Difference between revisions of "46 (Talavera) AD Battery Royal Artillery"
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On the 27th September 1810, the Company provided Artillery cover during Wellingtons retreat to Torres Vedras. Bussaco was a relatively minor, but nonetheless essential battle, because it gave Wellington the time and space to organise his retreat. The British force was some 51,000 strong, whilst the French force was 66,000. The British held the ridge, which gave them a distinct advantage for once, and the Artillery's job was a relatively simple, but bloody task. Wellington played his usual trick of keeping his troop numbers secret, which encouraged General Massena to attack at dawn. The French were so confident of victory, that Massena sent Reyniers full Corps to attack the British lines, they were repelled by a bayonet charge from the Connaught Rangers (88th foot). almost immediately there was another two attacks, both of which failed to achieve their aims. At about 8am Marshal Ney had seen enough, and sent in his Corp to attack the British left. It was here that
On the 27th September 1810, the Company provided Artillery cover during Wellingtons retreat to Torres Vedras. Bussaco was a relatively minor, but nonetheless essential battle, because it gave Wellington the time and space to organise his retreat. The British force was some 51,000 strong, whilst the French force was 66,000. The British held the ridge, which gave them a distinct advantage for once, and the Artillery's job was a relatively simple, but bloody task. Wellington played his usual trick of keeping his troop numbers secret, which encouraged General Massena to attack at dawn. The French were so confident of victory, that Massena sent Reyniers full Corps to attack the British lines, they were repelled by a bayonet charge from the Connaught Rangers (88th foot). almost immediately there was another two attacks, both of which failed to achieve their aims. At about 8am Marshal Ney had seen enough, and sent in his Corp to attack the British left. It was here that 's and the other Artillery came into their own, by combining their effect with the Infantry. The French had gained some success by pushing the British back, this however was stopped by the accurate and constant fire of both the Artillery Guns and Infantry Muskets working in unison. Of 7th Battalions actions, Sir John Burgoyne wrote, "The guns had great effect". Captain Thompson's Company was broken up into two divisions for the battle, and "Was of essential service. Strangely, 7th Battalion RA was for some reason retitled as D Bty, 11th battalion, Royal Artillery. The reason is unclear at present, but From official reports of the day, 2nd Captain H.B. Lane describes the actions he both took part in and saw:- "My men did their duty. 2nd Lieutenant F.Bayley's conduct was admirable. It was the first time he had been in battle, and no old soldier could have acted better. The French Voltigeurs (37th regiment) came close to the guns, and one was killed only eight paces off. An immense column showing themselves in the ravine, we, with three cheers gave them a few rounds of case and round shot together, at 75 paces distance, which drove them back". Another observer, Captain Ross Royal Engineers and brother of Captain Hew Ross, (Chestnut Troop) RHA, noted that " At Bussaco, i will venture to assert that the greatest loss the enemy sustained was by our Artillery; and the guns that had the most duty, and, i believe i might say were best placed for effect-even if nothing is said of the admirable manner with which the guns were fought. Eventually, the battle fizzled out into a series minor skirmishes and ended when Massena withdrew his army, having suffered 4500 casualties. Wellington was moved to say of the Gunners present "That he was greatly indebted to...Brigadier General Howarth and the Artillery", high praise indeed from someone who neither understood, or particularly cared for the Guns. A great victory was gained by Wellington's army over the French yet again, and the men of Thompson's company, along with all the Gunners had played their part. Whether Wellington cared to admit it or not.
Note...The Officers of the 7th Battalion RA were:
Note...The Officers of the 7th Battalion RA were:
Revision as of 17:15, 25 March 2010
46 (Talavera) Bty, Royal Artillery has a long and interesting history dating back to the American War of Independence. The battery was initially raised as the 6th Company of the 7th Battalion, Royal Irish Artillery at Chapelizod, Dublin in 1774 and carried out general duties in Ireland.
Their first foray into armed conflict came when they were despatched from Dublin to Cork to take part in Lieutenant General Burgoyne's New York campaign of 1777. Under the command of Capt Thomas Jones, Royal Artillery, they set sail for Quebec on the 12 April 1777 aboard the vessel HMS Royal George. They disembarked at Quebec (the exact date is unclear) and joined up with the main force of Burgoyne's army.
The mission was to displace the Continental Army from their strongholds at Ticonderoga, Albany and then to move onto New York. This would in turn weaken the Americans and allow the British to try and re-take the colonies and re-establish them under the British crown.
However, they met fierce resistance from the men defending fort Ticonderoga. It was only when Mount Defiance was taken that fort Ticonderoga was subdued and then taken. Maj Gen St Clair who commanded the American garrison managed to remove his main supplies and troops from the fort and through stealth divided his forces and supplies to prevent the British from benefiting from their defeat.
St Clair hoped to unite his forces at the town of Skensboro, so he sent his supply flotilla along lake Champlain under the command of Colonel Long with the orders to make for Skensboro, whilst he would make his way to the same town via Hubardton and Castleton.
Unfortunately for St Clair, Burgoyne had sent out a force of approximately 900 troops under Generals Fraser and Riedesel to track down the retreating American army.
On the 7th of July the British surprised and routed the American forces. So much panic and chaos was caused that one American commander, Col Seth Warner was heard to shout "Scatter and meet me in Manchester" (Vermont) to his troops.
The Americans suffered 324 casualties from their 600 troops, whilst the British suffered 35 killed and 148 wounded.
