'R.M.F.V.R. - formation’

House of Lords - Extract from Hansards 12 February 1948
The First Lord of the Admiralty (Viscount Hall)

My Lords, the Bill of which I am asking your Lordships for the Second Reading this afternoon is, I think, uncontroversial. The Bill has two objects designed to one main purpose, and that is to increase the reserves available to the Royal Marines on mobilization. Although the numbers involved in this Bill are small, I am sure that your Lordships will all recognize that it deals with a very fine body of men.

The Corps of Royal Marines was first raised from trained bands of the City of London about 300 years ago. From the outset it was constantly in use for naval purposes, and the first major engagement on land took place in the capture of Gibraltar in 1704. This was the beginning of a long record of gallant service and proud tradition, culminating in the actions of the Second World War in Crete, France, Holland and elsewhere. Many of our famous Service leaders have spoken in the highest terms of the value of the Marines to the country. Admiral Lord St. Vincent actually used the words: If ever the hour of real danger should come to England they will be found the country's sheet anchor.

Times change and this can no longer be said of what, for all the glory of their past, is now a comparatively small body of men. Nevertheless, for its size the Corps is now no less a vital component of our Armed Forces than it has been in earlier times, a fact brought about no more by the increased functions lately assigned to them than by the conspicuous gallantry which they have displayed in all those actions in which they have taken part.

As I have said, the purpose of this Bill is to increase the reserves available to the Marines on mobilization. The present system of reserves relies only on pensioners who are over forty years of age and on voluntary entrants into the Royal Fleet Reserve, and we consider that these will no longer be sufficient to meet requirements. The reason is that the functions of the Marines have increased considerably. Before the Second World War their main function was to provide detachments on board ship—and only on large ships—to man parts of the armament and to be used on operations on shore under the Naval Commander-in-Chief.

Their functions have now been extended, principally in the all-important field of combined operations. They have now to undertake the manning of assault craft and the provision of commando and special amphibious assault units. In addition, they have duties in connexion with beach communications, beach control and naval bombardment. It is for these purposes that we need an increase in the number of Royal Marines.

The Bill therefore provides, as a first object, for the creation of a Royal Marine Forces Volunteer Reserve, on the model of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, the members of which will, when called up, serve as Marines. This means that their terms of pay and conditions of service will be those of the Marines, and that their disciplinary code will rest on the Naval Discipline Act or the Army Act, according to whether they serve afloat or ashore.

The second object of the Bill is to provide for the enlistment of Royal Marines for Special Service; that is, to serve part of their twelve years on active service and the rest in the Royal Fleet Reserve. The actual periods of service are left indefinite in the Bill, for they will be determined by regulation, as in the case of the Royal Navy. For the Royal Navy the periods of active service and service in the Reserve are normally seven years and five years respectively, and it is contemplated that the arrangements for the Royal Marines will be similar. Provision is made for a Royal Marine so enlisted to be transferred to a long-service engagement by mutual consent, thus bringing the engagement systems of the Royal Navy and the Royal Marines into line.

Your Lordships will see that Clause 1 of the Bill is devoted entirely to the first object, and, similarly, Clause 2 to the second. Clause 1 (1) makes it lawful to raise a Volunteer Reserve for the Royal Marines. The number is not limited by law, but for a start we aim at a figure of about 1,500. I cannot say what the ultimate figure will be, but 1,500 is the immediate aim. Subsection (2) places the Reserve in the same legal position as the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, with the proviso that when mobilized its members serve as Marines and not as seamen. This has been done by applying the Statutes which govern the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. Subsections (3) and (4) add the Royal Marine Forces Volunteer Reserve to the list of Naval Reserves in the various Acts and Statutes where they are already mentioned. Subsection (6) repeals the long obsolete Section 2 of the Naval Forces Act, 1903.

Clause 2 (1) allows Marines to be entered for Special Service on the lines I have indicated. Subsection (2) is technical. The Royal Marines Act says that at a certain point in his service a man may do certain things. For example, he may re-engage for service or he may have certain things done to him; he may be brought home from abroad. This subsection provides that for a Special Service Marine the date to which those things are related will be the end of the active service part of his engagement, rather than after his completed service which, legally, includes his period with the Reserve. It is made clear that a Royal Marine may transfer from Special to Continuous Service. There is a similar provision in the Royal Navy.

In conclusion, may I repeat that the Force for which we now desire to form a Voluntary Reserve, and to provide for Special Service enlistment, has a splendid tradition of action and gallantry. There can, I think, be no possible doubt but that the men required will come forward, and that in emergency they will follow honourably and with distinction in the 1038 footsteps of those who have made the title "The Royals" what it means to the world to-day. I feel sure that your Lordships will welcome this Bill and it is therefore with confidence that I ask for a Second Reading. I beg to move.

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