The Royal Marines Commandos
The Royal Marines Commandos are Britain’s main amphibious fighting force; they are a highly flexible, versatile and mobile, self-sustained fighting force, with a strategic power projection capability that is entirely unique among the British armed forces.
Hundreds of years ago the Marines began their existence as marksmen in the rigging of ships and boarding forces used by the Royal Navy. Now they can operate form the air and on land from Tropical Jungles to Sub-zero Artic conditions- as well at sea. As an amphibious attack force they are second to none. The reasons that these men are so good is mainly due to the selection process that these men must pass, and their arduous training. The training is the longest basic infantry training of any NATO forces, 30 weeks, and is the only one where it’s officers and men are trained at the same time and the same place. You must first pass a selection process with the admiralty before the Marines will even think of letting you in, and competition is very fierce, as spaces are low. This selection includes some physical and mental tests, and your skills are being assessed at all times, even when you have time off to socialise. You will also do a number of PLTs (Personal Leadership Tasks) to assess your leadership abilities, and they will test you on your knowledge on the Navy and Marines. So as you can see, you need to be good to even start the training process.
The actual training consists of the following stages:
Initial Training- Here you will be taught, during a nine week period, all of the basic training in drill, weapon handling and general skills, keeping your kit in order, and quite a heavy emphasis on physical side of things. Customs and the History of the Corps will be covered, as well as skills you will use in the field, such as fieldcraft, map reading, first aid and signals.
Military Training- So far most of the training has been done on building you up as an individual, for the next 13 weeks you become part of a team, and you learn to work together with a section (eight men), and then a troop (or platoon) of 28 men. This is where the physical side really kicks in, the gym, assault courses, ‘yomping’ (sort of very, very quick walking across rough ground) with a rifle and a burgand (a big ruck-sack) full of kit (weighing in at about 70lb). Exercises become more and more realistic- troop manoeuvres are learnt, and more complex things like Operations in Built Up Areas, and Counter Revolutionary Warfare. Weapons training moves onto live firing, firing the 51mm mortar the LAW (Light Anti-tank Weapon).
Then there is the amphibious training: the Marines are, after all, an amphibious fighting force. This involves a week in RM Poole. You learn to use the landing craft, learn about history of landing craft and their different uses in modern warfare. The people who do this usually come away knowing their shit, as a lot of it is instructed by the SBS (Special Boat Service), who are damn hard.
Then comes the Commando Course. On completion of this section you will earn the coveted Green Beret of the Royal Marines Commandos. It is a four-week course, involving very, very hard physical training, more amphibious landing skills, patrolling, and many survival techniques. This course culminates in Test Week. This involves a nine-mile speed march, the Endurance Course (basically a big assault course, with lots of underwater tunnels and muddy pits everywhere), the Tarzan Assault Course, and the 30 Miler. All of these are done with 32lbs of kit on your back. When, and only when you have completed the 30 Miler, will you receive your Green Beret. The 30 Miler is a 30-mile yomp across rocky, and boggy ground, with kit. The Commandos get 8 hours to do it in, the Officers get 7. Ouch.
Then there comes the Advanced Military Training. This is the last phase of training, culminating in a 10 exercise, in which you will need to use all of the skills you have learned over the past couple of months.
After all of the Training, is the Pass Out Parade, after this you will be assigned to your first Unit.
Once you have completed training there are several options open to you. You can stay as a rifleman, or go on to be any of the following:
Landing Craft Operator- Learning how to use and navigate the landing craft used by the Marines. You will then be posted to 539 Assault Squadron, or to one of the Assault Ships.
Signals- Basically a radio communications course, held at Lympstone and the Army Board of Signals at Blandford, Dorset.
Helicopter Pilot- Learn how to fly Support and Attack Helicopter that are essential for ships.
Heavy Weapons- Learn how to use very large guns indeed, and even get to teach other people how to use them, and get paid at the same time- brilliant.
Intelligence- Learn to Collect, Collate and Circulate information, maybe a bit of spy work involved as well.
