British Royal Regiment of Artillery

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Hierarchical Path: Seven Years War (Main Page) >> Armies >> British Army >> British Royal Regiment of Artillery

Origin and History

As in other European countries, the first artillery units of the English armies were made of hired professionals: engineers, artillerymen, blacksmiths, etc. These units had no permanent status, they were created when war broke out and disbanded in peacetime.

On May 26 1716, a Royal Warrant issued by George I created the first two companies of field artillery (100 men each) of the British army. These companies were formed at Woolwich.

On April 1 1722, two additional companies were raised. Furthermore, independent artillery companies based at Gibraltar and Minorca were incorporated to the unit which became known as the “Royal Regiment of Artillery” and placed under the command of colonel Albert Borgard. Promotion in the regiment was by seniority.

In 1741, the Royal Military Academy, a school to train artillery officers and engineers, was established in the Royal Arsenal at Woolwich. The same year, a regimental staff was created. The gun carriage were painted a light blue gray.

The Royal Artillery was headquartered at the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich, London. It was part of the Board of Ordnance which schooled both the Artillery Officers and the Engineers at the Royal Military Academy.

Before 1744, 4 additional companies were raised, for a total 8 companies. In 1744, a cadet company was added to the regiment.

In each company, officers, NCOs and privates were ranked as follows:

  • captain-lieutenant
  • lieutenant
  • second lieutenant
  • lieutenant fire worker
  • cadet
  • sergeant
  • bombardier
  • gunner
  • matross
  • drummer.

At the end of the War of the Austrian Succession in 1748, the regiment counted 10 companies.

By 1754, the 10 companies of the regiment, excluding the cadet company, were deployed as follows:

  • Woolwich or Greenwich (5 coys)
  • Perth (1 coy)
  • Gibralter (1 coy)
  • Minorca (1 coy)
  • Halifax, Nova Scotia (1 coy)
  • St. Johns', Newfoundland (1 coy)

In 1755, 6 new companies were raised., making a total of 16, excluding the Cadet company.

By 1756, there were a total of 18 companies and the regiment functioned as a single battalion. The same year, Captain Phillips raised a company of 229 miners among miners of Cornwall and Newcastle upon Tyne for the defence of Fort St. Philip in Minorca. However, it could not reach the place before the capture of the island by the French. The miners were then sent to various companies as needs arose.

In 1756, the company of Captain Charles Broome posted in Nova Scotia consisted of:

  • 1 captain
  • 1 captain-lieutenant
  • 1 first lieutenant
  • 1 second lieutenant
  • 3 lieutenant-fireworkers
  • 3 sergeants (NCO)
  • 2 corporals (NCO)
  • 8 bombardiers (NCO)
  • 2 drummers (NCO)
  • 20 gunners
  • 64 matrosses

It is a good example of the standard company of the time.

At the beginning of 1757, the regiment consisted of 19 companies. On April 2, four additional companies were added, giving a total of 24 companies, including the cadet company. The regiment counted only four field officers but 131 company officers:

  • 19 captains
  • 19 captain-lieutenants
  • 19 1st lieutenants
  • 19 2nd lieutenants
  • 55 lieutenants fire-workers

On August 1 of the same year (1757), the regiment was divided into 2 battalions, plus 1 cadet company. Prior to this, promotion beyond captain was very limited by having a single regiment with only four field officers, the fourth field officer being a Major-en-Second. Companies could be deployed separately or in small groups while field officers were deployed in response to need.

After the reorganisation of 1757, the regiment consisted of 2,531 men:

  • 1 colonel-in-chief
  • 1 colonel-en-second
  • 2 colonels commandant
  • 2 lieutenant-colonels
  • 2 majors
  • 48 captains and captain-lieutenants
  • 117 subaltern officers
  • 1 chaplain
  • 3 medical officers
  • 1 bridge-master
  • 2 adjutants
  • 2 quartermasters
  • 48 gentlemen cadets
  • 322 NCOs
  • 460 gunners
  • 1,472 matrosses
  • 47 drummers and fifers

Unlike Foot Regiments, the captain-lieutenant appears to a be required rank in the officer progression in the Artillery (not an optional step). The artillery utilizsd the ranks of 1st and 2nd lieutenants, something not done in the infantry. The lieutenant fire-worker was equivalent to an ensign and included duties relating to the preparation of munitions and exploding shells.

