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Royal Naval Division RND

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ROYAL NAVAL Division (RND)

The Royal Naval Division (later known as the 63rd Division) was established with two Naval Brigades and one Marine Brigade, each containing four battalions, as was the case in the army. The eight naval battalions were named after heroes: Drake, Hawke, Benbow, Collingwood, Nelson, Howe, Hood and Anson. These 1st and 2nd Naval Brigades were formed at Walmer and Betteshanger in Kent, in Aug and Sep 1914. They were soon in action: they were charged with the ill thought-out defence of Antwerp in early October 1914. The following year found them caught up in fighting on the Gallipoli Peninsula which ended in humiliating defeat and the resignation from governmental office of Winston Churchill. By May 1916 two of the original brigades of the RND left Lemnos to become a portion of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) in France. Benbow and Collingwood Battalions were disbanded before May 1916.

The Admiralty realised that on mobilisation the Royal Navy would have between 20,000 to 80,000 men in various reserves, for whom there would be no space in any warship's complement. Thus, the Royal Naval Division was initially formed from men of the Royal Navy Reserve, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve and the Royal Marine Reserve and about two thousands of Kitchener’s first hundred thousand volunteers. The majority of these volunteers were from Northern recruiting regions. This surplus was sufficient to form two naval infantry brigades and to provide a Royal Marine Brigade to be available for home defence or special tasks.

As First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill instituted the Royal Naval Division (RND) as an infantry formation in Aug 1914. This continued a tradition of employing ad-hoc groupings of sailors and marines in land operations alongside units of the British Army. Before the outbreak of World War I, the Royal Naval Brigades had served in many parts of the world, fighting with distinction in the Crimea, the Indian Mutiny, China, South Africa and in a variety of lesser campaigns.

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