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Guards Divisional Artillery

The Guards Memorial is located at the edge of St James Park and Horse Guards.




It was built to commemorate those who lost their lives whilst serving with the Guards Division during the First World War. As well as commemorating those who served in the Foot Guards, the inscription on the memorial remembers the Officers, WO's, SNCO's and men of the supporting arms and logistics units which were part of the Guards Division, which includes the Royal Regiment of Artillery.






A panel at the rear of the memorial portrays an 18 pounder gun in action.



Guards Memorial 18 pounder in action

Source:  mattbuck.


The Guards Division was formed in France in August 1915 by transferring all the Guards Battalions from the Divisions with which they were serving into the new formation. 


Long Long Trail - Guards Division


When the Division formed, the bulk of the divisional artillery was brought in from the 16th (Irish) Division. The 74th / 75th / 76th Brigades Royal Field Artillery were formed in September 1914 by the Irish Command as New army (K2) units. They moved to Aldershot, then on to Salisbury Plain, equipping with 18 pounders. The fourth unit in the Division was the 61st (Howitzer) Brigade RFA,  a New Army (K1) unit which transferred in from the 11th (Northern) Division.


LXXIV - 74 Brigade RFA (232, 233, 234, Batteries)

LXXV - 75 Brigade RFA (235, 236, 237 Batteries)

LXXVI - 76 Brigade RFA (238, 239, 240 Batteries)


The 61st Brigade RFA formed as three x 6 gun batteries. In February 1915 the Brigade re-organised into four x 4 gun batteries. It came under the command of the Guards Division in August 1915,  when the 11th Division was ordered to the Mediterranean, and deployed to France. 


L61 LXI (Howitzer) Brigade RFA (193,194,195 Batteries)


The Divisional Ammunition Column was originally raised by the 16th (Irish) Division, transferring to the Guards Division. Three Medium Trench Mortar Batteries (X / Y / Z)  were formed in March 1916, and a Heavy Trench Mortar Battery (V Guards) in May. 


The 61st (Howitzer) Brigade was broken up in November 1916 and the units left the Division. D/61 Battery would transfer to 50th (Northumbrian) Division.


Interesting video from The Great War channel on YouTube.


Outlines the development of pre war artillery for France, Germany and Britain in relation to their doctrine.


France - Canon de 75 modele

Germany - 7.7cm Feldkanone 96 / 10.5 cm Feldhaubitze / 42cm Krupp "Big Berthas"

Britain - QF 18 pounder gun  / BL 60 pounder gun / QF 4.5 inch howitzer / 9.2 inch heavy siege howitzer






RFA Battery Engagement

Film of an 18 pounder battery conducting an engagement. Interesting camouflaged position along a tree line. Well prepared gun pits and ammunition delivered in ammunition pannier jackets, one way to disguise ammunition supply so tracks are not left by the limbers.



An observation officer of Royal Field Artillery orders to open fire on Germans during World War I in France.

An observation officer of Royal Field Artillery orders on phone to open fire on Germans during World War I. Soldiers run and enter their quarters in the gun-pits. Soldiers bring shells in special jackets. The shells are handed over to the gunners in the gun-pits. Shrapnel and explosives are fired at enemy continuously. Soldiers load and fire an 18-pounder gun. The observation officer orders on phone to change the range of firing. Howitzers continuously fire at Germans in field. Location: France. Date: 1918.



Hartley Railway Gun

An account from The North Eastern Railway In the First World War (Rob Langham / ISBN-978-1-78155-081-6)  outlines the presence of a rail gun at Hartley on the Northumberland Coast , 10 km (8 miles) north of Tynemouth.




The gun was deployed on the Collywell Bay Branch line which was in the process of completion as war broke out in August 1914, and the project was halted.





Source: http://www.disused-stations.org.uk/b/brierdene/index.shtml / http://www.disused-stations.org.uk/c/collywell_bay/


An order was placed on 30th August with the North Eastern Railway's  Gateshead Works to mount an 9.2 inch Naval Gun on  a 54 ton trolley wagon. The job was completed on 12th September and the gun was moved to Hartley.




The 9.2 inch naval gun  fired a  172 kg ( 380 lbs) shell out to a range in excess of 18,300 metres  (20,000 yards ), so the Harltley gun could cover the approaches to both the River Blyth and River Tyne. The Tyne was well defended with the Tynemouth Castle and Spanish Batteries to the north, and Frenchman's Point battery to the south. The Blyth was undefended.


In 1913, anti-invasion exercises had been conducted on the NE Coast where landings near the River Blyth and River Wear were unopposed, highlighting weaknesses in costal defences. It was concluded permanent defences were required to cover the River Blyth, but due to the expense they were never constructed. With the outbreak of war in 1914, the urgency to defend Blyth may have resulted in the deployment of the railway gun to Hartley.




Permanent defences were constructed in Blyth in 1915.  https://blythbattery.org.uk/


The Colywell Bay Branch never opened to traffic, it's rails were lifted during the war to provide urgent war materials, the unfinished stations and infrastructure abandoned.



Bridge at Hartley




Brierdene Station


A query from a friend about anti-aircraft artillery in WW1 lead to a realisation that the first Zeppelin successfully shot down was actually the result of anti-aircraft fire from the Gunners. Zeppelin L15 was brought down on the night of 31st March / 1st April 1916, ahead of the action of William Leefe Robinson on the 2nd September 1916, for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross.


At the start of the First World War there was no Anti-Aircraft organisation beyond a few guns and an awareness of the threat from German airships. On the declaration of war the Royal Navy was given responsibility for the defence of London. Fledgling Royal Garrison Artillery units, supported by searchlights manned by  Royal Engineers, were deployed to protect key sites, mainly naval facilities and armaments.


On the night of 19 / 20 January 1915, the first Zeppelin air raid on the United Kingdom occurred when two airships bombed King's Lynn and Great Yarmouth in Norfolk. London was bombed for the first time on 31st May 1915, and attacks continued across the UK. Each raid brought about further enhancements to air defences, including the deployment of more anti-aircraft guns of varying types and searchlights.


By February 1916 an Anti-Aircraft section had been established on the Home Defence Staff and responsibility for engaging all enemy aircraft over land had been allocated to the Army. London had 65 anti-aircraft  guns mounted for defence of the capital.


The first Zeppelin to be brought down by anti-aircraft fire from the Gunners is attributed to the Purfleet  Detachment, 3rd Company Essex and Sussex RGA (TF). The guns at Purfleet consisted of a 3 inch 20 cwt  and two 1 pounder Pom Pom ex naval guns. The 3 inch 20 cwt AA gun had an effective firing range of 16,000 feet (4,900 metres).




The guns were in place to defend 5 magazines, with Purfleet Camp and a munitions factory in close proximity.




On the evening of 31st March 1916, five Zeppelins crossed the North Sea to conduct a bombing raids,  L22 would attack Humberside, L13 / L14 / L15 / L16 targets in the South East. The Zeppelins were sighted as they crossed the coast,  the first bombs were dropped on a munitions factory at Stowmarket. This signalled  the start of the raid resulting in air defenses coming to full alert. 




