Mountain Artillery

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Mountain Artillery

Mountain Artillery was developed to allow field guns to accompany forces operating in mountainous regions. The guns were dismantled into three loads (piece, carriage and wheels) and carried on mules. The first mountain train in India was formed in 1840 for service in the 1st Afghan War and disbanded in 1843. Mountain Batteries formed part of the forces raised to defend the territory gained in the 2nd Sikh War in due course known as the North West Frontier Province. The Hazara Mountain Train was the first to be formed in 1850 from a nucleus raised by Capt J Abbott, Bengal Artillery, during the Hazara rebellion of 1848.

Punjab Irregular Force

When the Punjab Irregular Force was formed in 1851 it had four batteries of artillery mainly recruited from defeated Sikh artillerymen. They were known as Punjab Light Field Batteries:

  • No 1 Horse Light Field Battery
  • No 2 Horse Light Field Battery
  • No 3 Horse Light Field Battery
  • No 4 Garrison Company

The force later gained two further units:

  • Hazara Mountain Train
  • Peshawar Mountain Train

The Indian Mutiny

As a consequence of the Indian Mutiny the European artillery regiments (21 horse batteries & 48 field batteries) of the Presidency Armies were taken into the Royal Artillery of the British Army. The Bengal, Madras and Bombay Native Foot Artillery were disbanded except for the Mountain Trains, the Horse Light Field Batteries, three companies of Madras Native Foot Artillery (disbanded in 1870), three companies of Bombay Native Foot Artillery (one disbanded in 1870) and some garrison and local units which were soon disbanded.

Punjab Frontier Force

The Punjab Iregular Force became the Punjab Frontier Force in 1865 and the two mountain trains were redesignated mountain batteries. The No 1 Light Field Battery was disbanded in 1870. In 1876/7 the remaining batteries were renumbered as follows:

No 2 Horse Light Field Battery became No 1 Mountain Battery (PFF)
No 3 Punjab Horse Light Field Battery became No 2 Mountain Battery (PFF)
Peshawar Mountain Battery became No 3 Peshawar Mountain Battery (PFF)
Hazara Mountain Battery became No 4 Hazara Mountain Battery (PFF)
No 4 Garrison Company became No. 5 Garrison Battery

In 1879 the titles were further changed to:

No 1 Mountain Battery (PFF) became No 1 (Kohat) Punjab Mountain Battery
No 2 Mountain Battery (PFF) became No 2 (Derajat) Punjab Mountain Battery
No 3 Peshawar Mountain Battery (PFF) became No 3 (Peshawar) Punjab Mountain Battery
No 4 Hazara Mountain Battery (PFF) became No 4 (Hazara) Punjab Mountain Battery

Also in 1876 the two remaining companies of Bombay Native Foot Artillery became No 1 & No 2 Bombay Mountain Batteries. In 1890 there were again renumbered:

No 1 Bombay Mountain Battery became No 5 (Bombay) Mountain Battery
No 2 Bombay Mountain Battery became No 6 (Bombay) Mountain Battery

In 1886 No 1 & No 2 Bengal Mountain Batteries were formed and renumbered in 1899:

No 1 Bengal Mountain Battery became No 7 (Bengal) Mountain Battery
No 2 Bengal Mountain Battery became No 8 (Bengal) Mountain Battery

Also in 1899 the 9th (Native) Mountain Battery was raised at Rawalpindi
and in 1900 the 10th (Native) Mountain Battery was raised at Abbottabad

Titles in use in 1900 were again changed in 1901:

No 1 Kohat Mountain Battery became Kohat Mountain Battery
No 2 Derajat Mountain Battery became Derajat Mountain Battery
No 3 Peshawar Mountain Battery became Peshawar Mountain Battery
No 4 Hazara Mountain Battery became Hazara Mountain Battery
No 5 Bombay Mountain Battery became Quetta Mountain Battery
No 6 Bombay Mountain Battery became Jullundur Mountain Battery
No 7 Bengal Mountain Battery became Gujarat Mountain Battery
No 8 Bengal Mountain Battery became Lahore Mountain Battery
No 9 Native Mountain Battery became Murree Mountain Battery
No 10 Native Mountain Battery became Abbottabad Mountain Battery

