Royal Marines to commemorate the Zeebrugge Centenary in Wirral

The Royal Marines will commemorate Merseyside’s key role in the ‘first commando raid’ this weekend – a century after the Mersey ferries helped storm the port of Zeebrugge.

Ferries Iris and Daffodil carried Royal Marines into action on St George’s Day 1918 as the Royal Navy sought to bottle up German U-boats in Flanders.

The passenger boats were picked for their capacity and used by storming parties from 4th Royal Marines Battalion, who were landed on the harbour mole with the goal of neutralising a gun battery on a heavily-defended German position. 

Both ferries served with distinction and played a critical part in the raid, despite suffering significant damage and taking heavy casualties from enemy fire. They subsequently returned to Wallasey, where they were awarded the ‘Royal’ title by King George V in recognition of the part they played during the raid.

Their part in the attack has already been marked on the Mersey as part of Great War centenary commemorations by the ‘dazzle ferry’ Snowdrop – painted, as ships of the day were, in garish colours to confuse the enemy.

The centenary of the raid is being marked on Sunday with a brief wreath laying service on the River Mersey from one of the current ferries.

Attendees will include the grandson of Lieutenant Percy Dean from the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, who received a Victoria Cross for his heroic action at Zeebrugge – one of eight that were awarded to the Royal Navy and Royal Marines for this operation.

Monsignor Stephen Alker, Chaplain to the Queen, will then conduct a centenary service at the 4th Royal Marines Battalion memorial stone at Seacombe Ferry Terminal, before the Royal Marines exercise their freedom by marching through Wirral, with weapons and bayonets fixed along the promenade to Wallasey Town Hall.

The Royal Marines will be accompanied by the Royal Band, as well as Royal Navy Reservists, Royal Marines veterans and cadets.

The service begins at 11am with the promenade march beginning 30 minutes later.

The Mayor of Wirral, Councillor Anne McLachlan said: “This will be a truly memorable occasion and a significant opportunity for Wirral to remember those who took part in the Zeebrugge Raid.”

Brigadier Haydn White, Deputy Commandant General Royal Marines, added: “I am very grateful to the Mayor and people of Wirral for allowing the Royal Marines to commemorate this important Centenary event; it will be a very special day for both the serving Corps and our veterans.”