On hearing the approach of a Zeppelin, Anti-Aircraft guns at Purfleet / Abbey Wood / Erith Marsh / Southern Outfall Plumstead Common and Plumstead Marsh opened fire and Searchlights lit up the sky.




As the L15 proceeded up the Thames, it was caught in the light beams.large.robert-hunt-first-zeppelin-air-raid-on-london-during-world-war-i-1915_i-G-46-4617-E5LFG00Z.jpg.bb8e52c48461cf465d236285cad33543.jpg


The Purfleet Gunners  were credited with hitting L15. This caused damage to four of the sixteen hydrogen shells, mainly in the centre of the airship, critically damaging the airship which began to lose height.


A contemporary report records;


"We received the alarm about nine o'clock. In less than three minutes we were at our posts and ready to fire. We picked the 'Zepp' up about 9:45 p.m., flying at about 15,000 feet, and coming over from the North East. Naturally we started to fire right away before searchlights had even picked her up, but we didn't hit her, although we got perilously near.

        "Very soon after we started, the gun at………… got busy and the searchlight too. It was a grand sight. She was lit up like a silver cigar, and we could see the shells bursting around her. Presently a shot from the gun caught the Zeppelin in the stern and a little flame shot out from the envelope, whether from our bursting shell or the balloonette I couldn't tell from our position. Anyhow, the explosion seemed to throw it round, and at the same time it dropped by the stern with nose in the air, of course we were busy with our gun, but the boys couldn't help making a slight pause to shout 'She's hit"


At 22:00 Zeppelin L15 signaled "Have been hit. Request Ostend keep watch on airship wave length L15"  Heading for home, the L15 dropped  jettison  its bombs over Raynham and Averly and the crew began to throw non- essential equipment into the Thames.


As it began to descend the stricken Zeppelin was attacked by a  BE 2C aircraft from 19 squadron RFC piloted by 2Lt Alfred de Bathe Brandon. Brandon attempted to destroy L15 by dropping  incendiary bombs, and Ranken explosive darts, however he was not successful.



L15's final signal was at 23:15 " Require immediate assistance between Thames and Ostend L15", after which the radio and other secret material was dropped overboard.


Just after midnight, L15 diched in the sea off Margate near the  Kentish Knock lightship. One member of the crew drowned, the remaining 16  were rescued by HMT Olivine, transferring the prisoners to HMS Vulture.




 Attempts were made to tow L15 to Margate, but the airship sank, resulting in parts of it subsequently being washed ashore where many claimed parts as souvenirs.






The prisoners form L15 were landed ashore and taken by train to Chatham where they were marched under a military guard to the detention barracks and subsequently interrogated by War Office officials.




The action was recognised by Field Marshall Viscount French in a signal congratulating the Gunners on their success.




The officer commanding the Purfleet Detachment, Captain John Harris wrote to  Sir Charles Wakefield, Lord Mayor of London to claim a reward of £500 which had been promised to the first gunners to shoot down a Zeppelin. In the end the War Office would not allow such an award, feeling that those involved were performing their duties. It was also concluded that " The success achieved was due to the concerted action of a team and not the individual skill of any member of it"


It was agreed that the Lord Mayor would instead commission a gold medal which would be presented to those serving in the units involved with the overall action.  The medal shows a 3inc 20 cwt gun, the date of the action, and the message WELL HIT. The individual recipients name is engraved on the medal. A total of 325 medals were presented.





Gunner units credited with being involved in the engagement:






3 Coy Essex & Sussex RGA (TF)

1 x 3 inch 20 cw

2 x 1 pdr Pom Pom



1 x 3 inch 20 cwt


5 Coy Cornwall RGA (TF)

2 x 6 pounder

Abbey Wood

Regular RGA

2 x 3 inch 20 cwt

Southern Outfall


1 x 13 pounder

Plumstead Common


1 x 3 inch 20 cwt

1 x 13 pounder

North Woolwich

Regular RGA

Glamorgan RGA (TF)

1 x 3 inch 5 cwt

Royal Arsenal Defences


1 x 3 inch 5 cwt

2 x 6 pounder

2 x 1 pdr Pom Pom


The searchlight units were drawn from the London Electrical Engineers RE (TF) and a detachment from the  Tyne Electrical Engineers RE (TF) who manned a searchlight at Erith.


Related Forum Posts


No 1 Camel Battery RGA

More camel artillery - this time in Aden. No 1 Camel Battery Royal Garrison Artillery




Aden, located near the entrance to the Red Sea, was vital for the security of the route through the Suez Canal. The port came under British control in 1838 as a base on the route to India. In gained increased prominence with the opening of the  Suez Canal in 1869. The Ottoman Empire seized control of Yemen to the north, whilst Britain established protectorates with local rulers in the Aden hinterland.

Stationed in Aden in 1914 were 61, 76, 77 Company RGA each quipped with 4 x 6 inch guns.







When war broke out in August 1914, the Ottoman Empire remained outside the conflict till November when it attacked Britain's ally Russia. This led to Britain declaring war on the Turks, who then launched at attack on Aden. The Turks were driven off by the Aden Brigade, which was then strengthened by the 29th Infantry Brigade who was en route to the Suez Canal.


No 1 Camel Battery was equipped with 15 pounder BLC gun, a 76mm (3 inch ) weapon. It had a range of 5,260 metres (5,750 yards) firing shrapnel shells. A box trailed gun which  together with it's ammunition limber was towed by 4 camels. 


In July 1915, the Turks once again launched at attack on Lahej , the British response being to send a mobile force, which included the No 1 Camel Battery and Malay States Mountain Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery. The British move to Lahej was conducted in blistering heat, some Arab camel drivers from the logistics train deserted, and the Camel Battery became stuck in sand. As a consequence only part of the force reached  Lahej and without effective artillery support they were beaten back by the numerically superior Turks.


The mobile force withdrew back to Aden, where the port it's self was protected by guns from 4 naval ships. This move alarmed the Viceroy of India (Aden was under his jurisdiction), as it placed Aden's water supply at Sheikh ‘Uthman at risk when the Turks occupied the town. Major General D.L.B. Shaw, Aden commander, was relieved of his command The 28th Indian Brigade (together with  1/B Battery, HAC, 1/1st Berkshire Battery, RHA) was despatched from Egypt to strengthen the Aden force, under a new commander of Aden, Maj. Gen. Sir George Younghusband. The first priority was to launch an action to regain control of the water supply, as a result  Sheikh ‘Uthman was secured.


In June 1916, the Arab Revolt in Hejaz  against Ottoman Rule, which was incited by the British (including the actions of TE Lawrence), forced the Turks to turn their attention away from Aden.  The British continued to harass the Turks, with operations by mobile columns, supported by aircraft (including sea planes) making some gains, notably the capture of Hatum, an action supported by the No 1 Camel Battery.



Aden Field Force. 15pdr. Camel Battery R. F. A, returning to Sheikh Othman after the action of January 5th, 1918 (attack and capture of Hatum)

Imperial War Museum © Q 13063







Ubique - Our Gunners in the Great War

Many thanks to fellow GWF Blogger Edward Walshe for a film on his YouTube Channel - Ubique 1916 1917.



