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Guns of the RFA


akduerden
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I have read that the RFA gun batteries from 1915 were predominately equiped with 18pdr (3.3in QF) and 60pdr (5in 1904) field guns. As apposed to the 6in 30cwt howitzer which was the gun of the howitzer batteries of the RFA. My source reading is "Allied Artillery of World War One", by Ivan V. Hogg.

My grandfather was in B Battery, 115th Brigade and I am interested to know whether they were equipped with the 18pdr or 60pdr. Can anyone advise whether this level of detail is still available and if so where I can find it.

Andrew

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Hi Andrew,

60pdrs were used by the RGA, most RFA batteries were equipped with the 18pdr, the Howitzer batteries with 4.5s. B Bty CXV Bde were equipped with 18pdrs

Jon

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In the first year or so there were not enough 18-pr Guns and 4.5-in Hows to equip the many new batteries that were forming (it's also possible that some pre-1914 TF batteries may not have been re-equipped with 18-pr and 4.5-in). All these used 15-pr Guns and 5-in Hows.

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All these used 15-pr Guns and 5-in Hows.

Hello Andrew

Most of these were replaced by the 18-pdr and 4.5" howitzer during 1915.

And, just to complete the circle, the 6" 30 cwt howitzer (later replaced by the 26-cwt version) was used by most of the Siege Batteries RGA.

B Battery 115 Bde was indeed equipped with 18-pdrs. D Battery 115 Bde RFA was also originally an 18-pdr battery but swapped roles and titles with B Battery 117 Brigade, equipped with 4.5" hows, in about May 1916. All these belonged to 26th Div which served in Macedonia.

The best source for battery equipments and formations served under is A F Becke's "Order of Battle of Divisions", published in six parts (1, 2A, 2B, 3A, 3B and 4) as a supplementary series to the Official History. They have all been reprinted and details for 26th Div are in Part 3A. Becke himself was an RFA officer whicch may well explain the extraordinary number of footnotes he devotes to the Gunners!

Ron

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Thanks all for the information, particulary Ron.

I did not know about D Battery switching to Howitzers. I have parts of the war diary for the 115th and in the process of getting the rest.

During the Battle of Horseshoe Hill it mentions B Battery having Front, Rear, Left and Right Sections. Was this a standard formation and naming convention for sections? E.g.

8/08/1916

B Battery moved position. Right section to COMMANDANT, Left section to SAIDA

16/08/1916

C Battery moved into position near Rear Section of B Battery.

C Battery registered on HORSESHOE HILL and all Batteries fired about 300 rounds at request of infantry who were being shelled on KIDNEY HILL

24/08/1916

A quiet day on the front, few rounds exchanged by both sides. One gun of Rear Section B Battery moved up to the Forward Section of B Battery

Andrew

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Andrew

A four-gun battery was normally divided into Right and Left Sections. These were effectively parade, rather than tactical, subdivisions.

Forward and Rear sections sound more like tactical dispositions so. e.g. R Sec might have been forward and L Sec in rear. They would not (I think) be four distict sections. A single gun and its crew were usually called a subsection.

Ron

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A Section was two guns and a group of Sections made a Battery. As you say, Ron, one gun and its crew were a sub-Section.

Keith

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A four-gun battery was normally divided into Right and Left Sections. These were effectively parade, rather than tactical, subdivisions.

I don't think that's entirely true. It would be normal to keep the section together in action. For direct fire the section commander would have controlled his 2 two guns, he was also adminstratively responsible for them, in effect a section RHA/RFA/RGA was equivalent to an infantry platoon in this respect. Of course the sect comds could have other duties in action as well, such as observing officer (to relieve the BC or to extend the view) or battery recce officer.

Forward and Rear sections sound more like tactical dispositions so. e.g. R Sec might have been forward and L Sec in rear. They would not (I think) be four distict sections. A single gun and its crew were usually called a subsection.

It's an interesting question as to how far apart the sections were, RGA btys sometimes had sects a couple of hundred yards apart. The issue was control of the battery, ordering firing data to the guns and ensuring their parallalism.

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Nigel

My reference to Right and Left Sections as parade formations was intended to refer to their physical layout on parade. I entirely agree that sections, like platoons, were kept together in both war and peace as administrative and tactical entities, but that, in action, R Sec did not necessarily occupy the right-hand half of the battery position in action.

