Plymouth—The Royal Marine Commandos just celebrated their 353rd birthday.

The Commandos are Britain’s amphibious light infantry force.  They are organised in the 3 Commando Brigade, which is composed of 40 and 45 Commandos with about 700 Marines each—42 Commando was part of the Brigade but recently underwent a reorganization–now it’s now focused on maritime counter-terrorism and interdiction.

They inhabit a grey area between Special Operations and conventional military forces.  Although not a SOF unit per se, their expertise in arctic, mountain, and expeditionary warfare on top of their tough selection and training process separates them from regular units of the British military.  They are also often called to support Britain’s SOF units.

Individual Royal Marines, however, do have the option to serve in the Special Forces Support Group (UKSG), a unit launched to support SAS and SBS operations, much like the 75th Ranger Regiment has been doing for Delta Force and Seal Team Six.

Here are some interesting facts about the Corps to honour their service:

  • Royal Marines trace their history back to 28 October, 1664, but the Corps was officially formed in 1755.
  • As an amphibious unit, they are part of the Royal Navy.
  • Royal Marines have earned 10 Victoria Crosses, all of them during the First World War.
  • Royal Marines crewed 75% of D-Day’s landing craft.
  • They first wore the Green Beret in 1942, and only those who pass the 32-week Commando Course are entitled to wear it.
  • The term “Commando” comes from Afrikaans and the Boer wars. Boers formed independent mobile cavalry units that operated deep behind British lines.
  • Their selection culminates with a 30-mile speed march through the Dartmoor moorland that must be completed within 7 hours for officers and 8 hours for ranks.
  • During the Second World War, the Royal Marines reached a peak of more than 70,000 Commandos. Today, there are less than 6,500 of them.
  • Marines assigned to the Royal Marines Band are more than musicians; they are also trained medics.
  • Their motto is Per Mare, Per Terram (By Sea, By Land).
  • In the Suez Crisis of 1956, the Royal Marines were the first unit to utilize helicopters for a major air assault.
  • Popular Royal Marines nicknames include Bootneck, Royal, and Lobster.
  • The Commandos use the word “yomping” instead of “rucking.”
  • In the Falklands War, Royal Marines yomped 120 miles in three days carrying up to 140lbs. Did I mention they did so in the most unforgiving terrain?
  • Royal Marines hold the world speed march record.
  • Royal Marines and the USMC have exchange programs. US recon marines are often seconded to the Commandos and vice versa.
  • The Special Boat Service (SBS) was part of the Royal Marines and used to recruit solely within their ranks. However, a recent reorganization placed the SBS under the command of the Director Special Forces, and they now share their selection process with the SAS.
  • In the 18th century, a woman name Hannah Snell served in the Royal Marines under disguise. She fought in numerous battles, allegedly being quite the French killing-machine, and was wounded 12 times. In retirement, she opened a pub!
  • During the opening stages of the Falklands War, the 22-strong Royal Marine garrison of South Georgia managed to damage an Argentinian warship, shoot down a helicopter and drive back an invading force at least thrice their size.
  • Their ethos is ingrained in four pillars: unselfishness, courage, determination, and cheerfulness in the face of adversity.

Did you serve alongside a Bootneck and have an interesting story to share?

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.