The Royal Marines and the War at Sea 1939-1945


By Martin Watts

This book tells the story of how marines fought on ships in the Second World War, their relationship with the Royal Navy and assesses the contribution they made. The Royal Marines had fought in the First World War on land and at sea with the Royal Navy, with marines serving as artillerymen or light infantry. These two branches were merged in 1923. In the Second World War marines on board warships served the armament as well as providing detachments for boarding and landing parties. With the advent of Royal
Marine Commandos in 1942, their role became, once more, a dual one, and with the run-down of the post war Royal Navy, the Commando role became pre-eminent.

The book is largely based on the career of Colour Sergeant Albert ‘Nobby’ Elliott, who enlisted as a boy in 1926 and served until 1950. During his wartime service, Nobby served in cruisers and an aircraft carrier, seeing active service in the Atlantic, Mediterranean, Arctic and Indian Oceans. He was mentioned in despatches for the second battle of Sirte, took part in Operation
Torch, and was a gun layer in HMS Jamaica when she took part in the sinking of the Scharnhorst, Boxing Day, 1943. Nobby finished the war in recovering allied prisoners of war from the south west Pacific, and was present at the surrender of Japanese forces in this area of war, on board HMS Glory.

Combining a personal narrative with tactical and technical analysis, this book casts new light on the Royal Marines during the Second World War.


Martin Watts is Principal Research Fellow at Canterbury Christchurch University. His research centres on the military, political and social effects of conflict, using primary source material from both official and personal archives, to explain the lived experience of those involved. In addition, Martin is interested in the strong connections between Kent and the armed forces during both world wars. He is now engaged with the Whitstable Maritime Project. His publications include ‘The Jewish Legion and the First World War’ (Palgrave Macmillan).


Bibliographic Information

Publication: 15th February 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4456-6318-0

Extent: 256 pages

Illustrations: 16 illustrations