Royal Marines: 2300AD

The Royal Marines Commandos


Role-Playing Hints


The Corps of Royal Marines can trace its existence back to 1664, but its modern roots stem from 1755 when the former Maritime Regiments were brought under the Admiralty.  It has served on sea and land and now in space and on other worlds ever since. The Royal Marines gained the Commando role, previously shared with Army Commandos, after the 2nd World War and retain this as their prime tasking.

The Royal Marines provided highly trained, lightly equipped troops for a range of roles.  The main role of the Royal Marines is to provide amphibious troops in support of the Royal Navy's power projection role.  Unlike other nations Marines, the Royal Marines are embarked on board their assault ships at the last possible moment.  This allows training to continue as well as providing a very visible "sabre" to rattle.  It also helps to make the very stretched resources of the Royal Marines go that little bit further.

On Earth the Royal Marines also provide protection for the United Kingdom's nuclear facilities as well as covering the UK's offshore assets in its Maritime Counter Terrorism (MCT) Role.  These tasks are conducted by the Commachio Group RM.  Lastly the Royal Marines have their own dedicated special forces organisation the Special Boat Service (SBS) which is able to support either the 1st Commando Division or as an asset for United Kingdom Special Forces (UKSF).

Off earth the "Red" Royal Marines operate along side the RSN as do their Earth based "Black" counterparts with the RN.  The Royal Marines provide the specialist 6 Commando Brigade for a wide range of operations, including orbital assault as well as conventional military operations.  To protect the UK's space station assets the Royal Marines provide the Zeebrugge Group, trained in defensive operations and counter terrorism, deployed in small numbers throughout human space.  The "Reds" also have their own special forces the Special Planetary Sections (SPS) who conduct some of the most challenging military operations possible.

The Royal Marines are backed up by personnel from the Army, RN and RSN who provide a variety of specialist support from artillery fire, to engineering support through to medical services and orbital bombardment direction.  All of these personnel have to be Commando qualified (either Red or Black) and wear the Commando "flashes".


The Royal Marines are considered by the experts to be the most highly trained regular soldiers anywhere.  Their basic training after selection takes some eight months and covers all the basics.  They then undertake their "Black" commando qualification course.  This takes a month and consists of a mixture of speed and endurance marches, assault courses all mixed in with tactical exercises.  After this they receive their coveted green berets, commando flashes and black commando badge (below, worn on the left upper arm).

Most are then assigned to one of the nine front-line Commandos.  There they will usually join a rifle company where they will begin their military career.  Training is continuous in the Royal Marines and many courses are available and some Marines will serve in the militaries of allied nations.  The Royal Marines have traditionally specialised in amphibious and arctic and mountain warfare, but in recent years a specialisation has grown up in jungle warfare.  Thus whilst one brigade exercise's as a whole in Scandinavia during the winter, another conducts Commando (battalion) level exercises in Greenland, Canada and the Antarctic.  During the summers the remaining brigade normally deploys to Guyana for jungle warfare training.  These deployments are rotated ensuring the brigade has a wide range of skills and experience.

Individual marines will specialise in skills such as communications, electronic warfare whilst others will become snipers or heavy weapon specialists.  Still others may gone on to apply for Special Forces work, an attempt the daunting Selection process.  Junior NCO's and officers may also become rotary wing pilots, but there are no "career" aviators in the Royal Marines and pilots return to normal service after four or eight years.

Some Royal Marines volunteer during their basic training to go onto the "Red" commando course that will select them for the off-earth commando forces.  These are specially selected Marines who have to pass a battery of tests, physical, intellectual and psychological before even being allowed to start the course.  The Red course is one year long and is based on Luna, but portions of the course are conducted on Clarke Station, Earth, and now at the military outpost on Mars.  This course trains the Marines in the skills needed to fight and survive in a range of environments as well as a knowledge of tactics required for fighting on board star ships, stations and other closed environments.  Also included is training in orbital assault tactics, including individual "drop capsules" used in pathfinding operations.

