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New South Wales Marine Corps
Private of Marines.jpg
The uniform of the British Marines. Engraving by Joseph Stadler, 1815.
Active 1786-1791
Country United Kingdom United Kingdom
Branch Her Majesty's Naval Service
Type Marine Infantry
Size One battalion
Colours Wreath of thistles and roses on white background[1]
Major Robert Ross 1786-1791

The New South Wales Marine Corps (1786-1791) was an ad hoc unit that the Admiralty created to provide guards for the convicts that the First Fleet carried to Botany Bay, New South Wales, and to preserve "subordination and regularity" in the proposed penal colony there.[2] The Marines served at Port Jackson and Norfolk Island.

In 1789 the British government established the New South Wales Corps as a permanent regiment to relieve the New South Wales Marine Corps.[3] The fourth company, under Captain George Johnston, of this regiment consisted of those members of the New South Wales Marine Corps wishing to remain in NSW.

On 18 December 1791 HMS Gorgon left Port Jackson taking home the last company of the New South Wales Marine Corps. The marines leaving included Robert Ross, Watkin Tench, William Dawes, and Ralph Clark. Of the departure, Tench said, “we hailed it with rapture and exhilaration”.

Establishment[edit | edit source]

The Corps was established on 31 August 1786 with assent from King George III for a force of 160 enlisted marines and accompanying officers to attend the settlement of New South Wales "... for the purpose of enforcing subordination and obedience in the settlement [at Botany Bay], as well as for defence of that settlement against the incursions of the natives."[4]

In 1787-88 four companies of marines, numbering some 213 men under Major Robert Ross, accompanied the First Fleet to Botany Bay.[5] The Board of Ordnance had provided one thousand carbines and ten thousand musket flints for Marine use in New South Wales,[6] but due to an oversight in provisioning, the Fleet left Portsmouth without any substantial supply of ammunition.[7] The error was kept a secret from the convicts in order to avoid an uprising, and was addressed via resupply when the fleet made port in Rio de Janeiro midway through the voyage.[7]

Volunteers for the NSW Marine Corps were required to have had a satisfactory prior record of service in the British Marines, to be at least 5 feet 6 inches (1.68 m) tall and under forty years of age. Recruits were offered an initial two-guinea inducement to volunteer for the Corps.[5]

A key inducement was that although British Marine enlistment was traditionally for life, members of the New South Wales Marine Corps could seek an honourable discharge after three years of colonial service.[8] With an eye to the likelihood of delays in setting out, the three-year term would commence on arrival of the Fleet in New South Wales, rather than the dates of Marine enlistment in England.[9] Marines who chose this option had no automatic right of return to military service after discharge, but in practice few were refused re-entry when their service expired in 1791.

Rates of pay were in accordance with those of the British Marines, including routine provision of a subsistence allowance equivalent to two-thirds of daily pay. British Marines received the allowance when in the field (i.e., not serving on board a vessel); the NSW Marines received the allowance for the duration of their three-year enlistment, relieving the Admiralty or the government of the colony of the responsibility of providing messing facilities.[8] New South Wales Marine Corps uniforms consisted of a red long-tailed doublet, white trousers, black headdress, and shoes and gaiters. Officers were authorized to carry swords and sidearms; other ranks were issued Brown Bess muskets.[5]

Precedent[edit | edit source]

The New South Wales Corps helped establish a precedent for the creation of ad hoc units for overseas service under the aegis of the Royal Marines. One example, from the Americas and the War of 1812, was the Corps of Colonial Marines, recruited from freed slaves.

Citations and references[edit | edit source]

  1. Moore 1987, p. 33
  2. Correspondence from Lord Sydney to the Lords Commissioners of Treasury, 18 August 1786. Cited in Britton 1978, p. 14.
  3. "102nd Regiment of Foot". Regiments.org (archived version). Archived from the original on 13 January 2008. http://web.archive.org/web/20080113060612/http://www.regiments.org/regiments/uk/inf/102-808.htm. Retrieved 4 January 2013. 
  4. Correspondence, The Lords of the Admiralty to His Majesty the King, 21 November 1786. Cited in Bladen (ed.) 1978, pp. 372-373
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 First Fleet Fellowship - Marines,[1] - accessed 1 July 2015.
  6. Moore 1989, p. 27
  7. 7.0 7.1 Moore 1989, p. 41
  8. 8.0 8.1 Moore 1989, p.8
  9. Moore 1989, pp. 22-23
  • Bladen, F. M., ed (1978). Historical records of New South Wales. Vol. 2. Grose and Paterson, 1793-1795.. Lansdown Slattery & Co.. ISBN 0868330035. 
  • Britton, Alex R., ed (1978). Historical records of New South Wales. Vol. 1, part 2. Phillip, 1783-1792.. Lansdown Slattery & Co.. p. 56. OCLC 219911274. 
  • Moore, John (1989). The First Fleet Marines. University of Queensland Press. ISBN 0702220655. 

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