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Royal Marines kick off 360th year with commando style Ceremony of the Dues in London

14 March 2024
Royal Marines powered along the River Thames to deliver a barrel of port to the Tower of London as part of an historic Ceremony of the Dues marking the Corps’ 360th anniversary.

Three raiding craft made the short journey from HMS President, under Tower Bridge to the Tower of London carrying their ‘Dues’ (the barrel of port) for the Constable of the Tower – fittingly, retired senior Royal Marine, General Sir Gordon Messenger.

The ceremony is a tradition that dates back to the 14th Century when naval ships passing into London were ordered to pay a levy.

Normally Royal Navy sailors carry out this task, but given the significance of their 360th year, Royal Marines were given the honour to mark their illustrious history and also their place at the very forefront of UK Defence.

It is the second time the Royal Marines have conducted this ceremony – the first time was in 2014 when the Corps was marking its 350th anniversary.

A Commando Merlin helicopter from 845 Naval Air Squadron carried out a fly past and Royal Marines past and present gathered at the Tower to mark the occasion, with head of the Corps, Commandant General Royal Marines General Gwyn Jenkins, overseeing events.

He said: “To be afforded the opportunity to enact this unique ceremony on our 360th anniversary is a tremendous honour.

“Like all Royal Marines, I am humbled to stand on the shoulders of the giants who have gone before us.

“What you have seen today is the combination of tradition that speaks to our core ethos and values, alongside the adaptability and professionalism of the modern commando force who will continue this legacy into the future.”

Warrant Officer 1 Simon Stroud, the Ceremonial Lead for the occasion, added: “It’s always a great privilege to conduct ceremonial duties in the nation’s capital. The Ceremony of the Dues is steeped in history, and to be part of that is a fantastic honour.

“Every Marine taking part will remember this day with pride throughout their careers.”

Marines from Plymouth-based 47 Commando – who specialise in boat and landing craft operations – landed the Dues on the banks of the Thames at the Royal Fortress, handing over to a ceremonial guard comprising regular and reserves and members of the Band of His Majesty’s Royal Marines, Collingwood.

The guard marched the Dues through the outer gates of the Tower of London.

As is tradition, the contingent bearing the Dues were challenged at the entrance to the Tower by the Yeoman Gaoler and two Yeoman Warders (better known as Beefeaters), wearing full state dress, before the Chief Yeoman Warder paraded the Dues through to Tower Green, where they presented them to the Constable of the Tower, General Sir Gordon Messenger.

The launch event mixes a ceremony deeply rooted in naval tradition with latest Royal Marines kit and tactics – two concurrent themes throughout the 360th anniversary year, as the Corps celebrates its rich, proud history, but also looks to the future as a hi-tech, elite Commando Force.

A fresh investment in kit, tech and vehicles and a return to raiding operations in small teams – opposed to the more conventional warfare of Afghanistan and Iraq – has underscored a bold modernisation of the Royal Marines.

Some of the new kit – including new rifle and uniform – were used by Commando Force personnel as they delivered the Dues, a nod to the future in a deeply historic event.

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