In 1759, a third battalion was raised. The second battalion contributed 3 companies to the formation of this new battalion.

In 1760, a second company of miner was raised for the specific task of dismantling the fortifications of Louisbourg.

During the Seven Years' War, the regiment was commanded by:

  • a Colonel, Master of Ordnance
  • assisted by a Colonel-en-Second, Lieutenant General of Ordnance
  • effective command was assumed by a colonel commandant
    • from 1751 to August 1 1757: Colonel William Belford

When the regiment was reorganised in two battalions, on August 1 1757

  • the first field battalion was commanded by:
    • a colonel commandant
      • from 1751 to January 1758: Colonel William Belford
    • assisted by a lieutenant-colonel
      • in 1757-1758: George Williamson
    • and assisted by a major
      • from at least 1755 to at least 1758: John Chalmers
  • the second field battalion was commanded by:
    • a colonel commandant
    • from August 1 1757: Borgard Michelson
    • assisted by a lieutenant-colonel
      • in 1757-1758: Thomas Desaguliers
    • and assisted by a major
      • in 1757-1758: Thomas Flight

In 1762, an artillery band was formed at Minden in Germany.

By 1763, the regiment totalled 46 companies.

Service during the War

The regiment saw service in every campaign of the war. For example, 8 companies served in America during this war. In this section, only a few examples of its services are depicted.

In the Spring of 1754, a detachment of the regiment (6 officers, 12 cadets and 54 men), under command of Captain-Lieutenant Hislop, accompanied the 39th Aldercron's Foot to India.

In January 1755, a detachment of the regiment (2 lieutenants, 3 fireworkers, 1 cadet, and 50 men), under command of Captain-Lieutenant Hind sailed from Great Britain with Braddock's force destined to the expedition against Fort Duquesne. On its arrival in North America, the detachment was placed under the command of Captain Ord. The detachment was annihilated in an ambush on the Monongahela.

On June 23 1757, a detachment of 50 men of the regiment took part in the Battle of Plassey.

In May 1758, 3 companies of the regiment were sent to the Isle of Wight. They then took part in an expedition against the French Coasts from June 1 to July 1. A few days later in North America, on July 8, the 4th and 17th coys of the regiment fought in the disastrous Battle of Carillon. At daybreak on July 9, the British army re-embarked and retreated to the head of the lake where it reoccupied the camp it had left a few days before. Meanwhile, another detachment of the regiment under the command of George Williamson took part in the siege and capture of Louisbourg which surrendered on July 26. In the summer of the same year, 2 coys were among the first British contingent (6,000 men) sent to reinforce the Allied army of Ferdinand of Brunswick in Germany. The contingent embarked at Gravesend on July 19, disembarked at Emden on August 3 and arrived at Coesfeld on August 17, after marching through a very heavy rain.

In 1759, 2 light batteries (9 x 6-pdr guns) and 1 heavy battery (10 x 12-pdr guns) served in Germany with the Allied Army of Ferdinand of Brunswick. On August 1, these detachments took part in the Battle of Minden where the heavy brigade formed part of the 2nd column under Major Haase, a light brigade was attached to the first line of the 3rd column and the other light brigade was attached to the first line of the 7th column. These brigades were renowned for their clean guns and their efficiency of fire. The same year in North America, a detachment of the regiment under the command of George Williamson took part in the expedition against Québec who finally surrendered on September 18. At the end of October, when Vice-Admiral Saunders left with his fleet for Great Britain, about 430 men of the regiment remained as garrison in Québec along with 10 infantry battalions.

On July 31 1760, a detachment of the regiment took part in the Battle of Warburg where it galloped forward with the cavalry.

In 1761, 3 companies of the regiment took part in the expedition against Belle-Isle.

In 1762, 8 companies of the regiment, under the command of Colonel Pattison, formed part of the British expeditionary force sent to contain the Spanish invasion of Portugal.

