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Naval Infantry - Early History

The emergence of marines is associated with maritime campaigns, the struggle of the Russian people for access to the seas, for the protection of the interests of the Russian state. In a long and stubborn struggle with external enemies for the return of exits to the seas and the lands taken from Russia, the Russian people emerged victorious, firmly established on the shores of the Baltic and Black, White and Barents Seas, the Arctic and Pacific Oceans. In this age-old struggle, Russian sailors fought shoulder to shoulder in close cooperation with the land forces.

The creation of the Russian regular naval infantry was associated with the struggle of Russia for access to the Azov and Baltic Seas in the late XVII - early XVIII centuries. However, even earlier - in the second half of the 16th century - as a part of the crews of the ships of the flotilla, created on the orders of Ivan the Terrible, special teams of streltsy (sea soldiers) were formed, which can be considered a prototype of marines.

For the first time, special military formations, such as the Marine Corps, appeared in Spain in 1537. Later in the UK, the US and other countries. The United Kingdom is the first country in which this type of army was officially approved, such as the marines. This happened in 1664, when King Charles II Stewart ordered the formation of a "regiment of naval service."

In 1669, the first Russian military sailing ship "Orel" had a command of 35 men from sea soldiers (Nizhny Novgorod archers), led by commander Ivan Domozhirov, intended for boarding and landing operations and guard duty. During the Azov campaigns on the ships of the Azov and Baltic fleets, the most combat-capable Transfiguration and Semenovsky regiments successfully operated as part of the marines, of which the Marine Regiment (regiment) was formed in the number of 4254 people. The commander of the 4th company was Peter Alexeevich Romanov himself.

In the years 1701-1702 began the struggle of Russian army units operating on small rowing ships (jets, carbases, etc.), with Swedish lake flotillas on the Ladoga and Chudskoe lakes. These detachments, formed from the personnel of the army infantry regiments of Ostrovsky, Tolbukhin, Tyrtov and Shnevetsov, who were in the Navy, as a result of a number of boarding fights, defeated the Swedish flotillas, consisting of large sailing ships with strong artillery and manned with professional crews. The fighting of these regiments was distinguished by insolence, courage and determination.

To truly appreciate the role of sea soldiers during the Northern War, Peter I was able to take part in boarding battle in May 1703, when two Swedish ships were captured at the mouth of the Neva. An important role was played by the Marine Corps in the defense of the island of Kotlin, where the heroism, courage and bravery of the Tolbukhin and Ostrovsky regiments, which included many glorious pages in the combat history of Russia, were clearly manifested. After the defense of Kotlin in the summer of 1705, the question arose again of creating specially trained units of the Marine Corps in the Navy.

Soviet naval infantry traces its birth to 16 November 1705, when Peter the Greai established the first naval infantry force called the "Sea Regiment." It was Peter's ambition to establish Russia as the leading naval power in the Baltic and beyond that to link his country to the oceans of the world. Peter realized the importance of controlling the Baltic coastal approaches and his naval infantry forces were specifically designed to assist in the achievement of this goal. Pursuant to a decree of Peter I, the formation of a regiment of naval infantry for boarding, landing and marching service on the ships of the Baltic Fleet started.

The officers of the Marine Corps were equipped with non-commissioned officers of the Life Guards of the Preobrazhensky and Semyonovsky Regiments, who were trained, brought up and acquired combat experience during the Northern War. The decrees "On Uniformity" and "Table of Ranks" adopted under Peter I made it possible to form an officer corps from the best representatives of the Russian nation, in particular the nobility, as the basis of the autocracy of Russia. The most important rule of Peter I - "In the service - honor" entered the flesh and blood of the officers of the Russian Marines of the XVIII century. The rank and file of the Russian Marine Corps was distinguished by social, national and religious homogeneity, which gave it the character of a single organism, nurtured a sense of patriotism and a military duty to protect the Fatherland.

The "Sea Regiment," the title assigned to Russia's first organization of naval infantry, was established with several missions in mind. In addition to conducting landing operations, naval infantry forces were designed to guard ships, defend naval ahore facilities, and provide the nucleus for naval boarding parties. Peter's initial naval infantry forces were easily created as he transferred two regiments of infantry troops from his Army to his newly created Baltic fleet. He initially organized this force in ten 120-man companies and then in 1714, as his fleet neared completion, reorganized the naval infantry into five battalions of 500-600 men each. Naval infantry forces were assigned afloat as 25 percent of a sailing vessel and 40 percent of a galley. The employment of these forces was innovative, unlike the British Marines whose role was basically ship-board police.

Since that time the marines have covered a long and glorious way of combat. The Russian marines won victories over the enemy in the Gangut sea battle of 1714, during the rout of the Turkish Navy in Cesme Harbor in 1770, and in taking the Ismail fortress on the Danube in 1790 and the French fortress Corfu in the Ionian Sea in 1799. Within three weeks in that same year a Russian marine landing force took Naples by storm, liberating ally Italy from the French and entered Rome. In 1812-1813 the Russian naval infantrymen distinguished themselves in the battles against the French near Borodino and Kulma and in the siege of the Danzig fortress. In 1854-1855 the marines defended Sevastopol from the Anglo-French and Turkish troops, and in 1904 defended Port Arthur from the Japanese troops.

Although Soviet naval infantry traces its Russian military heritage to Peter the Great's creation of the "Sea Regiment" in 1705, it actually served only 60 years as an active military arm in support of tsarist military requirements. During the remaining 152 years, naval infantry either lost its role as an amphibious force or it simply did not exist. During extended periods (172.5-1769, 1814-1914) naval infantry did not actively serve the imperial crown. The lack of a trained, properly equipped amphibious force has been described by a number of military hiztorians as a contributory factor in Russian defeats during the Crimean War (1853-1856), Russo-Turkish War (1877-1878), and the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905).

Admiral Sergei Gorshkov analyzed the meaning of this sporadic record in his important treatise, Navies in Peace and War, and concluded that, "When Russia failed to emphasize developnent cf the fleet and its maintenance at a level necessitated by modern day demands, the country either lost battles in wars or its peacetime policy failed to achieve designated objectives." Conversely, Admiral Gorshkov was quick to point out tbat when the tsarist leadership pursued an active international policy, naval and naval itfantry forces expanded and played an important role in achieving key state objectives.

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Page last modified: 30-05-2018 12:04:16 ZULU