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1st Regiment Royal Horse Artillery

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1st Regiment Royal Horse Artillery Assaye Barracks,Tidworth.

Currently we have within our midst...

Currently the regiment is housed within Assaye Barracks in Tidworth.

A TEDIOUS HISTORY

Although the individual batteries had existed for some 145 years beforehand and Artillery Brigades had been formed in 1859, it wasn't until 1st May 1938 that 1st Regiment Royal Horse Artillery was formed. In 1939 it mobilized in Bulford with two eight gun batteries A/E and B/O. Although part of 1st Armoured Division, it deployed as an Army regiment because the armoured division was not ready. As such the Regiment, less A/E, joined 51st Highland Division, on the Saar Front in the French Sector in April 1940. In June 1940, the Regiment was captured with that Division at St Valery after severe fighting, whilst A/E Battery, also heavily engaged got out at Dunkirk. The Regiment reformed in North Wales around A/E Battery and many others who managed to escape from France and went to Egypt in late 1940.

The Regiment arrived with the MEF in October 1940 and took a large part in Wavell's Campaign which opened on 9 December 1940. The most notable actions were those of A/E during the Siege of Tobruk; B at El Tamar; all three batteries during the fierce fighting just before El Alamein and then Alamein itself. After the Battle of Alamein the Regiment was withdrawn to refit, and took no further part in the war in North Africa.

The Regiment then joined 10 Armd Div in Aleppo and spent the next year training all over Syria, Palestine and the Canal Zone. The Regiment then landed in Italy from Palestine in May 1944 at Taranto, was in action south of Rome on 15 May 1944 and thereafter played a full part in the remainder of the Italian Campaign and finished the war in Italy.

The Regiment was stationed in Palestine just after the War, during the period of terrorist activity which led to the creation of the State of Israel. It was at this time that it acquired "The Gun" which has stood overlooking various Regimental Squares ever since. In 1948 the Regiment arrived in Waterloo Camp, Fayid in the Suez Canal Zone beside the Great Bitter Lake. This was a tented camp lying under the Great Escarpment and a conical feature known as "The Flea". The Regiment was part of the Guards Brigade of 1st Division whose job it was to guard the Suez Canal and to cope with the ever increasing terrorist activity and with increasing Egyptian and Israeli hostility. Suddenly in 1950, the Regiment were ordered back to England to help form the new 6th Armoured Division on Salisbury Plain because of the emerging threat from the Soviet Union, epitomized by the Berlin Blockade.

The Regiment arrived at Tilshead and started to draw equipment, still Sextons, but with Cromwells as tanks. There was the never to be forgotten "Exercise Surprise Packet" across most of southern England, and a great series of parties to mark the Regiment's return after ten years in the Middle East. Boxes of Battery property, put away at the outbreak of war, were unpacked and links were renewed with the HAC and South Notts Hussars. All too soon, the Regiment was ordered to Munster in West Germany, arriving on April Fool's Day 1952 to a new camp, quickly christened "Waterloo Camp" after the one in Egypt.

The Regiment remained in Munster for six years as part of 20th Armd Bde of 6th Armd Div, quickly falling into the routine of annual camp at Munsterlager and autumn exercises. Much use was made of the facilities in Germany; skiing in the Hartz, sailing at Keil, and many memorable parties. It was the first settled period in the life of the Regiment since 1939 and they remained at Munster until the move to Hildesheim in 1958. The move was slightly unusual; the Regiment left Munster for a practice camp in Hohne in July 1958 and at the end, moved direct to Tofrek Barracks, Hildesheim to take over from 2nd RHA. The Regiment was equipped with the M44 Self Propelled 155mm Howitzer, with the Field Artillery Plotter arriving in service earlier the same year.

In 1962 the last national servicemen left the Regiment which was formally allocated the Nottingham area for recruiting and the first KAPE (Keep the Army in the Public Eye) Team left to attract the first Nottingham men into its ranks. The Regiment moved from two troop eight gun battery structure to a six gun organization in 1963. It formed part of 4th Division and 20th Brigade. Chestnuts maintained their links with Alkmaar with a full parade in the town and as a result Alkmaar Troop began to wear the coat of the Arms of the City on its guns. In 1964 E Battery extracted the gun which fired the first round of WW1 and took it back to its firing position with members of the original detachment and marked the 50th anniversary of the event. Shortly before the Regiment handed over to 3rd Regiment in Detmold, it took part in the great Review of 20 Armd Bde by Her Majesty The Queen, before leaving for England and Aden after 13 years in Germany.

