Royal Artillery

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History

Chronology

  • 1716 two companies of field artillery raised at Woolwich
  • 1720 first called Royal Artillery
  • 1748 Presidential Artilleries of Bengal, Madras and Bombay formed
  • 1793 Royal Horse Artillery (RHA) raised to provide fire support for the cavalry
  • 1862 absorbed artillery of the British East India Company (21 horse batteries & 48 field batteries) bringing its strength to 29 horse batteries, 73 field batteries and 88 heavy batteries
  • 1899 divided into Royal Horse Artillery, Royal Field Artillery and Royal Garrison Artillery
  • 1924 amalgamated again into one regiment Royal Artillery
  • Today Royal Regiment of Artillery comprised of Royal Horse Artillery (King's Troop & 3 regiments) and Royal Artillery (18 regiments)

Service in India

The first company of the Royal Artillery to serve in India sailed in November 1747. During the 1800s the service in the East Indies was mainly in Ceylon, until the Indian Mutiny in 1857. In 1859, the companies of the Royal Artillery in India were formed into the 11th, 13th and 14th Brigades.[1]

Absorbing the Company artillery regiments

In December 1861, General Orders were issued concerning the amalgamation of the Bengal, Madras and Bombay Artillery with the Royal Artillery.

“In accordance with the instructions of her Majesty's Government, the Bengal, Madras, and Bombay Regiments of Artillery will be formed into the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th Royal Horse Brigades, and the 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th, 20th, 21st, 22nd, 23rd, 24th, and 25th brigades of Royal Artillery.

The 2nd Royal Horse Brigade will be formed of seven troops of Bengal Horse Artillery, the 3rd brigade of the four troops of Madras Horse Artillery, the 4th brigade of the four troops of Bombay Horse Artillery, and the 5th brigade of six troops of Bengal Horse Artillery.

The brigades of Royal Artillery will be formed:—16th of 5 companies of Bengal Artillery ; 17th of 6 companies of Madras Artillery; 18th of 6 companies of Bombay Artillery ; 19th of 5 companies of Bengal Artillery; 20th of 5 companies of Madras Artillery ; 21st of six companies of Bombay Artillery ; 22nd of 5 companies of Bombay Artillery; 23rd of 5 companies of Madras Artillery ; 24th of 5 companies of Bengal Artillery; 25th of 4 companies of Bengal Artillery".[2]

1861 onwards

History of the Royal Regiment of Artillery Duncan, vol 2, (1873) lists the batteries in existence in 1872. The names of the Horse Artillery Brigades have changed since 1861, and the 24th and 25th Brigades are no longer in existence.

For information for the period 1863-1911, refer Stations of Royal Artillery in India

For details of Royal Artillery Batteries which have an honour title or history involving India, (current at October 2014) , refer Royal Artillery Batteries

First World War

Regular Army Brigades

The British artillery of 1914-1918 from "The Long, Long Trail The British Army in the Great War", which indicates there were some Regular Army Brigades in India throughout the War , examples being

  • 6 (Howitzer) Brigade (regular, VI (How))
Comprising only number 77 Battery and based at Jhansi, this brigade came under command of the 7th (Meerut) Division of the Indian Army. It remained in India throughout the war, leaving the Division when it went to France. In 1915-6 it was under the 1st (Peshawar) Division.
  • 7 Brigade (regular, VII)
Comprising numbers 4, 38 and 78 Batteries RFA plus 68 and 84 Companies RGA and 104 Battery RGA and based at Rawalpindi, this brigade came under command of the 2nd (Rawalpindi) Division of the Indian Army. It remained in India throughout the war.
  • XVI Brigade, RFA A unit of Britain's pre-war regular army and comprising 89, 90 and 91 Batteries, this brigade came under command of the 1st (Peshawar) Division of the Indian Army and was based at Nowshera. It remained in India throughout the war, only leaving Nowshera for Rawalpindi in November 1918.

Territorial Force troops

See British Army Territorial Force troops arriving in 1914 for some of the Royal Field Artillery Batteries which arrived at the end of 1914.

