Royal Marines in the Indian Ocean

24th Battalion, Royal Marines

The 24th Battalion, R.M. was formed at Katukurunda, Ceylon, with effect from 22nd July 1943 (possibly on 24th July).  It was commanded by Lt. Colonel F.A. Milliken, R.M.  The nucleus of the Battalion was formed from surplus personnel from the 11th Searchlight Regiment, R.M. which had been re-organised as part of the overall organisation of the 1st R.M. Group, M.N.B.D.O. I.  The new Battalion joined the 3 M.N.B. Brigade.  The Battalion was formed with a Headquarters, H.Q. Company and ‘A’ and ‘B’ Companies.  ‘C’ Company was not formed until 8th September.[1]

In the event of either a raid or a major invasion on the island of Ceylon, the 3 M.N.B. Brigade was to provide an infantry brigade headquarters, two infantry battalions and an independent infantry company.  In the event of such an emergency, the Brigade would come under the command of the 11th East African Infantry Division.  The 24th Battalion was one of the infantry battalions and the second was formed from the 3rd Coast Regiment and ‘S’ Searchlight Battery, organised into three infantry companies and to be called ‘Coast’ Battalion.  The independent infantry company was provided by the No.2 Landing Company.  While located at the Naval Air Station, Katukurunda, the 1st Coast Regiment, R.M. was to supplement the defence of the aerodrome.  This defence plan was superseded at the end of October, but with the second infantry battalion being provided by 2nd A.A. Regiment, R.M.[2]

The Battalion never attained full establishment.  ‘D’ Company was formed on 30th October 1943, following the arrival of 175 Other Ranks posted to the Battalion as reinforcements from the R.M. Base Depot, East Indies.  However, it seems that it was impossible to maintain the Battalion at its establishment of four rifle companies and on 16th December it was decided that ‘B’ and ‘C’ Companies should be amalgamated to form a new ‘B’ Company and that ‘D’ Company would undergo eight weeks training in early January 1944.  The re-organisation of ‘B’ Company took place on 22nd December.[3]

By the beginning of 1944, it had been decided to repatriate the Marines of M.N.B.D.O. I to the United Kingdom, where they would subsequently be used to support the invasion of Europe.  The 24th Battalion had moved to Colombo on 12th January 1944 and on 18th February it embarked upon H.M.T. C.85 which sailed the next day for the United Kingdom.  It disembarked at Greenock on 17th March and went to Johnstone.  On 18th March, the Battalion reverted to the command of 3 M.N.B. Brigade.  Transfers of men to other units began in April and ‘D’ Company was disbanded on 13th April.  The Battalion moved with the other elements of the Brigade to Largs on 5th May and more personnel posted away.  The Battalion was disbanded on 15th May 1944.[4]

09 July 2022

[1] War diary M.N.B.D.O. I, ADM 202/135; War diary 3rd Coast Regiment, R.M., ADM 202/192; War diary 3 Mobile Naval Base Brigade, ADM 202/190; “The Royal Marines, 1919-1980”, Ladd J.D., Jane’s (1980); War diary 24th Battalion, R.M., ADM 202/194

[2] ADM 202/190; ADM 202/194

[3] ADM 202/194; War diary 3 Mobile Naval Base Brigade, ADM 202/190; “The Royal Marines, 1919-1980”, Ladd J.D., Jane’s (1980)

[4] ADM 202/190; ADM 202/194; War diary M.N.B.D.O. I, ADM 202/136