Royal Naval Division Monument

The following is based on a report from the Navy News, February 2003.

The Royal Naval Division monument has been moved from the grounds of the old Royal Naval College Greenwich, and will be re-installed at its original home of the balustrade at the old Admiralty Building, and re-dedicated by His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales.

The RND Memorial commemorates no fewer than 45,000 casualties sustained by the Royal Naval Division in World War I. The Division was formed in 1914 by the First Sea Lord, Winston Churchill, as an intervention and raiding force. It fought at Gallipoli and on the Western Front, winning a reputation as a fine frontline fighting force - one factor being that the Division was forced to provide its own officers, so an existing cadre of high-quality Royal Marines were supplemented by promotions from the rank on merit, contributing to the quality of the leadership. Many recruits to "Churchill’s private army" were recruited from the North of England and Scotland, and there was a strong esprit de corps which helped it integrate into the British Expeditionary Force.

Army units were incorporated into the RND from 1916, but it maintained a strong Naval ethos until it was disbanded. The Division was formally disbanded at a parade on Horse Guards Parade in 1919 at which the Prince of Wales took the salute, and survivors commissioned Sir Edward Lutyens to create an appropriate memorial to overlook the spot.

The site and Lutyens’ design were personally approved by King George V. An inscription on the memorial displayed the words of poet Rupert Brooke, who died on active service with Hood Battalion of the RND at Gallipoli:

Blow out you bugles over the rich dead. There’s none of these so lonely and poor of old, but, dying, has made us rarer gifts than gold. These laid the world away, poured out the red sweet wine of youth, gave up the years to be of work and joy, and that unhoped serene, that men call age, and those who would have been their sons, they gave, their immortality.

The Royal Naval Division included elements of the Royal Navy, Royal Marines and the Army:

Battle Honours for the Division are: Antwerp, Gallipoli, Ancre, Arras, Ypres, Welsh Ridge and Hindenburg Line.

More than 40 per cent of Royal Navy casualties suffered in World War I were in the trenches, yet they rarely made up more than a tenth of the Navy’s total strength.

The monument was officially unveiled in 1925, but had to be dismantled in 1939 and moved into storage when work began on the building of a citadel behind the Admiralty in preparation for war. The memorial was rebuilt at Greenwich in 1951, but when links with the Royal Navy were severed with the closure of the College it was deemed an appropriate opportunity to return the memorial to its rightful place in the heart of London. The original plinth, and the associated pipework for the fountain, still exist, and the re-installation should be a relatively straightforward matter Anyone wishing to support the return should write to: RND Memorial Appeal, c/o The Royal Marines Corps Secretary, HMS Excellent, Whale Island, Portsmouth PO2 8ER.

Last Updated: 5 March, 2003

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