10 Royal Marines’ stories

At the heart of the new Royal Marines Museum will be the history of the Royal Marines from 1664 through to present day. Personal stories of wars, battles and events of great significance, will make the history of the Royal Marines come to life.

The Curators at the Museum collect and display contemporary material so that the story of our history is told up to the present day, allowing visitors to appreciate the extraordinary acts of heroism and bravery of Royal Marines deployed around the world today.


Best Foot Forward: the Story Of CSgt Issac Peppin (Pippin)

CSgt Issac Peppin (Pippin)

Issac Peppin continued to be a well known character in the Royal Marines long after he completed his 22 years service. In 1902, aged 70, he walked the South Coast of Britain to witness the Coronation of King Edward VII, stopping on route at the Royal Marines divisions. Starting from his home town Plymouth, he visited Royal Marines at Gosport, Portsmouth, Chatham and Walmer. It isn't known whether he walked all the way back to Plymouth after he'd finished!

He spent over 16 years at sea during his 22 years as a Marine. He earned a Baltic Medal serving aboard ship during the Crimean War. He also received a Long Service Good Conduct Medal and a Meritorious Service Medal.


Two Swords Torrens

Two Swords Torrens

In 1811, Royal Navy and Royal Marines tensions over status and power came to a head during a disagreement about battle rewards after the 'Defence of Anholt'.

Governor of the Anholt Garrison Captain Maurice RN wrote up the actions of the Defence of Anholt, downplaying the efforts of the Royal Marines officers and garrison, and instead focussed on the achievements of the Royal Navy frigates, petitioning for their officers' promotion.

In retaliation, the garrison, made up almost exclusively of Royal Marines, presented Captain Torrens with a sword. Torrens, realising it would not help the relations with the admiralty, refused to accept it until Maurice had received one. The officers of the garrison then presented Torrens with another sword, and relations between Maurice and Torrens broke down. Court martial and counter court martial followed, and eventually both Maurice and Torrens were removed from their commands.


Most Decorated Serving Royal Marine – WO1 Matthew Tomlinson

WO1 Matthew Tomlinson

Matthew Tomlinson is unique amongst serving Royal Marines having been awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross (the second highest award after the Victoria Cross) and the Military Cross.

He was awarded his Conspicuous Gallantry Cross for actions in Iraq where he was on secondment with the United States Marine Corps. When his small craft came under fire on a river, Tomlinson created the element of surprise of advancing towards the enemy and attacking them. He then engaged the enemy in close quarter fighting whilst his men encircled the enemy. When his men were low on ammunition he again provided cover fire so that the men could once again board the boats, finally calling in air support to strike the enemy.

His Military Cross was awarded under more tragic circumstances, He was serving in a VIKING armoured vehicle convoy in Afghanistan. The vehicle in front was blown up by an IED (improvised explosive device). Tomlinson rushed to help the injured Marines in the burning vehicle. He helped to rescue the injured driver, however, the gunner, Mne Jason Mackie, was already dead when he found him. Tomlinson continued to evacuate casualties and return Taliban enemy fire.


A Family Affair: the Flory Family and their Royal Marine Service

Flory Family

The medals of eight members of the Flory family span Victorian campaigns in the 1880's to the Korean War in the 1950's.

The oldest group belongs to Lance Corporal Arthur Flory who served for twenty two years, including in the Egyptian campaign in 1882-89. He was discharged in 1901 and spent 11 years in the reserve. He was recalled to duty at the age of 56 during the First World War and died in service in 1919.

Five of Arthur Flory's son's served in the Royal Marines during the First World War. Two of the sons were killed; Frederick Cornelius from wounds sustained in the Dardanelles in 1915 and Albert Edward was killed at the Battle of Jutland 1916.

The next of kin of each Commonwealth fatality of the First World War received a commemorative plaque.


Half a Century's Service: Sam Bassett

Sam Bassett

Sam Bassett's career started in 1907 and lasted 53 years. He served in both World Wars. In the First World War he served entirely at Sea. During the Russian Revolution his Russian language skills were utilised when he helped process Russian refugees in Novorossiysk in 1919, for this he was awarded the Order of St Stanislaus.

During the Second World War he worked in the Combined Operations intelligence department. His work included collating photographs and maps of areas for raids including Cockleshell Heroes, Telemark, and the Dambusters. His office also had to sift 40,000 images of France to enable planning of the Normandy (D-Day) landings in June 1944. For this he was awarded the United States Legion of Merit and French Legion of Honour.