The work of the Royal Field Artillery and Royal Garrison Artillery, mainly on the Western Front, 1916-1917. Drivers water their horses at a trough. A brigade of RFA 18-pounders moves off from their camp ground. Other 18-pounders move past dead Highlanders (from IWM 191 BATTLE OF THE SOMME). A battery of 18-pounders in line fires. Two 60-pounders being fired. An officer climbs a ladder into a tree as an observation post. A 60-pounder battery fires under scrim. Rear view of an 18-pounder firing. Some 9.2-inch howitzers fire from a chalk pit. Finally, 60-pounders in action in Mesopotamia.



Recent research into camel artillery and the mountain battery of the Hong Kong and Singapore Royal Garrison Artillery recalled a connection to Northumbrian Gunners.
In the Albert Communal Cemetery extension there is a communal grave of 12 soldiers, 11 Gunners from the 41st Siege Battery RGA, and 1 attached from the Army Service Corps.

The 41st Siege Battery was formed under Major H.C. Hall at Lydd 6th July 1915. It was composed of regular gunners from the Hong Kong and Singapore RGA and Territorials from the Durham RGA. The battery was equipped with 4 x 6 inch howitzers going out to the Western Front on 9th December 1915. It deployed to Pont de Nieppe, NW of Armentieres where it registered it's first targets. It remained in position conducting fire missions till 31st May 1915, when the battery moved to Bouvigny, 5 miles west of Lens. There was little firing from that position, and two weeks later the battery moved into billets in Bouval, in the Somme Sector.


On May 15th 1916, 41 Siege Battery joined 25th Heavy Artillery Group and deployed into a position in Albert. On 26th June the war diary records "Preliminiary Bombardment proper begins", signalling the forthcoming Battle of the Somme. The battery fired 800 rounds each day, on support and communication trenches, in the Thiepval Salient up to "Attack day", 1st July 1916. The battery contined to engage targets for the next two weeks.


The 14th July saw the battery firing on trenches, enemy artillery, Pozieres and Courcelette, expending 327 rounds. It would seem whilst replenishing ammunition a German round hit one of the ammunition wagons.


The war diary records "a party got caught by a shell while unloading ammunition the following casualties occurred, in the Right Section position"





Soldiers Who Died in The Great War (SWDGW) lists four of the Gunners buried in the communal grave under Durham RGA, all of who were born and enlisted in Hartlepool.


Durham Royal Garrison Artillery
Gnr JP Frankland 

Gnr JH Henderson
Gnr TW Lee
Gnr J Sweeting


Royal Garrison Artillery
Gnr JW Burr
Gnr S Caldicot
A/Bdr FE Goldsworth
Gnr E Hickman
Gnr CJ Hutchings
Cpl JJ Mulhill
Gnr CE Scott

Army Service Corps
Pte G Atkins


The two gunners listed as died and not in the communal grave, Gunners O'Boyle and Watson, are buried along side each other in Heilly Station Cemetery, Mericourt -Labbe. Situated near Amiens, this was the location of Casualty Clearing Stations where it is presumed they died of wounds, as recorded in the 41 SB war diary.


Gunner  O'Boyle is listed in Soldiers Who Died in The Great War (SWDGW) under Durham RGA, born and enlisted in Hartlepool.


Durham Royal Garrison Artillery

Gunner J O'Boyle


 Royal Garrison Artillery

Gunner J Watson







RGA - Singapore Mutiny 1915

Whilst researching Royal Garrison Artillery units I came across a commemoration to Gunners who had been killed during a Mutiny in Singapore in February 1915. 


The Royal Garrison Artillery (RGA) operated the coastal guns that protected Singapore. They were manned by the 78th and 80th Companies RGA and Indian Army Gunners from the Hong Kong and Singapore Royal Garrison Artillery (HKS-RGA).  A British  infantry battalion, and the Singapore  Volunteers Battalion formed the garrison troops.







When war broke out the British battalion was sent to France, being replaced by the 5th Light Infantry of the Indian Army, an all Muslim unit. In February 1915 a mutiny occurred when the 5th Light Infantry of the Indian Army revolted. Amongst the mutineers were gunners from the Malay States Guides (MSG) Mule Battery.


The roots of the mutiny lay with unrest caused through propaganda being circulated advocating Indian independence, poor conditions for the soldiers and weak leadership from the battalion officers. Among the tasks the battalion undertook was the guarding of German crew from the Light Cruiser Emden who took the opportunity to fuel the Indian soldiers unrest. The trigger was an announcement that the battalion would transfer to Hong Kong. However rumours spread that the battalion was actually destined for Europe to fight the Turks, fellow Muslims.


The mutiny lasted nearly ten days, and resulted in the deaths of more than 100 people including six British officers fourteen British soldiers and fourteen civilians. The mutineers casualties were estimated at 200.




Marines from HMS Cadmus landed to support local soldiers not involved in the mutiny and the Singapore Police. Further assistance arrived when a French, a Russian and two Japanese warships arrived in Singapore, with sailors and marines reinforcing. The fighting lasted 7 days, on the 20th February , companies of the 1st/4th Battalion, King's Shropshire Light Infantry (Territorials) arrived from Rangoon to relieve the sailors and the marines.


During the mutiny 432 mutineers were captured, 205 would face trial, of which 47 were publicly executed by firing squad, the remainder receiving varying lengths of jail sentences.  The commanding officer of the 5th Light Infantry was cashiered.







Amongst those killed were three officers and two other ranks from the Royal Garrison Artillery.  They are commemorated on a memorial located in St Andrew's Cathedral in Singapore.




"To the glory of God and in memory of

Major R.H. Galwey

Captain F.V. Izard

Captain M.F.A. Maclean

Corporal R.V. Beagley

Gunner J. Barry

All of the Royal Garrison Artillery

who were killed in the mutiny at Singapore in February 1915

This tablet is erected by their comrades of the

Royal Garrison Artillery at Singpore."


Another memorial in the Victoria Memorial Hall remembers those from the Singapore Volunteer Corps, including a member of the Singapore Volunteer Artillery.


"To the glory of God and in sacred memory of the undermentioned officers, non-commissioned officers and men of the Singapore Volunteer Corps, who lost their lives during the mutiny of the 5th Native Light Infantry in February 1915.


Gunner P. Walton, Artillery


The Gunners are buried, together with others killed during the mutiny are buried in Kranji War Cemetery.





D of D





Reginald Hugh


Aged 42

80th Company RGA



Francis Vallance


Aged 34




Moira Frances Allan


Aged 30




Reginald Victor


Aged 30

80th Company RGA





Aged 29

78th Company RGA





Aged 33

Singapore Volunteer Artillery





Camel Artillery - Mountain Battery HKS-RGA

The Hong Kong and Singapore Royal Garrison Artillery (HKS-RGA) was a mountain battery that fought in the Middle East Campaign from 1915 to 1918, operating in Libya, Egypt, Sinai, Palestine and Jordan. It was equipped with mountain guns, initially using mules as transport, before switching to use camels  in December 1916.