The Regiment arrived in Aden from Hildesheim via Netheravon in September 1965. The change was dramatic enough for the men but for the 200 or so families that accompanied the regiment it was a remarkable experience. The Regiment was deployed with two batteries and the Radar Troop up-country, usually in two independent 2 gun section positions, supporting British battalions in the Radfan and South Arabian (FRA) battalions on the Yemeni border. The third battery with RHQ and the Air Troop was based at BP Camp in Little Aden, where it carried out internal security duties in Aden, fired innumerable ceremonial salutes, trained with 24 Bde on amphibious exercises and most successfully represented the Regiment in the Middle East sporting arena. A rotational sequence was established for the batteries of 3 months up-country followed by 6 weeks at Little Aden. Two sad events marred 1966 for the Regiment: on 28th April, during a night attack on a B Battery section at Monks Field Camp, a rocket hit the sangar wall of C Sub just as the gun fired. The 105mm round hit the edge of the Sangar and killed the No 1, Sgt Dunkley and Gunners Hughes and Bartley and seriously wounding two others. On 6th December John Sharp, commanding the Chestnut Troop was being flown round his Battery area by John Fleming, the Air Troop commander. Returning from section camp at Musaymir to habilayn, the Sioux helicopter crashed into the hillside, killing both officers and Gunner Cain. The tour ended in June 1967 and the Regiment moved to Colchester. In their 21 months in South Arabia they had fired over 23,000 rounds, taken part in 200 operations, supported seven British and six Arab battalions and suffered nearly 50 casualties from dissident and terrorist action.

On arrival in Colchester, the Regiment came under the command of 19 Inf Bde and soon became the ACE Mobile Force artillery. The ACE Mobile Force was designed to show solidarity on the flanks of NATO; apart from its small Headquarters in Heidelberg, RHQ and a battery of 1 RHA were the only permanent elements. This battery was rotated through the three gun batteries. Each year the Regiment played a leading part in an annual force exercise either in Northern Norway or the eastern Mediterranean; there was also annual Arctic training. The Regiment organized and ran an annual artillery live-firing exercise on the continent for seven or eight batteries with virtually unlimited ammunition and plenty of live air support. The Regiment was the first to pay its soldiers direct to their bank accounts rather than across the pay table and the first in UKLF to compete in orienteering.

The Regiment provided the Guard of Honour for the Queen's visit to Woolwich on 27th March 1969. On 1st October that year, the Regiment was warned for service in Belfast in the infantry role - the first Gunner regiment to be so tasked and an intense period of internal security training started on 6th October before deploying on 12 November 1969. With a greater number of land rovers and radios than its infantry predecessors, the Regiment found it was able to respond much more quickly to any trouble and consequently had a reasonably peaceful tour. It returned to Colchester on 13 March 1970 with a short period of time to prepare for a parade in Nottingham to receive the Freedom of the City which took place on 22 April 1970. Back in Colchester training for BAOR got underway.

The Regiment moved to Detmold on 12 June 1970. Six days later, on Waterloo Day, having taken over the guns from 3 RHA, it went off to practice camp. Consequently the Regiment was operational far sooner than anyone had expected before the BAOR autumn routine of Bde and Div exercises. The following 2 years consisted of the usual practice camps and exercises.

In September 1972, the Regiment moved to Northern Ireland to support 3 Inf Bde. It was dispersed throughout the province with RHQ and E Battery at Long Kesh, Chestnuts in Fermanagh, B Battery around Dungannon and the Radar Troop in County Down. The decision was taken not to rotate the batteries which fell hard on E Battery looking after the Maze, but the decision was vindicated as no serious casualties were suffered during the tour.

In February 1974 the Regiment arrived in Belfast City Centre to take over from 19 Field Regiment. Throughout the tour, the Regiment had to cope with a sustained IRA bombing offensive, both real and hoax. There were around 600 bomb alerts of which about 10% turned out to be real. The largest was a 1000lb proxy bomb attack on the Regiment's base at the Grand Central Hotel; at that time the largest that had been seen in Northern Ireland. Sadly B Battery were to lose Gunner Farrington during an IRA attack from the steps of a Roman Catholic church. The Regiment returned to Detmold to enjoy a year free from Op Banner commitments- able to concentrate on its gunnery and sporting skills.

The Regiment deployed on its fourth Northern Ireland tour in 1976, again in Belfast City Centre. A busy time ensued, with Chestnuts implementing the Large Segments plan around the City Centre, B Battery patrolling in the staunchly Republican Markets area and E Battery dealing with a 450lb lorry bomb outside Musgrave Street RUC station. On return to BAOR, the pace was hectic as usual before the Regiment moved to Topcliffe in 1977.

