Shortly after receiving his promotion to rear admiral in 1790, William IV, known as the 'Sailor King', was at dinner on board one of his fleet's ships. He ordered the steward to remove the 'dead marines' to make room for new bottles. A marine officer at the table complained. His Highness responded that no offense was intended. The expression was used in the sense "...that, like marines, the bottle had given its life nobly and, given the chance, would do it again."
Dead Soldiers, Devils, and More. By: Bear Downing. Copyright © 1997, 1998, 2000.
Photo credit: Joshua Morris