The HKS-RGA manned coastal batteries in Hong Kong, Singapore and Mauritius. A mountain battery was formed in Hong Kong in 1912 using Indian Army personnel. In November 1915 the HKS-RGA mountain battery was sent to Egypt with a nucleus from 1 Company Hong Kong and augmentees from Singapore and Mauritius. The battery  was equipped with 6 x 10 pounder guns using mules as pack animals.


The 10 pounder mountain gun was introduced in 1901. It broke down for transport, the barrel being in two parts which screwed together. The gun had no recoil mechanism which resulted in it moving around when fired. Its calibre was 2.75 inches (970 mm), firing a 10 pound (4.54 kg) shell. The guns maximum range was 3,700 yards (3,380 metres) firing shrapnel and 6,000 yards (5,490 metres) firing HE.


10 Pounder Mountain Gun




10 Pounder Mountain Gun


On reaching Egypt, the battery was  attached to the Imperial Cavalry Brigade and sections were deployed along the Suez Canal. In March 1916 they moved to Libya to support forces engaged in suppressing an uprising of the Sanussi Tribe. When the Turks began attacks in Sinai, the HKS-RGA together with other troops were moved back to the Suez Canal. The Turkish attacks were blocked. In response, the British mounted a show of force with raids on Bir El Mazar and Bir El Maghara. Both actions were supported by the HKS-RGA, after which they withdrew to Abassi, on the outskirts of Cairo, where the battery mules were exchanged for camels.




On the 19th December 1916 the Imperial Camel Corps Brigade (ICCB) was formed as part of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force (EEF). The brigade consisted of of 4 x Infantry Camel Battalions ( 2 x Australian / 1 x New Zealand / 1 x British) and a Machine Gun Company. It included a signals section, engineer troop, field ambulance and a brigade train.  The No 1 Mountain Battery, Hong Kong & Singapore RGA would provide artillery support. The brigade's logistic support included the Brigade Ammunition Column. Total brigade strength was 4,150 men and 4,800 camels.  




IWM Inspection of the Imperial Camel Corps     
Hong Kong-Singapore Mountain Battery with 10 pounder guns ---> 4 mins 40 secs

Probably 3rd or 4th Battalion, Imperial Camel Corps, with its camel battery, the Hong Kong-Singapore Mountain Battery, training on the Palestine Front, early 1917.

The display begins with a parade and marchpast, followed by men of the ICC setting out for a patrol in the desert and drawing river water for their camels. This is broken by sequences of horse and mule riders in the desert, and a demonstration of assembling its guns by the Hong Kong-Singapore Mountain Battery of the Indian Army, attached to the Imperial Camel Corps

(this was the only camel-mounted battery equipped with 10-pounder breechloading mountain guns on active service).

Source: Imperial War Museum Catalogue number IWM 6













The Brigade's first action would take place on the 23rd December when the ANZAC Mounted Division and the Imperial Camel Brigade captured Magdhaba. The Turks had withdrawn from El Arish on the 20th December, which was then occupied by the British. In order to cut off retreating Turks, the British advanced to seize Magdhaba. The HKS-RGA supported the engagement, the Battery Commander, Major William Agnew Moore, being awarded the Distinguished Service Order.

In February 1916 the battery re-equipped with 2.75 inch mountain guns. The more modern gun had a recoil buffer and recuperator, which  provided greater accuracy. Firing a 12 pound (5.7 kg) shell it had a maximum range of 5,600 yards, (5,120 metres) when firing shrapnel and 5,800 yards (5,300 metres) firing HE.

2.75 inch Mountain Gun


2.75 inch Mountain Gun

The 2.75in mountain gun was carried by six camels , additional camels would carry first line ammunition, gun stores and spares. 




Source: War Establishment 699/47-No 1 Mountain Battery, Hong Kong & Singapore RGA dated 30 August 1917


The battery was established for 15 British personnel (5+10), 240 Indian personnel (3+237), 21 horses and 436 camels.

British Personnel 15

Officers 5

S Sgts/Sgts 4

Artificers 6


Indian Personnel 240

Officers 3
NCOs 30
Gunners 200
Followers 7


Animals 457

Riding Horses 21

Riding Camels 251

Pack Camels 18


Each of the three two gun sections had 3 riding horses, 73 riding camels and 47 pack camels. As well as transporting the guns and their detachments, the camels carried the first line ammunition of 720 rounds shrapnel (120 rounds per gun), 42 rounds HE (7 rounds per gun) and 28 illuminating rounds (4 rounds per gun).


The Brigade Ammunition Colum carried the mountain battery's second line ammunition and small arms ammunition for all of the Imperial Camel Brigades .


Source: War Establishment 699/47-Brigade Ammunition Column dated 30 August 1917.


The Brigade Ammunition Colum was established for 2 British personnel (1+1), 15 Indian personnel (0+15), 59 Egyptian Camel Drivers and 126 camels.


British Personnel

Officers 1

Veterinary Sgt 1


Indian Personnel

Other Ranks 15


Egyptian Personnel

Egyptian Camel Drivers 59



Riding Camels 16
Baggage Camels 110


The Battery would support the Imperial Camel Corps Brigade (ICCB) as the campaign in Sinai and Palestine developed. The advance continued with the capture of Bir El Hassana. The next major objective was Gazza. An unsuccessful attempt to take the town in March 1917 resulted in British forces being forced to withdraw, assisted by effective covering fires from the HKS-RGA. Another attempt in April also failed. The EEF  forces short of ammunition withdrew to resupply and refit.  The campaign resumed in the autumn when the Egyptian Expeditionary Force captured Beersheba and finally took Gaza. Ottoman forces began to withdraw,  with the EEF in pursuit, crossing into Palestine.


As the campaign wore on into 1918, the ICCB moved into the Jordan Valley and the nature of the terrain changed. With the desert left behind, in June 1918 units of the Imperial Camel Corps  began to be convert to horses and units re-assigned. It is believed the HKS-RGA reverted to using mules as pack animals.



45 Siege Battery

A very interesting sight recording 45th Siege Battery during the Great War.

The site is dedicated to Gunner A H Deadman who served with the Battery.


45th Siege Battery R.G.A.


The Battery was equipped  with two 9.2 inch mark VI rail guns which were constructed from surplus naval guns mounted on railway platforms by the Elswick  Ordnance Company, Newcastle upon Tyne.




The 45th Siege Battery was formed 17th July 1915 at Sheerness from half of 18 Siege Battery. The latter was formed 1st February 1915, also in Sheerness.


The 45th SB deployed to France 31st August 1915, arriving in Boulogne the following day. The guns arrived from Southampton on 2nd September. The battery moved to the front arriving at the Beurvy Siding on 13th September 1915. The battery would fire it's first rounds on the 17th September.


The site details the firing positions of the battery from 1915 to 1918 which is supported by maps and pictures of the locations. The maps of the positions are especially interesting as it gives a good appreciation of the deployment of railway artillery.


45th Siege Battery Operational Sites 1915-1918

45th Siege Battery Site Photographs 1915-1918 / 2016


The war site contains the war diaries of the Battery.

