The Royal Marines
played an active part in the fight against the Axis forces, not more so than
the flying Marines who served with the fleet air Arm.This
page is dedicated to their dedication and bravery.
The Royal Marines originated as the Admiral's Regiment which was
formed in 1664 and the name 'Marines' first appears in the records in 1672.
Since then Marines have taken part in more battles on land and sea, all over
the world, than has any other branch of the British Armed Forces.The
first three years of the Second World War saw most of the action for the
Royal Marines at sea, although some notable Marines saw active combat in the Norwegain campaign, Dunkirk, and subsequently in the Far
East. By the end of the war, the Royal Marines numbers had grown to 80,000 -
their largest size ever. Royal Marine played a number of roles in
connection with Naval Aviation. Pre-war a handful of Royal Marines trained as
pilots in the No. 1 Flying Training School at RAF Leuchars alongside their
Royal Navy colleagues, and subsequently between 1939-1945
up to 18 Royal Marines commanded Fleet Air Arm squadrons. Captain NRM Skene was one of the earlier COs, who as Captain RM also
held an RAF rank of Squadron Leader when taking up command of 810 sqdn in
December 1938, a post which he held till June 1940. Land bound Royal
Marines also played a role in Naval aviation, as the Defence Force RN Air
Stations. From 1940 and in some specific stations before that date, RM units
formed to provide ground defences of Naval air stations, and were organised
in companies and platoons.
Just some of those who were
mentioned or lost during Fleet Air Arm duties:
NAVAL AIR SQUADRON COMANDERS 1939-1945
Royal Marine pilots (wartime ranks)
Major JO Armour, RM
784, 809, 892, 7th CAG, 15th CAG
Captain WGS Aston, RM
Major FDG Bird, RM
Captain FW Brown, RM
Major AR Burch, RM
Major VBG Cheesman, RM
766, 788, 1770
Major LA Harris, RM
Major RC Hay, RM
761, 805, 809, 897, No. 6 Wing, No. 47 Wing
Captain WHC Manson, RM
Captain AE Marsh, RM
Major WHN Martin, RM
Major PP Nelson-Gracie, RM
877, 1843, No. 3 Wing, No. 10 Wing, 2nd CAG, 8th CAG
Captain AC Newson, RM
753, 810, 821
Captain RT Partridge, RM
Captain O Patch, RM
Captain NRM Skene, RM
Captain DBL Smith, RM
Major AJ Wright, RM
809, 898, 16th CAG
Royal Marines Museum and website
Barracks Southsea Hampshire
PO4 9PX England
+44 (0) 1705-819385.
The Royal Marines
Museum is dedicated to the
preservation and presentation of all aspects of Royal Marines history for the
education and enjoyment of the general public. The RM museum is an
imaginative presentation of the story of the Corps from 1644 to
the present day. It comprises an Early History Room 1664-1793, Main History
Room 1793-1970, information about the Flying Royal Marines, and a modern
display of the Royal Marines through the 70s into the 80s. Also included are
a medal room in which are displayed all 10 Royal Marine VCs and over 6000
other gallantry and campaign awards, a uniform room, Band History Room,
Picture and Silver Gallery and a dramatic audiovisual show on the Falklands
Marines Association and Reunion website
Capt. B. Gibbs
Royal Marines Association
Royal Marines Eastney
TRIBUTE TO A
RENOWN FLYING ROYAL MARINE
MAJOR V B G "CHEESE" CHEESMAN, RM
Flying Marine who relished paying back
the Japanese after seeing them machine-gun survivors in the water
MAJOR V B G "CHEESE" CHEESMAN
Cheesman led 1770 Squadron's attack on Japanese ships at Sakishima Gunto, April 1945
Major VBG "Cheese"
Cheesman was one of the most highly decorated
members of that rare breed - the flying Royal Marine. His five-year
operational career during the Second World War spanned the world, from
the Atlantic to the Pacific, from the Arctic to the Indian Ocean.
George Cheesman, known throughout the Navy as
"Cheese", was born on January 8 1917 and went to Cheltenham College. He was commissioned in the Royal Marines in
January 1936 and served in the battleship Royal Sovereign before
beginning flying training and getting his wings in 1939.
