By an Order in Council dated 28th October 1664, King Charles II established the first Regiment of sea soldiers, the forerunners of the Royal Marines, and it was known at the Admiral’s Regiment.
From 1685 to 1689, the title was The Prince’s Regiment, then from 1690 to 1698 two Regiments of Marines were formed, briefly increased to four Regiments in 1698/1699. At this time it was the custom for each Regiment to bear the name of its Colonel. This tradition continued when six Regiments were raised in 1702.
The Marine Mutiny Act of 1755 set up The Corps of Marines, composed of 20 companies at Portsmouth, 18 at Plymouth and 12 at Chatham, each company consisted of 100 men. The next changes took place in August 1804 when the Royal Marine Artillery was formed, and the infantry companies designated as the Royal Marines Light Infantry in 1855.
The two branches continued their own developments until they were finally amalgamated into one force, The Royal Marines, in 1923.
ROYAL MARINES IN MALTA 1798 - 1979
After the Battle of the Nile in 1798, whilst off southern Italy, Admiral Sir James Saumarez learnt that the Maltese had risen in revolt against the French. His convoy continued its journey but became becalmed off Malta. On the 25th September 1798 a deputation of Maltese went on board the flagship Orion, to ask Sir James Saumarez for arms and ammunition, and at the same time told him that they believed the appearance of an English Squadron would induce the French garrison in Valletta to surrender. since it was besieged by the Maltese.
That day under a flag of truce a summons was sent to the French garrison asking them to surrender but the French Commander, General Vaubois, returned a brief reply:
"You have without doubt forgotten that Frenchmen are now at Malta. The future of its inhabitants is a matter which does not concern you. With regard to your summons to surrender; Frenchmen do not understand such style."
On receiving this answer Sir James Saumarez issued orders for arms and ammunition to be supplied to the Maltese. Captain James Weir, commanding the Marines on board HMS Audacious landed his men next to St.Pauls Bay, and once they had taken up their positions, the seamen began to land the armaments.
The Audacious then sailed expecting that after calling at Gibraltar, they would continue to England, where she would be paid off. Instead, when off the island of Pantelleria, orders were received for her to join Admiral Horatio Nelson at Naples.
The Maltese leaders had requested King Ferdinand IV of the Two Sicilies to take Malta under his protection, and to supply the Maltese with arms and ammunition. They also wrote to Admiral Nelson on 12th September, and he responded immediately by sending a Portuguese Squadron under Rear Admiral Marquis de Niza, with instructions to blockade Valletta.
When Nelson arrived at Naples on Saturday 22nd September he found that King Ferdinand had taken no action to help Malta, although the Neapolitan Government claimed sovereignty over the island. Without further delay, Admiral Nelson instructed Captain Alexander John Ball, R.N., of HMS Alexander, to join the blockade of Malta, together with the 32-gun frigate Terpsichore, and the 20-gun sloop Bonne Citoyenne.
Later he ordered the Marines and seamen to be landed on the island of Gozo, where first Fort Chambray was captured, and then the Citadel, where the French officer in command capitulated. Captain Cresswell of the HMS Alexander's Marines immediately took possession of the Citadel and hoisted the English colours. The following day on the orders from Nelson the Citadel was handed over to the Deputies of Gozo, and the colours of the King of Naples were hoisted, showing that England acknowledged King Ferdinand as lawful sovereign.
When further detachments of Marines were landed on Malta, taking the total to around 300 men, Nelson considered that a Field Officer was needed to command them. From Palermo, Nelson wrote to Captain James Weir, the senior Marine officer, on 6th December 1799, as follows:
" you are hereby required and directed to act as Major of the said Marine Corps during the time they may be employed at Malta. Willing and requiring all the officers and men subordinate to you to obey you as Major of the said Marine Corps accordingly"
The early months of 1800 brought no change in the stalemate with the French. The situation of the Maltese at this time was getting desperate, food was scarce and hundreds of the inhabitants were on the brink of starvation. These harsh conditions were made more difficult in March by an outbreak of malignant fever, which claimed a large number of lives.
Captain Ball R.N., who had assumed command of the island at the special request of the Maltese, was now in residence at the San Anton Palace.
In March 1800 the decision was made to raise the first Maltese Corps in English pay, and Major James Weir of the Marines was selected to head this new Corps.
So from the very beginning of British military involvement in Malta the Marines were an ever-present force on the island.
During the 1950’s the 3rd Commando Brigade Royal Marines was quartered in St.Andrew’s Barracks at Pembroke Camp, on the outskirts of St.Julians. It was composed of 40, 42 and 45 Commando. In 1957 Brigadier R.W. Madoc contacted the Chancellor of St.Paul’s Anglican Cathedral in Valletta, with a proposal:
"My dear Canon
Malta has been virtually the permanent home of 3rd Commando Brigade, Royal Marines since 1947 and during all our operations in the Mediterranean away from Malta our families and rear parties have remained here. During recent operations in Cyprus and Port Said a number of Officers and Other Ranks from this Formation were killed.
It is the wish of all ranks of 3rd Commando Brigade, Royal Marines that a memorial to these Officers and Other Ranks be erected in St.Paul’s Anglican Cathedral. On behalf of all ranks of 3rd Commando Brigade, Royal Marines I would like to offer to the Cathedral a screen for this Chapel, which could be dedicated as a permanent memorial to our dead."
The proposal was accepted and the project was put in hand. A dwarf wall with a dagger design carved on it was built to support the wrought iron screen. In the centre above the gates were metal figures of the crucifixion, and later the Royal Marines badge was added. At a special service on Friday 4th July 1958 the Chapel of Our Lady and St.George was dedicated by the Chaplain of the Fleet as the Royal Marines Memorial Chapel.