  45th Siege Battery RGA War Diaries





RGA Batteries with French Guns



Whilst researching Richards Battery RGA it transpired  they were equipped with French Guns. Thanks to the help of GWF Pals I found out  two Siege Batteries, the 105th and 106th were also initially equipped with French guns. It became apparent all three batteries experience of manning French Guns was intertwined.  


The 105th and 106thSiege Batteries deployed to the Western Front with personnel only. They arrived in theatre on 17th May 1916 and proceeded to Le Parcq, 30 miles east of Arras.


105 Siege Battery were issued with 4 x 120 mm long guns, and after a period of training were assigned to XVII Corps Heavy Artillery located in the Arras Sector. 

The battery fired its first rounds on the 10th June 1916.



French 120mm Long Guns


106 Siege Battery took over 4 x 220 mm mortars on 27th May. The war dairy records the guns had no wheels, no limbers, no ammunition and were deficient in stores. The guns and what stores they had were loaded onto lorries and the battery moved to billets in Tinques, 15 miles east of Arras. The Battery officers and 8 NCO's proceeded to Arras to receive instructions on the use of the French Mortars from a French Battery in action.




220 mm TR mle 1915/1916


After a period of training, the personnel of the battery proceeded to La Targette 6.5 km north of Arras, taking over guns and stores in position from a French Battery, on the 9th June 1916. They would register the guns before being ordered on the 14th June to proceed to Abeele, near Ypres. They took one of the four mortars out of action , leaving three in situ. (WD 106 SB - June 14th 1916).


It would now seem that there were three mortars that were required to be manned. On the 16th June, Captain DJR Richards from 105 Siege Battery formed a new battery. It would later take over 3 X French 220mm' guns', at La Targette, presumably those left by 106 Siege Battery. With no establishment, it would seem Captain Richards would need to find some men to man the 220 mm Mortars. He received details from 105 Siege Battery, who would have knowledge of working on French equipment, and 51st Trench Mortar Battery, who would understand mortars.


As this was ad hoc battery with no establishment and no British Guns, one would think it would have fallen outside of the numbering system, hence it's title being taken from the Battery Commander, a practice used by the Royal Artillery before numbering systems came in.


The ad hoc grouping would take over 3 x French 220 mm Howitzers on 21st June, and were supplemented by  80 other ranks of the 51st (H) DAC. They were assisted by  French brigadier and two French JNCO's, firing their first round on 26th June.


Captain Richards, to whom the Battery was named after was posted to back 105 Siege Battery to take command , and the men from the 105th SB returned to their unit.


The two French equipped batteries (Richards and 105 SB) remained in action  to September 1916. Richards Battery remained at LaTargette, firing for the King on 9th August 1916. The last record of the battery was a shoot on September 3rd. 105 Siege Battery would move to the Somme sector on 3rd July 1916. It handed over its French guns on the 18th September 1916, re-equipping with 6 inch howitzers.


Montage of British Artillery


Source: CriticalPast

British troops firing an 18 pounder field piece. A battery of 18 pounders lined up and firing near a tree line. Each gun rolls back from recoil after firing. British 18 pounder artillery firing from variety of places, including covered entrenched positions; open field positions; and camouflaged positions.

A British 127mm (60 pounder) heavy field artillery piece being fired.

British BL 6 inch 26cwt howitzers being fired.

Field artillery firing in salvos from hidden positions

. A field piece firing from a barn.

A 9.2" BL Mk1 Siege Howitzer firing.

A battery of 60pdr Mk1 Field Guns firing from behind a berm.

British 18 pounders firing in a field. A 9.2" Railway Mounted Gun firing.

A battery of British 8-inch howitzers firing.

Troops digging trenches near bodies of fallen soldiers.

Artillery troops moving field artillery by horses.

A British siege mortar firing.

Explosions in no-mans-land from artillery.

Troops taking a meal break in a trench.


RA Memorial Hyde Park

Finally this year, 39 years a Gunner, I visited the Royal Artillery Memorial on Hyde Park Corner.


Commemorating those who lost their lives in the First and Second World Wars, the memorial was unveiled in October 1925 by H. R. H the Duke of Connaught. It was dedicated to the 49,076  Gunners who lost their lives during the First World War.


The memorial was designed by  Charles Sargeant Jagger MC. It features bronze figures and sculptured reliefs depicting the Gunners activities in WW1, surmounted by a sculptured 9.2 inch Howitzer.


















Richards Battery RGA

 Among the Heavy Batteries of the Royal Garrison Artillery listed on the Long Long Trail is Richards Battery. An unusual designation outside the normal numbering system. Once again GWF Pals had the  the answer; Richards Battery, RGA, XVII Corps June/July 1916.


The Richards Battery was formed on 16th June 1916 with details from 105 Siege Battery and the 51st (Highland) Division Heavy Trench Mortars. On the 21st June Captain Richards and three subalterns took over 3 x 220mm French Guns. The battery included 80 ORs from the 51st (Highland) Division, though they would return to their unit on 14th July. The Battery was assisted in their training by Brigadier Mirambeau and two French Artillery Junior NCO's.




The story of the Richards Battery appears to start with the arrival of 106 Siege Battery personnel in theatre without guns. They were trained on French 220 mm Mortars, the personnel of the battery then proceeding to La Targette 6.5 km north of Arras, taking over guns and stores in position from a French Battery, on the 9th June 1916. They would register the gun before personnel were ordered, on the 14th June, to proceed to Abeele, near Ypres. They took one of the four mortars out of action , leaving three in situ. (WD 106 SB - June 14th 1916)


It would now seem that there were three mortars that were required to be manned. On the 16th June, Captain DJR Richards formed a battery. It would later take over 3 X French 220mm' guns', at La Targette, presumably those left by 106 Siege Battery. With no establishment, it would seem Captain Richards would need to find some men to man the 220 mm Mortars. He received details from 105 Siege Battery, who would have knowledge of working on French equipment, and 51st Trench Mortar Battery, who would understand mortars.


As this was ad hoc battery with no establishment and no British Guns it would have fallen outside of the numbering system, hence it's title being taken from the Battery Commander, a practice used by the Royal Artillery before a numbering system came in.



22cm How Mle 16     220mm       1915


The Battery's first action took place on 25th June 1916. Located at LATARGETTE 6.5km north of ARRAS it conducted a firing programme on numerous trench junctions and strongpoints, repeating the program the following day.


Captain Richards left the Battery that bears his name on 1st July 1916 to take command of  105 Siege Battery. He would go onto win the DSO and MC and rise to the rank of Brigadier commanding anti-aircraft units in the Second World War.


Over the next month the Battery would conduct various shoots under the command of the 50th Heavy Artillery Group (HAG), including an interesting night shoot on the 18th July against German searchlights.


The Battery was visited by King George V on 9th August 1916, who watched them fire 3 rounds on THELVS MILL.




The last recorded action of the Richards Battery was on the 3rd September 1916. The XVII Corps Heavy Artillery diary details 'Richards Battery expended it's last five rounds on an enemy bombstore'.  






