The Royal Regiment of Artillery
Before the 18th century, Artillery ‘traynes’ were raised by Royal Warrant for specific campaigns and disbanded again when they were over. On 26 May 1716, however, by Royal Warrant of George I two regular companies of field artillery, each 100 men strong, were raised at Woolwich. On 1 April 1722 these companies were grouped with independent artillery companies at Gibraltar and Minorca to form the Royal Regiment of Artillery, commanded by Colonel Albert Bogard. The regiment expanded rapidly and by 1757 had 24 companies divided into two battalions, as well as a Cadet Company formed in 1741. By 1771 there were 32 companies in four battalions, as well as two Invalid Companies comprising older and unfit men employed in garrison duties. In January 1793, two troops of Royal Horse Artillery were raised to provide fire support for the cavalry, joined by two more in November 1793. All RHA personnel were mounted. The Royal Irish Artillery was absorbed in 1801.
The regiment was under the control of the Board of Ordnance until the Board was abolished in 1855. Thereafter the regiment came under the War Office along with the rest of the army. In 1861 the regiment also absorbed the artillery of the British East India Company – 21 horse batteries and 48 field batteries – which brought its strength up to 29 horse batteries, 73 field batteries and 88 heavy batteries. On 1 July 1899, the Royal Artillery was divided into two groups: the Royal Horse Artillery and Royal Field Artillery comprised one group, while the coastal defence, mountain, siege and heavy batteries were split off into another group named the Royal Garrison Artillery. The three sections effectively functioned as separate corps. This arrangement lasted until 1924, when the three amalgamated once more. The Royal Horse Artillery, which has always had separate traditions, uniforms and insignia, still retains a separate identity within the regiment, however, and is considered (by its members at least) to be an élite.
The two World Wars brought massive expansion, in the First World War to 1,796 batteries in over 400 brigades, reaching in 1917 a total of 548,000 men and in the Second World War to a million men in over 960 Regiments.
With the coming of peace the Regiment reduced to 250,000 men in 365 batteries in 106 regiments, which was maintained during the Cold War to meet the challenges of the Soviet Bloc and withdrawal from Empire. The end of National Service and the disbandment of Coast and Anti- Aircraft Commands brought further reductions, while the end of the Cold War brought the strength of the Regiment to its lowest since the 1820s: 14 regular and 7 TA regiments.
Events from the History of the
Royal Regiment of Artillery
1346 Battle of Crécy. First recorded use of cannon.
1544 Term ’Train of Artillery’ noted for the first time.
1678 Appointment of Master Gunner of Whitehall and St James’s Park instituted.
1716 First two Companies of Artillery formed by Royal Warrant at Woolwich.
1720 Title “Royal Artillery” first used.
1722 Royal Regiment of Artillery of four Companies formed.
1741 Royal Military Academy set up in Royal Arsenal at Woolwich.
1748 Presidential Artilleries of Bengal, Madras and Bombay
1756 Royal Irish Regiment of Artillery formed.
1762 RA Band formed in Minden (contains the oldest British orchestra).
1778 RA moved to RA Barracks (Front Parade) on Woolwich Common.
1793 First Troops of Royal Horse Artillery formed.
1801 Royal Irish Regiment of Artillery incorporated into the Royal Artillery.
1806 RMA moved to Woolwich Common for RA and RE officers.
1819 Rotunda given by Prince Regent to celebrate end of the Napoleonic Wars.
1832 Regimental Mottoes granted.
1855 Control of the Royal Artillery was transferred from the Board of Ordnance to the War Department.
1859 School of Gunnery established at Shoeburyness, Essex.
1862 Presidential Artilleries of Bengal, Madras and Bomba transferred over to the Royal Artillery.
1899 The Royal Regiment divided into two separate branches:
Royal Horse and Royal Field Artillery
Royal Garrison Artillery.
1924 The Royal Regiment once more became one Regiment.
1947 The Riding Troop RHA was renamed The King’s Troop RHA.
1951 The appointment of Colonel-in-Chief became Captain General.
1989 The appointment of the first RASM.
2007 Regimental Home moved from Woolwich to Larkhill.
2012 Changed from DRA to RHQ RA