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The Birth of the Royal Marines, 1664-1802


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The Royal Marines come from a long and proud tradition dating back to 1664. However, the first incarnation of the service, the Marine Regiments, was plagued by structural and operational difficulties. The formation of the British Marine Corps at the onset of the Seven Years War in 1755 was a defining moment, for this was the first time the government gave operational priority to the Navy. Following many trials and tribulations, in 1802 the British Marine Corps were made the Royal Marines, giving them official sanction and permanency that has continued to the present day.
This book explores the long period between the Corps of Marines' inception and its Royal codification in 1802. Based on extensive original research, it charts the development of the marines' organisational structures and the Corps' rapid expansion and change. It examines the operations and tasks the marines were required to undertake, showing how special operational requirements and organisational structures combined to give rise to the Royal Marines' distinctive identity, quite separate from exclusively land-based or exclusively maritime-based forces. Amongst a great deal of fascinating detail, the book provides interesting information on how marines were recruited, from what social backgrounds they came, how they were trained, how they were paid, and how their key duties included guarding against mutiny and desertion, and being available as an imperial "rapid reaction force". The book includes extensive material on the many, very varied actions in which the marines were involved, worldwide, including the famous, successful action against American rebels at Boston's Bunker Hill in 1775.

BRITT ZERBE completed his doctorate in maritime history at the University of Exeter.


This book is highly recommended. For those who study warfare in the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries, it should be mandatory reading. It is even more valuable for those who are interested in or study the development of military institutions, because it provides an excellent example of such a study, in addition to the analysis about the Royal Marines. HISTORY

[T]his book should be the standard reference on the foundation, rise and existence of the Royal Marines. NORTHERN MARINER

Very impressive. The detail on manpower, roles and responsibilities and administration is significant. KEDGE ANCHOR

Offers a much-needed study into one of the most ignored and misunderstood of British eighteenth-century military institutions. ... For scholars of eighteenth-century military institutions, society and identity, this will be an important contribution to the existing literature. INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF MARITIME HISTORY

An excellent book...highly recommended. THE NELSON DESPATCH

Informed and informative, [it] is a seminal work of impressive scholarship. MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW, August 2013

A valuable contribution to the history of the Royal Marines, and should be of interest to anyone interested in the history of the Marines or of British naval power. WWW.HISTORYOFWAR.ORG


First Published: 18 Jul 2013
13 Digit ISBN: 9781843838371
Pages: 302
Size: 23.4 x 15.6
Binding: Hardback
Imprint: Boydell Press

Details updated on 04 Jan 2016


  • 1  Introduction
  • 2  What Came Before
  • 3  Administration
  • 4  Marine Corps Manpower
  • 5  Policing Functions and Mutiny
  • 6  Operational Doctrine
  • 7  An Imperial Rapid Reaction Force
  • 8  Conclusion
  • 9  Appendices

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