At the end of this course the Marine is presented with his distinctive red commando badge and his drop wings.  He will then be assigned to 6 Commando Brigade RM and begin his duties.  Like his "black" counterparts the red commando can go on numerous specialist courses as well volunteering for specialist units.  Marines of the Zeebrugge Group have intense training in close quarters combat and counter-intelligence gathering.  SPS marines have an awesome and tiring three year training period for their varied roles and are always somewhat under strength.  A marine can also become a landing craft pilot.  Ship's troop duties are normally popular as they give the marine a chance to travel the colonial arms.

Above: "Red" Commando badge.

The Royal Marines try to keep a good transfer of personnel between the black and red branches of the service but due to cost of the training few other ranks make the transfer.  However red officers and senior NCOs are often posted to senior posts in black units which leads to some resentment of the "Red Mafia" especially as the reds are seen as the more glamorous and receive more media attention.  However this resentment is nothing compared to the legendary antipathy between the Royal Marines and the Parachute Regiment.


Black Units

1st Commando Division, Royal Marines
1 Cdo Div is the Royal Marines main fighting formation on Earth.  It consists of three brigades as well as supporting forces.  It can also take other formations under command, and 7 Armoured Brigade is frequently involved during amphibious exercises.  1 Cdo Div is based at Plymouth in the south of England and is commanded by a Major General RM, currently John Wells (known to his troops as Johnny Red after his command of 6 Cdo Bde).

The Div has a number of troops under its command which are normally also based in southern England.  These include the 1 Cdo Div HQ and Signals Company which provides the means for command and control of the forces under command.  Also under command are 1 & 2 Commando Regiment, Royal Engineers and 11 Commando Logistics Regiment which provide engineering and logistic support direct to the division.  The fighting element of the Div is composed of the Cavalier hover tanks of the 3rd Royal Tank Regiment.  3 RTR's personnel are all commando qualified and hope soon to convert to the Montgomery hover tank.  Indirect fire support comes from 1 Commando Regiment, Royal Horse Artillery.

1 Cdo Div has its own deep recce element consisting of M Squadron.  A group of long service Marines who are normally responsible for the training of the Commandos in survival and recce skills.  When mobilised however they provide the Div with a skilled long range recce component.  Also nominally attached to 1 Cdo Div are the SBS Regimental HQ but these will normally remain in the UK. 

3 Commando Brigade, Royal Marines
3 Cdo Bde is the senior formation of the Commando Forces tracing its history back to just after the outbreak of WWII.  3 Cdo Bde is based alongside the 1 Cdo Div in the UK, divided between the south of England and Scotland and is commanded by a Brigadier.

The brigade has three battalion sized Commandos, numbered 33, 35 and 37 Commando.  These are light infantry formations that provide the fighting power of the battalion.  In support the brigade has 3 Cdo Air Group, consisting of one squadron of x-wing gunships, one squadron of scout tiltwings and a squadron of support tiltwings.  Also aiding mobility is 301 Assault Squadron, RM deploying ACV and speed boat assets.  The Army provides the gunners of 29 Cdo Reg, RA (with 120mm Light Guns) and sappers of 59 Independent Commando Sqn RE.  Special forces support are provided by No.  1 SBS (if deployed).  1 Recce Sqn RM provides armoured recce support.  Logistics are from 1 Commando Logistics Regiment.

It is the job of the brigade in the amphibious role to take and hold a beachhead or to reinforce one of its sister brigades until the Army gets its heavy forces ashore.  Alternatively the brigade can be deployed conventionally in the Light Brigade Role.  

4 Commando Brigade, Royal Marines
4 Cdo Bde is organised in the same way as 3 Cdo Bde, and is currently deployed on the Falkland Islands.  Although this is often an unpopular deployment the brigade is making the best unit of the West Falkland Training Area and the Antarctic Training Team, whilst enjoying its leave in nearby Cape Town.

4 Cdo Bde consists of 40, 42 and 45 Commandos.  4 Cdo Air Group, 401 Asst Sqn, 46 Cdo Reg, RA., 60 Ind Cdo Sqn RE, 2 Recce Sqn, 2 SBS and 2 CLR.  

5 Commando Brigade, Royal Marines
5 Cdo Bde is based around Ireland, although its has one Commando (currently 53 Cdo) deployed to Greenland.

