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Royal Marines 1914


Guest guthroth
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Hi

Can anyone tell me what the strength of the Royal Navy Division in 1914 ?

I know it had 3 brigades and that the 1st (Naval) and 2nd (Naval) each had 4 battalions. The 3rd Brigade was called the Royal Marine Brigade, and initially had 5 battalions (although one was removed before the Division went to Antwerp).

Can anyone tell me:

1) What strength the battalions were ?

2) How many companies made up each battalion ?

3) I know they had no artillery, but did the Division have any machine guns ?

Thanks,

Pete

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I can tell you that the 9th Battalion (Chatham RM) had 633 men in Ostend - I think this was officers and men - of which 564 returned to UK in October 1914.

I dont know how many companies made up an RM Battalion and have nothing at hand that will provide the answer.

I dont believe they had Machine Gun teams at that stage although of course they did after 1914.

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Checking Fevyer & Wilson's book on the issue of the 1914 star to the RN and RM, they give the following:

- Anson Bn (480)

- Benbow Bn (734)

- Collingwood Bn (913)

- Drake Bn (669)

- Hawke Bn (757)

- Hood Bn (1035)

- Howe Bn (885)

- Nelson Bn (855)

- Chatham RMLI (1256)

- Deal RMLI (196)

- Plymouth RMLI (790)

- Portsmouth RMLI (1037)

- RMA (1026)

Each naval battalion had two double companies and totalled about 880 men. The Marine units seem to have comprised the Chatham, Plymouth, and Portsmouth Battalions, a detachment from the depot at Deal, and the Royal Marine Artillery making up the fourth battalion.

The numbers in brackets indicate the totals of medals for each unit. No idea why, for example there would only be 480 issued to the Anson Bn., a long way from the supposed strength of 880. From the numbers listed it is possible that the Deal RM detachment brought the Plymouth Bn up to a comparable size with the other three units. All supposition on my part however.

There were also 32 stars awarded to "Machine Gun Parties"

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Pete,

The following is from John Henry Morcombe’s web-site dedicated to his relative Jack Clegg - See http://freespace.virgin.net/jack.clegg/

Then click on ‘The Royal Marines’ and then on ‘The Royal Marines in 1914’

[John Morcombe’s site also provides further info on the RND from 1914 onwards]

“Mobilisation 2nd August 1914.

At the outbreak of WW1 there were approx. 18000 Marines, of which 13425 were RMLI, 3393 RMA & 1442 RMB. The latter is a proud & very necessary part of the Corps, even more so then with no media entertainment. The Bands of the Royal Marines cheered & heartened souls wherever they played. The Marines of the RFR consisted of four classes: 401 Immediate Class, 1676 Class 'A', 2984 Class 'B' & 1790 RM Pensioners under 55 years of age. All were mobilised.

The (3rd) Royal Marine Brigade, Royal Naval Division.

As soon as war was declared, orders were issued for the formation of a Royal Marine Brigade (RM Bde.) for service in the newly formed Royal Naval Division (RND). Marine Battalions & RM units had served in every campaign since their formation, most recently in the Boer War 1899-1902 & the Boxer Rebellion/China War of 1900.

The new RM Bde. (consisting of 3 RMLI Bns. & an RMA Bn.) served briefly at Ostend from 26/8/14 to 1/9/14, then returned to England. The RMA Bn. was withdrawn & a 4th RMLI Bn. (Deal Bn.) replaced them.

The RM Bde. (now of 4 RMLI Bns.) landed at Dunkirk 19/9/14 & was severely engaged in the "Defence of Antwerp" in October 1914. Over 300 Marines of the Portsmouth Bn. (& nearly 3 entire RNVR Battalions of the RND) were taken prisoner or crossed into Holland & interned during their retreat. The RM Brigade returned to England via Ostend 11/10/14. All Marines serving in the RM Bde. at this time were long-servicemen, with the exception the RMA Bn. who took 60 of their new short-service recruits to Dunkirk as Motor Drivers.”

