In 1788, four companies of British Marines arrived in the colony of New South Wales on the six ships of the First Fleet. Their duties were to defend the colony from attack, to guard convicts and provide policing in the colony.

The Marines were volunteers from the Royal Navy Divisions and initially engaged for a period of three years. Many stayed in the colony after their duties were handed over to the New South Wales Corp in 1792.  Detachments of Marines continued to serve in Australian until 1913.

After the departure of the New South Wales Corps in 1810, 24 different regiments were stationed in Australia, until the last left in 1870. After that time the colonial governments raised their own troops.