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Royal Marine Light Infantry - what were his duties?

Sun Oct 25, 2015 6:33 pm

I'm researching Private Walter Smith, b 1889 who died about HMS Good Hope off Chile in 1914.

His papers show he enlisted in 1907 and was initially in Deal, Kent (presumably for basic training?). He then moved to Portsmouth until 1909 when he joined the cruiser, HMS Forte. From HMS Forte he spent two months on HMS Vindictive. Following land postings he joined HMS Good Hope in 1913. This turned out to be his final ship as she was sunk with the loss of all hands in one of the first sea battles of the war off Coronel, Chile.

My question is what would Walter's role/duties/job have been both on board and with land postings? I have no idea. Obviously he wasn't 'crew' so what did he do?

Many thanks.

Re: Royal Marine Light Infantry - what were his duties?

Sun Oct 25, 2015 7:03 pm

Try Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Royal_Marines#Early_20th_Century - seems like the Marines often manned the rear two turrets on big ships, as well as their infantry type role. Makes sense - if you were at sea, there wasn't a lot of call for infantry work. Note that at this time, there was no official "Royal Marines" - instead there was the RM Artillery and RM Light Infantry. I have seen references elsewhere in Google searching to RMLI manning the turrets, just in case you wonder.

Re: Royal Marine Light Infantry - what were his duties?

Mon Oct 26, 2015 9:10 am

There is an excellent museum and archive for the Royal Marines at Eastney, Portsmouth. You can find details on Google. When I visited some years ago, I found the staff very helpful.

Re: Royal Marine Light Infantry - what were his duties?

Tue Oct 27, 2015 8:58 am

I know it is slightly later but if you watch the film battle of the river plate the bugler on the flagship is a royal marine.

Re: Royal Marine Light Infantry - what were his duties?

Thu Nov 05, 2015 7:31 pm

I'm no expert but my general understanding is this; as well as being the fighting force since long before Nelson's era, when armed soldiers were needed to carry the fight onto enemy ships (during boarding actions) or onto enemy land, the major element of the Marines' duties onboard were as the police/security element of a ships crew; to enforce regulations, guard the brig and magazines(weapon & ammunition stores), and even defend the ship and it's officers against mutiny from the sailors ! By the time of turreted warships since c1900s, it was normal for one of the (usually)four main gun turrets to be manned by the Marines. As well as the great references above, especially the Museum, these links should help further.
(PS As I'm a new user the site hasn't allowed me to post the links, SORRY!.... Hopefully the clues below will help, if not please message me off the forum)...

This site gives a great indication of the proportionate numbers of Marines carried on various RN ships during WW1, and a clue as to their activities onboard.
(search "Naval History ww1 RN ship crews")

This Coronel Memorial site is an excellent record of the ships and men who fought at that Battle, you might even like to add Walter's story to the Memorial page. I guess it's just a coincidence that so many of those photographed on this particular page are Marines.
(search "coronel crew photos")

I suggest you also direct your questions to specialist forums such as this one, in my experience it invariably results in really helpful replies from friendly people who really know their subject. This thread discusses the role of WW1 Marines when onboard ship.
(search "1914-1918 invision gun turret crews forum 180627")

Hope this helps, especially at this important time. Sorry for the poor "links" !

Sincere thanks to Walter and all the brave men and women who's efforts have allowed us to live in peace and freedom.

"At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them."

Re: Royal Marine Light Infantry - what were his duties?

Sun Nov 15, 2015 5:49 pm

Thanks Jeff for your detailed reply (and of course everyone else who contributed).

I posted a similar message on the Long Long Trail forum and I have to say in this instance it was WDYTYA who came up with the most help!

I've used the Coronel website which, as you say, is excellent for facts. It's a shame not many of the individuals are commemorated on it and I shall certainly be adding Ernest's details to it when I have finished my research. Like the battle itself, it seems to be little known!
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