Physical Training Instructor (PTI)- Learn how to train new recruits Physical Exercise, an essential part in their training, as the Commando Course is so Physically Based.
Weapon Training- Show people how to use small arms (anything from a rifle down). Also in charge of the employment of Snipers.
Staff Duties- Boring Desk Job paper work stuff.
Special Boat Service (SBS)- The SAS of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines, a damn hard lot of guys, it’s a fascinating, but extremely demanding job. This is for those who have a special interest in behind-enemy lines reconnaissance type of thing. You will quickly become an expert in swimming, diving, parachuting, navigation, reconnaissance, and (the most fun part) demolition.
Mountain Leader- This involves all aspects of mountainous and artic warfare, things like route finding, climbing and surviving in freezing temperatures. These guys are nutters, in their training, not only do they have to go on exercise in some of the most inhospitable places in the world, for weeks on end, finding food for themselves, but they also do stuff like cut holes in the ice of very cold water, jump in, skis and all of their 72lbs of kit, dunk their heads under, and then have to haul themselves out, after stating their name, rank and serial number. These guys then go on to lead sections and troops of men when they are on mountainous exercises.
Weaponry of the Royal Marines Commandos
All Marines are fully trained to operate the standard British Rifle, the SA80. Though the old version was a bit crap the newer improved version seems to be much better now- sorted.
The Light Support Weapon (LSW)
This is very similar to the SA80 indeed; only that it weighs more and has a longer barrel (and a tripod, and a cool back handle for extra support)
Both the SA80 and the LSW use the SUSAT optical sight, which can be changed to a wide range of different, specialist sights, e.g. night vision.
The Minimi Light Machine Gun-
This French-made belt fed/ or 200 round magazine-fed gun, not only looks very cool, but it works quite well too. It is bi-pod mounted, though can be fired effectively from the hip, and has an effective range of up to 1000m.
The New Long Range Large Calibre Rifle-
Effective to 1200m, this is basically a sniper rifle, only heavier, and fires a much more powerful 0.338 round, capable of penetrating light armour.
The L96A1 Sniper Rifle-
The standard issue Sniper Rifle for British Forces. This fires a 7.62mm round and is effective up to 1000m. In the hands of a well trained sniper or marksman this is a truly terrifying weapon. (Imagine you are walking along with your troop, its raining and cold, and suddenly the man next to you drops dead with a large bullet hole in the centre of his forehead- disconcerting. Epically as you didn’t hear the shot, and have no idea where it came from, so you can’t do a damn thing about it.).
The General Purpose Machine Gun (GPMG)-
Also known as a ‘Gimpy’, or ‘Jimpy’, this is a belt fed, 7.62mm heavy machine gun. This is very big and heavy, and is mainly used in a suppressing role within each Marine unit, it also looks especially cool, especially when its you who are carrying it.
0.5 Browning Heavy Machine Gun-
Extremely large, vehicle mounted heavy machine guns. These are used as Direct Fire Support weapons during operations. Each Commando Unit has 14 of these motherfuckers.
The Light Anti-Tank Weapon (LAW)-
These are low cost, one use, highly effective, anti-armour weapons. In an average Commando Unit, there are usually about 1 for each two guys, so there is lots of fun to be had with these! These basically enable one Marine to Engage and destroy a heavy enemy battle tank by himself, from a distance of about 500m.
Milan is a wire guided, anti-armour, big motherfucker of a missile system. This baby can penetrate very heavy armour indeed, with an effective range of to 2000m- lovely.
The 81mm and 51mm Mortars
Mortars are very useful indeed, and if you are good, you can fire about 7 missiles, before the first has even touched the ground, allowing troops to deploy, use the mortar, and then change positions, making any chances of enemy artillery getting them very slim indeed. The 51mm mortar can be used by one or two men carried and used by hand, whereas the 81mm mortar can be carried and used by a four-man mortar section, this is usually vehicle mounted as well. They have the option of firing he following rounds- High Explosive- Smoke and Illuminating Rounds.