The formation of the RND was laid down in Minutes from the First Lord of the Admiralty [Churchill] on the 16th, 17th & 30th August 1914. Extracts from these appear as ‘Appendix A’ in Douglas Jerrold’s history ‘The Royal Naval Division’

Churchill’s second minute of 17th Aug ’14 includes the foll;

“The composition of each [Naval] battalion will be approximately as follows

RNVR 424

RFR 324

RNR 187

And of each company

RNVR 106

RFR 81

RNR 46

The two brigades, aggregating approximately 7,500 men should be complete by Wednesday, the 26th, and will be inspected Monday, the 31st, by the Board of Admiralty.

RNVR will bring their own rifles. DNO will arrange to issue 4,000 rifles for use of RFR, RNR and Petty Officers. All these rifles are long rifles. Orders will be placed for short rifles to be delivered at the earliest moment.

Forty Maxims have been ordered from Vickers, which, it is stated can be ready in 10 days. They are to be divided as follows:

To each battalion in the Naval Brigade…. 4=32

In reserve….4

To Marine Brigade to complete full establishment….4

Each company throughout the Naval and Marine brigades will detail a Maxim gun section”

[That was the plan anyway; the excecution?]

Terry,

The 32 Stars to the Machine Gun Parties listed by F & W, were to men landed at Neiuport from three ships, HMS ‘Severn, ‘Humber’ and ‘Mersey’ and it is my impression that although composed almost exclusively of RMLI, these men were sea-going marines and were not, at that time, part of the RND

Regards

Michael D.R.

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Michael,

Many thanks for the details. I have read about a Deal Bn replacing the RMA after Ostend and Dunkirk, and serving during the debacle at Antwerp, but why less than 200 1914 stars to the Deal unit? Shouldn't there have been a battalion of 800-1200 men, like the other three RMLI units?

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The British Official History records that the Royal Marine Brigade sent to Belgium comprised:

'only 69 officers and 2,016 other ranks... with twelve machine guns.'

Robert

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Artillery was also sent to Belgium but separately from the Royal Marine Brigade. Six 6-inch guns reached Antwerp but were not able to be used. 7th Siege Battery landed but then re-embarked for France. 'Mother', the 9.2" howitzer, was meant to go with them but ended up going straight to France. A naval armoured train provided some 4.7" guns.

Robert

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I have read about a Deal Bn replacing the RMA after Ostend and Dunkirk, and serving during the debacle at Antwerp, but why less than 200 1914 stars to the Deal unit?

Terry,

I think that your info is correct and that the timing of the replacement is part of the answer as to why so few ‘Deal Battalion’ men were at Antwerp

Jerrold confirms that when the RM Brigade returned from Ostend it was decided to incorporate it fully into the RND and to disband the RMA's infantry Battalion, replacing it with one named after Deal. Alas he gives no date for this, but I think that the governing factor must have been, when did Churchill give up on the idea of the RMA supplying the divisional artillery to the RND?

The RM Brigade returned from Ostend on 1st Sep ’14, and yet on 9th Sep the First Lord is still pressing ahead with his idea for the RMA to be attached to the RND. In Churchill’s Minute 17. 9th Sep ’14, he tries to organise divisional artillery for the RND; mention is made of batteries of 18-pdr field artillery, 3 batteries of howitzers and 1 heavy battery – total 76 guns. In addition he wanted each of the four brigades of the RND to each have 1 battery of four 2-pdr Maxims. The guns and wagons would each require horse teams except for the ‘heavys’ which would require mechanical transport. Etc etc etc

However, a couple of weeks later and the First Lord has realised that the task was beyond his resources (especially when he is in competition with the War Office?)

“September 20, 1914

My Dear Kitchener,

In view of your letter of the 19th instant, I think I had better give up the attempt to form the artillery of the Royal Naval Division. The task is too difficult and my resources too small. I shall therefore confine myself to the formation of the three infantry brigades complete in all respects with their divisional services, and utilize the small artillery personnel I have in forming machine-gun motor-cars, motor-cycle Maxims, and lastly the big 15 inch howitzer 4 gun battery for the siege train. This can be done without trenching upon your resources or interfering with your orders to the trade…………………………

Yours very sincerely,

Winston S. Churchill”

I am open to correction on this, but I think that it must have been at this point, on/after 20th Sep ’14, that the decision was made to disband the RMA's infantry Battalion and to replace it with ‘Deal’.

