New Royal Marines Reserve base named after local hero

Topic: Fighting armsRoyal Marines

A new base for Manchester Detachment Royal Marines Reserve (RMR) Merseyside has been formally named after a local hero of the Crimean war during a ceremony attended by two of his great-great granddaughters and the most senior Royal Marine in the Service.

The new facility, on the site of Haldane Barracks Army Reserve Centre on Eccles New Road, Salford, was formally named the Prettyjohns Building after Corporal John Prettyjohns who was awarded the Victoria Cross during the Crimean War.

During the ceremony a plaque was unveiled by Major General Robert Magowan CBE, Commandant General Royal Marines, in the presence of his descendants Mrs Laura Walsh and Mrs Maria Gibbs.

Born in Devon in 1823, John Pethyjohns joined the Marine Light Infantry. Upon enlisting, due to his strong Devon accent, his name was misunderstood and spelled as Prettyjohns.

He remained John Prettyjohns for the rest of his life. During the Crimean War, at the Battle of Inkerman, Cpl Prettyjohns and a party of marines were attacked by a Russian patrol.

Low on ammunition, Cpl Prettyjohns seized the leader of the patrol with a ‘West Country wrestling throw’ while his men threw stones at the enemy. As a consequence of his actions he was put forward as the recipient of the Corps’ first Victoria Cross. Cpl Prettyjohns is buried in Chorlton alongside his wife and two daughters.

The Prettyjohns Building is a state-of-the-art training facility which will house Manchester Detachment RMR Merseyside.

The project was delivered by the North West of England & the Isle of Man Reserve Forces’ and Cadets’ Association (NW RFCA), the organisation which manages the Reserve and Cadet estate in the region.

Begun in August 2015 the project, worth £1.1 million, transformed what was previously a garage into a centre comprising modern office and training facilities across two floors.

The detachment also benefit from having dedicated external training facilities including regain and climbing ropes, training wall and troop training shelter.

There are currently 39 Royal Marines Reservists from Greater Manchester and seven recruits undergoing training, all of whom will use the facility on a weekly basis.

Major General Magowan said, “It gives me great pleasure to name this new facility in honour of a Corps hero, the first Royal Marine to be awarded the VC, who lies just a few miles away. It is even more of an honour to do so in the presence of two of Cpl Prettyjohns’ descendants, Mrs Laura Walsh and Mrs Maria Gibbs.

“The Prettyjohns Building will provide RMR Merseyside with a vital facility, allowing Royal Marines Reservists from across Manchester to train to the exacting standards required of them to deploy alongside their Regular counterparts on operations around the world.”

The Royal Marines Reserves has had a presence in Manchester for 60 years. Since 1957, it has shared locations with the Territorial Army, now the Army Reserve, as is now also reflected within Haldane. Operationally, this Detachment has delivered Royal Marine Reservists to Iraq as part of Operation Telic and later to Afghanistan on Operation Herrick, some 42 men, fully integrated with front line units.

In more recent times, this Detachment has continued to support the UK’s contingent operations and enduring commitments to 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines and the wider Maritime Reserves. 

Three members of Royal Marines Reserve Merseyside are currently attached to 40 Commando, the Lead Commando Group and the UK’s very high readiness contingent capability, including two from the Manchester Detachment, who deployed to the British Virgin Islands as part of Operation Ruman, demonstrating how the Reserves are able to step up very quickly, providing value to UK Defence.

It gives me great pleasure to name this new facility in honour of a Corps hero, the first Royal Marine to be awarded the VC, who lies just a few miles away

Major General Robert Magowan CBE, Commandant General Royal Marines