Of course it isn’t all about being generally damn hard, and looking exceptionally cool (though most of the time it is). The Marines are also given time off, in which most do lots of sport, be it mountain climbing, bobsleighing, rock climbing, judo, fencing, sailing, parachuting, basically anything you can think of you can go off and do, and the military pay for all of it!
Number 3 Commando Brigade, Royal Marines, is the brigade in which all of the Commando units are contained. It is structured on three lightly armed commando units, which are reinforced by elements form the rest of the brigade, including air support and Special Forces. These provide the necessary specialist skills needed to meet the complex and difficult tasks that face any major amphibious force. In transition to war there are many organisations which enhance the Brigade, namely the Royal Marines Reserves, as well as Territorial Army Commandos. Apart from these the Brigade is a totally self- sustained fighting force, capable of deploying its forces with great speed, essential in the shock tactics of amphibious warfare.
At the head of the Brigade is HQ 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines. This is the nerve centre of the Brigade, and where all of the big nobs hang out.
As well as the HQ section, there are 10 further main parts of the Brigade, some of these also have units attached to them.
Firstly there is the HQ and Signal Squadron- This is the Brigade Commander’s command and control unit. This is where all of the operational decisions are made. Six elements then split off from this part. They are:
Comms Troop- manned by Royal Marines Signallers and these guys provide secure radio communications with HQ and the other units.
Brigade Patrol Troop- This consists of four 6 man teams. These guys work ahead of the main force, acting as scouts and surveying the terrain to come and also keeping an eye on enemy troop movements. They are usually deployed ahead of main amphibious landings.
Electronic Warfare Troop- use computer guided weapons and help to keep networks clear so weapons systems can operate clearly. They can also access intelligence at the highest level by intercepting enemy transmissions.
Javelin Troop- Are an Air Defence Group, using JAVELIN missile system. The missile system provided point air defence for high value assets, such as Brigade HQ and Supply Depots.
Royal Marines Police Troop- Provide close protection for the Brigade Commander, are responsible for moving the vehicles off beachheads. They also deal with military and civil offences committed by a Royal Marine, much like the real Police (try to) do with civilians.
605, 608, 611 and 612 Tactical Air Control Parties- Responsible for co-ordinating and directing close air-support aircraft, usually from the Royal Navy or Royal Air Force. The Brigade has three of these, and one in reserve, each consisting of three men.
Then the other main elements of 3 Commando Brigade are:
40, 42, 45 Commando Units- These units make up to core of the Brigade, providing the main fighting force for the Royal Marines Commandos. These are the guys who get to do the most running around, blowing stuff up and killing people(sorry neutralising the enemy with extreme aggression). Each unit is over 600 men strong and can deploy as Commando Group including its orbat elements from the various combat support elements.
29 Artillery Regiment- The guys responsible for using very large artillery pieces to support the brigade. These guns are either their own 105mm light guns or ships of the fleet’s guns.
20 Commando Air Defence Battery- Provide Air Defence using the insanely cool RAPIER FSB2 anti-aircraft system.
59 Independent Commando Squadron Royal Marines- Provide close engineer support for the Brigade and its different elements. They do anything from bridge building and mine laying.
539 Assault Squadron Royal Marines- Operate the landing craft that the Marines use in amphibious landings. The Squadron can also be used to support advance forces in needed.
HQ Command Helicopter Force- co-ordinate the aviation support for the Brigade. This consists of two Sea King Squadrons, and a squadron of light helicopter, using the Lynx and Gazelle.
Medium Reconnaissance Squadron- Currently provided by the Household Cavalry Regiment, which may be assigned to the Brigade for specific Operations. This squad operates the STRIKER and SCIMITAR armoured vehicles.
Special Forces- The SBS and Mountain Leaders.
Commando Logistic Regiment Royal Marines- consists of a HQ Squadron and four specialist squadrons providing logistic support, medical and workshop facilities for the Brigade. The Regiment is responsible for all second line combat service support.