5 Cdo Bde consists of 52, 53 and 58 Cdo.  5 Cdo Air Group, 501 Asst Sqn, 50 Cdo Reg, RA, 61 Ind Cdo Sqn RE, 3 Recce Sqn, 3 SBS and 4 CLR.  

Commachio Group, Royal Marines
Commachio Group is not part of 1 Cdo Div, but is a part of United Kingdom Special Forces (UKSF).  Commachio Group consists of 300 marines broken into three detachments.  These detachments rotate between three roles.  The first is the protection of the Royal Navy submarine base in the river Clyde, the second is the rapid response to security threats to the UK's nuclear power plants and the last reaction to maritime counter terrorism (MCT).

Commachio Group marines under go much training for close quarter fighting and are trained by the SAS counter terrorism teams.  The MCT role is a difficult one involving the storming of oil rigs and shipping and Commachio Group would be assisted by SAS or SBS.  Commachio Group's moment of glory came in the summer of 2195 when they stormed the liner Adriatic King in Athens harbour.  Although led by the SAS the Group acquitted themselves well and lost only one man killed and two injured in the ten minute operation.  The Group is often used as a stepping stone for service in the SAS or SBS.

Red Units

6 Commando Brigade, Royal Marines
6 Cdo Bde is organised slightly differently to the other commando brigades in order to account for its different mode of operation.  It is trained to act as the lead element of an assault landing (ASLAN) and as such consists of light infantry with much less support than a normal brigade.  6 Cdo has to get all its troops on planet as quickly as possible in order to clear the planet head for follow on forces from the army or allied nations.  The brigade can also be used in a conventional light infantry role or in large scale boarding actions, such as a station assault.

Each of 6 Cdo Bde's Commandos (62, 63 and 69) consists of three rifle companies and a small Support Company of Marines trained in direct fire support weapons (plasma, MG and missiles) that are equipped with a different mix of weapons depending on what world the landing is taking place.  To aid an assault the brigade has two squadrons of engineers, 65 Ind Cdo Sqn RE is highly trained at supporting the leading edge formations on land or in space, including the use of breach explosives in contained environments.  66 Commando Landing Squadron RE specialises in clearing and creating landing and drop zones for the assault.  4 Commando Logistic Regiment is smaller than normal but has to cope with supplying units often stationed many light years apart.

For fire support the brigade has 6 Commando Fire Support Group, a mixed formation containing officers and men from the Artillery, RN and RSN.  It is the role of these men to call in fire support from any available asset to support the vital early stages of a landing.  This ranges from artillery fire, to air support, to naval gunfire, to space carrier fighter strikes up to kinetic and nuclear orbital attacks.  Without this support the lightly equipped brigade could be swiftly over run, and men of 6 Cdo FSG are often deployed with special forces and pathfinders before the main assault to destroy bridges and other key targets.

Nominally attached to the brigade are Marines of the Special Planetary Sections.  The SPS is trained for very long range (often in different star systems) reconnaissance, pathfinding for the brigade as well as more covert operations that still remain classified.  However, the SPS is now often assigned to the ASLAN Group or to the higher echelons of the RSN.  Also classified is the number of 40 man Sections are in the SPS, although rumour puts it at 3 or 4.  

