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The Crest, Colours, Beret, Nicknames and Prayers of the Royal Marines

Categories // Researching Family and Royal Marine History

The Crest, Colours, Beret, Nicknames and Prayers of the Royal Marines
 The Corps Crest

(The Corps Crest is a Crown Copyright device that should not be used without permission)

The Corps Colours

YELLOW (Old Gold) The coat colour in 1664 - one part

GREEN (Light Infantry Green) Perpetuates Light Infantry title - one part

RED (Drummer Red) The infantry tunic colour until 1876 - two parts

BLUE (Navy Blue) The connection with the Royal Navy - eight parts

The Green Beret

During the early days of Commandos, ranks continued to wear their own regimental headdress and cap badge. There were 79 different badges being worn in No 1 Commando alone! In 1942, the officers of this Commando decided that matters should be regularised and that a beret would be most practicable. The Royal Tank Regiment had worn a black beret for many years and the recently formed Parachute Regiment had chosen a maroon beret. No 1 Commando wore a flash on their arm depicting a green salamander going through fire, which gave a choice between green, red and yellow. Green was deemed to be the most suitable. Their submission to the Chief of Combined Operations was forwarded by Lord Mountbatten to the Under-Secretary of State for War in a letter of 1st May 1942 and the first issue to Royal Marines Commandos was made in October that year. A local firm of tam-oshanter makers in Irvine (Ayrshire) produced a beret made from some green cloth of the colour still worn today.

Nicknames & Sayings

Jollies - This was the nickname of the Trained Bands of the City of London, who provided many of the recruits for the first regiment formed for service at sea. It is a term seldom used today but is to be found in Rudyard Kipling's poem "Soldier an' Sailor too" and Kenneth Alford's march composition "H.M. Jollies". At one time a Royal Marine was often called "Joey", although the term eventually died out, the subaltern of a ship's RM detachment was usually referred to as ‘Young Joe’, whilst the officer commanding the detachment was always ‘Major’, and the senior NCO was known as "Sergeant Major", regardless of his rank.

Royal - Naval mess-deck slang for a Royal Marine. Naval officers normally referred to their RM counterparts as "Soldier".

Lobsters - A very old nickname for a soldier because of their scarlet tunics. The RMLI, known as ‘The Red Marines’, were therefore ‘Lobsters’, whilst the RMA, ‘The Blue Marines’ were ‘Unboiled Lobsters’, all terms seldom heard today. Sailors also used to call Marines ‘Turkeys’.

Les Petits Grenadiers - In the 18th and 19th century Grenadiers were amongst the tallest and bravest men in a battalion. At the capture of Belle Isle in 1761, the headdress of the Marines was very similar but smaller than that worn by Grenadiers. Although of normal stature, their fighting ability and behaviour in battle were exemplary, resulting in the French referring to them as "Les Petits Grenadiers".

Bootneck - A term deriving its origins from the leather 'stock' worn round the neck inside the collar by soldiers. Sailors goaded Marines by saying "Take my sea boots off your neck”, implying that a piece had been cut from his boots to serve as a stock. The expression is now used widely to mean a Royal Marine.

Leatherneck - A term having the same origin as 'Bootneck' but normally applied to the United States Marine and it is the title of their monthly magazine.

Dead Marine - Means an empty wine bottle. Lt Col W P Drury RMLI, a noted writer of naval stories and playwright, relates that the Duke of Clarence used the expression at a dinner party and when a Colonel of Marines looked annoyed, the future King William IV explained that 'He has done his duty once, and is ready to do it again'.

Tell It To The Marines - Often used with a sneer, as though it meant that only a Marine would be credulous enough to believe it. Colonel Drury wrote on the contrary that it was a test of truth as Marines, who served all over the world could verify or belie any 'wild' story. Sir Walter Scott used the expression in 'Red Gauntlet' (1824) and Lord Byron in 'The Island' (1823).

Horse Marines - An expression giving an idea of incongruity, from the absurd thought of mounted men on board ship. Nevertheless over the years Marines have often carried out mounted duties ashore. However the term is likely to have originated from two troops of the 17th Light Dragoons (now the Queen's Royal Lancers) which served afloat in HMS Success in the West Indies in 1795, but whether in fact they acted as Marines is not known.

Royal Marines Prayers

The Royal Marines Prayer

O Eternal Lord God, who through many generations has united and inspired the members of our Corps, grant Thy blessing, we beseech Thee, on Royal Marines serving all round the GLOBE. Bestow Thy CROWN of Righteousness upon all our efforts and endeavours and may our LAURELS be those of gallantry and honour, loyalty and courage. We ask these things in the Name of Him, whose courage never failed, our Redeemer, Jesus Christ. Amen

The Royal Marines Band Service Prayer

Almighty and eternal Lord God, in whose sight and love live our memories of many generations of those who have served You in the Band Service of the Royal Marines: we thank You for the rich heritage of music placed in our hands, and for the joy and inspiration which it brings to men; enable us with our whole hearts to serve You, that by Your grace and through our gift of music, we may continue to inspire, help and lead men; we ask these things in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

At Royal Marines church and drum-head services the following special second verse of "Eternal Father strong to save" is often sung:

O, Holy Spirit grant, we pray

To Royal Marines, both night and day,
The courage, honour, strength and skill
Their land to serve, Thy law fulfil
Be Thou our shield forever more
From every peril to the Corps.

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