This Unit consists of the following groups:
845 and 846 Support Helicopter Squadrons
847 Light Helicopter Squadron
After you full training and providing they let you in you can be expected to be posted anywhere in the world. If you have just done Officer training then you will go straight on to command a platoon, as a 2nd Lieutenant, of 30 men, some veterans, some newbies. At the age from about 18 to around 21, this seems like quite a daunting task, but by this stage you will be fully trained, and they would not have let you pass if they didn’t think that you were capable of this task. The longer you stay in the services the higher the chance of a promotion, the higher you are the more you get paid, but after a certain point you just get a desk job and it isn’t half as fun as being the guy who gets to run around with a gun.
Basically what will then happen is you will spend about 6-9 months training for operations, the go on operations for about 6 months. Currently, in the British Armed Forces, the main regular postings are Northern Ireland, Belize or Brunei (for jungle combat training), The Middle East (mainly Oman and Kuwait- for desert training), Tactical Exercises in Scotland, The Falkland Islands, Germany, and many other stations around the world. The Armed Forces also train with other Regiments and Units from other countries such as the USA and Canada. The Royal Marines Commandos also do a lot of Artic Training in Norway, trained by the Special Forces Mountain Leaders (also Royal Marines Commandos).
Ranks of Royal Marines Commandos:
NCO’s (Non- Commissioned Officers)
Lance Corporal (Can be distinguished by a single ‘V’ stripe (a chevron))
Corporal (two chevrons)
Sergeant (three chevrons)
Colour Sergeant/ Warrant Officer II (three chevrons with a pip above them)
Warrant Officer I (not sure but I think that it is the Royal Coat of Arms)
2nd Lieutenant (a single pip)
Lieutenant (two pips)
Captain (three pips)
Major (a single crown)
Lieutenant- Colonel (a single pip with a crown)
Brigadier (three pips with a crown above them)
Major General (a single pip above two crossed swords)
Note that all rank slides are worn on the arm, the brassard, or on the epaulets on the shoulders or jacket front.
History of the Royal Marines:
The Admiral’s Regiment 1664-1685
A troop of 1200 men serving on the ships of the time under The Lord High Admiral (The Duke of York and Albany). Fought and distinguished themselves in the second and third Dutch Wars.
The Prince’s Regiment 1685-1689
The Original Yellow uniform was changed to the traditional British Forces red uniform, and was now know as The Prince of Denmark’s Regiment.
Two Marine Regiments of Foot 1690-1699
After a short disbandment, these Regiments were formed as Britain went to war with France. They fought in all of the major sea engagements, but after the war they were, again, disbanded.
Six regiments of Marines 1702-1713
Took part in the wars in Spain, France and North America, they were also the leading force of the capture of Gibraltar. Gibraltar is the only battle honour worn on the Royal Marine’s Cap Badge. In 1713, two regiments were removed and changed into Regiments of Foot.
Four Companies of Invalides of Marines 1714-1739
Under the Earl of Peterborough, who continued to use the title of ‘General of Marines’.
Six Regiments of Marines 1739-1748
George II formed the two extra Regiments for the war against Spain.
Four Regiments of Marines 1740-1748
These Regiments took part in the, not always successful, operations of America and The West Indies.
Gooch’s Marines 1739-1743
Another short lived Marine Force raised, once again, to help fight the war with Spain.
The Marines 1755-1802
On April 3rd 1755 authorisation was given for a unit of 5000 Marines to be raised, split up into 50 companies and three grand divisions, housed at Chatham, Plymouth and Portsmouth. This new Corps was very flexible, setting a pattern for the future. By the time of The Treaty of Paris the Marines had fought in many battles and distinguished themselves, and were never again to be disbanded.
The Royal Marines 1802-1855
George III conferred the title of ‘Royal’ due to the Corps’ service throughout the ages. Due to the War with the French the Corps’ strength was increased to 30000 men. On land The Royal Marines saw action in Spain, the Argentine, North America, The East Indies and The Cape of Good Hope. Afloat they saw action in almost all of the major sea battles, including The Battle of the Nile and Trafalgar (At Trafalgar there were over 2600 Marines involved with the fighting).