This new battalion was formed by drawing 1 company and 1 platoon from each of the three existing RMLI Battalions; Chatham, Portsmouth & Plymouth. This reorganisation however may have taken place just two weeks before Antwerp and I think that it may help explain why ‘Deal’ went there so short of men – because the reorganisation was not yet completed. If you look at F & W’s Medal Roll you will see that all bar two or three of the ‘Deal’ men have Plymouth numbers. The question therefore arises, where were the men with Chatham/Portsmouth numbers from the company + platoon supplied by each of those battalions? I feel that the answer is most likely to be that the suddenness of the Antwerp adventure caught the RM Brigade in the middle of its reorganisation. * Please see Horatio2's post of 19 Oct 2006 below, indicating that Deal did in fact go as a full battalion and not as a 'Detachment' as indicated by F & W's otherwise excellent book

[Churchill’s minute of 9 Sept 14 and his letter of 20 Sept 14 from Capt Christopher Page’s article in Len Seller’s magazine ‘RND’ issue No.20, March 2002]

Robert,

Regarding the Admiralty’s armoured trains; there were three of them

HMAT Churchill

HMAT Deguise

HMAT Jellico

You are correct about the 4.7 inch guns, see photograph below taken near Ostend; sorry I cannot add the name of this particular HMAT [pic from the IWM ref Q14783]

Regards

Michael D.R.

post-2-1105892971.jpg

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Thanks Michael D.R. I knew there had to be some logical answer! I only have two 14 star trios to the RN/RM - a group of four (including a Victorian LSGC and a clasp on the star) to a PO 1st Class in the Collingwood Bn who was one of the few from that unit who made it back to England and ended up a CPO, and a group of four (including a GeoV LSGC but not entitled to a clasp on the star) to a gunner,RMA.

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Just to follow up on this ... I have finally found a hoard of my RM notes. That part relating to 1914 mainly originates from Blumberg's history of the Corps during 1914-1918.

The RMLI Battalions, numbered 9, 10, 11 and 12 (otherwise Chatham, Portsmouth, Plymouth & Deal) were to be established on the basis of an army battalion ie 4 companies A, B, C & D. Each battalion was to have a 1914 strength of approximately 750 men. To bring the Bttns up to this number about 600 Marines were drafted early from initial training.

For a short period in early October several of the Armoured cars were attached to the RM Bttns. RM machine gun teams were present with the Bge at Antwerp.

After Antwerp the Bttns were strengthened by, in total, an additional 150 ORs. (I am unsure whether this refers to the RM allocation from the 600 men who, following the outbreak of war, had volunteered for army service that were drafted into the RND in late 1914).

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“September 20, 1914

My Dear Kitchener,

I shall therefore confine myself to ... utilize the small artillery personnel I have in forming machine-gun motor-cars, motor-cycle Maxims…

Yours very sincerely,

Winston S. Churchill”

Motor cycle maxims? Were these counted as part of the machine gun section or the armoured cars and has anyone written up the history?

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Guest Andrewdouglas

I believe the small artillery personnel that Churchill was writing about were only used for the seige train and later the anti-aircraft brigade. The armoured car personnel was made up from the Plymouth Bttn. and then attached to the R.A.N.S. and the machine gun section or 'party' was formed directly from RMLI attachments from the ships Severn Humber and Mersey. I would be surprised if there were

any motor cycle maxims.

The provision of the machine gun party was more political than military and showed the severe pressure the Belgium army was under that they called for such support. The affair was a tragic fiasco as they were ambushed by German units before they could deploy and a Times reporter present declared that they were 'annihilated' although 2 died and a further died of wounds and several were wounded out of a total of 32(Fevyer & Wilson).The party were warned by Belgium units of the close proximity of the Germans by shouting and waving their arms. Lieut Wise ,who was killed , thought they were welcoming them as they moved into their position.Sgt. Taylor led the party out in trying circumstances and got the wounded back to the ships.

