The Royal Marines, the Royal Navy’s soldiers under command of the Admiralty, first took up residence in Deal and Walmer’s barracks in 1861, beginning a long association between the Corps and the local area and its inhabitants.
At this time the Royal Marines consisted of two parts, an infantry element known as Royal Marine Light Infantry or RMLI, who wore the scarlet uniform of the British Army’s infantry soldiers, and the Royal Marine Artillery (RMA), who wore the blue coats of the British Army’s artillery regiments. Both elements served on board HM ships, providing sentries for the Captain’s quarters, boarding and raiding parties, and were responsible for manning a section of the ship’s main armament.
On larger vessels, Royal Marines musicians supplied the band service and, on many ships, a boy bugler sounded out orders to the ship’s company. Royal Marines served with the fleet around the world, and also had a role in diplomatic protection. This was valiantly demonstrated on 24 June 1900, when a RMLI Captain, Lewis Stratford Tollemache Halliday, won a Victoria Cross during the Boxer rebellion in Peking, China. Captain Halliday, despite being wounded several times, led a successful defence against a band of Boxers who had broken into the British Legation.
1900 also saw the building of the Royal Marine Infirmary (or Infirmary Barracks) on a former drill field, providing much needed local medical relief for the marines based in Deal. With a full complement of surgeons, physicians and nurses, the infirmary demonstrated the importance of the depot at Deal to the Admiralty, and added another significant contribution to local life and economy.
Lucy stands to the left of the sailors, glancing at them as often as she dares to catch sight of the tallest of them, who possesses the bluest pair of eyes she believes she has ever seen.
She feels herself jostled from behind, and is unable to prevent herself form crying out, ‘Oh!’ as she stumbles forwards. She regains her balance, but straightens to find that enchanting pair of blue eyes upon her.
‘Are you quite alright?’ he asks. ‘People can forget their manners in a crowd.’
‘Can’t they just,’ says Lucy, and they both laugh.
‘Are you visiting for the day?’ he asks.
‘Perhaps,’ says Lucy. ‘You could say that I’m on something of an odyssey!’
‘A traveller, eh?’ says the sailor. ‘I have a little wanderlust myself!’
‘I should imagine so,’ says Lucy.
‘I say,’ says the sailor. ‘I don’t suppose you would care to take a turn along the promenade with me?