1903 reorganisation

The units were again numbered and their names changed:

Kohat Mountain Battery became 21st Kohat Mountain Battery (FF)
Derajat Mountain Battery became 22nd Derajat Mountain Battery (FF)
Peshawar Mountain Battery became 23rd Peshawar Mountain Battery (FF)
Hazara Mountain Battery became 24th Hazara Mountain Battery (FF)
Quetta Mountain Battery became 25th Quetta Mountain Battery
Jullundur Mountain Battery became 26th Jacob's Mountain Battery
Gujarat Mountain Battery became 27th Mountain Battery
Lahore Mountain Battery became 28th Mountain Battery
Murree Mountain Battery became 29th Mountain Battery
Abbottabad Mountain Battery became 30th Mountain Battery

1914-18 War

15 additional batteries were formed.

33rd (Reserve) Mountain Battery
34th (Reserve) Mountain Battery
35th (Reserve) Mountain Battery
36th (Reserve) Mountain Battery
37th (Reserve) Mountain Battery
38th (Reserve) Mountain Battery
39th (Reserve) Mountain Battery
40th (Reserve) Mountain Battery
41st (Reserve) Mountain Battery
42nd (Reserve) Mountain Battery
43rd (Reserve) Mountain Battery
44th (Reserve) Mountain Battery
45th (Reserve) Mountain Battery
49th (Reserve) Mountain Battery
50th (Reserve) Mountain Battery
  • 1920 all batteries were titled 'Pack' rather than 'Mountain"
  • 1921 names in bracket were restored to Nos 25-30. No 31 named Dehra Dun. No 32 named Poonch
  • 1922 80 added to all numbers

1920-22 reorganisation

  • 1920 all batteries were titled 'Pack' rather than 'Mountain"
  • 1921 names in bracket were restored to Nos 25-30. No 31 named Dehra Dun. No 32 named Poonch
  • 1922 80 added to all numbers
21st Kohat Mountain Battery (FF) became 101st Royal (Kohat) Pack Battery (FF)
22nd Derajat Mountain Battery (FF) became 102nd (Derajat) Pack Battery (FF)
23rd Peshawar Mountain Battery (FF) became 103rd (Peshawar) Pack Battery (FF)
24th Hazara Mountain Battery (FF) became 104th (Hazara) Pack Battery (FF)
25th Mountain Battery became 105th (Bombay) Pack Battery
26th Jacob's Mountain Battery became 106th (Jacob's) Pack Battery
27th Mountain Battery became 107th (Bengal) Pack Battery
28th Mountain Battery became 108th (Lahore) Pack Battery
29th Mountain Battery became 109th (Murree) Pack Battery
30th Mountain Battery became 110th (Abbottabad) Pack Battery
31st Mountain Battery became 111th (Dehra Dun) Pack Battery
32nd Mountain Battery became 112th (Poonch) Pack Battery
33rd (Reserve) Mountain Battery became 113th (Dardoni) Pack Battery
34th (Reserve) Mountain Battery became 114th (Rajputana) Pack Battery
35th (Reserve) Mountain Battery became 115th (Jhelum) Pack Battery
36th (Reserve) Mountain Battery became 116th (Zhob) Pack Battery
37th (Reserve) Mountain Battery became 117th (Rawalpindi) Pack Battery
38th (Reserve) Mountain Battery became 118th (Sohan) Pack Battery
39th (Reserve) Mountain Battery became 119th (Maymyo) Pack Battery
40th (Reserve) Mountain Battery was disbanded
41st (Reserve) Mountain Battery was disbanded
42nd (Reserve) Mountain Battery became 120th (Ambala) Pack Battery
43rd (Reserve) Mountain Battery became 121st (Nowshera) Pack Battery
44th (Reserve) Mountain Battery was disbanded
45th (Reserve) Mountain Battery was disbanded
49th (Reserve) Mountain Battery was disbanded
50th (Reserve) Mountain Battery was disbanded
  • 1924 became batteries in the Royal Regiment of Artillery
  • 1927 100 deducted from numbers and all retitled Indian Mountain Batteries RA
  • 1928 Indian dropped from title
  • 1939 transferred to the Indian Regiment of Artillery
  • 1942 retitled Indian Mountain Batteries IA