The 31st March 1979 was the date set for the British forces to withdraw from Malta. On the 22nd, the last of the Royal Marine Commandos, a company of 130 men led by ten Marine drummers marched from the Royal Air Force Station at Luqa to Vittoriosa where they boarded the ship Sir Lancelot for the voyage to England.
‘Royal Marines in Foreign Fields’ Malta, was the idea of Brian N. Tarpey, a retired Royal Marine living on the island. He is now the project co-ordinator, and has a small group of volunteers to help him.
The aims and objects are:
1. To locate, record and restore gravesites and monuments where necessary of Royal Marine personnel in Malta.
2. To locate, record and erect headstones over unmarked graves of Royal Marines in Malta within our capabilities.
3. To maintain gravesites and memorials of Royal Marines in Malta.
4. To erect memorials to Royal Marine units that served in Malta.
5. To assist former and serving Royal Marines and their families in search of their loved ones buried in Malta.
6. To record the voluntary works carried out in the Maltese islands by Royal Marines from visiting warships.
7. To undertake research and record the history of the Royal Marines at Malta since 1798.
Royal Marines in Foreign Fields is not connected in any way with RMA Malta.
Support in the form of donations has been received from the following branches of the Royal Marines Association:
Branches in the United Kingdom:
RMA Bradford & District
RMA City of London
RMA City of Winchester
RMA East Lancashire
RMA East Scotland
RMA Manchester & Salford
RMA North East Essex
RMA Stoke on Trent + Newcastle & District
RMA Windsor & District
Branches in Australia:
RMA Gold Coast Association
RMA Western Association
Branches in Canada:
The Royal Marines Historical Society
The Green Beret Association
HMS Implacable Association
Lincolnshire Family History Society
Royal Marines SNCO’s Reunion
Royal Marines (Plymouth) Lodge No.9528
Sea Cadet Corps (Crawley Unit)
Special Boat Service Association
41 (Independent) Commando Association
42 Commando Association
630 King's Squad Royal Marines (1954)
738 King's Squad Royal Marines (Year 1960 Group)
We thank the above groups for their donations as well as more than 218 individual supporters.
The Cenotaph - November 2009
The Cenotaph - November 2009
The Cenotaph - November 2009
The projects completed so far are:
Marine James Waters. Since his burial in 1858 in Ta’ Braxia Cemetery his grave remained unidentified until 2001.
Marine Charles Bailey. Since his burial in 1859 in Ta’ Braxia Cemetery his grave remained unidentified until 2002
Gunner George Bavister, R.M.A. Buried in Ta’ Braxia Cemetery, his headstone was badly fragmented by a bomb during the Second World War. Fortunately most of the pieces were found, and the headstone was re-constructed in 2002.
A Memorial Plaque to the Royal Marines who served with 3 Commando Brigade at Malta was unveiled during 2002 in Ta’ Braxia Cemetery.
An oak display case was made to house a Royal Marines Book of Remembrance, and installed in St.Paul’s Anglican Cathedral, Valletta in time for the Remembrance Day Service on 10th November 2002. The book records details of every Royal Marine who died in Malta between 1800 and 2000.
Granville Heriot. Buried in Ta’ Braxia Cemetery, the baby son of Captain G. Heriot, his gravestone had become badly discoloured and damaged since his funeral in 1900. It was cleaned and repaired during 2003. At the same time the graves of Major Miller, Captain Lindsell, and Lieutenant ‘Wings’ Day, all in Ta’Braxia Cemetery were cleaned.
On 10th January 2004 a stone bench was placed in Ta’ Braxia Cemetery, as a permanent memorial to the Royal Marines who died at sea. Either side of the inscription is a Corps Crest made of pewter. The bench is located close to the Cemetery Chapel
There were ten graves of Royal Marines in the Kalkara Naval Cemetery that did not have any identification. During 2004 this regrettable situation was dealt with by the placing of memorial stones on all of them.
KALKARA NAVAL CEMETERY
In December 2005, Royal Marines in Foreign Fields were able to identify and place markers on these six graves of Royal Marine children.
In April 2007 a large brass memorial tablet was unveiled in the Chapel of Ta Braxia Cemetery, to the Royal Marines who lost their lives on 22nd June 1893 whilst on board HMS Victoria when it was rammed by HMS Camperdown.
A second large brass memorial tablet was placed nearby in August 2007. This one records the Royal Marines who died when HMS Russell sank after hitting a German mine laid at the entrance to Grand Harbour on 27th April 1916.
During the All Souls Day Service held in the Chapel on 2nd November 2007 both memorials were dedicated by Chancellor Tom Mendel of St. Paul's Anglican Cathedral, Valletta.
Sergeant Frederick William Gronert was serving in Malta when his wife Doris gave birth to twins prematurely in King George V Hospital Floriana at the beginning of June 1934. The boy died two days later and the girl after ten days. Each was buried in Ta Braxia Cemetery. In February 1940 their father arranged for them to be placed in one grave.
Then came the Second World War after which the parents emigrated to New Zealand. Their granddaughter heard about the twins and contacted the Project Co-ordinator of Royal Marines in Foreign Fields, Brian N. Tarpey. Upon checking he found that the grave was unmarked and applied to the relevant authorities for permission to place a headstone on the site. After some delay approval was given, and on 2nd September 2009 the headstone was installed.
If you would like to help ‘Royal Marines in Foreign Fields’ Malta, please send us an e-mail and we shall be glad to let you have further details Enquiries to
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