Ship Board Duties

Mt. Harmon 2010
     Marine detachments serving aboard war ships could be quite large.  The typical 74 gun ship of the line would have had a naval compliment of about 650 men, and the Marine detachment during wartime would have consisted of 80 to 100 men. 

     While at sea the British Marines served in various capacities.  Marines protected landing parties, stood guard at various posts onboard, and protected the captain and the ships stores from the “notoriously unfaithful seamen.” 

     Marine detachments were a strong deterrent against mutiny or other problems aboard ship.  They were perceived by the sailors as a representative of the power of the Admiralty.

     British Marines had various assignments during naval engagements.  Some Marines would serve on cannon crews, others would pour small arms fire into the enemy vessel in an attempt to kill or wound its topmen and sail trimmers;  still others would throw grenades.

     During battle it was the Marine commanding officer’s duty to be alert to any attempts by the enemy to board the ship.  If such a situation should occur, the Marines were to form up with fixed bayonets and repel boards.

The Occupation of Newport, 9 December 1776
By Robert Cleveley, 1777, Courtesy of History of the Sailing Warship in Marine Art