• Si Biggs

11th Battalion and RM detachments in Turkey


Unit/ Formation: Royal Marines Location: Turkey Period/ Conflict: 1900's Year: 1920 Date/s: 16 March 1920

Turkish Nationalists opposed to the Sultan refused to accept certain treaties negotiated with him by the allies, including the Greeks, who the British government initially supported. Marines and sailors from the Mediterranean Fleet numbering 3,600 were landed in Constantinople (modern Istambul) on 16 March 1920 and met no resistance. In June ships and planes bombarded the Nationalists occupying the Ismid Peninsula and these Turks withdrew.

Early in July strong parties of Marines and seamen were again landed from the Fleet; these were later withdrawn but the Fleet’s presence maintained in Constantinople. A Nationalist army in 1921 drove the Greeks back.

The 11th Battalion was initially formed during the emergency declared for the 1921 coal strike. In 1922 the Greeks invested Constantinople, weakening their Smyrna army to do so. A few Marines were landed at Smyrna ‘as a calming influence’16 from the battleship King George V, but the city caught fire a few days later and on 13 September was burnt to the ground. Greeks and Armenians numbering 250,000 were then evacuated by sea, and Nationalist Turkish forces of 35,000 moved towards the Dardanelles. Five British army battalions and some planes blocked the Turks’ possible advance across the straits, the troops digging in on the Asian shore around Chanak.

The 11th RM Battalion — mobilised in a few days — sailed on 28 September,17 their transport ship reportedly reaching Constantinople in five days. The Battalion’s four companies, some 70018 in all under Lt–Col J. A. M. A. Clark, CMG, RMLI, included an RMA company sent out as infantry. These gunners were remustered for duty with the RMA Heavy Batteries,19 for on 21 October Maj W. H. Tripp, DSO, MC, joined the Battalion to command 12 naval guns the Marines had installed by building piers on the northern shores of the Dardanelles,20 to cover a 30–mile arc across the water.

At this time they came under command of GOC Chanak (on Amalgamation they became RM Heavy Batteries). The infantry companies did guard duties in Constantinople and in the defence of the neutral zone around the city. Their only casualty was a death from malaria before sailing in August 1923 for the UK, where they were disbanded in September.


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