Bengal Horse Artillery

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The Bengal Horse Artillery were considered one of the elite regiments of the army.

Chronology

  • 1800 raised as the Experimental Brigade of Bengal Horse Artillery
  • 1809 2nd and 3rd Troops of Bengal Horse Artillery formed
  • 1817 first three Native Troops formed
  • 1826 reorganisation of Bengal Horse Artillery into Brigades
  • 1861 absorbed into the Royal Artillery

Service

Includes:

History

1st Brigade

Field Artillery With The Other Arms Its Employment, Illustrated From Military History, And Its RE-Armament With Quick-Firing Guns Discussed by Sir Edward Sinclair May can be viewed on Archive.org. It briefly mentions the formation in 1800 of the “experimental brigade”.

The first troop of the Bengal Horse Artillery was raised in 1800 to accompany the expedition against Napoleon in Egypt that year. The Troop's part in the retreat from Kabul is described:

It was during this retreat that all the guns were lost, mainly due to lack of feed for the horses, which rendered them unable to drag the guns of the Battery through the deep snow and rugged mountain passes. One by one the guns were spiked and abandoned. The Captain, two officers and 102 NCO's and men were killed in the retreat, with in one case an entire gun crew perishing rather than desert their charge! [1]

At amalagamation 1st Troop, 1st Brigade became F Battery (Sphinx) Royal Horse Artillery.

This 1858 edition of The Lancet (Google Books) mentions the health of the 2nd Troop, 1st Bengal Horse Artillery in 1851-1853. The renowned Henry Tombs took command of the 2nd Troop in 1854.

2nd Brigade

The 2nd Troop Bengal Horse Artillery was formed on the 4th of August 1809 in Acra (Agra?). Ian Paterson's site (see References, below) states the majority of the other ranks were European and that the Battery were all mounted to ensure greater manoeuvrability, both unusual during this period. At amalagamation 1st Troop, 2nd Brigade became K (Hondeghem) Battery Royal Horse Artillery.

The Bengal Rocket Troop was raised on 13 September 1816 as a camel mounted unit under the command of Captain (later General) William Samsen Whish. The troop carried a total of 912 six pound rockets, either in buckets on camels, or horse drawn trolleys. It switched back to horses in 1817. It was re-titled 2nd Troop, 2nd Brigade Bengal Horse Artillery in 1826 (see Wikipedia for more details).

3rd Brigade

Another battery was formed as 3rd Troop (later renamed 1st Troop, 3rd Brigade) around 1809. It is now part of L (Néry) Battery RHA (see the L Battery Old Comrades Association for more details).

Records

General information

Robert's description

In his memoir Forty One Years in India, Lord Roberts described his first encounter with the Bengal Horse Artillery in 1852. The text contains a description of the regiment's uniform.

From Cawnpore I went to Meerut, and there came across, for the first time, the far-famed Bengal Horse Artillery, and made the acquaintance of a set of officers who more than realized my expectations regarding the wearers of the much-coveted jacket, association with whom created in me a fixed resolve to leave no stone unturned in the endeavour

to become a horse gunner. Like the Cavalry and Infantry of the East India Company's service, the Artillery suffered somewhat from the employment of many of its best officers on the staff and in civil appointments ; the officers selected were not seconded or replaced in their regiments. This was the case in a less degree, no doubt, in the Horse Artillery than in the other branches, for its esprit was great, and officers were proud to belong to this corps d'elite. It certainly was a splendid service; the men were

the pick of those recruited by the East India Company, they were of magnificent physique, and their uniform was singularly handsome. The jacket was much the same as that now worn by the Royal Horse Artillery, but instead of the busby they had a brass helmet covered in front with leopard skin, surmounted by a long red plume,which drooped over the back like that of a French Cuirassier. This, with white buckskin breeches and long boots, completed a uniform which was one of the most picturesque and effective I have ever seen on a parade-ground.[2]

Amalgamation

A list of the destination of each troop at amalgamation with the Royal Horse Artillery in 1861.[3] Note that the new brigades underwent many name changes over subsequent decades.

Bengal Horse Artillery Royal Horse Artillery
1st troop, 1st brigade became 2nd Brigade, A Battery
2nd troop, 1st brigade
"
2nd Brigade, B Battery
3rd troop, 1st brigade
"
2nd Brigade, C Battery
4th troop, 1st brigade
"
2nd Brigade, D Battery
5th troop, 1st brigade
"
2nd Brigade, E Battery
1st troop, 2nd brigade
"
5th Brigade, A Battery
2nd troop, 2nd brigade
"
5th Brigade, B Battery
3rd troop, 2nd brigade
"
5th Brigade, C Battery
4th troop, 2nd brigade
"
5th Brigade, D Battery
1st troop, 3rd brigade
"
2nd Brigade, F Battery
2nd troop, 3rd brigade
"
2nd Brigade, G Battery
3rd troop, 3rd brigade
"
5th Brigade, E Battery
4th troop, 3rd brigade
"
5th Brigade, F Battery

Individuals

  • N.W. Bancroft [Nathaniel Washington] "joined the Bengal Horse Artillery as a boy recruit at the age of 9 in 1833 and served through some of the most turbulent years of British rule in India. In 1885 he published his memoirs, From Recruit to Staff Sergeant, telling of the campaigns of his career. He gives particular emphasis on the Sikh wars that culminated in the three Sutlej battles, which he describes in gory detail. His account of the actions of the artillery in the Sikh battles match with accuracy to the official accounts, giving a reliable illustration of the tactics of that time. Bancroft gives a tactile description of the sights and sounds of the battlefield, as they were seen and heard from the men on the ground".[4] A 1979 reprint of this book is available at the British Library. A recent reprint is available with a changed title.[5] Also see Society for Army Historical Research for a Journal article reference.

External links

Historical books online

References

  1. Ian Paterson's Artillery Regiments That Served With The 7th Armoured Division desertrats.org.uk. Scroll down to the section on F Battery (Sphinx) Royal Horse Artillery.
  2. Roberts, Field Marshal Frederick Lord, Forty One Years in India: From subaltern to commander-in-chief Volume 1 1897, p12
  3. United Service Magazine 1861 Part III, p607
  4. From Recruit to Staff Sergeant sikhbookshelf.com
  5. Bancroft of the Bengal Horse Artillery Leonaur Books
  6. History of the Royal and Indian Artillery in the Mutiny of 1857 by Julian RJ Jocelyn. Naval & Military Press reprint edition.
  7. Sketch of the History of ‘F’ Battery Royal Horse Artillery by Major-General F. W. Stubbs and Major A. S. Tyndale-Biscoe, R.H.A. c 1905 Naval & Military Press reprint edition.