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British Armed Forces & National Service

The Royal Marines and National Service.


This is where you can find all about National Service particularly with reference to the Royal Marines.

This was also the period of National Service, which lasted from 1946 to1960. Conscripts called up as National Servicemen within this period would make up 30 per cent of the strength of the Royal Marines. By the time it ended, over 300 National Service officers and 9,000 Royal Marines had served in the Corps.

The 1948 National Service Act fixed a period of 18 months full-time service followed by four years as a reservist. In 1950 the full-time period was extended to two years. The arrival of a buff envelope with the letters OHMS was the first indication to a young man that he had received his enlistment notice - he had been called up. Cynics asserted that OHMS did not stand for On His (later Her) Majesties Service but 'Oh Help Me Saviour' - the cry of the desperate young conscript.

Because National Servicemen made a decision to join Royal Marines and with that the longer service and training period, they were often regarded as 'volunteers'. Vic Pegler who served in Support Troop 45 Commando would say of them, 'Some of the best Marines I have ever seen under effective fire were National Servicemen. The phrase "I was only a National Service Marine" has no place in my vocabulary.'

The Royal Marines are part of the Royal Navy. They are a highly trained, specialised fighting force deployed from Royal Navy ships. They are capable of operating at short notice anywhere in the world, on land, from the sea or from the air.

Commandos work either on a shore base or at sea on board a ship. They can be deployed all over the world, sometimes in dangerous situations.

Commando training is one of the longest and toughest training courses in the world. Read the ex Royal Marines experience !

Contribution from Derek ‘Blondie’ Boorn
42 Commando, Royal Marines 1956-58

I realise, because of the much longer training and the fact we had to be volunteers and subjected to harder medicals and written tests our numbers we were small in the overall scheme of things.

For myself, I was subjected to the basic 12 weeks infantry training, followed by the 6 week Commando Course. During the 12 weeks basic training, if you didn’t match up you were transferred to an infantry regiment this we were told happened to one fellow in another recruit squad, and if you failed the Commando Course you reverted to sea service. Both of which gave you the incentive not to fail.

During this period, National Servicemen made up 70% of the regular Army, but the number NS men in the Royal Marines was never allowed to exceed 30%.and it should be remembered that the Korean War was known as the National Serviceman’s War mainly drawn from Army Regiments. During this conflict Royal Marines served in 41 Independent Commando RM and were attached to the United States Marine Corps, who supplied food, weapons and clothing with the exception of the Green Berets and badges.


Derek ‘Blondie’ Boorn - - Email to Derek "Blondie"
42 Commando, Royal Marines 1956-58
RM132526 -

Contribution from John Best

42 & 43 Commando Royal Marines 1954/61

I was there November 55 to February 1956. I can remember there being NS Squads on parade at the same time as CS (regular) Squads.
The NS squads were numbered in the 800's i.e. 889 Squad. CS squad numbers were running at 600's when I was doing recruit training.
NS Corps numbers were RM followed by six figures i.e RM123456. CS numbers were RM followed by four or five figures i.e. RM7001 (they had started at 7000) or RM12345
At that time in training we didn't even mix with other members of CS squads let alone NS
I served in 42 Commando from May 57 to August 1961 ,I then went on to
finish my service with 43 Commando which was then in the process of being

John Best --- "Once a Marine"


Royal Marines Badges/Graves Reference
















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