Exmouth has long been associated with the Royal Marines due to its training centre at Lympstone, which has trained thousands of marines and officers over many years. But just who are the Royal Marines and where and how did they come about?

The Royal Marines are part of the Royal Navy and are 'the elite amphibious force that are held in high readiness for worldwide rapid response and threat neutralisation'.

The modern day Royal Marines really came about in 1939 at the outbreak of WWII and initially training was carried out at Commando School RM Bickleigh, near Plymouth. In 1940 a depot was established at Exton and it saw the first of what was to become thousands of marines arrive for training. On 5 September 1941 this was officially renamed Depot RM Lympstone. During the second world war it was training up to 800 recruits a month. During this time a second camp was set up at Dalditch on Woodbury Common and was known as RM Infantry Training Centre (RMITC) which was responsible for the second phase of training.

In 1943 training was extended from six to eight weeks and in 1944 to eighteen weeks. During the 1960s the majority of all aspects of the Corps training transferred to Lympstone. New accommodation blocks opened in July 1963 and in 1970 the camp formally became known as Commando Training Centre Royal Marines (CTCRM). It trains all officers, NCOs, recruits and reserves on this site. During the 1970s work continued to bring the site up to be a centre of military excellence with a pool, gymnasium, medical centre, lecture rooms and indoor shooting range. It even got its own station on the Exeter to Exmouth railway line called Lympstone Commando. It however still retains one of the original wooden huts from WWII as a mark of respect to the pioneers of that time at Lympstone.

Today it caters for all aspects of new entrants training and for continuation courses. To say the training is rigorous would be an understatement! It lasts for 32 weeks and in that time all recruits would have been severely tested in every way possible. Much of the training takes place on Woodbury Common and Dartmoor and a lot of it at night. This culminates in what is called the '4 Commando Tests' which must be completed within a seven-day period. They comprise firstly a nine-mile speed march carrying full fighting order to be completed in 90 minutes, which equates to 10 minutes per mile. The second test is a six-mile endurance course run across rough terrain on Woodbury Common which includes an underwater culvert. The course ends with a four-mile run back to Lympstone and then the recruit must undergo a marksman test where the target must be hit at least six times accurately.  Next comes the Tarzan Assault Course which includes a slide from a great height and a 30-foot vertical wall climbed with a rope – all this to be done in full fighting order within 13 minutes (12 for officer recruits). The final test is the 30-miler across Dartmoor in full fighting order plus additional safety equipment following a trained Royal Marine. It must be completed in eight hours (seven for officer recruits who must navigate the route themselves) If anyone has failed any of the four tests they are permitted to retake them up until the expiry of the seven-day window, If after this time the four tests are not completed satisfactorily then the recruit will fail to become a Royal Marine. Those that succeed are awarded their 'Green Beret'.

But what next after this punishing 32 weeks? Read next week to find out……

If you would like to find out more about Exmouth Museum please visit www.exmouthmuseum.co.uk or email Mike at exmouthmuseum@gmail.com