Lt Gen Burgoyne pursued the supply flotilla under the command of Col Long and caught up with him at Skensboro. Long, unable to hold the town and losing most of his supplies continued to retreat south toward Fort Edward. He made it to fort Edward on the 12 July and was met there by General Schuyler, commander of the Continental Army's Northern Department.
Reinforcements arrived at Fort Edward under the command of Gen Benedict Arnold. Burgoyne made a major blunder by taking the land route from Skenesboro to Fort Edward - a distance of some 22 miles. He chose not to take the easier route via lake Edward and as a consequence arrived on the 29th july 1777, some 20 days after departing Skenesboro to be met at Fort Edward by a deserted garrison. This delay allowed the Americans to escape what could have been a very severe beating at the hands of the British.
These events caused great problems for Burgoyne. Firstly he lost any advantages gained during the early part of his campaign, and secondly, his army's supplies were too thinly stretched to be of great value. It was from this position that Burgoyne faced the American forces at Bennington on the 16th august 1777.
Here he lost one tenth of his army and 4 of his German artillery pieces. Also, he lost all of his dragoons. This was a devastating blow to Burgoyne, as he was a dragoon himself and felt that they could win him the campaign. In total some 900 troops were lost to the Americans.
Burgoyne's army had not been resupplied for some time, so foraging parties were sent out to try and find food. During one of these forays, the American forces took 20 British troops prisoner and inflicted many casualties. Burgoyne threatened to have anyone found foraging beyond the British front line hung. He then resupplied them to stop the need for foraging.
Burgoyne lost all his native American trackers through desertion because the Americans let it be known that Gen Arnold had magic powers. This left the British without any real knowledge of what was ahead of them.
By force of luck on the 19th of September 1777 Burgoyne heard the Americans reveille call and was able to establish their position. He advanced his army in three columns toward the enemy. General Frazer commanded the right flank which consisted of light infantry, grenadiers, American Loyalists, sharpshooters and artillery (4x 6 pounders and 4x 3 pounders).
In the centre was Burgoyne along with General Hamilton commanding. His group consisted of the battalion companies of five regiments and artillery including the Royal Irish with their(3x 6 pounders and 3x 3 pounders)commanded by Capt Thomas Jones RA. On the left flank was Maj Gen von Riedesel with the majority of his German troops and also the Hesse Hanau Artillery.
According to reports made by eyewitnesses, Lt Haddon serving under Capt Jones reported that:
The enemy had taken possession of the wood and engaged the British, who had taken cover behind two log huts on Freemans farm (Stillwater). Capt Jones RA hastened to their support and sent me to advance with two guns so as to lay down shot on the enemy. Lt Reid was stationed alongside of Capt Jones. We came under some withering fire and I requested Brig Gen Hamilton to supply some infantry because 19 out of 20 men were out of action. None were forthcoming, so I told General Philips of my plight and he immediately ordered Capt Jones to give me all the men from one of Lt Reids guns. I was also ordered to withdraw a little. Capt Jones accompanied me himself.
Capt Jones was very soon wounded by fire from the enemy, which had not been stopped due to the 62nd being almost wiped out. I supported Capt Jones for some time in my arms but had to carry him back behind our lines and was lucky to get there. The 9th who were held in reserve moved into the fray and supported the retreat of the 62nd. The grenadiers and the 9th laid down heavy fire suppressing the Americans and allowing us to regain the advantage.
Another eyewitness is Capt Pausch of the Hesse Hanau Artillery. He noted that: 'The losses of the Royal Artillery in todays action was very severe, one Capt Johns(Jones) was mortally wounded and died the following morning.' He also reported that over thirty Royal Artillery men had been killed or wounded.
On the 7th October 1777 a second battle occurred but this was the last kickings of a dying horse because in the month or so since the first battle the British had been fought to a standstill, and through lack of supplies and ammunition were forced to surrender to numerically superior forces.
In letters written to Lord Townsend, Master of British Ordinance:
Lt Slack lately returned from Quebec. I am informed that none from that campaign behaved more nobly than the drafts from the Royal Irish Artillery. I am sorry they have suffered so much, but it is the lot of brave men who, so situated, prefer a glorious discharge of their duty to a desertion of it.
General Phillips wrote a letter in praise of the Royal Irish Artillery, in which he stated:
I have to report to you my lords, that the Corps of Artillery which I commanded has acted during the campaign with the greatest spirit, and has received the complete approbation of General Burgoyne and the applause of the entire army.
In the action of the 19th September (1777) the artillery was of infinite use; and the brigade commanded by Capt Jones with Lieutenants Hadden and Reid, was particularly engaged, and maintained their posts to the last, although in doing it every man, except five,was either killed or wounded.
The Peninsular War
After the American wars the 6th coy / 7th btn Royal Irish Artillery found itself serving in various conflicts throughout Europe and the Empire, namely:
1794 *Flanders..During The war of Austrian succession. Austrians and French make a claim for the throne. The British side with the Austrians and send troops to support their cause, under command of the Duke of York. The Austrians abandon the British in Belgium, and disaster ensues. This encourages the French to campaign openly for European supremecy.
1795 *West Indies..Grenada,Martinique,St Lucia and Guadeloupe. French encouraged insurrectionists to rebel all over the British West Indies. The British retaliate by attacking the French held islands. The British defeat the French and take control of these islands.
