Collingwood sailors pay tribute to battalion

Sailors and officers from HMS Collingwood, Fareham, attended a special service at Collingwood Corner Naval Division Memorial, Blandford Camp Pimperne recently.

The ceremony was in memory of the 63rd Division, 2nd Brigade, Collingwood Battalion, who were initially trained at the Dorset Camp, before they were almost totally destroyed during fighting at Gallipoli.

Commander Trefor Fox, Officer Commanding Warfare Support Training Group at the Maritime Warfare School, HMS Collingwood, attended the service together with Reverend Mike Meachin RN, also of Collingwood, who conducted the service.

HMS Collingwood also provided the Guard of Honour and the Royal Marines Band.

It is an honour to keep their memory alive. Their sacrifice and valour is our heritage and we must never forget them.

Commander Trefor Fox RN

Commander Fox said “As we mark the centenary of this memorial the bravery of the Collingwood Division is at the forefront of our minds.

“It is an honour to keep their memory alive. Their sacrifice and valour is our heritage and we must never forget them.

“Collingwood’s motto  Ferar unus et idem ("I shall carry on regardless") is particularly apt when we remember the hardships they faced.”

At the outset of World War One the Royal Navy (RN) called up every member of every type of RN reserve organisation and found themselves with many more men than berths on ships or establishments. The Army did the same.

The then 1st Sea Lord, Winston Churchill, enacted a concept considered prior to WW1 that a division of naval Infantry should be formed.

The task of the Division was to seize and hold ports to enable the Royal Navy to operate from them. The Royal Navy had a long history of operations ashore. Lord Nelson received his eye injury and arm injury while operating ashore, not on a ship.

The Division initially formed in tented camps at Walmer (1st Brigade) and Betteshanger (2nd Brigade) near Deal in Kent while awaiting the building of a permanent camp at Blandford. The Crystal Palace was also taken up as a Royal Naval Division (RND) location.

The Division consisted of 3 brigades. The first and second brigades were composed of the ‘reservists’ called up (including some Army transfers). The third brigade was formed from battalions of the Royal Marines Light Infantry.

1st and 2nd Brigade Battalions were named after Admirals:

  • 1st Brigade: Drake, Benbow, Hawke and Collingwood Battalions
  • 2nd Brigade: Hood, Nelson, Anson and Howe Battalions

3rd Brigade, The Marine Brigade Battalions were named after locations:

  • 9th (Portsmouth), 10th (Plymouth), 11th (Chatham) and 12th (Deal)

The RND were deployed to Antwerp in October 1914 to take over trenches from Belgians surrounding Antwerp.

Savaged by German attacks, the Division withdrew but many men were lost or interned (Neutral Netherlands) or seized as POW.

Reformed at Blandford Camp, built in the meantime and occupied from Nov 1915, the Battalion retrained and, issued with tropical kit, were sent to the Dardanelles (Gallipoli Campaign), ordered by Winston Churchill.

On 4th June 1915 at midday the RND first wave advanced against Turkish trenches, the second wave left at 1215. By 1245 1060 officers and men of RND lay dead.

The Collingwood Battalion received so many casualties that the remaining men were used as Battle Casualty Replacements and the Battalion never reformed. The memorial at Blandford Camp is to the Collingwood Battalion primarily.

After Gallipoli the RND returned to Blandford, reformed again and were then sent to the Western Front under Army Command as the 63rd (RN) Division. They acquitted themselves extremely well in all battles from the Somme to the final Hindenburg Line battles.

The Division was formally disbanded on 4th June 1919 on Horse Guards Parade, London.

A short Remembrance Service and Wreath Laying Ceremony was held indoors due to the inclement weather.