The move to Topcliffe was done in a piecemeal fashion in order to maintain the requisite force levels in Germany. The Regiment had to convert from the Abbot to the trusty 5.5 but everyone made the most of their return to the UK after the years in BAOR and Northern Ireland. As it was the summer of the Queen's silver jubilee, E Battery, still in Germany, led the marchpast in front of the Queen in Sennelager. That Christmas saw the Regiment deploy on Op Burberry, the drawn-out fireman's strike. After some rudimentary training on the Green Goddesses, the Regiment manned every fire station in North Yorkshire. Later the Regiment was to do its bit during the 1979 Ambulance Strike, on flood relief in York in 1979 and 1981 and as warders for HMP Frankland over Christmas 1980.

In 1979 B Battery spearheaded the introduction into British service of the FH70 gun and its Foden tractor and limber. In 1981 the Regiment was designated the UKMF medium regiment and Chestnuts and B Battery served consecutive 6 month tours in Belize.

In April 1982, the Regiment moved to Haig Barracks in Hohne, taking over the Abbot guns once again, before a solid exercise season and plenty of winter sports. Chestnuts and B Battery took part in the 1983 BATUS season, while E Battery, 170 strong, became the The Maze prison guard force from April to July.

1984 was a busy year for the Regiment, with two batteries in BATUS again, a full practice camp and a Corps level FTX as well as a parade to mark the visit of the Queen to the Royal Regiment in BAOR. Sadly the Regiment mourned the loss of Gnr Utteridge from HQ Bty, shot whilst serving with 3 RGJ in Northern Ireland.The late 1980s saw the Regiment deploying to BATUS on several occasions as well as providing 'Site Guard' for nuclear bases in Germany. A Regimental Review was held in 1989 with General Sir Martin Farndale as guest of honour.

In August 1990, while the Chestnut Troop were in BATUS again, B and E Batteries were sent in support of 40 Regt RA on Op GRANBY (the first Gulf War). When Chestnut Troop returned to Germany they deployed on "Site Guard". In November 1990 A/B/E Battery was formed with the remaining soldiers left until the Regiment finally reformed in April 1991. It immediately deployed on a practice camp before handing over the Abbots and Stalwarts in Enden.

In July 1992 the Regiment moved to Assaye Barracks in Tidworth. It was equipped with Light Gun and the annual practice camp took in Salisbury Plain, Thetford and Otterburn. In November that year AS90 arrived and in spring 1993, B and E Batteries conducted in-service reliability trials. The Regiment took part in "RHA 200" to mark the bicentennial anniversary of the formation of the Royal Horse Artillery. In 1994, E Battery supported by the Chestnut Troop fired M109 for the last time in BATUS. At the start of 1995, the Regiment began training for a tour of Northern Ireland. Two weeks before deployment, the tour was cancelled and the six months was spent on three day's notice to move in Tidworth. 1996 saw the first full Regimental deployment since 1977 as part of IFOR in Bosnia; it was to do so again just two years later in 1998.

L/N Battery was formed on 1st December 1999. The Regiment deployed again to the Balkans in 2000, this time as the Pan-Balkans regiment with L/N supported by B in Kosovo and Chestnut Troop supported by E in Bosnia. The final deployment to the Balkans happened in 2001. In 2001 the Regiment also took part in Op PENINSULAR, the army's response to the Foot and Mouth crisis and in late 2002/ early 2003, it took part in Operation FRESCO, providing a military Fire Service during the firemen's strike.

In April 2004, the Regiment deployed to Basra, Iraq on Op TELIC 4 as part of 1 Mechanised Brigade. Chestnut Troop initially supported the 1 Cheshire Battlegroup monitoring the city police before taking responsibility for training and monitoring of the regional police departments. B Battery initially trained the regional police departments before providing protection and staff officers for the Provincial Support and Liaison Team (PSLT) which itself was populated predominantly by 1 RHA TA staff officer augmentees. E Battery trained the Border Police and a troop from L/N Battery were attached to the Danish contingent to the north of Basra. August and September were particularly violent, resulting in the tragic loss of Cpl Marc Taylor REME and Gnr David Lawrence in a RPG attack on their convoy as they escorted a PSLT visit to a building site. Sgt Terry Bryan received a Conspicuous Gallantry Cross for his role as commander of a multiple which was ambushed and forced to abandon its vehicles.

Having returned to the UK at the end of October 2004, the Regiment (less B Battery and a rear party) deployed to Operation TOSCA as part of the UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus in April 2005.


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