1798 *Irish rebellions..Wolf Tones attempt to remove the British from Ireland was encouraged by the French, who were trying to de-stabilise the empire throughout the world
1801..The Royal Irish Artillery was instituted into the newly re-organised Royal Artillery, and 46 Bty's ancestor was numbered 7th Battalion Royal Artillery.
1809..PORTUGAL. Charles Doyne Sillery and his Company (7th Battalion) RA, arrived at Lisbon on the 4th March 1809. They were immediately directed to protect the interior of Lisbon. Later, the Company was Located at Lurniar and were then informed that, they would be taking up the right wing of the army.
1809..TALAVERA. The honour title 'Talavera' was gained by the Gunners of the 7th Battalion (Sillery's Company) Royal Artillery (46 Bty) during the Peninsular War at the town of Talavera de la Reyna in Spain.
On the 27th-28th July 1809 the men of C.D. Sillery's Company RA, under the command of 2nd Captain H.B. Lane arrived at Talavera. They had set out from Lisbon on the 10th April 1809, and unlike most Artillery of the day were on foot, probably because they were light Artillery (6 Pdrs). Had they used bigger guns (9 Pdrs), then they would have been sailed to their next destination. However, Capt Lane and his Company, with no set destination awaited orders to move into Spain. Having marched for many hundreds of miles over many months, from Lisbon to Talavera. Fought in various actions on the journey, aswell as taking part in the incredible crossing of the Douro river. Found exhaustion, hunger and disease were rife throughout the army, and pay was not always forthcoming, continued to fight. No wonder the soldiers of the campaign were referred to as "The Ironmen of the Peninsula". As stated before, on it's arrival at Talavera, the 7th Battalion RA was under the command of 2nd Capt Henry Bowyer Lane, Sillery was not himself present due to illness, and had been forced to remain in Lisbon. On the opening day of the battle at Talavera, all did not go well for the British, and they were forced to retreat. Lane and his Company were tasked to defend the initial retreat of the army, which had been brought about by the disobedience of the Spanish forces - (desertion of the right flank positions in the evening) leaving the British fully exposed to French attack on that flank. This they did to great effect, in fact they stopped the French infantry from advancing any further. The battery was then posted to the North of Talavera and began engaging in counter battery fire - very quickly silencing the French guns on the right flank that evening. On the morning of the 28th, the battery began engaging 14x 8 pounder guns and 6x 8" Howitzers from 6am till noon. The heat that day was intense, and took an awful toll on the men of the Bty, but the effects were particularly cruel to the Infantry. The men of Sillery's company continued to support the Infantry, and again stopped the French advance in its tracks. The actions of the battery exemplified the spirit in Wellingtons army. This is notable not only for the actions and performance of the Gunners, but also because the guns they were using, were only 6 Pdrs and were limited to six in total. As against the French's guns, which were bigger in calibre and far more numerous. The subsequent regrouping and attack led to the defeat of Napoleon's army at Talavera. The divisional commander General Sir John Shearbrooke thanked the battery personally for their extremely steady, effective and accurate fire, which had contributed most considerably to the final victory at Talavera. The carnage reaped upon the combatants meant that Talavera was without doubt, the worst battle of the Peninsular war. Even after the battle had ended, the men of both sides were dying. There were many thousands killed during the battle, but from eyewitness reports, it is the injured that should be pitied most. Although great effort was given to rescue the wounded, there was so many that not all could be found. As a consequence, thousands of injured men from both sides were burnt alive in the fire that had started, due to heat from the Artillery shells, igniting the dry grass. The screams of the burning wounded, were terrible and could be heard for many hours after, but eventually silence fell on the battlefield of Talavera.
Note...Captain Charles Doyne Sillery died at Badjoz on the 30th September 1809, and was replaced by Captain George Thompson on the 1st of October of the same year. Thompson however, did not take command of the company until March of 1810. (reason unknown). During the interim period, 2nd Captain H.B. Lane RA, once again assumed command of the 7th Battalion RA.
1810..BUSSACO. On the 27th September 1810, the Company provided Artillery cover during Wellingtons retreat to Torres Vedras. Bussaco was a relatively minor, but nonetheless essential battle, because it gave Wellington the time and space to organise his retreat. The British force was some 51,000 strong, whilst the French force was 66,000. The British held the ridge, which gave them a distinct advantage for once, and the Artillery's job was a relatively simple, but bloody task. Wellington played his usual trick of keeping his troop numbers secret, which encouraged General Massena to attack at dawn. The French were so confident of victory, that Massena sent Reyniers full Corps to attack the British lines, they were repelled by a bayonet charge from the Connaught Rangers (88th foot). almost immediately there was another two attacks, both of which failed to achieve their aims. At about 8am Marshal Ney had seen enough, and sent in his Corp to attack the British left. It was here that Thompson's and the other Artillery came into their own, by combining their effect with the Infantry. The French had gained some success by pushing the British back, this however was stopped by the accurate and constant fire of both the Artillery Guns and Infantry Muskets working in unison. Of 7th Battalions actions, Sir John Burgoyne wrote, "The guns had great effect". Captain Thompson's Company was broken up into two divisions for the battle, and "Was of essential service. Strangely, 7th Battalion RA was for some reason retitled as D Bty, 11th battalion, Royal Artillery. The reason is unclear at present, but From official reports of the day, 2nd Captain H.B. Lane describes the actions he both took part in and saw:- "My men did their duty. 2nd Lieutenant F.Bayley's conduct was admirable. It was the first time he had been in battle, and no old soldier could have acted better. The French Voltigeurs (37th regiment) came close to the guns, and one was killed only eight paces off. An immense column showing themselves in the ravine, we, with three cheers gave them a few rounds of case and round shot together, at 75 paces distance, which drove them back". Another observer, Captain Ross Royal Engineers and brother of Captain Hew Ross, (Chestnut Troop) RHA, noted that " At Bussaco, i will venture to assert that the greatest loss the enemy sustained was by our Artillery; and the guns that had the most duty, and, i believe i might say were best placed for effect-even if nothing is said of the admirable manner with which the guns were fought. Eventually, the battle fizzled out into a series minor skirmishes and ended when Massena withdrew his army, having suffered 4500 casualties. Wellington was moved to say of the Gunners present "That he was greatly indebted to...Brigadier General Howarth and the Artillery", high praise indeed from someone who neither understood, or particularly cared for the Guns. A great victory was gained by Wellington's army over the French yet again, and the men of Thompson's company, along with all the Gunners had played their part. Whether Wellington cared to admit it or not.
