Tom from Cornwall wrote: ↑
25 Apr 2021 17:33
daveshoup2MD wrote: ↑
24 Apr 2021 23:58
The six Marine infantry battalions were organized by taking RM personnel assigned to naval duties and organizing them as infantry; 116th and 117th brigades were the result, and they served in 21st AG (source is Joslyn) in 1945
Weren't these RM landing craft crew and turret crew from battleships which were no longer required after D-day and the decommissioning of some of the older British battleships?
That's my understanding, but given they were operational in 1945, it seems reasonable clear they were well-trained and capable light infantry. There's an open question of whether using RMs as landing craft crew was a reasonable decision; given the scale of the RN and the number of impressive yet elderly warships still in commission in 1943-44, seems clear sailors could
have been found for the same duties.
As it was, the Royal Marines were, to be blunt, used questionably by the British high command in WW 2. In a war that was defined, in large part, by amphibious warfare, the RM spent most of the war years in their traditional shipboard roles of gunners/etc. (a capital ship generally had 100 to 200 RMs aboard), security/garrison needs in the UK and other established naval bases, or their interwar-developed role of a combined arms defense force for overseas naval bases (the "Mobile Naval Base Defense Organization," or MNBDO), which were - essentially - brigade-sized mixes of infantry, coast artillery, AA artillery, etc. who were "mobile" the sense they could be deployed to build-up a functioning naval base in an otherwise austere location, but were "static" once they arrived.
In WW 2, the RM increased from some 13,000 officers and men (regulars and reserves) in 1938 to 82,000 in 1943, and along with providing detachments for the larger ships of the RN, security and garrison duties, and the manpower sufficient for two MNBDOs, designated (creatively) MNBDO I (established prewar, and designated as such in 1939) and MNBDO II (established in 1941). Through a complex series of deployments and detachments, much of MNBDO I ended up serving in the Indian Ocean and much of MNBDO II in the Med, although elements of I also served in the Med and elements of II also served in northwest Europe. These two formations gave rise to the 1st, 2nd, and 5th RM AA brigades, of which the 5th was (basically) a conglomeration of the 1st and 2nd for service in NW Europe in 1944.
By the end of 1943, RM manpower broke (roughly) down as follows:
14,000 - landing craft crew;
11,000 - headquarters and depots;
8,000 - Fleet duties (shipboard detachments);
7,000 - Special service (commandos);
42,000 - RN base duties, FAA, training units, RM engineers, Allied/joint/combined staffs, etc.
It is worth noting that in a conflict defined by amphibious assaults, only about 7,000 RM were assigned to what amounted to light infantry units trained and equipped for amphibious assaults...
It is also worth noting that the majority of those 7,000 RMs were late arrivals to the "commando" role; before 1943, only two commandos (basically, an understrength infantry battalion) had been made up of RM personnel; most of the commandos were made up of soldiers before 1943. The first RM unit was originally formed as "The RM Commando" in February, 1942, and then redesignated as 40 RM Commando; the second was formed in October, 1942, as 41 RM Commando, largely by redesignating the existing 8th RM Battalion (infantry).
In mid-1943, the majority of the RM's land warfare capabilities were found in an understrength light infantry division designated as "The Royal Marine Division," formed as such in August, 1940. On paper, its organization was (more or less) as follows:
RM Division headquarters - CG: MG Sir Robert Grice Sturges
Division Troops: 15 RM Battalion (MG); 18 RM Battalion (Mobile/Recce); RM Division Engineers (Battalion); RM Division Signals; etc.
101 RM Brigade (hq); 102 RM Brigade (hq); RM Division Artillery
1st RM Battalion; 2nd RM Battalion; 3rd RM Battalion; 5th RM Battalion; 10th RM Battalion;
RM Field Artillery Regiment (Battalion)
RM Anti-tank Regiment (Battalion)
RM 1st Beach Group
RM 2nd Beach Group
Two more RM infantry battalions existed; the 7th was in the Med as an independent battalion, and had absorbed the 9th RM Battalion in May, 1942, while the 11th RM Battalion was in the Indian Ocean.
Now, historically, the division sketched above was converted in 1943 to either a) commando units (the historical 42-48 RM Commandos), or b) landing craft crews (the 14,000 men mentioned above). The division headquarters was converted from an operational hq to an administrative one, becoming headquarters of the Special Service Group in the UK in August, 1943, while the brigade headquarters provided personnel for elements of what became the four Special Service/Commando brigades of 1944-45.
Then, of course, in 1945, two more brigade headquarters - 116 and 117 RM Brigades - were formed, using a mixed group of personnel, to provide additional light infantry for NW Europe.
There were a fair number of reasons - doctrine, the British conscript manpower crisis of 1944-45, inter-service rivalries, etc. - as to why all of the above occurred, but it certainly raises the issue of whether the mass conversion of seven RM infantry battalions to seven RM commando battalions, and the provision of 14,000 landing craft crew, was really the best use of trained light infantry like the RMs.
14,000 landing craft crew is essentially the equivalent of the crews of the four elderly Revenge
class battleships, the surviving WW I-era cruisers, and some - not even all - of the US-built destroyers and escort sloops transferred to the RN in 1940-41. Laying up some or all of these vessels in 1943-44 would have provided ore than enough sailors to replace the RMs used as landing craft crews, historically.
Again, the RMs and converted AA battalions were not ideal solutions for the British Army's manpower shortage in 1944, but they were a resource that presumably could have been available earlier; same for the Bevin Boys' conscripts for the coal industry, the RAF Regiment, the infantry assigned to motor battalions in non-divisional armoured brigade groups, the infantry converted to airborne roles, the infantry assigned to British Army beach groups, and manpower sources in the UK and elsewhere that were not (historically) tapped to the levels that Britain's major Western Allies chose to do so...