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In naval warfare there are often occasions when operations need to be supplemented by the landing of troops. Marines were soldiers kept aboard warships for this purpose.

In the eighteenth-century, Marines were also deployed aboard naval vessels of exploration to ensure the safety of the ship, survey boats and parties venturing ashore.

The history of English marines can be traced back to 1664 when a force of twelve hundred men, divided into six companies, were raised by the Crown to fight in naval actions against the Dutch. Twenty years later, a maritime regiment was raised under the command of the Duke of York and Albany. In this regiment was a battalion described as marines. 1702, the Crown established an army of six regiments as a corps of marines, while six existing regiments were allocated ‘for sea service.’

The number of marine troops was reduced in 1714 after the Peace of Utrecht signed the previous year ended the War of the Spanish Succession.

England’s growth as a naval power saw the creation of new regiments in the 1740s. Some 10,000 men in ten companies were stationed in the vicinity of the Royal Dockyards at Deptford, Woolwich, Chatham, Sheerness, Portsmouth and Plymouth. A further three companies were raised in the American colonies.

Until the Seven Years War (1754-1763), marines served under the command of generals and colonels of the army. The first permanent marine corps under naval command, numbering 5,000 men in fifty companies, was established in 1755 and stationed at Chtaham, Portsmouth and Plymouth. By the end of the Seven Years War, the number of marines under naval command had grown to 19,000.

Marine numbers were sharply reduced after the Peace of Paris in 1763, but grew steadily during the years Britain sought to re-assert control over its North American colonies. By 1783, there were just over 25,000 men serving as marines.

Between 1690 and 1800, marines were involved in over 220 sea fights and 70 operations ashore.

After 1755 a company of Marines under one or more officers was carried aboard every ship of the Royal Navy. The number of men and officers depended on the type and size of vessel, and the aims of a voyage.

Ordinarily marines did not undertake the normal duties of seamen, but were obliged to join in tasks requiring as man-power as possible, such as pulling ropes and working the ship’s capstan.

On his first voyage of discovery, Cook was assigned a Lieutenant of Marines, two non-commissioned officers, a drummer and ten marine privates. They were charged with protecting the ship, boats surveying, shore parties and encampments.

Related Entries for Marines
People: Dunster, Thomas | Greenslade, William
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Structure based on ISAAR(CPF) - click here for an explanation of the fields. Prepared by: Turnbull, P
Created: 4 October 2001
Modified: 25 February 2004

Published by South Seas, 1 February 2004
Comments, questions, corrections and additions: Paul.Turnbull@jcu.edu.au
Prepared by: Paul Turnbull
Updated: 28 June 2004
To cite this page use: http://nla.gov.au/nla.cs-ss-biogs-P000033

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