This book focuses on the daily life of the Royal Marine Commando, from the Korean War of 1950 to the Falklands War of 1982. Fowler looks at recruitment, terms of service, training, equipment, daily life and the achievements of the Marines (in the chapter 'belief and belonging'). This material fills two thirds of the book, while twenty pages are devoted to life on campaign, looking at the variety of environments that the Commandos have operated in, and the marine in battle.
I would suggest reading the chapter on the Marine in Battle before the rest of the book, as much of the earlier material makes references to the Marine campaigns of the period. This chapter is not intended to be a comprehensive guide to the combat experience of the Marines during the period, but instead picks out four engagements – Suez, the Indonesian Confrontation, Aden and the Falklands – to demonstrate the different ways in which the Marines could operate.
The Chronology actually covers a wider period that the rest of the book, running from the creation of No.40 Commando RM in 1942 up to 2007. The actual period covered is well chosen, running between two conventional wars – Korea and the Falklands – and punctuated by a near-continuous series of more unusual conflicts. This period saw massive change throughout the British army and navy, from the partly conscript army of 1950 involved in the slow withdrawal from Empire, to the fully professional volunteer army of 1982, and these changes were reflected in the Marines and the Commandos.
Perhaps the most important change from the Marines point of view was the end of the period of the big-gun battleship and cruiser, and with it the end of the last of the Marines' traditional roles onboard ship (boarding parties and manning some of the guns by 1945 – protecting the officers against unrest from below decks hadn't been necessary for some time by then!). As a result the Marine Corps was able to focus on the Commando role during this period, becoming an elite force comparable to the Parachute Regiment, but with training in amphibious operations.
This is the sort of book that benefits greatly from having an author with relevant military experience. Although not a Marine himself the author was commissioned from the ranks in the Royal Green Jackets, and will have served alongside the Marines during the Gulf War of 1990-91. This is also reflected in the significant number of photographs taken from the author's collection, supported by some excellent pictures from the Royal Marine Museum.
Appearance and Dress
Belief and Belonging
Life on Campaign
The Marine in Battle
Museums and Collections
Author: Will Fowler