What have the Royal Marines ever done for us?

In case anyone in government is unclear about why the Royal Marines are so valuable to the defence of our national interests and are arguably the UK’s best fighting formation, here’s a very brief overview of their actions since WWII.

  • 1948 –3 Commando Brigade RM covers withdrawal of British troops from Palestine. 40 Commando RM last British unit to leave.
  • 1950-1952 – 3 Commando Brigade RM deploys to Malaya for counter terrorist operations. Brigade wins forty awards for gallantry (not including sixty-eight mention in despatches), and suffers thirty-three dead.
  • 1950-52 – 41 (Independent) Commando RM, deploys to Korea, in addition to carrying out twenty-one raids on the coast behind enemy lines, the Commando took part in the 1st Marine Division USMC action at the Chosin and Hagaru including the epic march to the sea. 31 KIA in Korea.
  • 1953-1954 – 3 Commando Brigade deploys to Suez Canal Zone and conducts counter-insurgency operations.
  • 1955 -1959, 40 and 45 Commandos RM, alternate on operations in Cyprus during EOKA campaign. 42 Commando deployed in UK.
  • 1956 – 3 Commando Brigade RM (including 42 Commando) spearhead amphibious assault at Suez, 6 November 1956. 45 Commando carries out the first ever helicopter assault in an amphibious operation in the world.
  • 1960 – 1967 – 45 Commando RM deploys to Aden.
  • 1961 – 42 Commando lands from the LPH Bulwark into Kuwait to forestall Iraqi invasion under President Kasim of Iraq. 45 Commando RM flown to Kuwait by RAF to join 42 Commando.
  • 1962 – 40 and 42 Commandos operations in Brunei, including Limbang operation by L Company 42 Commando.
  • 1963-1966 – 40 and 42 Commandos on anti-terrorist and incursion operations in Borneo and Malaysia.
  • 1964 – Mutiny by army in Tanganyika (present day Tanzania) 41 and 45 Commandos deploy to Tanganyika. 45 Commando by helicopter launched from carrier HMS Centaur (CVA not an LPH so a swift re-roling required by ships company into ad hoc LPH).  Mutiny suppressed.
  • 1964-1967 – 45 Commando deployed on operations in the Radfan, and in Aden city.
  • 1967 – 45 Commando second last British unit to withdraw from Aden and returns UK, covered by 42 Commando who are last out and withdraw in LPH Albion. 40 Commando embarked in LPH Bulwark covers from seaward ready to reinforce.  40 Commando remains offshore as part of task group which includes two CVA ready to go back in and evacuate British civilians.
  • 1965-1975 – RM Officers on loan service with Sultan of Oman’s Armed Forces on operations in the Dhofar region of Oman.
  • 1967 – 40 Commando deploys to Hong Kong for Internal Security duties (rioting as part of Mao’s ‘red book’ revolution)
  • 1969 –2004 – In 1969, 41 Commando first RM Commando to deploy to Northern Ireland. Thereafter, for next 35 years RM Commandos take their turns on operations in the Province until 2004.
  • 1974 – Turkish invasion of Cyprus, 40 Commando deployed to protect Greek zone. Subsequently 41 Commando deployed on UN operations.
  • 1982 – 3 Commando Brigade spearheads recapture of the Falkland Islands.
  • 1983 – 40 Commando deploys to Cyprus for UN Tour of duty.
  • 1990-1991 SBS operations in Iraq. 3 Commando Brigade on Operation Haven in Northern Iraq.
  • 2000 – 42 Commando deploys to Sierra Leone. HQ 3 Commando Brigade and 45 Commando to Kosovo.
  • 2002 –. SBS first Allied troops to land in Afghanistan, and seize landing zone for US Special Forces. 45 Commando operations in Afghanistan. 40 Commando deploy to Afghanistan in Special Forces Support role (SSFG). 42  Commando in Northern Ireland.
  • 2003 – Op Telic, invasion of Iraq. 3 Commando Brigade amphibious ops and advance to Basra.
  • 2004 – 40 Commando operational tour in Iraq.
  • 2006 – 3 Commando Brigade (less 40 Commando) Op HERRICK 5 in Helmand Afghanistan.
  • 2007 – 40 Commando Op HERRICK 7 Afghanistan. RM Armoured Support Group (Vikings) in support of army units in Afganistan.
  • 2008 – 3 Commando Brigade (less 40 Commando) Op HERRICK 9 Afghanistan.
  • 2010 – 40 Commando Op HERRICK 12 Afghanistan.
  • 2011 – 3 Commando Brigade (less 40 Commando) Op HERRICK 14 Afghanistan.

In the 12 years of the Afghanistan Campaign, the Royal Marines were awarded 206 gallantry and meritorious service awards, 13% of the total, including 25% of the CGC and MC awards. In doing so suffering 61 KIA and 256 seriously wounded. During every tour the Royal Marines have been in the ‘hot spots’, no other regiment has done more in the campaign.


Drawn up by Julian Thompson from information in A Short History of the Royal Marines, published by the Royal Marines Historical Society. (Any errors are the fault of Julian Thompson and not the Royal Marines Historical Society). The latest edition is Fourth Revised Edition 2013, the first edition was printed 2003; an indication of how busy the Corps has been recently.   Issued to all young officers and recruits under training. Copies available from: RM Historical Society, RM Museum, Eastney, Southsea, Hands PO4 9PX, www.rmhistorical.com

Royal Marines in action during the Falklands war, 1982. Image: Imperial War Musuem