Cheesman's first award came early in 1941, when he was
serving in 710 Naval Air Squadron, flying Walrus amphibian aircraft from
the seaplane carrier Albatross, based at Freetown, Sierra Leone. On
January 14, the cargo-liner Eumaeus was sunk by
the Italian submarine Commandante Cappelini. Most of the passengers and crew got away
in lifeboats, or clinging to wreckage. Cheesman
took off to search for and attack the submarine. He missed his quarry but
found Eumaeus's survivors and landed nearby, to
give first aid to the wounded and to tow drifting lifeboats back to the
main group. In doing so, his Walrus was damaged and could not take off
again. Eventually, two anti-submarine trawlers arrived to pick up
the survivors and tow the Walrus, by then in a sinking condition, back to
Freetown. When he finally got alongside Albatross, Cheesman had been on board the Walrus for 22 hours.
He was appointed MBE.
In July 1941, Cheesman
became Walrus pilot on the cruiser Cornwall, which was serving the Eastern Fleet and
covering convoys in the Indian
Ocean. On Easter
Sunday, April 5 1942, when Cornwall and her sister ship Dorsetshire were
on passage from Colombo to Addu Atoll in the
Maldives, they were both attacked and sunk by Japanese carrier-based
bombers. Some 1,100 men survived, but they were machine-gunned in
the water by Japanese aircraft, which gave Cheesman
a lasting antipathy towards the Japanese. Many badly burned men died of
shock during the night.
"We could do nothing for
the dead," Cheesman recalled,
"but cast them off to the circling sharks which we kept at bay by
constantly splashing the water around us as they passed by. And so passed
a miserable and inglorious night."
The survivors were picked up at
dusk the next day, after more than 24 hours in the water, by the light
cruiser Enterprise and destroyers.
After undergoing a conversion course at
the Fighter School, HMS Heron, Yeovilton, Cheesman
joined 824, a composite squadron of Swordfish and Sea Hurricanes, as
Fighter Flight Commander. In October 1943 he embarked in the escort
carrier Striker for Atlantic and Gibraltar
In February 1944, Cheesman
took command of 1770 Squadron, the first to be equipped with the new
Fairey Firefly fighter-reconnaissance aircraft. The squadron embarked in
the carrier Indefatigable in May, and in July
and August took part in the Fleet Air Arm strikes against the battleship
Tirpitz in Altenfjord in northern Norway. The Squadron's role was to escort the
Barracuda bombers to the target, then fly ahead and suppress flak
batteries. He worked closely with the operations' Strike Leader Lt Cdr RS
Baker-Falkner RN to ensure that the first operational involement
of the fitrefly was a success. They flew at sea
level before climbing to 8,000 ft to cross the mountains.
"What cruel-looking terrain
that was," remembered Cheesman, "all
white, cold, barren and desolate. An engine failure here meant 'out harp
and halo, and hello St Peter!' "
Cheesman led four strikes in all and successfully
strafed flak batteries around Tirpitz, but the bombers were hampered by
cloud and smoke screens covering the target. No serious damage was done
to Tirpitz and one Firefly was lost. Cheesman
was awarded the DSO for the determined way he led his squadron.
Indefatigable sailed for the Far East in November 1944 to join the 1st Aircraft
Carrier Squadron, of Illustrious, Victorious and Indomitable, off Ceylon in December.
On January 4 1945, 1770 Squadron took part in Operation Lentil, a
strike involving more than 90 aircraft on the oil refinery at Pangkalan Brandan in
northern Sumatra. Equipped for the first time with 60 lb
rockets, which Cheesman had been requesting for
months, 1770 successfully rocketed and strafed the coastal town and harbour of Pangkalan Soe Soe. Returning from the strike, Cheesman
ran out of fuel and ditched astern of Indefatigable. He was again
decorated for his leadership, and awarded the DSC.
Remembering Cornwall, Cheesman relished
attacking Japanese targets. He had more opportunities later in January
when the four carriers, on passage to Australia with the British Pacific Fleet, launched huge
strikes against the oil refineries at Palembang in Sumatra. The
refineries, vital to the Japanese war effort, were not totally destroyed
but could only operate at much reduced output for the rest of the war.
