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Royal Marine Divisions


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Hi all

I've been looking at my wife's great uncle Ernest Wilk's service record for the Great War - he was in he Royal Marines initially as a Private and ended up a Lieutenant.

I now have copies of his record (one page covering his OR service and one his service as officer). Unfortunately neither says a great deal, but there is some information on his divisions, which I wonder if someone can shed some light on:

On his OR service records, it says he enlisted in York on the 9/11/1914, and then:

Rank Co Name of Division Date of Entry Date of Discharge Cause of Discharge Character

Pte D Portsmouth Div 9/11/1914 31/12/1914 VG

Pte D " 1/1/1915 8/6/1915 Embarked VG

Pte D Victory R.M. Brigade 9/6/1915 31/12/1915 VG

Pte D " 1/1/1916 31/12/1916 VG

Pte D " 1/1/1917 25/4/1917 D having been granted a commission into the RM VG

Then there is a section entitled 'Invalided', which says:

Date From what Station

6/5/1915 - 8/1/1916 M.E.F. (that's what it looks like) Dardanelles

9/1/1916 - 7/5/1916 M.E.F. (that's what it looks like)

12/5/1916 - 18/12/1916 Ex. tour (?) France

Nothing under 'Wounds and Hurts'

Then under 'Rank' in the 'Good Conduct Badges, Promotions and Reductions', it says:

a/Cpl 9/10/1915

confirmed 9/10/1915

a/Sgt 14/11/1916

Pte 18/12/1916

Pte 8/1/1917

How do I interpret the above in terms of where he would have been stationed/posted? 'Embarked' and 'Dardanelles' would seem to imply he went overseas? I assume that the rank list means he did something for his promotion to be revoked? That's strange because he's commissioned in April 1917 and his character assessment on the division list is always 'VG'.

Then when we come to his officer's record, it says:

Where Serving From To Remarks

Portsmouth Division 26/4/1917 21/6/1917

HMS Victory (R.M. Brgde) 22/6/1917 23/3/1918

Portsmouth Division 24/3/1918 20/5/1918

3rd R.M. Batallion 21/5/1918 -

" - 14/11/1919 Has been well reported on by OC RM Bosphorous, a keen and gallant officer


Portsmouth Division 15/11/1919 18/11/1919

He was demobilised on the 19th November, 1919.

We have a photo of him taken in Istanbul in 1919, which would tie in with the reference to 'Bosphorous'. We also know that on 6th May 1918 he was in France - he's mentioned as being promoted to lieutenant on that date when the 1st RM Batallion were on the PAS - VARDENCOURT line (War Diary). We also know that on the 25th July 1917 he joined the 2nd RM Batallion near FRESNICOURT as a 2nd lieutenant (also War Diary).

I guess I'm a bit confused by the Divisions listed - can anyone explain how it worked/what they mean?

It would seem that he trained to be an officer from 26/4 to 25/7/1917, when he joined the 2nd RM batallion in France and he's still there in May 1918. Then at some stage after that he's transferred to Istanbul?

Any assistance very gratefully received,


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Others will doubtless delve into the detail, but first things first: MEF Dardanelles confirms that he served with the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force in the Dardanelles. He then served with the Ex(peditionary) Force in France. The 'embarked' signifies the date he left for the Dardanelles. Victory RM brigade is the brigade that went on active service to that region. Apart from that, Portsmouth Division was the Royal Marine division (the others were Plymouth and Chatham) he would have been assigned to on joining the marines. Not too sure about the 3rd RM battalion but i recall that it saw service in the eastern mediterranean, so Bosphorus would be about right?

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Thanks Dominic - that's a big help.

I guess I'm confused about the Portsmouth Division versus the Victory (RM Brigade) vs 3rd RM Batallion. Three different 'units' here? Although I understand that the Portsmouth Division was the same/became as the 2nd RM Batallion? This was part of the 2nd Royal Naval Brigade I think? Was the 'Victory (RM Brigade)' the same as the 3rd Royal Marine Brigade?



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Not sure I know all the answers, but the core division ie Portsmouth was irrelevant to battalion or brigade. Marines from all three divisions (plus from the wartime only Deal division) could combine to make up a battalion or brigade.


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quote: I guess I'm confused about the Portsmouth Division versus the Victory (RM Brigade) vs 3rd RM Batallion. Three different 'units' here?

The Royal Marines were administered by the Admiralty and followed the Navy's use of the word 'Division'

This is in no way similar to an Army Division

The simplest way of describing the use of the word in the RM, is to think of 'Depot.'


If you have not seen it yet then get a look at 'Britain's Sea Soldiers' by Gen Sir H. E. Blumberg

as the sub-title puts it 'A record of the Royal Marines during the War 1914-1919'

There's even a brief mention of the Bosphorus occupation after the armistice with Turkey

Best regards


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Thanks Guys, I think I understand.

Given that though, it seems to me that they are mixing descriptions in his record - one the one hand they are specific when they say 3rd RM Batallion, whereas when they say 'Portsmouth Division', this could apply to one of a number of Batallions? The Victory (RM Brigade) is then something else . . .

Perhaps I better take a look at the book you suggest Michael!



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Portsmouth Division = UK based, on strength of Home Depot/Barracks.

3rd RM Battn. = Garrison for Mudros, Imbros, Tenedos from Nov. 1916 to 1919.

Served with the Portsmouth Battalion at Cape Helles from about 18/7/15 to 28/7/15, then transferred to the newly formed 2nd RM Bn.

Probably served at Stavros, Salonika 22/2/16-16/4/16.

Came home as Candidate for Commission after the Ancre Battle 18/12/16.

Acting ranks were relinquished once you left the Battalion for UK or to Hospital & you reverted to your substantive rank, in his case Private.

His service papers will be in ADM/157 surnames "W" discharges for 1917.

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Thanks John very much - that's a big help. Tying your thoughts to the dates a bit more, I have:

1.) Period: 6/5/1915 to 8/1/1916 with the MEF

Initially Portsmouth Battalion, then 2nd RM Battalion

2.) Period: 9/1/1916 to 7/5/1916 with the MEF

2nd RM Battalion ?

3.) Period: 12/5/1916 to 18/12/1916 in France

2nd RM Battalion ?

Gets promoted to 2nd Lieutenant

4.) Period: 25/7/1917 to 28/4/1918 in France with the 2nd Battalion RMLI / 2nd Battalion RM

5.) Period: 29/4/1918 to 20/5/1918 in France with the 1st Battalion RM (as 2nd Btn RNLI is amalgamated with 1st)

6.) Period: 21/5/1918 to 14/11/1919 in the Bosphorous with the 3rd Battalion RM

I still don't 'get' how Victory (RM Brigade) fits into this - probably just me being dense. I just admit to finding all of the RM units confusing to get me head round!

The War Diary for the 2nd Battalion RM seems to indicate that they did not take part in the Battle of Ancre. Have I got that right?



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