Royal Artillery Batteries with British gunners

There were eight British Army batteries of mountain artillery, numbered 1 to 9, of which one was in Egypt, where the gunners were British, in comparison to the Indian mountain artillery where the gunners were Indian. The designation changed to Pack Battery in 1920 and to Light Battery in 1927.[1] In 1937 these Batteries ceased to exist in their previous form, when they were transformed into Indian mountain artillery, when the British gunners were sent to other artillery units, and were replaced by Indian gunners.[2]


Recommended reading

Tales of the Mountain Gunner an anthology compiled by those who served with them and edited by C. H. T. MacFetridge and J. P. Warren. Edinburgh : Blackwood, 1973.
An anthology of tales and short stories about one of the most unusual and colourful units in the history of the British Empire: the Mountain Artillery. Its reputation for action attracted a collection of adventurous, able and eccentric officers; usually with a combination of all three qualities. See Military reading list - Army - Other - List of books recommended by Peter Moore. Another reader said "I cannot recommend too highly Tales of the Mountain Gunners. It is simply enthralling, moving, funny, inspiring and wonderful. It would be in my top 10 books never to part with.[3]
Chapters include: in the days work, good fighting, the soldier, the mule, the gun, some characters and more.[4]

External links

Historical books online

  • The History of the Indian Mountain Artillery by Brigadier-General C A L Graham 1957
  • "Native Artillery" Chapter V, page 42 Indian Army Uniforms by W Y Carman 1969. Full title: Indian Army Uniforms under the British from the 18th century to 1947 : Artillery, Engineers and Infantry., Digital Library of India Collection.
  • Page 24 and the following Chapter 5 "Screwier Gunner", Thim Days Is Gone. Qatar Digital Library. A memoir written by Major Maurice Patrick O'Connor Tandy recounting his career. Page 24 he joins 12 Poonch Mountain Battery based at Thal, while the earlier pages describe his time in the Royal Artillery in a Light Battery, c early 1930s. He subsequently joined the Foreign and Political Department in October 1936.
  • Seven Cantonments by Major SEG Ponder c 1938. Pdf download, Digital Library of India. version. The author was an Officer in the Royal Artillery, based on the North-West Frontier, including Peshawar, in 1937 and perhaps later. He was with a RA Light Battery, a Mountain Battery unit.
  • Modern Guns and Gunnery 1907. A Practical Manual for Officers of the Horse, Field and Mountain Artillery by Lt.-Colonel K A Bethell Royal Field Artillery Hathi Trust version, version. 1910 version: Entirely rewritten Hathi Trust Digital Library.
  • "Chapter IV. Horse and Mountain Artillery" page 46 Modern Artillery in the Field: a description of the Artillery of the Field Army, and the Principles and Methods of its Employment by Colonel H. A. Bethell RFA (Retired) 1911 Hathi Trust Digital Library. Contains a photograph (facing page 47) (which can be rotated) (probably in German South West Africa, but similar to India).
  • "The Burden and Heat of the Day by Godfrey Elton page 821 Blackwood’s Magazine, no 198 July-Dec 1915. Travelling by road near Afghanistan with a mountain battery and three hundred transport mules. The author was possibly Godfrey Elton of the 4th Hampshire Regiment, later 1st Baron Elton, posted initially to the North West Frontier until October 1915.


  1. Clifton, Ron. Royal Artillery in India, Pack Battery query Great War Forum 28 January 2017. Mentions the book A Norfolkman in the Raj : the Royal Artillery 1920-1933 by Alan W. Roper. Retrieved 28 January 2017.
  2. Seven Cantonments by Major S E G Ponder, see Historical books online, above.
  3. Muerrisch. Royal Artillery in India, Pack Battery query Great War Forum 28 January 2017. Retrieved 29 January 2017.
  4. Books on Artillery and Fortifications DP&G Publications.