Note...The Officers of the 7th Battalion RA were:
Captain George Thompson RA.
2nd Captain H.B. Lane RA.
1st Leiutenents...William C. Johnston RA and Robert Woolcombe RA.
2nd Lieutenents...John Mercier RA and Frederick Bayley RA.
No details of the enlisted men of the Battalion are available for either of the above battles, except a reference to "Nog" who lost a leg at Talavera.
1811..FUENTES de ONORO. ON the 5th May 1811 7th Battalion (Thompsons Company) RA found themselves involved in the battle of Fuentes de Onoro, along with a number of other Artillery units. Captain Thompsons 6pdr (Light Brigade) were shoulder to shoulder alongside Capt Lawsons 9pdr (Heavy Brigade). They were both located in front of the Guards. From here both brigades kept up heavy and severe fire upon the French cavalry, halting their progress and administering heavy losses to both men and horses. According to Brigadier General Howarth, commander Royal Artillery, in his letter to the Master General of Ordnance 19 June 1811, "I witnessed some sixty dead after this action". He also highlighted the losses suffered by the British Gunners, and stated that "Captain Lawsons Brigade had suffered much, having five men killed and thirteen wounded. Five of his men had lost legs and arms, and all were caused by grape shot. Some 27 of his horses were killed and wounded. Further to his report, he also reported that Captain Thompson's Brigade (7th Btn RA), had faired slightly better. His Brigade had suffered three men wounded, two of whom were officers and seven horses. Thompson himself was one of the casualties, after being shot through the foot, as was Lt Martin (attached from 5th Btn RA), who was shot in the arm. In a letter to his brother, Captain H.D. Ross RHA, who was present at Fuentes but was not engaged, describes his memory of the events: "Upon the 5th, Massena attacked our right with his Cavalry and through weight of numbers, compelled our Cavalry to fall back. Much gallantry was displayed, and our Infantry behaved admirably, as did the Artillery engaged - Bull, Lawson and Thompson's. The British had again inflicted a severe nosebleed on the French and thwarted their attempts to oust them from the Iberian peninsula. Of note, is the fact that Brigadier General Howarth, Commander RA, wrote a series of letters to the Master General Ordnance (MGO), in which he requests the MGO to find out why Wellington had virtually ignored the actions of his Gunners present at Fuentes de Onoro, in his dispatches of the 11 May 1811. In fact he notes that Wellington only made reference to the French Artillery, and a reader of the dispatches would have assumed that he (Wellington) had none present. He didn't even note the action by two guns of Captain Bulls Troop RHA, commanded by 2nd Captain Ramsey RHA. In which they attacked, at full gallop through a French Cavalry brigade. Surrounded and almost caught by the French Cavalry, they fought through, and broke the cavalry brigade, a very rare occurence indeed. Good discipline and drills, allowed Ramsey to escape the French and make his way back to his own lines, without any loss to man, horse or equipment. For interest purposes the Artillery present At Fuentes de Onoro was:
A Troop (Ross) RHA. Not engaged at this action.
I Troop (Bull) RHA.
7th Brigade (Thompson's) RA.
8th Brigade (Lawson's) RA.
Note...Lieutenant John G. Martin who was attached to the 7th Battalion (Thompsons) RA From the 5th Battalion (Glubbs) RA, was killed on the 30th of October 1811 at Castello Branco, in Portugal, Whilst in action with the 7th Battalion RA.
