Artists Rifles History and Legacy.


I am posting here because I have an interest in the Artists Rifles. The interest stems from the fact that I think I have a great deal in common with the men who volunteered to found the regiment in terms of the things that I value in life and the way that I perceive myself and also a great regard for the ideological origins and voluntary spirit of what is now the Territorial Army.

I have read about the origins of the regiment and it's history on the Artists Rifles Association website and on Wikipedia and so think that I understand the regiment's history up until the regiment (in the form of an Officer Training Corps,) is disbanded in 1945.

However, the Wikipedia article then goes on to say that the regiment was reformed in 1947, rejoining the Rifle Brigade (Prince Consort's Own) before transferring to the Army Air Corps as the 21st Special Air Service Regiment (Artists Rifles.)

Is anyone able to explain this sudden change to me? What is the connection between the two regiments? To what extent does 21 SAS (R) maintain the traditions of the Artists Rifles and does their legacy continue in any way that is less obvious?

Thank you for any help that you can give.


I'm afraid that I don't see what you're getting at. The book that you reference makes it clear that the transfer to the Army Air Corps was an administrative smoke screen to allow the SAS to escape disbandment.

I'm genuinely not trying to be rude, so please forgive me if I come across as such, but what does that say about the relationship between the Artists Rifles and the SAS?

I searched the book for references to the Artists Rifles and found that "in September 1947 a Territorial SAS Regiment had been formed and amalgamated with the Artists Rifles..."

What I am asking is why specifically the Artists Rifles, a unit that was at the time disbanded was resurrected to be amalgamated with the SAS?


Gallery Guru
"The SAS and the SBS were disbanded at the end of the war and their personnel, as they say on the Staff, returned to their units or to civilian life, as the case might be. But in 1946 a War Office committee which had been studying the value of such units in war decided that they were after all a definite asset, and decided to begin by forming one in the Territorial Army.

This was in itself an unusually imaginative decision, but it is easy to see that a regiment trained on highly individual lines and likely to be required for the kind of operation not often met with in peace-time might just as well be a Territorial as a Regular one. To go forward from that conclusion to the decision that the most suitable existing corps for conversion was the Artists is, without conceit, a logical move. At all events, there now came into existence 21st Special Air Service Regiment (Artists), TA.

The decision has had one unusual consequence; for in 1950 the War Office decided to form another regiment of SAS, and they formed 22 SAS as a Regular unit. Thus we have the unprecedented situation of a TA regiment being parent unit to a Regular.

Last year a third regiment was formed, 23 SAS (TA), like the Artists based on London, and specializing in the SAS reconnaissance role."

from 'The Artists and the SAS'
by B. A. Young
published by 21st SAS Regiment, 1960

chapter XXIII, pages 53-54
Chimurenga, thank you that was exactly what I was looking for.

Taffnp, thank you for making the effort to get those addresses for me but I don't think it would be appropriate for someone like me to write to the man that you advised me to write to.

However I will write to the Artists Rifles Association to ask more about the maintenance of the regiment's traditions.

Thank you again.


Gallery Guru
Again from the book 'The Artists and The SAS' (chapter XXV, pages 56-57), some traditions that are maintained -

"One result of the good flow of volunteers was that it was possible almost at once to revert to the pre-war rule that all recruits should join in the ranks, regardless of their previous rank or service.

The re-formed Regiment has continued the tradition of mounting guard at the opening of the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition.

A relationship with the City of London was established by the addition of the Regiment by the Worshipful Company of Glovers in 1955. The Artists now provide a small Guard of Honour on the occasion of the Glovers' annual dinner."

ps. I also collect pre-1947 Artists Rifles items.

Spoons, for example ...

That is fascinating, thank you.

Do the spoons get licked clean and stuck back in your breast pocket after use? :p
From Andrew Marr's 'The Making of Modern Britain'
on WW I

"Those who think of painters and writers as effete might be interested to know that no regiment, battalion or division of the British army suffered higher casualties then the Artist's Rifles, the 28th Battalion of the London Regiment, which specialized in training subalterns-so much so that they where known as the Suicide Club."

Can't verify his statement but seems regimental tradition was set early !


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