Battery L

The Royal Artillery Association published a poem recording the action of L Battery Royal Artillery at Nery on September 1st 1914 when 3 Victoria Crosses were won.






It was written in 1915 by Gunner BS Chandler whilst recovering in an Army Hospital in Cheltenham. It was written in a scrap book collated by recovering soldiers.




The 3 Victoria Crosses were won by Captain Edward Bradbury, Battery Sergeant-Major George Dorrell and Sergeant David Nelson.




Orders had come to battery 'L'

To hold the ridge and hold it well

To cover the march across the plain

Of troops retiring on Compaigne;

The simple orders they received

Were to guard the way till they were relieved

Protecting the rear with trusty guns

From the coming sweep of the myriad "Huns"


The night wore on and the early day

Opened in mist that was dense and grey;

All was silence and none could see

What the movements of troops might be

The men imagined that their task was o'er

And waited the orders to march once more

But signalling plans it seems went wrong

And never a message came along


Higher and higher the sun rose

The mist is melting it slowly goes

The beams of the sun its vapours dispel

For there on the frowning hills around,

Masses of Germans cover the ground

The British and French had got away well

But they'd somehow forgotten Battery 'L'


From the laughing Army over the way

Ten guns and two Maxims come into play;

The first cannonade is direct and dire

The battery's horse fall in the fire.

'Tis a murdering thing to suddenly know

Instead of friend you face a foe;

Buth the battery losing horse and man

Must stay where it is and do what it can.


It’s horses are slain it cannot move

Its guns retreat by labour of love;

Of the guns themselves there are only three

That men can train on the enemy.

Only three guns the duel ti begin

The foe have ten with maxims thrown in !

But there is no complaint from battery 'L'


Not a man jack among them is unnerved

Just as at Woolwich the guns are served

Though whistling shot and shells that screech,

Mow down the gunners at the breech.

Officers served the guns with the men

Every rank was equal then;

And when one fell in a fraction of space

Up stepped another in his place


They fought like heroes they fought like gods

But ten to three are terrible odds:

And spite of all that valour could do,

Of three guns the enemy silenced two.

Two guns gone from poor little three

Well that’s When an Englishman is fine to see

And all the tales our histories tell

In front will be that of Battery 'L'


One gun firing and that the last!

The men who serve are falling fast;

Glad in grim death before they go

To reap high ruin upon the foe:

The aim is true and the range is right

The Germans are in a pitiful plight.

But little they guess across the plain

Only three Englishmen remain


Darrel, Osborne, Derbyshire

They fought for a day, nor ceased to fire

Till killed or retreated were all the Hunns

Leaving behind ten silent guns:

And when help came to that marvellous band

Three wounded men could scarcely stand

A wonderful hush on the regiments fell

As they stood and saluted Battery 'L'






First Consol - Captured 12in Rail Howitzer

I was asked about some information about a Rail Howitzer captured during the German Spring Offensive in April 1918.



Source: Deutsches Hisorisches Museum


The gun was captured near Erquingehm-Lys where the British had built a rail spur to fire railway artillery. 




In April 1918, the Germans launched Operation Georgette quickly pushing the British back, capturing the 12 inch Railway Howitzer, named the First Consol at Erquninhem-Lys near Armentieres. The First Consol was one of six 12inch howitzers captured during the German Spring Offensives and according to my correspondent was sent to the Krupp Factory in Germany.  








Artillery Observation Limber Pole Ladder

I have spent many an hour observing artillery fire - on foot, lying in the open, in a concrete bunker, in a trench and in the air. I have never had to experience a precarious OP position such as the Artillery Observation Limber Pole Ladder. I suppose in the flat dessert of Mesopotamia with the absence of a good OP bring your own..... though being a sitting duck does have it's disadvantages. And how does one get a cup of tea sitting at the top of the pole ! The Imperial war Museum records " These light, portable ladders were of great use. At the top was a bullet proof shield and it was found that it could be put up frequently within 1000 yards of the Turkish trenches".


A fascinating account from IN THE CLOUDS ABOVE BAGDHAD John Edward Tennant


"A curious outstanding feature of fighting on the flats of Mesopotamia was the medley of artillery observation ladders which sprang up out of the desert whenever the guns went into action. Without them it was quite impossible for a battery commander to see anything at all. They were run up some distance from the batteries as far forward as possible, and invariably acted as a magnet to the enemy gun fire. The utmost gallantry was displayed by gunner officers, who remained perched behind a bullet proof shield on the top of one of these swaying poles directing fire, until the smoke and dust around them became too thick to see through, or they were blown off the platform by an accurately placed crump"


It looks like it was not only the British that adopted this method...… Limber Pole Ladder.





A number of years ago (January 2010 to be precise) I posted a request regarding a row of graves in Choques Military Cemetery where 12 men from D Battery 251 Brigade were buried.



The origins of the Battery lie with the 5th Durham Battery, 4th Northumbrian (County of Durham) Howitzer Brigade. Prior to the War the Brigade was headquartered in South Shields, on the south side of the mouth of the River Tyne. The Hebburn Battery lay 5 miles upstream on the south bank of the Tyne.


The men were killed in a single incident on the evening of 18th April 1918. This evening it is exactly 100 years since they were killed, so I though it would be appropriate to leave a post to remember those men.


After many years I found what actually happened on that fateful evening from an account in Regimental Archives:


Gronnenhem April 1918

The morning brought sad news from our wagon lines. The bombardment which had provided us with a lively interlude had visited our comrades with disastrous results. A shell struck the barn in which they were sleeping, bursting amongst the sleepers with deadly effect. Many of the survivors rushed for the open, to be met by a second shell, adding materially to the already heavy list of dead and wounded.


The men are buried together in a single row in  Plot II Row A in the Choques Military Cemetery.


Grave - Killed 18th April 1918
1. Hillbeck A Driver MM 2555
2. Wilson F Driver 127301
3. Allcott H Driver MM 4678
4. Fewings RT Gunner 52505
5. Harris AS Gunner 10235
6. Hunt JAF Gunner 234324
7. Bennet H Gunner 10315
8. Jewell WS Driver 1288
9. Maidment A Driver 10318
10. Pearce EG Driver 82773
11. Rich WG Driver 4546


Grave - Died 25th April 1918
12. Richardson JH Driver 755887


In March 2018 I was able to visit the Graves of the men.

Northumbria Gunner Blog:   Lys - Choques Military Cemetery












15 Pounder QF Ehrhardt Gun

As the end of the 19th century approached, the Royal Artillery was untested in general war. The focus of Army was colonial in nature, mainly waged against an enemy with practically no artillery. As a consequence the Royal Artillery was slow to realise changes in warfare over that century. The expanding empire saw the Royal Artillery engaged in many colonial actions.  Frequent small wars in Africa, Far East, India and other colonies occurred throughout the Victorian Era. The Army was engaged in active campaigning in one location or another every year of Queen Victoria’s reign except for 1883.  The Honour Titles of today's Royal Artillery bear testimony to those ubiquitous actions. 




