Regiments and Corps

Royal Artillery

8-inch howitzers of 135th Siege Battery at La Houssoye on the Somme, 1916

Origins

The British Army has used cannon since the 15th century. Until 1716 they were provided by artillery trains, raised and disbanded on a campaign-by-campaign basis. That year King George I issued a Royal Warrant to set up two permanent field artillery companies of 100 men each. This force soon grew in size as the demand for artillery increased.

Other artillery regiments were also set up at this time, such as the Royal Horse Artillery in 1793, which provided artillery support to cavalry units. Some of these other regiments were merged into the main Royal Artillery, such as the Royal Irish Regiment of Artillery in 1801 and the artillery of the disbanded East India Company in 1862.

Cap badge of the Royal Artillery, c1903

Members of the Royal Artillery, 1812

Three arms

In 1899 the Royal Artillery was split into three arms - the Royal Field Artillery (RFA), the Royal Horse Artillery (RHA) and the Royal Garrison Artillery (RGA). The RHA provided artillery support to the cavalry and continued in a separate role.

The RFA was the largest branch, providing howitzers and medium artillery near the front line. The RGA manned the largest guns, especially those mounted in coastal and colonial forts. During the First World War (1914-18), the RGA also manned the heavy guns and howitzers on the Western Front.

A Royal Field Artillery Pom Pom gun, c1900

A Royal Garrison Artillery 15-inch howitzer, 1 July 1916

Quiz

What colour is the Regimental Colour of the Royal Artillery?

Red
Blue
It doesn't have a regimental colour
Did you know?

The Royal Artillery doesn't have regimental colours like infantry units as its guns are accorded the same symbolic status. Losing the guns in action was equally dishonourable. 

Legacy

In 1924 the RFA and RGA were merged back into one regiment, the Royal Artillery. This was divided into brigades, which were renamed regiments in 1938. There were 960 of these regiments during the Second World War (1939-45), with over one million men.

Its size fell to 250,000 men in 1945. Since then the Royal Artillery have taken part in all of the British Army’s campaigns.

Today's gunners use a variety of high-tech equipment, including self-propelled guns and precision rockets as well as traditional artillery pieces.

A 25-pounder in action in Sicily, August 1943

Desert Hawk Unmanned Aerial Vehicle used by 18 Battery, 32nd Regiment Royal Artillery, in Afghanistan, 2006

Salisbury Plain Heritage Centre

The National Army Museum works together with Regimental and Corps Museums across the country to help provide a  network of military museums for everyone to visit and enjoy.

Explore the history and collections of the Royal Artillery by visiting the Salisbury Plain Heritage Centre.

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