The Victorian Era
During the reign of queen Victoria, the Bty was stationed throughout the empire, but spent most of it's time in India. This was due in no small part to the Indian Mutiny of 1857, in which a very substantial amount of the Bengali sepoys rose up against the British and murdered many people, including women and children. These actions caused such outrage back in Britain, that the government dispatched thousands of British troops to quell the uprising. This they did, in the most brutal manner, so as to dissuade the Indians from ever trying to rise up again. Once this was done, the British disbanded all of the military assets of the East India Company from the Order of Battle, and replaced them with their British counterparts. This may have been how the 18 Bty, along with 3rd Brigade RA became so established on the sub continent? In June 1897 18th Bty was one of the Bty's selected to fire the Royal salute to mark the Diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria at Hyde Park, London. The other Bty's involved were 8th, 38th, 56th, 62nd, 66th and 75th respectively. The Royal Artillery went through great changes over the next decades, and was split into three distinct groups. These groups were titled according to their role within the Artillery, and were titled RHA (Horse), RFA (Field) and RGA (Garrison). 18th Bty (46), was part of 3rd Brigade RFA, along with 62nd Bty and 75th Bty respectively. Late in the nineteenth century the Bty was still serving in India, when the news came through that the Boer population in South Africa had risen against the British. Before war was declared, the Bty, along with the rest of the 3rd Brigade, found themselves aboard the ship "Zibenghlia" and sailing for South Africa. What should have been a routine passage, was according to reports, anything but, The ship had numerous breakdowns and because of the delays, had run short of water. However, once they reached the colony 18th and 75th Bty's were attached to Lord Methuans Division, and immediately saw action at the battles of Belmont and Graspen, which both occured on the 23rd of November 1899, closely followed by the actions at Enslin on the 25th of November and Modder River on the 28th November. As can be seen, 18 Bty along with 75 Bty was given a real baptism of fire, and this was not just the men. At Belmont, their horses were not yet hardened up and were utterly unable to pursue at the close of the day. Lord Methuan described their condition as "Dead Beat", having fought from the morning till late in the afternoon. According to a despatch by Lord Methuan " At Enslin, the Artillery did very good work both before and during the action. Further to that, In his Despatch of the 1st of December 1899, he said "At Modder River the 18th and 75th Bty's were invaluable and had vied with one another in showing gallantry and proficiency. 62nd Bty rejoined the brigade, having marched from Belmont. In his modest but stirling account of the Gunners performance at Margersfontein, Colonel Hall wrote " The 18th, 62nd and 75th Bty's came straight into action and were of great service, and did excellent work". Major General Marshall told the war commision that the rounds expended at Margersfontein by each Bty was: 18th Bty = 1012 rounds, 62nd Bty = 1003 rounds and 75th Bty = 924 Rounds. In the eastern advance, the 3rd Brigade was attached to Tucker's Division, and at Paardeberg fired hard from the south bank. At Karee Sidings, 29th March 1900, these three Bty's were the only Field Artillery present. As part of Tucker's Division, they took part in the advance to Pretoria, and were present in numerous other engagements. From June 1900 to March 1901 18th Bty had it's HQ at Pretoria, with sections frequently being despatched on outpost duties in that vicinity and around Pienaar's River. In March 1901, the 18th Bty along with a section of "Pom Poms" formed the Artillery under General Plumer in the Transvaal, the Orange River Colony and on the Natal border. In recognition of service during the campaign, 18th Bty was given the honour of representing all of the Field Artillery at the ceremony of proclaiming the annexation in Pretoria on the 25th October 1900. The 18th Bty, along with the 62nd and 75th Bty's left South Africa, and sailed for India on the 25th November 1901.
The Great War
Prior to the beginning of the Great War, 18 Bty as part of 3rd Brigade RFA, was stationed in India at Jullunder. At the outbreak of war, the Bty with the rest of the Brigade was sent back to England to join the newly formed 28th Division. It was here that 3rd Brigades orbat changed, the 18th and 62nd Bty's were combined to form 18/62 Bty RFA. 75 Bty was moved to 146 Brigade RFA (22/12/1914). The reason for this move is unknown, but a report from the time suggested that the lack of Artillery available, meant that the assets had to be spread around to cover the various operations. However, the 3rd Brigade was brought back up to full manning with addition of 65th Bty and 22nd (Howitzer) Bty RFA respectively. After a short period of training, the Bty was ordered to France and then Belgium, where it took part in the second battle of Ypres and the battle of Loos. The individual Battles in which it saw action were: Gravenstaffle - 22/23 April 1915. St Julien - 24 April-5 May 1915. Frezenburg - 8/13 May 1915. Bellewaarde - 24/25 May 1915. Loos - 25 September-8 October 1915. On the 19th of October the Bty was ordered to set sail for Alexandria in Egypt. A few days later they were at Marseille, and on the 24th of October 1915 they boarded a vessel that would take them to Salonika. This outpost of the war was to be their home for the next three years. The Bulgarians had attacked the Serbians, who were our allies. The king of Greece was known to support the Germans, so we had to try and prevent him from gifting this vital land to the enemy. So we sent an expeditionary force to capture and hold Salonika. Had the expedition failed, it would have meant our navy wouldn't have had free/unhindered passage across the eastern mediterranian. For months after their arrival, 18/62 Bty took part in many operations and actions, under the most gruesome conditions. The troops were very often left without food and water. The enemy, having control of the high points were very accurate with their small arms and Artillery fire, and caused mayhem. The British troops had to endure terrible winters and equally hot summers. These conditions were made worse when the workload of the Brigade was increased, 22nd (Howitzer) Bty was moved to 130th Brigade RFA also in Salonika. This meant that 3rd Brigade was down to just two Bty's, to carry out the work of four. By October 1916 the British were ready to attack, and this they did; On the 2nd October 1916, 18/62 Bty played their part in the occupation of Mazirko and later that month provided cover at the capture of Barakli Jum'a. May 1917 saw another spurt of action after a long stalemate, when on the 15th of May the British captured the Ferdie and Essex trenches, near Barakli Jum'a. Then there was the continued lack of resupply, leading to virtual starvation and disease. October the 16 1917 saw the Bty assist in the capture of Barakli and Kumli, where another great battle ensued. Not only were the men of 28th Division fighting for their lives, they now found they were going to have to do it undermanned. In 1918 the Division lost a number of it's units to fight in France, this meant that there would be even more strain on the manpower, and limited resources available to the British troops. During the 18-19 September 18/62 Bty took part in one of the most intense battles of the Great War. The battle of Doiran has been described as a battle far worse than anything seen on the western front. So intense was the hand to hand fighting, that men were dropping dead of exhaustion, through battle fatigue which was brought about by hunger, thirst and disease. Both sides were savage in their intent and no quarter was given either way. This carried on for two days, until the British forced the Bulgarians out of the town of Doiran and more importantly, away from the lake nearby. At least water wouldn't be an issue for a while. Fresh food on the other hand, was still a fairly rare pleasure, the Greek locals wanted nothing to do with this invading British force by all accounts. From the 22-28 October 1918 the British pursude the Bulgars all the way to Strumica valley, where another round of intense fighting occured. Then on the 30 October 1918, in the area of Traovo, the Bulgars surrendered to the British and hostilities ceased. Thus ended the forgotten war in Salonika, a war in which 18/62 had more than played it's part....In November of 1918, 28th Division, and all it's units was ordered to move to Gallipoli en masse, to occupy the Dardanelle forts and secure the peninsular, this they did, until returning to England.