In October 1899 the Right Honourable Sir Henry Brackenbury was appointed Director General of Ordnance. He undertook a review of artillery and concluded there were deficiencies in armament  and no reserve of guns. He came up with a series of papers to address the shortcomings including the replacement of obsolete guns.

The situation was highlighted in South Africa where the Boer Artillery outgunned the Royal Artillery. This raised serious concerns as to the ability of the Gunners to deal with threats from a more sophisticated enemy, notably Germany who had supplied the Boers with artillery.


To meet what would today be termed an Urgent Operational Requirement (UOR), Brackenbury requested £15 million. The Mowat Committee was formed to consider Brackenbury's recommendations and as a result of the committee's  work, Parliament voted £10 million pounds for the purchase of guns from ….. Germany. The British would purchase the 76mm Quick Firing Ehrhardt gun.


The order was placed with the Rheinische Metallwaaren- und Maschinen-Fabrik for 108 guns, 275 limbers, 162 ammunition wagons, stores, and 54,000 rounds. These were delivered five months after the contract was signed. The Government expressed a wish that no further supply of guns would be made. This lead to the formation of Equipment Committees who called upon " the inventive genius of the country" to come up with new guns to meet the Army's requirements.


The guns Ehrhardt Guns  werereceived in secrecy at the Woolwich Arsenal and entered service with the Royal Field Artillery in 1901. The gun was termed the Ordnance 15 Pounder QF.




The efforts of the Equipment Committees led to the development and introduction of new equipment's. In 1906 the cavalry Division and Six divisions re-equipped with 13 pounder & 18 pounder. When the Territorial Force as formed in 1908, the Ordnance 15 Pounder QF was issued to the Royal Horse Artillery Batteries.







15 Pounder QF Ehrhardt Gun - HAC Fargo Camp 1914


 The 15 Pounder QF Ehrhardt gun would see active service with the TF RHA in the Middle East.  A Battery HAC and the Nottinghamshire RHA were engaged in the Senussi Campaign in Egypt and Libya. In Aden B Battery HAC and the  Berkshire RHA were in action during July 1915 in the recapture of the Sheikh Othman District ( a key water supply to Aden) from the Turks.



15 Pounder QF Ehrhardt Gun - HAC Sheikh Othman 1914


In 1916 the Territorial Force Royal Horse Artillery Batteries were equipped with the 13 pounder.


15 Pounder QF Ehrhardt Gun





3 in

76 mm

Shell Weight

14 lb

6.4 kg


6,400 yards



Rate of Fire

20 rounds per minute





UBIQUE - Thank God for the Guns






Rudyard Kipling


There is a word you often see, pronounce it as you may –
“You bike,” “you bykwee,” “ubbikwee” – alludin’ to R. A.
It serves ‘Orse, Field, an’ Garrison as motto for a crest;
An’ when you’ve found out all it means I’ll tell you ‘alf the rest.


Ubique means the long-range Krupp be’ind the long-range ‘ill –
Ubique means you’ll pick it up an’, while you do, stand still.
Ubique means you’ve caught the flash an’ timed it by the sound.
Ubique means five gunners’ ‘ash before you’ve loosed a round.


Ubique means Blue Fuse, an’ make the ‘ole to sink the trail.
Ubique means stand up an’ take the Mauser’s ‘alf-mile ‘ail.
Ubique means the crazy team not God nor man can ‘old.
Ubique means that ‘orse’s scream which turns your innards cold!


Ubique means “Bank, ‘Olborn, Bank – a penny all the way” –
The soothin’, jingle-bump-an’-clank from day to peaceful day.
Ubique means “They’ve caught De Wet, an’ now we shan’t be long.”
Ubique means “I much regret, the beggar’s goin’ strong!”


Ubique means the tearin’ drift where, breach-block jammed with mud,
The khaki muzzles duck an’ lift across the khaki flood.
Ubique means the dancing plain that changes rocks to Boers.
Ubique means mirage again an’ shellin’ all outdoors.


Ubique means “Entrain at once for Grootdefeatfontein.”
Ubique means “Of-load your guns” – at midnight in the rain!
Ubique means “More mounted men. Return all guns to store.”
Ubique means the R.A.M.R. Infantillery Corps.


Ubique means that warnin’ grunt the perished linesman knows,
When o’er ‘is strung an’ sufferin’ front the shrapnel sprays ‘is foes;
An’ as their firin’ dies away the ‘usky whisper runs
From lips that ‘aven’t drunk all day: “The Guns! Thank Gawd, the Guns!”


Extreme, depressed, point-blank or short, end-first or any’ow,
From Colesberg Kop to Quagga’s Poort – from Ninety-Nine till now –
By what I’ve ‘eard the others tell an’ I in spots ‘ave seen,
There’s nothin’ this side ‘Eaven or ‘Ell Ubique doesn’t mean!


Lesson on accuracy of artillery

An interesting extract from a letter sent by 2nd Lieut. Humphrey Arden (RGA) to his old school which was published in the school magazine.


Humphrey Arden attended the Dragon school, then   Radley and went on to Queens College Cambridge. He was about prepare for holy orders when war broke out. He was commissioned into the Royal Garrison Artillery in 1915. He died of wounds near Messines 6th June 1917 whilst serving with 156th Heavy Battery RGA. He is buried Bailleu Communal Cemetery Extension.

large.Arden-Humphrey.jpg CWGC Information: 2/Lt. Humphrey Warwick Arden      Dragon Portrait Gallery: 2nd Lt Humphrey Arden R.G.A.


2/Lt Arden obviously had a keen interest in Gunnery - So few think it worth while to understand guns, whereas really they are the most interesting things in the War.


2nd Lieutenant Arden outlines the lessons of Zone.

Source: The Skippers War 


“Those who are not gunners mostly have two delusions and if the same men rise to command without having learnt better, silly things will happen – but of that more presently.


A lesson that many Gunner has experienced over the subsequent years.


The two delusions are (i) that, when a gun is laid in such a way that the shell hits a particular spot, it will hit the same spot if it is laid in a similar way. With regards to the first, it is only necessary to remember that gunnery is a mechanical science and not a game of skill. Experts find out the laws of the science and the Royal Regiment follows the law. The personal element practically does not, or should not come into it.


With regard to (ii), it would take too long to explain the ‘error of the gun.’ But it is a fact that if a gun is laid in exactly the same way for a hundred rounds, the shells will cover an oblong some hundreds of yards long and several yards wide. This ‘zone’ varies according to the gun and the range – any gun being much more accurate for line than it is for range.


Royal Artillery Glossary of Terms and Abbreviations - Philip Jobson

Zone of the Gun - A series of shells from a gun firing at a given elevation will not fall in exactly the same spot but will be spread around the theoretical impact point....... It is impossible to guarantee to hit a precise spot and gunners need to be mindful of the zone of the gun when ranging onto a target.







2/Lt Arden outlines a situation where the gunners were mindful of the zone, however Those who are not gunners mostly have two delusions and if the same men rise to command without having learnt better


Take an example. 


Some months ago a cunning man thought unto himself a scheme. ‘We will bombard a piece of trench,’ said he, ‘and start at the outside ends together, gradually working in to the centre. The Boche will be forced to crowd in and finally will have to jump out of the trench and run for his life. Whereupon the Field and the Heavies (60 pdrs) shall slay him.’