Ron

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Nigel,

Again referring to the 115th Brigade war diary it seems to not be uncommon for one section of a battery to be located at a distance from the other. This seemed to have been particularly the case when moving to a new position or when supporting an operation. One section would be sent first and the second section would follow, some times many days later. Examples,

29-30/07/1916

1 Section of B Battery moved up into position near LEBICOT

27/08/1916

One Section D Battery moved into position at GOKCELLI

Quiet day on the front

28/08/1916

Remaining Section D Battery moved into position at GOKCELLI

Quiet day on the front

10/09/1916

Bombarded enemy trenches and various points in their zone, one Section of D Battery moved up to CASTLE HILL

20/09/1916

Remaining Section of D Battery moved forward about 500 yards after being shelled in old position without any casualties occurring

Fired a few retaliation and registration rounds

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Methods and tactics in the Balkans could well have differed from the W Front. I suspect that the introduction of indirect fire methods may have lagged considerably. This would have kept control technically simpler.

The divisional artilleries (of 22, 26 (12 Corps) and 10, 27, 28 (16 Corps)) in the Balkans were re-organised in July 1916. This reorg gave each division 4 bdes RFA, each bde with 3 btys of 6 x 18-pr and one bty of 4 x 4.5-in. The reversion to btys of 6 guns had been decided in 1915 on the W Front (22, 26, 27, 28 Divs had all been on the W Front and arrived in the Balkans in early 1916).

The 1914 mobilised 6 gun bty organisation was three sections, however, its possible that they retained the term 'section' for a half battery because there was no other recognised term and a 3 way split was too much to control. Of course they might have split the battery into 4 and 2.

While 27 & 28 Divs were mostly regular and so had uniquely numbered 18-pr btys, the others were new army divs so had lettered btys. Shuffling batteries to reorg would probably have meant re-lettering because 4.5 btys were almost always D in the mixed bdes whereas in a How bde they were A - D.

115 Bde RFA was in 26 Div, on 18 Aug they supported the attack by 78 Inf Bde on Horseshoe Hill.

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Methods and tactics in the Balkans could well have differed from the W Front. I suspect that the introduction of indirect fire methods may have lagged considerably. This would have kept control technically simpler.

The divisional artilleries (of 22, 26 (12 Corps) and 10, 27, 28 (16 Corps)) in the Balkans were re-organised in July 1916. This reorg gave each division 4 bdes RFA, each bde with 3 btys of 6 x 18-pr and one bty of 4 x 4.5-in. The reversion to btys of 6 guns had been decided in 1915 on the W Front (22, 26, 27, 28 Divs had all been on the W Front and arrived in the Balkans in early 1916).

The 1914 mobilised 6 gun bty organisation was three sections, however, its possible that they retained the term 'section' for a half battery because there was no other recognised term and a 3 way split was too much to control. Of course they might have split the battery into 4 and 2.

While 27 & 28 Divs were mostly regular and so had uniquely numbered 18-pr btys, the others were new army divs so had lettered btys. Shuffling batteries to reorg would probably have meant re-lettering because 4.5 btys were almost always D in the mixed bdes whereas in a How bde they were A - D.

115 Bde RFA was in 26 Div, on 18 Aug they supported the attack by 78 Inf Bde on Horseshoe Hill.

Nigel,

Thanks for the information. The war diary confirms your comments re conversion to 6 gun batteries although it occurs in December 1916 which may have been due to the actions at the time.

27/12/1916

Batteries fired during the night on damaged trenches. Also fired on enemy active batteries and enemy O.P’s.

Conversion to 6 gun batteries carried out – C battery being split up between A and B Batteries forming 2 x 6 gun 18pdr batteries and leaving D Battery (Howitzer) as before – designation of units being A, B and D Batteries

78th Infantry Brigade took over front held by 77th Infantry Brigade and covered by our batteries

There is no mention of a divisional change but then that is probably not likely in a brigade war dairy however the batteries were all 4 gun and not 6 at the time they arrived in Salonika.

Andrew

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Hello all

Six-gun batteries were divided into Right, Centre and Left sections, both pre-war and after 1916. Two guns per section.

The four-gun battery became standard on the Western Front for New Armies and Territorials in early/mid 1915. Most Regular 18-pdr batteries retained their six guns, sometimes reducing to two batteries per brigade. They also hung on to their pre-war battery numbers: it was not uncommon later for the batteries of a brigade to be called, say, A, 123, C and D!

Ron

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Methods and tactics in the Balkans could well have differed from the W Front. I suspect that the introduction of indirect fire methods may have lagged considerably.

The tactics did lag in Macedonia and probably in other, distant theatres. Even though there was an Artillery Training School at Summerhill Camp, "Under the Devil's Eye" mentions RA officers being sent to France to learn the latest techniques at first hand.

Keith

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A further reorganisation of artillery was ordered in 1916, basically this split the bdes RFA into divisional artillery bdes and army artillery bdes. It also required additional batteries. The program was not completed until about March 1918. Obviously a policy change to the size of btys could not be instantly implemented, particularly if it involved an increase to the total number of guns and men! There would probably some varying priority between theatres. Shuffling btys around was much easier.

Farndale states that the 18-pr btys in the Balkans were 6 gun btys in July 1916.

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