Royal Marines in the Indian Ocean

‘W’ Company, R.M. Auxiliary Battalion – No. 2 Landing Company, R.M.

‘W’ Company, R.M. Auxiliary Battalion

In September 1941, information was received by the Royal Marine Auxiliary Battalion, based on the Orkney Islands, that a new company – ‘W’ Company – was to be formed and held ready to join M.N.B.D.O. I.  However, it was not until 22nd November that the one officer and 122 men of ‘W’ Company left for M.N.B.D.O. I at Hayling Island.  Upon arrival, ‘W’ Company was attached to M.N.B.D.O. II for training.[1]

It seems that ‘W’ Company left for overseas duty in early 1942.  The ship carrying the Company, H.M.T. Y16, arrived at Aden on 1st March 1942.  The ship left Aden on 3rd March and arrived at Suez on 8th March where the men disembarked and went to Camp 42 at Geneifa, at the southern end of the Little Bitter Lake, Suez Canal.  The Company was under the command of the 1st Royal Marine Group, M.N.B.D.O. I.  At Geneifa, the Marines set about making camp and building accommodation.  On 24th March, orders were received for the Company to form an infantry unit for the defence of vulnerable points in the event of an enemy parachute landing.  Under the command of the 2nd Anti-Aircraft Regiment, R.M., an infantry company, less one platoon, was formed.  In the meantime, ‘W’ Company continued to construct defence positions and other facilities in the Geneifa area.  On 10th April, No.1 Platoon moved to the Coast Artillery Practice Camp at Alexandria to undertake similar work until it returned to Geneifa on 14th June.  Later, the Company was involved at Abu Sultan on the Great Bitter Lake in the unloading of ships carrying dangerous munitions.[2]

No. 2 Company, Landing & Maintenance Unit, Royal Marine Group, M.N.B.D.O. I

Back in the United Kingdom, on 1st October 1942, the R.M. Auxiliary Battalion was re-titled to become the 19th Battalion, R.M. During October, ‘W’ Company ceased to have any affiliation with the R.M. Auxiliary Battalion and became part of the Landing and Maintenance Unit, R.M. as No. 2 Company.  No.2 Company did not immediately join the Landing & Maintenance Unit in Ceylon, and for the time being remained in Egypt at Geneifa under the direct command of the 1st R.M. Group.  During November and December 1942, No. 1 Platoon unloaded mustard gas containers from ships at Fanara, to the south of Abu Sultan.[3]

In June 1943, preparations were made to embark No. 2 Company for service in Ceylon.  Loading and embarkation on board H.M.T. V.V 1042 [presumed to be the Dominion Monarch] was completed by 16th June and the ship sailed later that day.  The ship’s anti-aircraft guns were manned Marines of No. 2 Company.  Upon arrival at Colombo on 26th June, the men disembarked and went to Richard’s Rest Camp.  The Company was soon involved in clearing ground and construction work in the Colombo area and at Chatham Camp.  Between 6th and 31st July, one officer and eleven men went to Addu Atoll for diving operations.  An additional detachment of the Company remained in Suez; two officers and 61 men being attached to 102 Docks Operating Company throughout July and not re-joining the Company in Ceylon until 25th August.[4] 

No. 2 Landing Company, 3 Mobile Naval Base Brigade

During August 1943, the Company was re-titled to become No. 2 Landing Company under Major U.R.S. Burke.  The No.2 Landing Company came under the command of 3 Mobile Naval Base Brigade on 23rd August 1943.  The Company moved to Katukurunda on 29th August and began operational training.  It was involved in building camps in the Katukurunda area and continued with intensive training throughout the following months.  The diving detachment returned from Addu Atoll on 11th September.  When this brigade was given the role of defending the Katukurunda area as an ‘Emergency Infantry Organisation’, No.2 Landing Company provided an infantry company to act as an independent unit.  The Company left the Brigade on 13th December when it reverted to the direct command of the Royal Marine Group, M.N.B.D.O. I.[5]

No. 2 Company, Royal Marine Group, M.N.B.D.O. I

The Company returned to Richard’s Rest Camp near Colombo on 20th January 1944.  It moved again on 11th February; this time to Echelon Barracks, Colombo and began preparations for embarkation on board H.M.T. C.85.  This was completed on 18th February and the ship carrying the Company sailed the next day for the United Kingdom.[6]

The Company arrived in the River Clyde on the afternoon of 15th March 1944 and disembarked the next day.  Most personnel boarded a train at Greenock for East Kilbride.  Here, the men de-trained and went into the East Rogerton Camp.  Towards the end of the month, around 90 percent of personnel left on Foreign Service Leave.  The Company moved to Irvine at the end of April and was still there at the end of May when the war diary ends.[7]

02 July 2022

[1] Royal Marine Auxiliary Battalion – 19 Battalion, R.M., ADM 202/181

[2] ‘W’ Company, R.M. Auxiliary Battalion – No.2 Landing Company, R.M., ADM 202/178

[3] ADM 202/178; ADM 202/181; War diary MNBDO I, ADM 202/134

[4] ADM 202/178

[5] ADM 202/178

[6] ADM 202/178; War diary 3 Mobile Naval Base Brigade, ADM 202/190

[7] ADM 202/178