As a matter of interest the other Artillery Brigades/Battery's at Salonika were: Brigades - 3(Mountain) Bde RGA, 4(Highland)Mtn Bde RGA, 7(Howitzer) Bde RGA, 31 Bde RFA, 54 Bde RFA, 130 Bde RFA, 146 Bde RFA, 28(DAC). Battery's - 13(Hvy)Bty RGA, 61(Howitzer)Bty RGA, 71 Bty RFA, 121 Bty RFA. The above list is accurate, but may not be exhaustive.
World War II
After the end of WW1, and during the Inter war years, 3rd Brigade RFA and it's Battery's, now seperate, found itself stationed back in India. The great reorganisation of the Royal Artillery took place, and 3rd Brigade RFA was retitled 3rd Regiment Royal Artillery. For some reason, records show the regiment had four Bty's. These were 18th, 62nd, 65th and 75th Bty's respectively.
The regiment was stationed throughout India, and found itself in Trimulgherry as war was declared. Once again, the 18th and 62nd Bty's were amalgamated to form their old alliance, and became 18/62 Bty. 65th and 75th Bty's were also united to form 65/75 Bty. In February 1941 the Bty was posted to Quetta, to train and prepare for war. A few weeks later, in March 1941 the Bty was sent to Iraq and took part in the Battles of Basra and Shaiba as part of the Indian 10th Division. They spent fourteen months as part of this Division and performed well when tested in battle. However, during this period the 18/65 Bty amalgamation was separated, and they regained their single Bty status once more. from May 1942 18 Bty, along with the rest of the regiment found itself bounced from pillar to post. As part of 5th Indian Division, they fought in North Africa during the Gazala campaign. In June 1942, quite a number of British troops ( elements of 3rd Fld included), were cut off and captured at El Adem. The Afrika Corps had over run the El Adem box, just after the Free French's magnificent defence of Bir Hacheim had ended. By July 1942, 18 Bty was transferred to the 2nd South African Division, but remained in North Africa. August 1942 saw the Bty moved yet again, this time to support 13 Corps. In September 1942 the Bty was posted to support 7th Armoured Division, remaining as part of the Div in North Africa. By October 1942 the Bty was still within the 7th Armoured Division, but were working alongside and in support of the 1st Free French Brigade, under Brigadier General Koenig, at El Alamein. For three months the Bty worked alongside the French and gained much credit for their performance. Then in January 1943 the Bty was ordered back to Iraq, as part of the 8th Indian Division. Some three months later, In April 1943, the Bty along with the rest of the 8th Indian Division was sent back to North Africa, and served there until the campaign was won. In September 1943, and Still part of 8th Indian Division, 18 Bty moved along with the rest of the Division, to fight in the Italian campaign. They arrived at Taranto on the 24th of September 1943, and by November the Bty was assigned to support the 2nd New Zealand Division in their operations in Italy. But yet again, in December 1943 found itself being moved, this time back to the 8th Indian Division where it remained for the duration of the war. When back with the 8th Div, it took part in various operations throughout eastern Italy and had to provide cover to the Division at many defended river crossings and rearguard actions. During the terrible winter of 1943, the Bty was involved in many skirmihes, as part of the Division. In May 1944, the Bty along with the rest of the regiment found itself embroiled at Monte Cassino. Here a potted history of the battle for Cassino, prior to their arrival, may be apt...For the allied forces this proved a most testing time, because the Italians and Germans had entrenched themselves in the old monastery on top of the mountains. From there they could oversee the Rapido, Liri and Garigliano Valleys and protect the route to Rome, for which the allies were making. This they did with great skill and ingenuity. The Gustav Line as this became known, was virtually impregnable to attack from the ground, due to the terrain. This also meant that any Artillery support would be of limited use, in certain circumstances. Particularly if the allied troops were hidden from view. Timings and co-ordination for shoots had to be exact, so as not to inflict casualties on their own troops, the enemy was doing a fine job of that for themselves. This however did not deter the Artillery from trying when possible, to make a hefty dent in the defence of the Axis forces. Ultimately all forms of assault failed, and stalemate was all that could be reached. To assist the ground troops in their progress, the Americans decided to bomb the the ancient monastery. On the 15th of February 1944, they dropped some 1400 tons of bombs. This didn't have quite the effect hoped for, because instead of easing the route for the allied troops, it made the conditions worse for them. The Monastery was destroyed, but the bombs also made perfectly defencible positions for the enemy. The bomb craters were reinforced by their engineers and a couple of days later, they were occupied by