Book Review– By Sea, By Land: The Authorised History of the Royal Marines

By Sea, By Land by James D. Ladd

By Sea, By Land: The Authorised History of the Royal Marines by James D. Ladd is a detailed history of the Royal Marines in the 20th Century. The title comes from the Royal Marines motto: “Per Mare, Per Terram.” Ladd was a Royal Marine before he became a journalist and a widely respected military historian. He was the author of several leading military books including Commandos and Rangers of World War II. He died in 2006.

As a United States Marine, we were taught that we were the American extension of the Royal Marines. Royal Marines were formed in 1755 (U.S. Marines 1775) but trace their history back to 1664. Like the U.S. Marines, the Royal Marines were created as naval infantry serving on ships and carrying out amphibious assaults. Although sharing common roots the services seemed to split during the 20th century. This edition of the Royal Marine history covers the years from 1919 through 1997.

The Royal Marines saw cutbacks after WWI. Even today the Royal Marines are a small but specialized force with just over 8,200 members. In the interwar period, the Royal Marines worked Air defense artillery, ships guns, and light infantry. WWII saw the introduction of Marine light infantry as commandos operating with the Royal Army Commandos. They were also involved in amphibious landings in Dakar and Madagascar.

After World War II, the Royal Marines were involved in Korea but spent much of their time involved in policing the Empire. They were also involved in the Suez Crisis becoming the first service to deploy in a helicopter assault. Royal Marines played a large role in the long-running Malayan Crisis. From 1969 on the Marines patrolled Northern Ireland. Perhaps the most notable service came in the Falklands where an amphibious assault was key to retaking the islands.

By Sea, By Land offers a detailed history of the period. The Royal Marines, like American Marines, are proud of their history and who they are. Unlike other branches of service that display battle streamers with their colors, the Royal Marines simply display a globe as their area of service. Original documents and reports are regularly cited throughout the book. It is not strictly a chronological history as it is event centered with background and explanations. It is not a smoothly written narrative as it is a fact-filled record of events.


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