Fit For a King: Captain Green and the Royal Yacht

Captain Green

The Band of the Royal Marine Artillery was given the honour of becoming the official Band of the Royal Yacht after they impressed King Edward VII.

The band, under Captain Green, played at many prominent events such as the funeral of Queen Victoria, King Edward VII's Coronation and on a Royal tour to India. Whilst Green was a Director of Music the band visited and played for those serving on the Western Front on several occasions during the First World War.

Captain B S Green had become Bandmaster of the Royal Marine Artillery band in 1897, having become a musician at the age of 12 in the Hussars, and risen through the ranks. When he retired from the Royal Marine Artillery in 1919 he had fifty seven years of service in military bands.

The energy, musical skills and leadership of Green raised the standard of the RMA Band, gaining both public and royal recognition.
The Band of HM Royal Marines Portsmouth carried on this Royal legacy, playing on subsequent Royal Yachts, denoted by the badge 'Royal Yacht'. When the last Royal Yacht was decommissioned the Queen stated the badge 'Royal Band' should continue to be worn as a mark of the association.


Fighting Nicolls

Fighting Nicolls

Sir Edward Nicolls earned the nickname 'Fighting Nicolls' after he reputedly was in action 107 times. During his active Royal Marine career between 1795 and 1835, he had his left leg broken, right leg severely wounded, he was shot through the body and the right arm, and lost sight of an eye.

During the siege of Curacao (1804) Nicolls successfully commanded Royal Marines to defeat the French and Dutch enemy despite being vastly outnumbered by a force of 500 to his 190 Marines.

Nicolls commanded the Marines who captured the island of Anholt (1809) forcing the Danish to surrender at the force of bayonet as the Marines powder had become wet and unusable during the landing from boats. He was rewarded for this by being made Governor of the island of Anholt.

He also raised and commanded a Regiment of Indians during the American War of 1812, where he was wounded three times.
Retiring from active service in 1835, he received a Knighthood in 1855.


Around the Globe: WO1 Barrie 'Bogey' Knight

WO1 Barrie 'Bogey' Knight

Barrie was involved in most conflicts the Royal Marines were involved in after the Second World War. Joining in 1958, he went to Malaya, Borneo, the Persian Gulf, Aden, Northern Ireland and the Falklands.

Barrie was Sergeant Major on board HMS Fearless during the Falklands War. His responsibilities during the conflict included: the care of survivors from tragedies such as HMS Antelope, Sir Tristram and Sir Galahad, the resupply of weapons, kit and ammunition of those on board.

Those aboard Fearless also deployed to the Falklands via Landing Craft. Barrie had to ensure each of those troops boarding the landing craft did so safely, especially as they were all carrying so much ammunition and other equipment.

Barrie was the last Sergeant Major to ring the bell in the Sergeant's Mess at Eastney when the barracks closed in 1991. He retired in 1993, as Corps Property Warrant Officer.


Thinker, Painter, Forger, Spy: Captain Guy Griffiths

Captain Guy Griffiths

Guy Griffiths, a Royal Marines Aviator, was captured by the Germans eleven days after the outbreak of the Second World War, and spent the rest of the war as a Prisoner of War (POW).

He was dive bombing a U-Boat when the bomb he was dropping detonated early and the explosion hit his plane, causing him to crash.
Whilst a POW he was in a camp made famous by the film, 'The Great Escape'. He helped people in the escape attempts by forging documents and concealing tunnels. He also used to send coded letters to the Royal Marines Magazine the “Globe and Laurel” about people in the camp to British Secret Services.

He amused his fellow Prisoners by producing cartoons. He also confused the Germans by painting fake British planes.


A Souvenir to Take Home: James Preston and his 'Boxer' Flag

James Preston

When the Chinese group known as the 'Boxers' started an uprising in China and threated the foreign Legations in Peking (Beijing), an international force was assembled for the 'defence of legations.' The Royal Marine Light Infantry served alongside a host of nationalities including the US Marines as the legations were placed under siege by the Boxers.

James Preston was one of the 79 Royal Marines (76 men and 3 officers) involved in the defence. On 14th July 1900 he was involved in fighting on the barricades and captured an enemy flag which had been placed on one of them, at the same time keeping the enemy at bay. For this and other actions he was awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal and Distinguished Conduct Medal, the only Royal Marine to receive this combination of gallantry awards.