Royal Marines

The Royal Marines date their origins to 1664 when 1200 soldiers were recruited to a force known as the Lord Admiral’s Regiment and distributed through the fleet. Until 1755 marine regiments were formed for specific conflicts and disbanded. In that year, however, the British Navy was reorganized and marines became a permanent force with numbers attached to most large ships of the fleet.

During the Napoleonic Wars, when Britain fought with France from 1803 to 1815, marines served in every major naval battle. In those wars the British Navy established supremacy at sea that it held through the nineteenth century.

Marines were seagoing soldiers. They provided firepower during close action at sea and they were landed to raid shore defences. They were used to prevent mutiny and ensure sailors stayed at their posts during battle. In the early nineteenth century marines also played a role in maintaining civil order in British colonies and in 1831 they were used to quash strikers in a coal dispute in Newcastle, United Kingdom.

There was a complement of marines onboard the first fleet that took convicts to Sydney in 1788. They provided the first security for the infant colony until they were replaced by the New South Wales Corp from 1790.

For the new colony of South Australia Royal Marines would provide defence against outside threats and guard civil order. Thirty six marines arrived in 1836 including the twenty that Rosina Ferguson counted on the Buffalo. The South Australian Company had refused a request for regular troops. Instead male emigrants who received free passage were required to serve in the defence of the colony but, in fact, they were never called to action. By 1840 twenty police replaced the marines guarding order in the Colony of South Australia.

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