Thought this might be interesting to all

Andrew

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  • 1 year later...
Terry,

I think that your info is correct and that the timing of the replacement is part of the answer as to why so few ‘Deal Battalion’ men were at Antwerp

Jerrold confirms that when the RM Brigade returned from Ostend it was decided to incorporate it fully into the RND and to disband the RMA's infantry Battalion, replacing it with one named after Deal. Alas he gives no date for this, but I think that the governing factor must have been, when did Churchill give up on the idea of the RMA supplying the divisional artillery to the RND?

The RM Brigade returned from Ostend on 1st Sep ’14, and yet on 9th Sep the First Lord is still pressing ahead with his idea for the RMA to be attached to the RND. In Churchill’s Minute 17. 9th Sep ’14, he tries to organise divisional artillery for the RND; mention is made of batteries of 18-pdr field artillery, 3 batteries of howitzers and 1 heavy battery – total 76 guns. In addition he wanted each of the four brigades of the RND to each have 1 battery of four 2-pdr Maxims. The guns and wagons would each require horse teams except for the ‘heavys’ which would require mechanical transport. Etc etc etc

However, a couple of weeks later and the First Lord has realised that the task was beyond his resources (especially when he is in competition with the War Office?)

“September 20, 1914

My Dear Kitchener,

In view of your letter of the 19th instant, I think I had better give up the attempt to form the artillery of the Royal Naval Division. The task is too difficult and my resources too small. I shall therefore confine myself to the formation of the three infantry brigades complete in all respects with their divisional services, and utilize the small artillery personnel I have in forming machine-gun motor-cars, motor-cycle Maxims, and lastly the big 15 inch howitzer 4 gun battery for the siege train. This can be done without trenching upon your resources or interfering with your orders to the trade…………………………

Yours very sincerely,

Winston S. Churchill”

I am open to correction on this, but I think that it must have been at this point, on/after 20th Sep ’14, that the decision was made to disband the RMA's infantry Battalion and to replace it with ‘Deal’.

This new battalion was formed by drawing 1 company and 1 platoon from each of the three existing RMLI Battalions; Chatham, Portsmouth & Plymouth. This reorganisation however may have taken place just two weeks before Antwerp and I think that it may help explain why ‘Deal’ went there so short of men – because the reorganisation was not yet completed. If you look at F & W’s Medal Roll you will see that all bar two or three of the ‘Deal’ men have Plymouth numbers. The question therefore arises, where were the men with Chatham/Portsmouth numbers from the company + platoon supplied by each of those battalions? I feel that the answer is most likely to be that the suddenness of the Antwerp adventure caught the RM Brigade in the middle of its reorganisation.

[Churchill’s minute of 9 Sept 14 and his letter of 20 Sept 14 from Capt Christopher Page’s article in Len Seller’s magazine ‘RND’ issue No.20, March 2002]

Robert,

Regarding the Admiralty’s armoured trains; there were three of them

HMAT Churchill

HMAT Deguise

HMAT Jellico

You are correct about the 4.7 inch guns, see photograph below taken near Ostend; sorry I cannot add the name of this particular HMAT [pic from the IWM ref Q14783]

Regards

Michael D.R.

I have just recieved my step Gt uncles service papers and amongst them was a handwritten note from the OC no 4 Co 12th Bn (Deal) RM Brigade J.A. TUPWELL (?) dated 13/11/14 stating that CH 18839 Pte Joseph HEMSLEY was with this unit when it proceeded to Cassell on 30th Sept and at Antwerp 3rd Oct, returning to England on 12th Oct. Could he be one of the 2 or 3 Deal men that didn't have Plymouth numbers? Incidentally the companies are numbered and not lettered as earlier mentioned.

Lionboxer

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That is a fascinating in-sight into the chaos of the war's first few months.

Hemsley J., Pte., Ch18839. - DD (Discharged Dead) 3 Feb 1915 [star & Clasp issued to] Widow Mrs E. Willard 27 Jun 1919

is how Fevyer & Wilson record him under the Chatham [not Deal] Battalion RMLI

Your hand written note from his officer confirming his service with Deal suggests that the Deal Detachment RMLI may have been bigger than we thought

Regards

Michael

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Unfortunately Fevyer and Wilson caused great confusion in their 1914 Star listing. They put all the Chatham and Portsmouth men of Deal Bn in the book as belonging to their divisional battalion. Hence, HEMSLEY, who was Deal Bn but had a Chatham number, appears in the Chatham Bn listing. In fact Deal Bn was created by taking one company plus one platoon from each of the other three battalions. All four battalions were then topped up with recruits from the Deal depot.