Marine Artillery Companies 1804-1862
An Artillery Company was added to each of the Grand Divisions. After the Wars with Spain the Royal Marines emerged with a reputation for loyalty, steadfastness under fire and a bit of a reputation for the ol’ bayonet fighting.
The Royal Marines Light Infantry and Artillery 1855-1862
The Corps was redesignated as a ‘Light Corps’ and split up into the Royal Marines Light Infantry (RMLI) and Royal Marines Artillery (RMA). They fought in The Egyptian War and in the Sudan, and in The First World War every ship had its full complement of Royal Marines to man the guns. They suffered very heavy losses and gained distinction in battle all around the world.
Just After the War King George V wrote: ‘Everywhere your Corps has added Fresh Glory to its record, and never has your name stood higher than today.’
The Royal Marines 1923
The RMLI and the RMA were once again combined to form The Royal Marines, one Corps of 10000 men.
The Second World War
In 1942 the First Commando Units were raised from volunteers from both Army Regiments and Royal Marines. These units were really the start of the modern Royal Marines Commandos. They were trained to carry out pinprick amphibious attacks against the Nazi war machine, for example- The Cockleshell Heroes were Commandos. Fed up with these constant raids Hitler issued a famous order to all of his men:
“Commando Order (18th October 1942)
From now on all men operating against German troops in so-called Commando operations are to be annihilated to the last man. This action is to carried out whether they are soldiers in uniform, or soldiers without arms, whether fighting, surrendered or seeking to escape, whether they come into action by ship, air craft, or parachute. No quarter is to be given. Should individual members of these Commandos fall into the hands of the Armed Forces through any other means- for example through the Police- they are to be turned over at once to the SD.”
Most of the men in the Commando units took the fact that Hitler had issued an order commanding their destruction as a compliment, and just fought all the better in order not to be captured.
The First RM Commando saw its baptism of fire and blood on the beaches of Dieppe. Dieppe was a complete failure, as it was much too well defended, and the Canadian Forces fighting with the RM Commandos took extremely heavy losses. The RM Commando units were the last off the beaches, covering the men who retreated. One Major took 19 men against 200 German infantry and still came back with all of his men, having sorted out most of the Nazi infantry that they took on.
The RM and Army Commando units were the spearhead attack forces at the beach landings of D-Day and the attack on Italy. They also fought in Germany itself, Burma, Akyab, Myebon and Kangaw.
Post WW II Activity
Sine WW II The Royal Marines Commandos have seen service in Palestine, Malaya, Cyprus, Suez, Aden, Tanzania, Borneo and the South Atlantic. They are now a very important NATO force and guard the northern flank of Europe, due to their extensive training in Artic and Mountainous warfare.
In April 1982 the Argentineans invaded the Falkland Islands, the Royal Marines Commandos were dispatched to take care of them. When the Argies invaded there were just 42 men guarding Port Stanley on the Islands, they put up a very stout resistance, holding the enemy of for days, but finally surrendered to avoid civilian casualties. The men sent out ‘yomped’ over 80 miles in three days with full kit, fighting as they went, and eventually drove the Argentineans out.
Since then they have been Peace keeping in regions such as Northern Ireland, Bosnia and Sierra Lione.
They have always been in the thick of the fighting, and are probably the UK’s best fighting force.
Their reputation for being the best that they have acquired over the ages is one that they would quite like to keep, which is why only the best people will get in.
Basically, if you want to be a Royal Marines Commando, if you want to be the very best, then you’ve got to bloody well give it your all. You have to be the person who won’t give up, who keeps a cool head under pressure, even in the face of seemingly impossible obstacles. On top of this they have to keep a good sense of humour at all times. There is only one reason that they say that “99.99% need not apply”, its because it’s true.
If you do want more information on the Royal Marines Commandos, then visit www.royal-marines.mod.uk
Lots of books (mainly ‘By Sea and Land’- Robin Neillands)
Leaflets provided by The Royal Navy and Royal Marines.