The Assault Landing Group (ASLAN)
Although not strictly a Royal Marine formation ASLAN should be mentioned here as it often works alongside 6 Cdo Bde.  ASLAN is a joint Army, Royal Marine, RSN unit whose job is to control an assault landing onto a hostile, or potentially hostile world.  As an opposed assault landing has never been carried out what would actually occur if one took place is open to conjecture.  As a result ASLAN doesn't have a high priority in military circles, either for funding of personnel.
The British have only conducted one large scale ASLAN exercise in recent years although smaller ones are quite frequent.  EXERCISE PURPLE LION took place over New Africa in the Beta Canum Venticorum system.  PURPLE LION involved a phase of reconnaissance by SAS and SPS whilst Naval manoeuvres secured the system.  Assault forces then moved in as the RSN brushed aside an enemy counter attack.  Pathfinders were deployed by drop capsule as frigates attacked ground targets.  The Pathfinders, linking up with special forces swiftly finalised which of the three LZ's were to be used and the main assault began.
6 Commando Brigade, RM was deployed in the first six hours, pushing out a perimeter and engaging an enemy ground force attack.  6 Airborne Brigade was on the ground 24 hours into the exercise and consolidated the planet head, counter-attacking the enemy force.  However the heavy follow-on from 79 Armoured Brigade was delayed as (simulated) casualties in the landing craft forces caused delays.  However the bulk of the brigade was on the ground by D + 4.  In reality ASLAN planned to have a further follow on by an Armoured Division but lack of funding an interstellar lift ruled this out.  The exercise then went on to a more conventional phase and ASLAN handed over control to the ground force commanders and withdrew.
ASLAN is commanded by either an RSN Commodore or a suitably qualified "red" Royal Marine Brigadier, (normally one with landing craft experience), and in war is carried on assault ships.  ASLAN takes control of all space, interface and ground forces in orbit during the landing phase and it his job to use these assets to best effect to conduct a successful landing.  ASLAN has a permanent staff of around 50 officers and men mainly drawn from the Army, Marines and RSN, but RAF and RN liaison personnel are usually also attached to give expert advice.  In war ASLAN would be greatly expanded with the attachment of many specialists.
ASLAN can draw on many forces, but has only one attached to it.  The Pathfinders, these men make up a 120 strong unit split into three troops, and are mainly drawn from 6 Cdo Bde and the paratroopers of 6 Airborne Brigade, although any UK serviceman can volunteer to join it.  The Pathfinders are trained to be deployed from small warships by space plane or drop capsule up to 24 hours before an invasion in order to check the integrity of a Landing Zone, to set up navigational equipment and to liase with any local forces. 
The Zeebrugge Group, Royal Marines
The British soon recognised the vulnerability of its space stations and landing facilities and the difficulty of protecting them, especially as large garrisons were out of the question.  The British decided to use small groups of highly trained marines along side RSN Intelligence Officers deployed on the stations.  The Marines were trained for counter-intelligence, counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism work as well as being able to conduct conventional security operations.  It was soon realised that the Royal Marines would have to undergo training to get them used to operating on-board space stations and this course expanded to become the Red Commando Course under taken by all of the off-world Marines.
The Zeebrugge Group are the only regular UK force to commonly wear full-body rigid armour (over their vacc suits) and are armed with an array of laser weapons, high calibre/ low velocity assault rifles and concussion grenades.  The Zeebrugge Group often provide many of the men (along with the Pathfinders) for the SPS, but are seen as being much more disciplined than the men of that group.


The Royal Marines use much of the same equipment and organisation of the British Army.  The main difference is that Battalions are called Commandos and platoons are called Troops, Companies remain the same.

The Royal Marines use the standard assault weapons of the army and wear the issue ballistic fatigues and webbing.  The Marines are however much better equipped for arctic warfare.

The Red Commandos have a much wider range of equipment than their black colleagues, as these are required for the different environments in which they fight.  Lasers are used in zero gee environments, as they have no recoil for example.

Role Playing Hints

"Black" Royal Marines are simply Ground Military personnel.  Front line Commandos are composed of 10% green, 30% experienced, 40% veteran and 20% elite personnel.  Commachio Group and M Squadron have a 0/20/40/40 mixture.  SBS troops have a 0/0/50/50 mixture.  A Player wishing to have a special forces background must pass a task (difficult, Endurance/Determination) in order to do so.  This task must be taken after or as the first turning point.  A special forces back ground gives no additional training, but subsequently all skills become primary skills.  If the character changes career he then looses the special forces benefits and gains skills as normally (unless he passes the SF task again.)

"Red" Marines have Ground Military as their initial career and then change career to Space Military.  Front line commandos have a 0/30/40/20 mixture.  Zeebrugge Group and ASLAN Pathfinders are 0/20/40/40 and the SPS are 0/0/40/60.

Characters can play a Royal Marine Commando as a part of a military campaign or simply have it as part of his background.  "Reds" and special forces trained marines are valuable resources and even when out of the service would often be approached by the UK government or UK backed interests for various tasks both legitimate and less so.  Many Royal Marines, especially officers, are well connected to the British establishment (some are Fellows of the Royal Society, and more Fellows of the Royal Geographical Society) and could approach such groups for funding or missions and expeditions.

Copyright 2009, D Hebditch