In 1916 and 1917 there was a renaming and renumbering of Artillery Brigades and Batteries. As an example, in 1916, the IV Wessex Brigade was renamed, becoming the 218th (IV Wessex) Brigade, RFA. In 1917, the component batteries were numbered, with the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Devonshire Batteries becoming 1094th, 1095th, and 1096th Batteries. [3]

See also

Records

FIBIS resources

  • Royal Regiment of Artillery 1747-1749 - 135 officers and soldiers of the RA who sailed for India to fight with Admiral Boscawen
  • Royal Artillery Muster Rolls 1748 pay list related to above source
  • K Battery, Royal Horse Artillery, Memorial at Bandariabagh (photo)
  • "Life in a British Cantonment in India: Nasirabad, 1929-1930" by John Sworder FIBIS Journal Number 23 (Spring 2010) pages 40-48. For details of how to access this article, see FIBIS Journals.
  • "The Mysterious Murder at Agra" by Rosemary Reardon FIBIS Journal Number 28 (Autumn 2012) pages 3-14. Charles Low a Corporal in O Battery, 3 Brigade stationed at Agra was murdered in October 1882. His wife and another Corporal were charged with the murder but acquitted. For details of how to access this article, see FIBIS Journals.

The National Archives

The most accessible soldiers’ records, including for soldiers of the Royal Artillery, are the WO 97 series Royal Hospital Chelsea pension records, many of which are available online.

Muster rolls (effectively a pay list register of soldiers in a company) can provide excellent information, however it must be noted that there are almost no muster rolls for the Royal Artillery in India, except a few in very early years.[4] However, checking the rolls for the period before and after an artilleryman is in India can be very useful. The National Archives has an online guide covering British Army muster rolls and pay lists. Be sure to know the brigade and battery of your man before you attempt to find the muster roll and be aware that name changes did occur. Law's Tables can be useful for sorting out the correct titles.

Also refer to the guide produced by Firepower, The Royal Artillery Museum called "Is There A Gunner In Your Family Tree?", see below.

The main record series, with catalogue entries, are:

The records for WO 69/1-177 together with WO 69/583-597 "Description books: Registers of deceased soldiers, with indexes" are available on LDS microfilm, (107 reels) with this catalogue entry (Ordering microfilms).

Online Resources

WO 116/125 1 November 1833-08 February 1837 to WO 116/165 3 January 1893 to 26 December 1893
These are stated to be large pdf files, which need a broadband internet connection
  • The findmypast website holds four nominal rolls for Royal Artillery soldiers. One is a list of men who were awarded the Military Medal between 1916-1993. The other reveals the officers and men who were decorated for Gallantry during the Second World War. It also holds "Royal Artillery Attestations 1883-1942" which, in practical terms consists of post WW1 attestations, and "Other Ranks: Casualty Cards 1939-1947". Searching is free but charges apply for examination of the record.

Church Records

For Overseas Army records of baptisms, marriages and burials, see Chaplains Returns

Firepower, The Royal Artillery Museum

Firepower, The Royal Artillery Museum has a Library and Archive with extensive holdings including battery records. A research service is available. Note that charges apply to consult records in the Reading Room.

Firepower has produced a guide for family history researchers called "Is There A Gunner In Your Family Tree?" The sixteen page guide outlines how the Museum's extensive archives can help researchers. It also details the other main UK sources and archives to explore when researching army service. Available from the Firepower Museum Shop.

British Library

For items in the India Office Records refer India Office military records at the British Library.

Published histories in the catalogue include:

  • The History of the Royal Artillery, Crimean period by Colonel Julian RJ Jocelyn (1911)
  • The History of the Royal and Indian Artillery in the Mutiny of 1857 by Julian RJ Jocelyn (1915).
  • The History of the Royal Artillery : from the Indian Mutiny to the Great War by Sir Charles Callwell and Sir John Headlam (1931, 1940)
Volume 1, 1860-1899, Volume 2, 1899-1914, Volume 3, Campaigns 1860-1914.
  • History of the Royal Regiment of Artillery : Western Front 1914-18 by Sir Martin Farndale (1986)
  • History of the Royal Regiment of Artillery : the Forgotten Fronts and the Home Base 1914-18 by Sir Martin Farndale (1988)
  • History of the Royal Regiment of Artillery : Between the Wars, 1919-39 edited by BP Hughes (1992) (Nb: the catalogue entry does not use the subtitle)
  • History of the Royal Regiment of Artillery: The years of defeat Europe and North Africa, 1939-41 by Sir Martin Farndale 1996
  • History of the Royal Regiment of Artillery. The Far East Theatre, 1941-1946 by Sir Martin Farndale (2000), revised ed The Far East Theatre, 1939-1946, Farndale (2002).