The squadron's last operation
under Cheesman was Iceberg, the invasion of Okinawa, which began on April 1 1945. The carriers' task was to neutralise
the airfields on the islands of the Sakishima Gunto, a chain which ran between Formosa and Okinawa, to
prevent the Japanese staging replacement aircraft through them. The
Squadron strafed targets in the islands and in Formosa with rockets and cannon fire. In all, they
fired 950 rockets, flew more than 400 sorties, and shot down six enemy
aircraft. They lost seven of their own aircraft, and one observer.
After the war, Cheesman commanded 766 Squadron, the operational
training unit at HMS Nightjar, Inskip, and was
Naval Liaison Officer on the staff of the Fighter Leader School, RAF West Raynham. He left the Marines in 1950,
preferring retirement to life in the Corps as it then was.
Cheesman was one of the best known and most popular
pilots in the Fleet Air Arm. He was an excellent squadron CO, the mere
sound of his voice over the radio telephone giving his aircrew confidence
that all would be well with "Cheese" in charge.
The alarms and accidents of a
carrier pilot's life left him unruffled. The only time anyone ever saw
him seriously annoyed was when a young pilot in Striker crashed Cheese's
Hurricane, named "Libby" after his girlfriend, into a barrier.
He was a staunch supporter of the
Fleet Air Arm Officers' Association, and for many years organised the
monthly meetings of members in the south Midlands. He regularly attended 1770 reunions.
Royal Marines today
Marine Reserve today
The Flying Royal Marines today
consist of 847 Naval Air Squadron formerly 3
CBAS (Commando Brigade Air Squadron). Motto: Alto Ex Concutimus
"We Strike Them From On High". Commando Brigade Air Squadron: A light aircraft unit formed by various commandoes used to
support the Commandoes in the field were amalgamated on 12 August 1968.
The Royal Marine flights have served with their
respective commandoes in Northern Ireland
and other locations, operating helicopters such as the Aerospatiale Gazelle
and Westland Scout. Royal Marine Commando Rotary wing force using Army
standard helicopters under Navy control.Main
Headquarters: Bickleigh. Their Aircraft inventory
current service types include Westland Lynx AH.7, and Westland Gazelle
847 Squadron is unique in the
Royal Navy in that the 45 pilots are from the Royal Marines. They are
selected from trained Commandos of the Royal Marines who, because their
primary concern is with amphibious operations and support of the land battle,
complete their flying training with the Army Air Corps. All have
completed several infantry tours in a Commando unit and wider expertise is
added with pilots attached from the US Marine Corps and the Army Air
847 Naval Air Squadron provides support to 3
Commando Brigade Royal Marines, one of Britain's
rapid response shock formations, with reconnaissance and anti-armour support. It is the Brigade's primary anti-tank
strike resource, capable of engaging armour with
TOW missiles at very short notice. The Squadron is based at RNAS Yeovilton in
Somerset but spends most of the
year on deployment around the world.
The maintenance of the 847 squadron aircraft is
carried out by engineers from the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers,
most of whom are Commando trained. Additional Royal Marine Commandos act as
ground-handlers, protection of forward bases and as door-gunnersThe
Squadron operates Army aircraft which are maintained by army engineers of the
Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, most of whom attend the Commando
Course where they can earn the coveted Green Beret. Ground Handlers are also
selected from junior ranks of the Royal Marines and are additionally trained
as door-gunners on the 7.62mm General Purpose Machine Gun.
MARINE CORPS AVIATION - FLYING MARINES
The United States Marine Corps,
the RMs' famous cousins are nicknamed the
For 75 years, flying leathernecks have been first
to fight their country's most desperate air battles, perhaps most well known
is the US Marine Joe Foss, one of the greatest US Marine Fighter Aces in the
Leatherneck Historical Foundation and Flying
Leatherneck Aviation Museum at MCAS Miramar.
US Marine Corps
Aviation Association website.
Marine Corps Aviation
Also see the US
Marine Corps Association website
and the US Marine
Corps online magazine "Leatherneck"
website of United States Marine Corps Aviation Webpage
Created: 3-04-2001, Last Modified 3-04-2005