On the 26th May 2016 the Tri Centenary of the Royal Artillery was commemorated by a Queen's Review at Larkhill.
To commemorate the Bi-Centenary on 26th May 1916 a parade was held at Woolwich adjacent to St George's Garrison Church.
What of the Royal Regiment of May 1916……
The strength was over 408,000 officers and OR's, representing nearly 14% of the Army. Of the strength, 321,000 were manning the guns of the divisional artillery (RHA / RFA), and 87, 000 serving the Royal Garrison Artillery.
The Ubiquitous Royal Regiment was serving on all Fronts with the main concentration if France and Flanders.
In Sinai and Egypt the defence of the Suez Canal from Turkish disruption or capture was vital for shipping routes to India, and the British Empire . In Mesopotamia British Forces were trying to exert their force in that region having lost Kut in a long Siege at month earlier. Whilst in East Africa reinforcements were arriving to counteract German forces. A garrison was still being maintained in India, whilst coastal stations and ports throughout the Empire were being protected by the Coastal Artillery of the RGA.
It should also be remembered that in the UK many Gunners were undergoing training, particularly to man newly formed Siege Batteries. The Military Conscription Act became law in January 1916, so the RA expansion included newly conscripted men. There had been a number of zeppelin raids in northern and southern England in April 1916, so Anti-Aircraft defence was gaining in importance. In Ireland, tensions were still high following the Easter Rising in April when artillery was deployed onto the streets of Dublin.
In May 1916 there was a re-organisation of the RA taking place. Brigades were being re-organised to consist of three gun and one howitzer batteries, leading to the breakup of howitzer brigades. Units were to be numbered, the old Territorial Force tiles disappeared.
The British Army manned 90 miles of the Western Front, continuously from Boesinghe to Maricourt . The Second Army was in the Ypres Salient, with the First Army to its south in the Armentieres sector. Third Army covered the Arras sector, Fourth Army the Somme. The Fifth, Reserve Army, had been formed only a few days before the RA Bi-Centenary.
The war on the Western Front had stagnated in an artillery war of attrition requiring vast amounts of ammunition and guns. The failure of the attack on Aubers Ridge in March 1915 due to lack of ammunition had brought about a change of government and the establishment of the Ministry of Munitions. In the week of 26th May nearly 2. 5 million artillery rounds were produced, some in Woolwich Arsenal nearby to the Bi-Centenary parade.
In the month of May 1916, the number of guns of all calibres on the Western from rose from 3,700 to over 4,000. The number of rounds expended during the week of the Bi-Centenary the Western Front was 120,922 Rounds of all calibres.
The Fourth Army was preparing for the 'Big Push'. On the 26th May Generals Foffre and de Castelnau held a conference with Sir Douglas Haig and Sir William Robertson at Montreuil to discuss the situation at Verdun and the necessity for the British to launch an attack in June to relieve the pressure on the French Army. Over 1,000 guns and 1.6 million rounds were being readied for the Somme Offensive
Whilst commemorations took place in Woolwich, 7 Gunners would lose their lives that day.