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Col. Harold Ozanne DSO RMLI

Harold Ozanne was commissioned into the Royal Marine Light Infantry in 1897

Harold Ozanne portrait 1917

1897 to 1914 - Mediterranean, Pacific, West Indies

Harold Ozanne was commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant in September 1897 promoted to Lieutenant July 1898 and in 1899 joined the flag ship HMS Hibernia in Valetta Harbour Malta, headquarters of the Royal Navy Mediterranean Fleet.

After 12 years under construction in Plymouth, Hibernia had been launched in 1804. She served as the Flag Ship of the Mediterranean fleet for 50 years

After returning to Plymouth in 1900 he was posted to the Pacific Station on Vancouver Island to join HMS Phaeton.

He returned to England in 1903, was promoted to Captain 1904 and spent the next ten years serving aboard a variety of ships from the Home Fleet.

1914 to 1916 - World War 1 at sea

In August 1914 he landed with a detachment of Royal Marines sent to defend Ostend against German attack. Later that month after the Marines' withdrawal from Ostend, he was serving aboard HMS Cressy when she took part in the first naval battle of WW1 in the North Sea at Heligoland Bight off Cuxhaven.

In September 1914 he was aboard HMS Cressy when it and two other cruisers were sunk by a German U-Boat, a disaster which was dubbed the 'Live Bait squadron'. 837 men were rescued from the sea but 1,397 were drowned.

Illustration by Hans Bohrdt depicting the sinking of HMS Cressy, HMS Hogue and HMS Aboukir by U-9 on 22 September 1914 off the Dutch coast.

He was promoted to Major in April 1915 and joined the brand new battleship HMS Warspite. He served aboard her at the Battle of Jutland in June 1916.

For his role aboard HMS Warspite at the Battle of Jutland, Harold Ozanne was awarded the Order of St Stanislas (2nd Class with Swords) by the Russian Government for distinguished service.

1916 to 1918 - World War 1 on the Western Front

In October 1916 he joined the 1st Battalion Royal Marine Light Infantry in France, and in November took part in the Battle of Ancre (Somme Valley).

In February 1916 he was wounded at the Battle of Miraumont (Somme Valley). He was later awarded the Distinguished Service Order for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty.

The Citation reads: “For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He directed the consolidation of the position with marked ability, and was largely responsible for holding the position against subsequent enemy counter-attacks. He displayed great courage and determination throughout the operations.” London Gazette 17th April 1917.

In November 1916 1RMLI took part in the Battle of Ancre, the last large British attack of the Battle of the Somme. 1RMLI incurred over 50% casualties and after being withdrawn from the line, had to be completely rebuilt with new recruits. Out of fourteen officers Harold Ozanne was one of only two to survive the battle unharmed.

In April 1917 he took part in the Battle of Gavrelle Windmill (Arleux front between Arras and Vimy Ridge). He was Mentioned in Despatches and promoted to Lieutenant Colonel; he then commanded 1RMLI on the Arleux front until they were moved to Belgium.

In November 1917 he was wounded whilst commanding 1RMLI at Ypres (the Battle of Passchendaele). He was again Mentioned in Despatches.

1918 to 1939 - Between the Wars

At the end of WW1 Harold was awarded the rank of Brevet Lieutenant Colonel for 'distinguished service in the prosecution of the war' and became Brigade Major at the Royal Marine Chatham Division.

In 1921 he spent some months with the 8th Battalion Royal Marines in Ireland, as part of the British military response to the Irish War of Independence.

In 1924 he spent 12 months as Superintendent of the Royal Marine School of Music.

In 1929 at his own request he retired from the Royal Marines having been promoted to full Colonel and joined the staff of Harrow School as Estate Bursar and commander of the Harrow School Officers Training Corps. He remained there until 1933.

1939 to 1945 - World War 2

Soon after war was declared he was recalled to the service and spent 15 months as Commanding Officer of the Royal Marine Engineer Battalion.

In 1940 he was posted to the newly opened Royal Marine Commando Training School at Lympstone Devon, initially as second in command (serving as a Colonel) and latterly as Commanding Officer.

He finally retired in December 1943. Harold died on 1st February 1945 and is buried at Great St Mary Parish Church, Sawbridgeworth

Medals and Awards

His medals were donated by his widow to the Royal Marine Museum in Portsmouth

Harold Ozanne's medals as previously displayed at the Royal Marine Museum Portsmouth

Medal group displayed above:

  • Distinguished Service Order (DSO)

  • 1914-15 Star

  • 1914-20 British War Medal

  • Victory Medal (Mention in Despatches)

  • Order of St Stanislas (Russia) 2nd Class with Swords

"Pip, Squeak and Wilfred" was the affectionate name given to the three WW1 campaign medals — these medals were primarily awarded to the Old Contemptibles (B.E.F.). and by convention all three medals are worn together and in the same order from left to right when viewed from the front

Majority of text extracted from Col Harold Ozanne DSO (Military Career in the Royal Marine Light Infantry) by Colin McKenzie

More related 'dits' here:

Loss of the 'Live Bait' Squadron (sinking of HMS Cressy, HMS Hogue and HMS Aboukir by U-9)

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