Royal Marines Land in Ostend 1914
Unit/ Formation: RMLI
Period/ Conflict: World War I
Date/s: 27 August 1914
27th August - 31 September 1914
Following early Belgian and Entente defeats in the German invasion of Belgium and cut off from the rest of the Allies by the German advance, the majority of the Belgian army fell back towards the fortified port of Antwerp, in late August 1914.
Belgian troops were also withdrawn from ports along the Belgian coast. The Admiralty wanted to deny the Germans submarine bases in Belgian ports for operations in the English Channel. On 24 August, German cavalry patrols were reported near Ostend and it was decided to land a small naval detachment to secure the town.
Further south, the French armies and the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) conducted the Retreat from Mons, with the German armies driving south-west after them, leaving very few units to guard lines of communication. The Admiralty planned to use the Channel ports as a base to attack German land supply routes, with the Royal Marine Brigade forming the basis of a landing force.
The Deal Battalion was still assembling, so only the Chatham, Portsmouth and Plymouth battalions were sent to Flanders; two landing at Ostend in the early morning of 27 August and the other the next day. They were ordered to hold the town until Belgian troops who had retreated into France could be transferred and 4,000 Belgian troops arrived on 30 August.
The rapid Allied retreat led the War Office to decide that supplies would have to be brought through ports in western France, as the existing arrangements in the Pas de Calais ports were too exposed. This would be more demanding on naval escort ships, leaving too few to support the force at Ostend.
The Marines were re-embarked on 31 September and returned to their ports.
Many were redeployed to Antwerp in October.
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