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RFA - research


Jojessholli
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Hi Guys,

I'm hoping some of you very knowledgeable chaps can help me out with some research for a fictional book I'm writing on the RFA (East Lancs) during WW1. I want to make the story as accurate as possible.

My questions are as follows:

1) Typically how far in the rear would an artillery unit be?

2) How many men man a gun? (Would be good if you can tell me both heavy artillery and light quantities)

3) Are the men manning a gun made up of particular ranks or not?

4) What guns did the East Lancs use? Light or heavy artillery? As much information as possible would be greatly appreciated.

5) What was the range of the guns?

6) How many guns would be in a battery?

7) What books would you recommend reading about they type of artillery used by the East Lancs?

Sorry there are so many more questions I have but this would be a great help if you can give me explanations on the above.

Regards

Vic

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Vic

Although Wikipedia doesn't seem to be universally approved of you could try using a popular search engine and type RFA East lancs. There is a Wikipedia entry which might add to what is on the Long Long Trail.

Peter

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Vic

The East Lancs RFA (T/A) went to Egypt with The East Lancs Div in September 1914. The two Units were 1st East Lancs Brigade (The Blackburn Artillery) and 3rd East Lancs Brigade (The Bolton Artillery). The Order of Battle, Artillery Personnel and Armament in Egypt (TNA ref WO 95/5474) dated 21/01/1915 gives the strength of 1 ELB as 25 Officers, 597 Other Ranks and 538 Horses and the strength of 3 ELB as 26 Officers, 608 Other Ranks and 534 Horses. Both Brigades were armed with 12 x 15 Pounder BLC guns. There were 3 Batteries, each of 4 guns, in each Brigade, plus an Ammunition Column. A Google search on 15 Pounder BLC will give you all the info re range etc. There is an Official History of the Bolton Artillery by Lt Col Palin Dobson held at Bolton Library Local Studies and I have made various indexes of all names of Bolton Artillery men who appear in the Bolton Papers from 1914 to 1919. My indexes are designed for the family researcher but can be read as a chronicle. The papers reported on the Active Service Brigade in Egypt and Gallipoli and on the formation and training of the Reserve Brigades but from 1917 only reported casualties and awards.

The Bolton Artillery came into Action on 02 and 03/02/1915 as Turkish Forces attempted to cross the Suez Canal. They later served in Gallipoli and again in Egypt before going to France in March 1917. Reserve brigades were formed in Bolton in 1915, they became 332 Brigade which was broken up shortly after going to France in 1917. One Battery of 332 Brigade had earlier been converted to Howitzers and served with 108 Brigade from October 1916.

Brian

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Thanks Brian - I've been reading a multitude of books and have found out that the 330th(Whom I'm writing about) had 18 pounders (A and B batteries) and 15 pounders (C and D batteries) when they joined the 5th Army (As part of the 66th Division) - I've also found the range of the guns from one of the Osprey books. I'm pretty confident that a battery consists of six to eight guns but I still need the rest of the information if you can help.

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Hello jojessholli

RFA regular batteries had six guns, TF and New Army batteries had four. Most were increased to six by early 1917, but I don't think any batteries of RFA had eight guns.

Ron

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Correct, peacetime 4 guns in 1914, increased to 6 on mobilisation, expansion meant guns were in short supply and new batteries only got 4, 1916 decided to increase all RHA, RFA and RGA batteries up to 9.2-in How to 6 guns. Larger calibres remains smaller btys (1 to 4 guns).

8 gun btys were introduced for field and medium regts in 1938, lapsed back to 6 when national service ended in 1962, increased to 8 c.1981 (on mobilisation for self propelled btys) and collapsed back to 6 recently. 20th C history in a nutshell.

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Thanks Gents - that makes sense.

Do either of you know how far back from infantry troops the artillery would have been?

It's mentioned in Farndales book (Western Front 1914-18) that during the battle for St Quentin, that the 330th Brigade galloped to the rescue of the Manchesters (on 21st October) and helped hold off the enemy until about 6pm, when they were overrun themselves, presumeably this means the artillery were not that far behind the infantry?

Regards

Vic

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Le Cateau demonstrated that deploying in the enemy's direct fire zone was not a good idea. Ideally the battery would deploy where they could cover all the ground observable by their observing officer. The need to be out of the direct fire zone, including enemy ground observation, and ideally from balloon observation, meant deploying behind some form of cover, ideally a lowish ridge in friendly hands. A rough rule of thumb might be 1/3 max range behind the frontline, but very long range guns might be a bit less and short range ones a bit more, space might also be an issue when a lot of batteries deployed to support a major operation. On occasions guns might be further forward, particularly if the terrain was suitable. Like any tactical decision, the terrain is an important consideration.

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Thanks Nigelfe - I've seen lots of pics to support this, the maximum range of the 18 pounders was 6,525 yards and the 13 pounders is 5,900 yards - so presumably the enemy would be about the same distance in front of the blue line as the artillery to the same blue line (behind it)? Would that be a good estimate? Also assuming that the artillery were never pushed to their maximum distance, one could presume that the guns were approx 1500 to 2000 yards behind the infantry.

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I'd say the forward infantry, there was some depth to the defences. No forgetting that the range of the 18-pr increased during the war. As I said, the terrain was an important factor in where batteries deployed, and of course how far the observing officer could see. Of course for a major offensive an issue would have been how deep the barrage was to go, But other things being equal 1500-2000 yds was probably a reasonable figure, could be a less if the terrain was suitable, could be more. This is not matter where you can be dogmatic, it's about tactical decisions.

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I'm just reading 'the Kaisers Battle' by Martin Middlebrook (Abuout March 21st 1918) - there's a very interesting diagram in it about the 'Blue, Red and Brown' lines - during this period there were artillery batteries between the Blue and red lines, between the red and brown lines and then the heavy artillery behind the brown lines. Based on the scales of the drawing this would indicate that the first line of artillery were placed as we've said 1500 - 2000 yards behind the blue line. The second line (Red) of artillery are about the same again - complimenting your last comment about distance and penetration.

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