Great Britain’s Royal Marine Commandos or, officially, The Corps of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines, have long held an illustrious and storied place in the history of the Islands Armed Forces.

From its creation in 1755, the Marines served a dual purpose of providing ship security and maintaining discipline among the sailors. When battles occurred, they provided an elite force to board and capture enemy vessels. With these skills, they proved their mettle in major naval engagements during the Napoleonic wars and enforcing the Empire’s anti-piracy, anti slavery policies.

They continued their successes into the Second World War when their role changed from being light infantry to providing specialized training to Commandos. And in 1942, Commando was added to their name and they remain the only unit to use it.

Royal Marine Commando Shoulder Flash and Badges.After 1945, they continued operations all across the globe, pioneering such acts as the first helicopter assault during the 1956 Suez Crisis, and helping defeat the Malayan insurgency.

The 1982 Falkland’s War provided a shining moment for the Commandos’ capabilities when a unit, (45 Cdo), negotiated an arduous long march through peat bogs backpacking most of their equipment (up to 80 pounds) over 56 miles to take an objective. Others fought in the bleak mountains in squad and platoon sized battles, while others led the charge to Port Stanley.

Units have also participated in both Gulf Wars and continue fighting today in Afghanistan.

There 7,800 hundred personnel in the Marines, active and reserve, under 3rd Commando Brigade.

3 battalion size elements (40, 42, 45 Cdo, form the main combat force while another, 43 Cdo, provides security for Navy nuclear weapons and facilities. A final group, 30 Cdo, operates in the intelligence, surveillance and recon sector.

Other units include the Commando Logistic Regiment for combat support, Special Boat Service for clandestine insertion and counter terror ops and the small craft training unit, 1st Assault Group Royal Marines.

Royal Commando Training

Prospective candidates must be 16 to 33 years old and undergo interviews and a physical assessment to include the following:

Royal Marine Recruits on the Infamous River Exe Mud Run
Royal Marine Recruits on the Infamous River Exe Mud Run

Two 1.5 mile runs, the 1st under 12 minutes 30 seconds, followed by a one-minute break, and the 2nd must begin and complete in less than 10 minutes. All of this is done on a treadmill with a 2 degree incline.

After completing this, enlisted men attend a three day Potential Royal Marine Course (PRMC), while officers take the Potential Officer Course (POC), at Commando Training Center Royal Marines (CTC) in Lympstone, England.

Here, a final battery of physical and mental tests are conducted including 3-mile timed runs, 2.5 mile obstacle course, strength tests (60 pressups, 80 situps, and minimum of 3 pullups), along with a swimming test. All must show good form or the candidate may be failed.

If passed, a recruit is issued a pair of socks and boots, along with a certificate entitling them to join recruit training.

Now, for the enlisted, a rigorous 32 weeks begins. Officers will do 64.

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Royal Marines On Patrol In Afghanistan
Royal Marines On Patrol In Afghanistan

NATO’s longest infantry training starts with the 1st phase, known as Initial Training. Officers alongside enlisted must endure lengthy daily drills consisting of physical and mental conditioning, field craft, parade ground, small unit tactics, weapons efficiency, and traditions and history of the Corps.

2nd phase is Military Training, operating in teams from 8 to 28, speed marches with up to 70 pounds on backs plus air and cliff assaults taking place in the rugged landscapes of CTC, Dartmoor and Woodbury Common.

3rd phase is Amphibious Training, learning how to use rafts, small boats and landing craft for raids and familiarization with the Special Boat Service.

4th phase comes in the closing weeks, when they enter the signature Commando Course. Wearing standard kit including 32 pound rucksack, recruits must complete the following events:

  • 9 mile speed march completed in 90 minutes (10 minutes per mile)
  • The Endurance Course at Woodbury Common, stretching 6 miles of rugged terrain with pipes, tunnels, wading pools and underwater culvert. 4 mile run back to base with a marksmanship test where 6 of 10 hits must be achieved on a 25meter target representing 200 meters. The combined time to complete the course is 73 minutes.
  • The Tarzan Assault Course starting with a Commando slide down a zip line, rope climb up 34 foot wall, to be completed in 13 minutes for enlisted, 12 for officers.
  • The final test is the 30 miler. This route takes them through the rolling and jagged highlands of Dartmoor with additional weight of safety equipment added. Enlisted must complete the march in 8 hours, the officers in 7.

Upon completion of the Commando Course, the privilege of wearing the symbol of the Corps, the Green Beret, is granted.

Royal Marines On Patrol In AfghanistanOnly 1 in 5 make it this far. (As an interesting fact, Queen Elizabeth’s son, Edward, tried but failed to become an RM Commando.)

It’s still not over, as the training team does a final assessment of the recruit’s skills and qualifications to see if they pass.

If they do, they find themselves in the last week designated ‘The King’s Squad,’ with their own section of the recruits galley. A pass out parade is held, and the Marine receives assignment to 3 commando brigade for a period as a general duties rifleman.

Afterwards, they may apply to specialize in the following Commando Specializations:

  • Aircrewman
  • Assault Engineer
  • Armoured Support Group (Viking)
  • Armourer
  • Chef
  • Clerk
  • Combat Intelligence
  • Communications Technician
  • Drill Instructor
  • Driver
  • Heavy Weapons – Air Defence
  • Heavy Weapons – Anti-Tank
  • Heavy Weapons – Mortars
  • Information Systems
  • Landing Craft Coxswain
  • Medical Assistant
  • Metalsmith
  • Military Police
  • Mountain Leader
  • Platoon Weapons Instructor
  • Physical Training Instructor (PTI)
  • Reconnaissance Operator
  • Signaller
  • Swimmer Canoeist
  • Stores Accountant
  • Telecommunications Technician (Tels Tech)
  • Vehicle Mechanic (VM)
  • Yeoman of Signals
  • Commando Officer Specializations
  • Heavy Weapons Officer
  • Intelligence Officer
  • Landing Craft Officer
  • Mountain Leader
  • Pilot
  • Physical Training and Sports Officer
  • Signals Officer
  • Special Boat Service Officer
  • Staff Officer
  • Weapons Training Officer
  • Platoon Weapons

This article previously published on SOFREP 07.15.2012 by Mike Perry