Well, a Siege Battery was allotted some 200 rounds for the job and the trench selected was at right-angles to the line of fire, i.e the shells would have to drop at precisely the same range to a yard every time to hit the trench.


The Battery Commander calculated that 5 of the 200 might fall in the trench. That is to say. with the most perfect laying, ammunition and weather conditions, the gun itself could not put more than 2½ % of rounds in exactly the same spot at that range, and of course the ammunition, wind, temperature, barometer etc. never are perfect. So the Battery Commander did pretty well to get 3 of the 200 in the trench.


So if the desired effect requires 200 rounds on target. BC does well to get 3 in the trench, so taking account of zone, to get 200 in the trench , he would needed to have fired 13,333 rounds. As it was a Siege Battery it would be probably 4 guns, so 3,333 per gun. Imagine the logistical effort to achieve the effect !.


large.BritishAmmunitionDump.jpgTaking zone into to account If this lot of shells were fired around 15 would roughly hit the same spot.


It looks like the Field and Heavies may have realised that this was not aplan that was going to be successful.....and put a brew on:

The Field and the Heavies waited in vain, or realising the fatuousness  of the whole proceedings, did not wait at all.




Rather than being asking for excuse for being didactic, it is a valuable lesson still for Gunners and Those who are not gunners and delusional. = ARTILLERY IS AN AREA WEAPON


You must excuse this didactic letter. So few think it worth while to understand guns, whereas really they are the most interesting things in the War.”





Portuguese Independent Artillery Corps - CAPI



When World War One broke out in 1914, Portugal was a neutral country. However colonial clashes in Africa, in Angola,  and the effect of the German U-boats on Portuguese trade routes to the UK, her main partner, caused tensions with Germany. In February 1916, Portugal at Britain's request seized German and Austro-Hungarian shipping in Portuguese ports, and a month later Germany declared war on Portugal.

Portugal during World War One


In response to the declaration Portugal raised an expedition force of an infantry division of 55,000 men, The Portuguese Expeditionary Corps (Corpo Expedicionário Português or CEP). The CEP deployed to the Western Front in February 1917 and came under the command of the British Expeditionary Force.


Portuguese Expeditionary Corps (Corpo Expedicionário Português or CEP)


Portuguese Independent Artillery Corps


The French Army requested assistance from the Portuguese on 26th December 1916 for artillery personnel to man French heavy artillery batteries. In response an independent Heavy Artillery Corps (Corpo de Artilharia Pesada Independente or CAPI) was formed in January 1917. The CAPI would come  under French Army command and operate independently  of the Portuguese Expeditionary Force (CEP). The personnel would be recruited from the Army together with some Navy personnel.


Corpo de Artilharia Pesada Independente or CAPI


The advance party moved to France in May 1917 to await the arrival of the first gunners, under the command of Colonel John Climacus Man Teles.


Preparation of barracks and administration was complete by August. The main body from the 2nd Lisbon Coast Artillery and Naval personnel began arriving in September, being complete on 17th October 1917.  The total personnel from the CAPI consisted of 44 officers and 750 OR's.



Portuguese CAPI Soldiers


On 22nd October 1917, the Portuguese Gunners began training at  Bailleul-sur-Thérain, and Mailly , in conjunction with French Artillery units being rested from front line service.  Those at Bailleul- would be instructed of 320 mm rail guns, at  Mailly Paris 190mm rail guns.


Four 320mm rail guns that were at rest and were known by the names of "Bourrasque", "Tempête", "Simoun" and "Cyclone".



Portuguese Independent Artillery Corps 320 mm Rail Guns



Portuguese Independent Artillery Corps 190 mm Rail Gun


Training was completed on 4th November, equipment had been taken over, and the Corps was ready to fight.


The Corps was now absorbed into the French Order of Battle and designated Corps Artillerie Lourde Portugais. It was to consist of three Groups of 3 batteries and a Depot Battery.


A second contingent of Gunners arrived in January 1918 consisting of 26 officers and 500 OR's bringing the total CAPI personnel in theatre to 70 officers and 1,258 OR's.


Colonel Tristan da Câmara Pestana took over command from Colonel Man Teles on 15th January 1918.


Colonel Tristan da Câmara Pestana


In February, personnel from the the 2nd and 3rd Groups moved to Le Havre where in April they moved to the UK to train on British equipment. They trained at Horsham where there are references to problems of indiscipline, causing problems for the British. http://comum.rcaap.pt/handle/10400.26/6864


Corps Artillerie Lourde Portugais


The Corps Lo Artillerie  Lourde Portugais would consist of  three Groups, each consisting of three batteries of one rail gun.  In each Group, one Battery would operate  320-millimetre (12.6 in) railway guns the other two 240-mm (9.5in) or 190-mm (7.5 in) railway guns.  There was also a Depot Battery.



Group 1 - 1st / 2nd / 3rd Battery | Group 2 - 4th / 5th / 6th Battery | Group 3  - 7th / 8th / 9th Battery







Matériel de 194 mm

TAZ Modèle 1870/1893



194 mm

18,300 m

83 kg

Matériel de 240 mm

TAZ Modèle 1893/96 Colonies



240 mm


162 kg

Matériel de 320 mm à glissement

 Modéle 1870/80, 1870/84 et 1870/93


320 mm

20,500 m

387 kg


The establishment of the CAPI was:




3 x Group
























The batteries were single gun batteries. The Combat Train consisted of a single gun, ammunition wagons, gun stores wagon, and wagons with material for fixing tracks. There was  also  a  Cantonment Train  consisting of command cars , accommodation, dining room and kitchen, infirmary, and workshops.


Combat Actions


1st Battery - 320mm


12 March 1918 - 1st Battery under command of Captain Gonçalo Pinto moved to Vailly (15 km W of Soissons) in the Aisne Sector under the control of French 6th Corps awaiting orders.


16 March 1918 - Aerial photography identified German gun batteries hidden in woods and the Battery deployed to Soupir (5 km W of Vailly) south of the Plateau of Chemin des Dames. They engaged the target at a range of  18 km and  firing 60 rounds with observation conducted by air plane.  The mission was reported as being successful.


27 March 1918 - The next action was firing from the  Sommesous extensions, in the South of the Marne Sector. This was in support of a French  counteroffensive.



Portuguese Independent Artillery Corps 320 mm Rail Gun firing




2nd / 3rd  Battery - 240 mm


18 May 1918 the 2nd and 3rd battery deployed in the Hurlus (65 km W of Reims) network positions engaged targets at a range of 10 km.


Post Armistice

On 10th November an order was issued which disbanded the CAPI. At the end of November the personnel were informed they would remain in France to work on removal of trenches and barbed wire. They continued on this work until March 1919.  The men of the CAPI finally got to go home in April 1919, boarding an English steamer in Cherbourg on 3rd to return to Portugal.


A total of 1, 639 Portuguese served with the CAPI, five of whom died from accidents and other non combat incidents.


Portuguese National Cemetery Richebourg France



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