight into the construction of Marine manpower. Manpower would shape the Corps’s identity, but it would also impact the ability of marines to fulfil their operational doctrine. This chapter looks at the manpower of the Marines over the 47-year period of 1755–1802. Throughout this period, marines were recruited from the same manpower pool of potential recruits as the Army, Militia, Ordnance service...

  8. PART II

    • 4 Policing Functions and Mutiny
      (pp. 115-162)

      Marines spent most of their service life on board ships of His Majesty’s Navy. Like other British military units in the eighteenth century, marines also passed much of their time not engaged in combat. Marines therefore needed other duties to carry out while they were not actively engaged in combat. The Wooden World, it has been argued, can be seen as a microcosm of the larger British society and, like all societies, there was a need for the state to project its power within the domestic arena.¹ On land, the Army and Militia were the force of the state’s power...

    • 5 Operational Doctrine
      (pp. 163-205)

      The operational doctrine of the British Marine Corps would not only influence Marine identity, but would also be influenced by that identity. It would take 47 years to codify this doctrine, but when it was complete it dramatically shaped the Marines for the rest of their history. This operational doctrine’s primary responsibility was to prepare marines, through constant training, for operations in an amphibious environment. The Marines would succeed in this dual world of sea and land operations to the point they were officially recognised with the bestowment of the title of ‘Royal’ in 1802. Before discussing the training and...

    • 6 An Imperial Rapid Reaction Force
      (pp. 206-242)

      During the 47-year period from 1755 to 1802, Britain was at war for just over half of this time. Unlike the previous period of peace-time from 1749 to 1754, or the ones before it, this time the Marines maintained their establishment. Yet, like the other services in peace-time, their manpower numbers were significantly reduced. The Admiralty and the Marines needed an operational justification in order to continue the Marine Corps’s existence throughout the various peace-time economy drives of the period. This led to a rebranding of the Marines as a vital tool in the state’s (and Navy’s) ability to project...

  9. Conclusion: The Construction of a Marine identity
    (pp. 243-264)

    Since the 1960s, sociologists have seen ‘Military organisations represent a specific occupational culture which is relatively isolated from society.’¹ This specific organisational or military culture, as it is now termed, has been largely neglected by historians until the last ten to fifteen years, with the rising of a new, broader analysis of this field of military history. Military identities have also slowly been coming to the fore in recent historical works.² This improves our understanding of how military organisations not only develop their own culture, but, even with some conflict, their own identity.³ It is with this aspect of culture...

  10. Appendices
    (pp. 265-272)
    (pp. 273-286)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 287-292)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 293-293)