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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

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Territorial Force 1914



Being looking through England's Last Hope, The Territorial Force, 1908-14 by KW Mitchinson at the Library. GWF Review


The move from a disparate number of units into fully formed Divisions in 6 years would have been quite a task. In the Artillery the upheaval for the coastal units of the RGA would probably have been less, as their role remained unchanged. Having gone through a major role change in more recent times , one can emphasise with the Divisional Artillery. Unfortunately the Artillery were often synonymous with Territorial inefficiency, and one association described Artillery units as being their greatest difficulty.

However....the units were not provided with the facilities and equipment to effectively train. It is not surprising there were problems.

The former Volunteer units were equipped with an assortment of elderly guns, most of which were no use in a mobile role. As the Regular Army re-equipped with the 18 poundesr, the TF RFA would receive the 15 pounder Breach Loading Convertible. One problem was the guns were not supplied with their full stores. The 1st West Riding Brigade RFA deployed to camp in 1909 with no dial sights / aiming posts / directors / correctors / plotters and only one clinometer between 4 guns. This would be akin to firing cannons at Waterloo.

Weekend training was also a challenge. The RFA Brigades had no horses, and therefore had to hire them for weekend training. In the early part of the 20th century, working Saturday morning was the norm, consequently the type of horses required for pulling the guns would be working too. The County Associations therefore had a choice of hiring horses either for a Saturday morning, or a full day Sunday. This also meant that only those units near artillery ranges could actually get to fire at a weekend - if they had any ammunition.

Batteries were allocated 200 rounds per 15 pounder Brigade per year, 122 rounds for the 5 inch Howitzer Brigade, per year. They were however only allowed to fire every other year. Consequently Brigades would move ammunition between them, so they could end up with 400 rounds and 244 rounds per Brigade, the Regular Army would receive 600 rounds per year. The majority of firing was at annual camp, so weekend firing only occurred if there were any spare rounds. That is if they could get a range.

In 1913, there were five artillery ranges for the Regular Army and TF. An additional two ranges were added for the TF that year. Some of the ranges were out to sea, of no benefit for observers. Consequently training would be limited to the gun end, one unit did not fire on a land range for 5 years. It may be that not all the guns could go to camp, many being left behind due to a shortage of horses. The War Office proposed that they should purchase 14 horses per Brigade. A gun and limber would require 6 horses, section of two guns could be deployed. The Commanding Officer would obviously have a horse, leaving one horse for the rest of the Brigade. So two guns could deploy with the CO, the detachment would have to walk, as would the rest of the Brigade, and no stores could be moved. Horses were provided for annual camp 117 for an RFA Brigade, 78 RHA Brigade. And to feed the horses... the Brigades had to hire their own hay cutters at camp out of their own funds.

The formation of an Expeditionary Force to move to the Empires trouble spots, and the possibility of it being deployed in a European conflict, raised the question of using the TF for Imperial Service. the conditions of enlistment for Territorials was home defense only. Territorials could volunteer for overseas service, the numbers who did so were relatively small, only 7 percent of the total force in 1912 . Seven units were able to form as a full unit for imperial service, one of which was the Northumberland Hussars. The numbers volunteering across the Territorial Artillery varied. The unit with the most volunteers was the 1st Northumbrian Brigade RFA at 46 % (the predecessors of my Regiment). At the other end of the scale, only 3 Gunners out of the East Lancashire division volunteered.

The preparation for Home Defense were not too good either. It was assessed that the TF Artillery could only deploy against an invader with no Artillery support (not sure if the fuzie wuzies could get them selves to the UK), and should the invasion come from a force with Artillery, 6 to 9 months training would be required. One hopes the enemy would have hung around their landing areas so long.

It was not surprising that many of the TF's detractors called for the disbandment of the TF Artillery.

On the eve of World War One the Territorial Artillery was poorly equipped, poorly trained, and would seemed ill prepared to provide sufficient numbers to serve overseas if required.

On mobilisation the Territorials answered the call to the colours. Most units volunteered to a man to serve overseas, by the end of August 1914, most had started to form second line units.On the 5th September 1914, the East Lancashire Division was the first Territorial Division to deploy overseas, moving to Egypt to defend the Suez Canal.

The TF Artillery would go on to serve with distinction throughout the Great War- Ubique Quo Fas Gloria et Duncunt.



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