Uniform

Privates

Uniform in 1751 - Source: Richard Couture from a template by Frédéric Aubert
Uniform Details
Headgear
Matross and gunner black tricorne edged with a narrow gold lace with a black cockade (left side)
Pioneer and miner fusilier style hat
Neckstock white
Coat blue woollen coat lined scarlet and laced and edged yellow (plain yellow worsted braid); 3 yellow buttons and 3 yellow buttonholes under the lapels (same lace as above) at the waist; 3 yellow laces at the small of the back
Collar scarlet collar tabs edged yellow (same lace as above), each fastened with a yellow button
Shoulder Straps blue epaulette edged yellow and fastened with a yellow button (left shoulder only)
Lapels scarlet half-lapels edged and laced yellow (same lace as above) with 8 yellow buttons (arranged 2-2-2-2) and 8 yellow looping around the buttonholes (same lace as above)
Pockets vertical pockets edged yellow with 6 yellow laces (same lace as above) in a chevron pattern, each with a yellow button
Cuffs scarlet (slashed in the British pattern) edged yellow (same lace as above) with 6 yellow buttons and 6 yellow buttonholes (same lace as above) in a chevron pattern on the sleeve above each the cuff
Turnbacks scarlet
Waistcoat blue edged yellow with 12 yellow buttons (arranged by pair) and 12 yellow buttonholes (same lace as above) with horizontal pockets edged yellow, each with 6 yellow buttons and 6 yellow buttonholes (same lace as above)
Breeches blue
Gaiters black with black buttons (white for parade)
Leather Equipment
Crossbelt natural leather
Waistbelt natural leather
Cartridge Box black
Bayonet Scabbard none
Scabbard black
Footgear black shoes


N.B.: from 1758, the yellow lace on the waistcoat was discontinued.

Fusiliers were armed with a musket and a brass-hilted sword. They also carried a dark brown haversack.

Gunners carried linstocks.

Officers

Royal Regiment of Artillery Officer in 1760 - Source: R. J. Macdonald, The History of the dress of the royal regiment of artillery 1645-1897 from the collection of Dr Marco Pagan

Officers of the regiment wore the same uniforms as the private soldiers but with the following differences:

  • gold lace instead of normal lace
  • red waistcoat
  • red breeches
  • soft-topped jockey boots

Officers wore the same headgear as the private soldiers under their command but with a gold lace.

Officers of this regiment never carried spontoons. Instead, they carried fusils in the field. In the 1760s, the sword gradually replaced the fusil.

NCOs

Sergeants had a broad gold lace on their tricorne and gold looping around the buttonholes of their coat and waistcoat. They also wore a gold worsted shoulder-knot, corporals two yellow worsted knots, and bombardiers one.

Until 1754, all NCOs carried halberds. From 1754, only sergeants retained the halberd, the corporals and bombardiers were equipped with carbines.

Musicians

According to the Royal Clothing Warrant of 1751:

The drummers of the regiment wore the royal livery. They were clothed in red, lined, faced, and lapelled on the breast with blue, and laced with the royal lace (golden braid with two thin purple central stripes).

The front or fore part of the drums was painted blue, with the arms of Great Britain. The rims were red.

Colours

The various detachments of the regiment did not carry colours. Their guns played the role of colours.

References

Aylor, Ron; British Regimental Drums and Colours

Duncan, Francis: History of Royal Regiment of Artillery - Volume 1, London: John Murray, 1879, pp. 154-185

Field, Jason and Brian Wilson: The Royal Artillery, Detachment II - Uniform Research & other important data, The Seven Years War, Inc.

Fortescue, J. W.; A History of the British Army, Vol. II, MacMillan, London, 1899

Funcken, Liliane and Fred; Les uniformes de la guerre en dentelle

George II; The Royal Clothing Warrant, 1751

Holmes, Richard; Redcoat, Harper Collins, London, 2001

May R. and Embleton G. A.; Wolfe's Army, Osprey Publishing, London, 1974

Mills, T. F.; Land Forces of Britain the Empire and Commonwealth (an excellent website which unfortunately seems to have disappeared from the web)

Mollo, John; Uniforms of the Seven Years War, 1756 – 63; Blandford Colour Series

Partridge, Mike; The Royal Regiment of Artillery, Seven Years War Association Journal, Vol. XII No. 3

Reid, Stuart; King George's Army 1740-93, Vol. 3; Osprey Publishing

Reid, Stuart; Quebec 1759 – The battle that won Canada; Osprey Publishing

Return of His Majesty's Forces in North America, 1756 (LO 4394)

War Office, A List of the General and Field Officer as they Rank in the Army and a List of the Officers in the Several Regiments of Horse, Dragoons and Foot. (Printed Annual Army List for 1756: WO 65/3, Page 101; WO 65/4, Page 154; and WO 65/6, Page 139).

Wikipedia Royal Artillery

Acknowledgement

Andy Francis and Kenneth P Dunne for their researches on this unit.