• Si Biggs

Churchills “Flying Column” Royal Marines

Unit/ Formation: Royal Marines


Location: Belgium


Period/ Conflict: World War I


Year: 1914


Date/s: 19 September 1914


On 2 August, the Admiralty authorized the formation of the “Flying Column” Royal Marines, from which developed the Royal Marines Brigade, something of a private army for Churchill. On 16 September, Kitchener received a telegram from General Joffre of the French high command asking for reinforcements to be sent to Dunkirk to confuse the Germans as to the strength of the defences and threaten their lines of communication.



Churchill later maintained that the Dunkirk Circus did not originate with him but was the result of other factors. This is correct: Kitchener consulted Churchill. What was needed, besides reinforcing the Dunkirk garrison, were mobile forces that could display power by mobile arrangements and create diversions. Churchill sent the Royal Marines Brigade.


The Royal Marines were disembarked at Dunkirk on the night of 19 and 20 September. They gave aid to the RNAS unit that had a squad of fifty armoured Rolls-Royce motorcars. These mounted Vickers machine guns, and some of them carried mounted armoured plate slung in such a way that they could bridge cuts in the road deliberately excavated by German units.


An RNAS Lanchester 4×2 Armored Car

A squadron of Oxfordshire Hussars acted as an escort to the naval air squadron commanded by Captain C. R. Samson. The ranging sorties of these cars with armour plating discomfited the Germans, causing them to withdraw, but at the same time attracted the attention of the German higher command.

Heavy RNAS Armoured Car with 3 Pounder gun – Belgium, 1915

Three squadrons of RNAS bombarded German defences from bases in northern France. And from its base at Dunkirk, the naval air wing soon began to take the war to the enemy’s air power. Twelve aircraft stationed at Dunkirk flew missions of destruction against Zeppelin bases, and put advance German air bases and refuelling depots being constructed in Belgium out of commission.


More related 'Dits'



Further reading;


International Churchill Society - Winstons Dunkirk Circus

Olney & District Historical Society - Tom Garner’s Diary

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