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Your hand written note from his officer confirming his service with Deal suggests that the Deal Detachment RMLI may have been bigger than we thought

Regards

Michael

You are right, Michael. F & W compounded the problem by labelling Deal Bn as a "detachment". It was a full battalion of Plymouth, Portsmouth and Chatham marines.

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Again, Horatio, many thanks for the clarification

I knew the theory, but in view of F & W I had always supposed that, as sometimes happens in a war, the event had turned out somewhat differently

Anyone reading this thread in the future should note that the para below is subject to revision

This new battalion was formed by drawing 1 company and 1 platoon from each of the three existing RMLI Battalions; Chatham, Portsmouth & Plymouth. This reorganisation however may have taken place just two weeks before Antwerp and I think that it may help explain why ‘Deal’ went there so short of men – because the reorganisation was not yet completed. If you look at F & W’s Medal Roll you will see that all bar two or three of the ‘Deal’ men have Plymouth numbers. The question therefore arises, where were the men with Chatham/Portsmouth numbers from the company + platoon supplied by each of those battalions? I feel that the answer is most likely to be that the suddenness of the Antwerp adventure caught the RM Brigade in the middle of its reorganisation.
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Have I muddied the water?!! On another point, why did Hemsley's officer feel it neccessary to write such a note? Did Hemsley himself ask for such a record to be made or would it have been a standard proceedure for those that had been drafted to Deal. His service sheet shows he was Chatham Div 4/9/14 - 11/9/14 Victory (Rm Brigade)12/9/14 - 12/11/14 Chatham Div 13/11/14 - 10/12/14 Clan MacNaughton 11/12/14 - 3/2/15 D.Dead. He received his RFR gratuity on 21/9/10. Is that when he finished his twelve years service with the RMLI and went on the reserve?

Lionboxer

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Quote: "Have I muddied the water?!!"

Not a bit of it!

I for one am very grateful that you have provided an opportunity for

an erroneous impression of mine to be corrected

Best regards

Michael

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This new battalion was formed by drawing 1 company and 1 platoon from each of the three existing RMLI Battalions; Chatham, Portsmouth & Plymouth. This reorganisation however may have taken place just two weeks before Antwerp and I think that it may help explain why ‘Deal’ went there so short of men – because the reorganisation was not yet completed. If you look at F & W’s Medal Roll you will see that all bar two or three of the ‘Deal’ men have Plymouth numbers. The question therefore arises, where were the men with Chatham/Portsmouth numbers from the company + platoon supplied by each of those battalions? I feel that the answer is most likely to be that the suddenness of the Antwerp adventure caught the RM Brigade in the middle of its reorganisation.

Michael,

My gran's cousin Douglas Phillips (see my signature below), although a Chatham Battalion man, served with the Deal Battalion at Dunkirk and Antwerp (and also with Deal when he went to the Dardenelles). Never the less he is on the Chatham Battalion roll for the 1914 star.

cheers

Steve

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Checking Fevyer & Wilson's book on the issue of the 1914 star to the RN and RM, they give the following:

- Anson Bn (480)

- Benbow Bn (734)

- Collingwood Bn (913)

- Drake Bn (669)

- Hawke Bn (757)

- Hood Bn (1035)

- Howe Bn (885)

- Nelson Bn (855)

- Chatham RMLI (1256)

- Deal RMLI (196)

- Plymouth RMLI (790)

- Portsmouth RMLI (1037)

- RMA (1026)

You can see from the numbers above that Terry quoted at the start of this thread that the numbers in F&W for Chatham and Portsmouth were grossly over Bn strength. That's because the wrongly ascribed Deal Bn men inflate their numbers to the tune of about 400 for Chatham and 200 for Portsmouth. (As an aside, the number - 480 - quoted for Anson is wrong. They have 12 pages of names.)

New subject. Your man would have completed his 12 years either on his 30th birthday or 12 years after enlisting, whichever is the later. This should be clear from his record.

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