Other books in the catalogue:

  • Battery Records of the Royal Artillery compiled by M. E. S. Laws. Volume 1, 1716-1859 and Volume 2, 1859-1877 published in 1950 and 1970 . Also known as ‘Laws Tables’.
  • Minutes of Proceedings of the Royal Artillery Institution. Volume 1 (1858) -Volume 32, no. 3 (June 1905). Volume 12 is missing. The name then changed to
  • The Journal of the Royal Artillery, Vol 32, no. 4 (July 1905). This was published monthly, 1905-July 1924; quarterly Oct 1924-1958; 3 times a year, 1959-1961; half-yearly, 1962-.
  • General Report of the Practice in the Royal Artillery, Poona Circle (Annual Report on Royal Artillery Practice, Bombay Command) for the season of 1894-95 (1896-97-1899-1900)

Royal Artillery Historical Society

Previously there were details of the Royal Artillery Historical Society in the Royal Artillery section of the Army website. This link has now disappeared. Previously it was advised that there were meetings four times a year. Issues of the Gunner Magazine give details of future meetings and the June 2012 Gunner Magazine advised that the RAHS Secretary is Lt Col R S Clayton: richard.clayton@twinpines.fsnet.co.uk Papers previously presented include "The History of 10 Assaye Battery, Royal Artillery" which was originally part of the Bombay Artillery. Refer External links below for some of the papers.

Regimental journals

The Gunner has been published monthly since 1919. Its aims include providing a record of regimental history, social affairs, sporting activities, equipment, dress etc

The Royal Artillery Journal is published twice annually, and offers a more in-depth, scientific look at continuing operations and lessons that can be learned from previous campaigns, as well as features on memorable moments and characters from the Gunners' 300 year history.[5] Originally published from 1858 as Minutes of Proceedings of the Royal Artillery Institution, the name was changed in 1905. Both series of journals are available at the British Library.

Garrison Gunners' life in India

An Officer’s wife wrote

"Yesterday the Captain Sahib was on a board to award prizes to the gunners’ gardens at the Fish Market Fort [Lucknow] The men are given seeds and encouraged to grow vegetables and flowers, as the life of a garrison gunner in an Indian Fort is a very dull one."[6]

References

  1. "The Royal Artillery in the East Indies" provides more details
  2. "The New Artillery Amalgamation", pages 606-607 (December 1861) from Colburn’s United Service Magazine, Volume 97, 1861 Part 3 Google Books
  3. Great War Forum thread 218th RFA in India
  4. TNA Catalogue description
  5. Gunner Magazine British Army website.
  6. My Garden in the City of Gardens: A Memory, page 86 by Edith E Cuthell 1905 Archive.org. She was married to Army Officer Thomas G Cuthell, possibly in the Royal Artillery

External links

Memorials
Other
  • 17 Pack Battery RGA in India www.king-emperor.com. Contains photographs from an album belonging to Harry Lamming, Battery Sergeant-Major of the 17th Pack Battery RGA. The 17th Pack Battery served in India from 1920 to 1927, and was posted to various stations including Razmak in North Waziristan.
  • Photograph: A group of off-duty Artillerymen from No. 3 Bty, 3rd Bde relaxing in fatigues and solar "topees" by Lance Sergeant Thomas Boddington, Quetta, Baluchistan, about 1926. Family website
  • Article "Son tells us of gunner's service in 1930s India" by Dan Shaw briefly mentions Albert Bakewell, stationed in India with Royal Artillery 17th Light Battery, between 1929 and 1936, a lot of the time in the tribal territories. blackcountrybugle.co.uk
  • "The Diary and Journal of General Sir John Wilton" (born 1910) He was an officer in India and Burma from December 1931, initially with the 69 Fd Bty Royal Artillery (page 3) and left in May 1939 (page 12) www.raga.com
  • Listen to the 1995 interview with Ronald William Swann British NCO with 238 Bty, 115th Field Regt, Royal Artillery in GB, France and Belgium and India 1939-1942; served with 160th Jungle Field Regt, Royal Artillery in Bengal, India, 1943; officer served with artillery unit during Second Chindit Expedition in Burma, 1944 Imperial War Museums
  • The father of John Cooper A Searchlight Unit was formed from 41st Battalion 5th North Staffs (Originally TA Volunteers). They then were drafted to 126 Light Anti Aircraft Regiment which supposedly never left the UK and then to the 60 Field Artillery Regiment They were in fact transported out to India under the Command of General Wingate and Brigadier Mike Calvert as part of the Chindits Special Forces 77th Brigade. (WW2) www.anti-aircraft.co.uk
  • Obituary: Ron Burton 09 October 2013 The Telegraph. He was Sergeant, 125 Anti-Tank Regiment Royal Artillery (125 ATR), taken prisoner after the fall of Singapore.

Historical Books on-line