German paratroopers, sent to reinforce the garrison. The other problem caused to the allies by the destruction of the monastery, was that it also made it virtually impossible to move any of the guns or tanks, due to the road conditions and debris blocking them. This was the state of play when the 8th Indian Division arrived, and the fourth and final battle for Cassino had begun. From the 1st - 18th May, Their first action at 2300 hrs on the 1st of May 1944 was to fire a barrage toward Cassino, they were of course joined at exactly the same time by the other 1000 guns of the 8th Army and a further 600 guns of 5th Army. After that, the Bty was almost constantly in action, giving support to the great efforts being made by their parent 8th Indian Division and their closely linked 1st Canadian Armoured Division (Both Divisions had served together in N. Africa). All over Cassino, great achievements were being gained by the allies. The Germans were beginning to wilt under the pressure exerted upon them by the 8th army. Somehow the allies broke through the defences during the final battle for Cassino, 18 Bty, along with the rest of the 3rd Field Regiment RA, had performed well and provided much good Artillery fire, during this most vital stage of the battle for Rome. Following Cassino, the Bty along with the rest of the Division advanced through Italy and were continuously fighting. Eventually they reached Assisi some 240 miles away. Here the whole Division was rested and then readied, for their next step through the Italian countryside. After a short period of rest, Late July had arrived and the Bty moved with the rest of the Division, to what was referred to as the Gothic line. This was the next phase of the allied Italian campaign, and was designed to push the Germans into the waitng hands of American forces, who had broke out from Salerno. 18 Bty found itself just outside Florence, protecting the Division, whilst they tried to capture and safeguard some of the worlds most precious art treasures. This task was relatively short, and soon they were once again back in the mountains. This time trying to assist the 8th Divisions break through of the Gothic line. This was achieved after much heavy fighting, in appalling weather conditions. Now they made their way to the north Italian Plains. Here was to be a major test for 18 Bty and 3rd Field Regiment, because as part of the 8th Division, they would be part of one of the longest fronts in Italy. Their work, along with all the Artillery of the Division, would be immense if they were to provide the required cover needed to sustain the advance. This the Gunners did, and aided in forcing the German withdrawal. This relieved the pressure on the 8th Indian Division by shortening their front, and allowed them to carry on their pursuit. By December 1944, The Division was involved with mopping up a German breakthrough, and halting it's advance, close to the US 5th Army location near Lucca. As the situation became stable, the Bty found itself located in Pisa for well earned rest. Next came the final phases of the Italian campaign, in which the Bty would be sorely tested. In February 1945, the Bty was involved with 8th Division, as part of 5th Corp in the river crossing of the Santerno. This action allowed a breakthrough in the Argenta gap by allied forces, and in turn enabled the allies to encircle the German 10th and 14th Armies at Bologna. Once this was achieved the 8th Division moved quickly toward Ferrara, and crossed the river Po. From here they made their way to the Austrian border and crossed the Adige river. It was here that 18 Bty's war ended, because on the 2nd of May 1945, the Division sent a party to accept the surrender of some 11,000 soldiers of the German 1st Parachute Division. By June of the same year, with their job well done and their war over, the Bty was back in the UK, and serving as part of the home forces.
The Battery Today
After the 2nd World War, the drawdown in Artillery, meant that by the 1st of April 1947 yet another reorganisation of the Gunners had to take place. Many regiments would find themselves disbanded, or at least placed into suspended animation. 3rd Field Regiment Royal Artillery, being one of the senior regiments in the Royal Artillery, was not immune from the cull. Two Bty's of the regiment, 62 and 75 were axed, and 18 Bty would find itself retitled according to it's seniority. Also the regiment would be joined by two Bty's, to bring it up to full manning. These were 64 and 65 Bty's respectively. 64 Bty was new to the regiment, but 65 Bty had been an integral part of 3rd Fld RA since before the great war of 1914-18, and this perhaps softened the blow. 3rd Fld Regt RA, who had performed magnificently over so many years, and who's Bty's 18, 62 and 75 had served together since before the Boer war, was ripped apart. 18 Bty would have to carry on the legacy co-created by these two lost Bty's. To add insult to injury 3rd Field Regiment Royal Artillery was retitled 44 (Searchlight) Regiment Royal Artillery, and lost it's Guns...It's Bty's were retitled thus:
18 Field Bty = 46(SL) Bty RA,
64 Field Bty = 153(SL) Bty RA.
65 Field Bty = 154(SL) Bty RA.
The newly named 46(SL) Bty would carry out this role for 18 months, before being reroled, along with the whole regiment on the 30th October 1948, as a "Heavy Anti Aircraft" unit. Thus the newly titled 46(HAA) Bty was born. The Bty was now back where it belonged, as a fighting unit. They had regained their status, operating the 3.7" AA Guns, and were stationed at Lille Barracks in Aldershot. In 1951 the regiment moved to Warren camp in Crowborough and still used the same equipment, however in 1953 they found themselves at Crerrar Barracks in Oldenburg, Germany, where they continued to man the 3.7" Guns. In 1958 44(HAA) Regiment Royal Artillery was placed into suspended animation and two of it's Bty's, 153 and 154 were disbanded. 46 Bty was saved from this fate when it joined 32(Med) Regiment RA at Durrahill camp in Carlisle. Here the Bty used the heavier calibre ordnance, and were equiped with the 5.5" gun. In 1959 the Bty was stationed in Hong Kong, Kowloon to be precise, and spent the next two years at either Whitfield Bks or Gun club Bks? They were still using the 5.5" guns. As 1962 arrived, the Bty was posted to Dortmund and located at West Riding Bks, still operating the same 5.5" equipment. They remained in BAOR for a relatively short time, because in 1964 the Bty returned to England, where they were stationed at B.Camp in Barton Stacey. However, two years later in 1966 the Bty was back in BAOR, this time at Tofrek Bks, Hildesheim. Here they would spend the next five years and convert to the new M107 Self Propelled(SP) Gun. In 1971 the Bty carried out the first of it's numerous tours of Northern Ireland. From the 5th January-6th May 1971, the Bty was stationed in Belfast. On return from the province, the Bty spent the next six months preparing for another move. They moved to Wing Bks in Bulford, where they were re-equipped with the 105mm Pack Howitzer. In 1973 Whilst still at Wing Bks, the Bty was again warned off for another stint in Ulster. This time they were located at Long Kesh, as part of the Prison Guard Force (PGF). Ulster was a place that the Bty knew very well, and would know even better over the next four years. Between 1974 and 1977, 46 Bty spent their time moving from Bulford to Northern Ireland, and carrying out both urban and rural tours of the province. In 1978 32(Medium) Regiment Royal Artillery was re-rolled and retitled as, 32 (Guided Weapons) Regiment RA. The Bty was now equipped with the Swingfire, wire guided anti tank missile system, and carried out this role for four years. However, the Swingfire missile system was re-allocated back to the Armoured Corps. This led to the Bty being re-rolled once more, and in 1981 the Bty was converted to an Air Defence Bty. 46 Bty was now one of four independent air defence Bty's, who's role was to provide close air defence where required. The Bty was equipped with the new Shorts Blowpipe(SL) Air Defence missile system, and operated as part of the UKLF. As a note of interest, the other independent AD Bty's were 10 (Assaye) AD Bty, 21 (Gibraltar) AD Bty and 43 (Lloyds Company) AD Bty respectively. 1982 saw the Bty move from 32 (GW) Regiment RA, and move to Waterloo Bks, Munster, BAOR. Where they were joined some months later, by 2nd Field Regiment RA (The Manchester Gunners). In 1983/4 the Bty was re-equipped with the Javelin (SL) Air Defence missile system, which was the replacement system for Blowpipe. The two troops of the Bty 18 and 62 (Homage to history), would provide close air defence cover for two distinct formations. 18 troop were attached to 4th Armoured Brigade, whilst 62 troop provided cover for 6th Air Mobile Brigade. In 1985, After full conversion to the new system had been achieved, the Bty saw itself carrying out a tour of the Falkland Islands, as part of the Falkland Islands Defence Force. Here the Bty's two troops were situated on Mount Kent and Mount William. 1987 saw the Bty's 62 troop attached to O Bty (The Rocket Troop) for a tour of Northern Ireland, where they would act as Prison Guard Force at HMP Maze, formerly Long Kesh. Here 62 troop would also carry out border patrols in South Armagh at Bessbrook. Near the end of 1988, the Bty was brought up to full strength by the addition of it's third troop, which was made up from the old Berlin AD troop, and was titled 6 troop. Then in 1991 after Iraq had invaded Kuwait a long period of preparation and training saw the Bty operating in the Persian Gulf, and attached to 12 Air Defence Regiment RA, as part of the British 4th Armoured Division on OP Granby. This busy period was followed another a couple of years later in 1993, when 2nd Fields commitment to a tour of Northern Ireland was confirmed. the Bty was again on an Op Banner tour and based at Girdwood Barracks. Here 46 Bty's area of responsibility, encompassed the Ardoyne, Shankill, Oldpark, Clifftonville and Ligoneil areas primarily, but could also include the New Lodge and other areas of east Belfast when required. After six hectic months, the regiment returned to Munster, with thankfully no major casualties to report. However, on returning to Munster the regiment was informed that due to cuts, 2nd Field and all it's Bty's, 46, L, N and O, would be drawn down and placed into suspended animation. This was a terrible blow after such a successful Op Banner tour, by one of the Gunners best regiments. Within a year or so, L and N Bty's had been re-animated and sent to 1st RHA. Where they were amalgamated to form L/N (Nery) Bty (The Eagle Troop) RHA. Unfortunately, as TAC group for the regiment they lost their guns. Later the L/N Bty amalgamation was split and N Bty joined 3rd RHA as it's TAC group, so remained without their guns. O Bty (The Rocket Troop) on it's re-animation was established as HQ Bty of 1st RHA, and is still there. So all of 2nd fields "old" Gun Bty's were saved, albeit in much less illustrious cicumstances. 46 Bty would have to wait until the year 2000, before being brought out of suspended animation, where it was re-united with 32 Regiment RA, as it's HQ Bty. It's role today is the co-ordination of all the regiments Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (Phoenix), into an effective aerial reconnaisance asset for the Guns of the Royal Artillery, and the troops on the ground. Here ends this brief history of 46 (Talavera) Bty RA.