State of Gunner History

I need more Bty History!

  • Yes - I don't feel the love

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • A review wouldn't hurt

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • ARRSE idea

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters
Having been around a bit now, I am a bit disappointed with the level of shared knowledge of Gunner History. Before the passing of Gen Farndale, the history was flourishing (including the excellent location for the RA Museum in Woolwich - and don't forget the DLR is now running to Woolwich ARRSEnal) - now it may be being forgotten about (less for Bty Historical Returns). I am not sure it has helped by amalgamations.

I think that more needs to be done across the board. Btys need to continue to educate their soldiers in their history (on arrival and on Bty birthdays etc); more work (subbie task) needs to be done to update and add value to histories - it can be done at Firepower!, Larkhill and on the internet. I know there are Regts who have boxes of history which is not displayed. Maybe digitisation is the way forward so it can be shared, displayed easily and it's in a medium the soldiers and officers can easily absorb - this is a mandrolic task though... and who will provide the equipment?

We cannot forget out history - we are doing some fantastic things on Ops but we should never forget our past! We are busy but if we don't do it, then it will get forgotten.

A slightly more high-brow piece for you to consider. I would welcome any experience/ thoughts that are constructive.


Edited due to dodgy fingerwork! :oops:
GBTD...This has been raised on the RAA site. The issue over there, related to the joining criteria for the RAHS. If you are interested then have a look at the RAHS link. You may be very dismayed to find that one of the criteria is that you were a S/nco, WO or officer. The wording of the site, discourages Gunners from joining an organisation that should be open to those that have served or are serving, irrespective of rank attained.

BTW, There are a number of excellent essays on there. You should take a look!
TalaveraTom said:
The wording of the site, discourages Gunners from joining an organisation that should be open to those that have served or are serving, irrespective of rank attained.

Many thanks. I wholeheartedly agree that the Royal Artillery Historical Society should be open to all and that it should be open to all ranks as long as they contribute.

After my many seasons in the RA, I have not heard of a Regt input to the RAHS - maybe we should have one from each Regt?

As for the histories, we need to do something to encourage more comprehensive histories of our batteries such as the RAHS have done:
10 Assaye Bty RA
30 Bty (Roger's Company) RA
8 Alma Commando Battery RA
49 (Inkerman) Battery RA
1st Battery RA "The Blazers"
5 (Gibraltar 1779-1783) Battery RA

If the Batteries do something, it will be better than what we have now (in some cases) and it would look good on an OJAR/ SJAR.


Edited due to poor LINKY techniques, probably down to too much mead :oops:
WIP should be done by every single soldier joining their Batterys/Regiments these days. I know a fair few have been doing them for years.
The problems come when trying to establish Bty lineage. The sheer size of the Artillery meant that changes needed to be implemented to reduce it's size. Re-rolling and re-designations took place. Due to these re-designations in the late forties many of the Bty's were retitled and much confusion has since taken place for researchers. I spent about a month recently researching 46 Bty's history, and even posted on here under the title of the "Forgotten Gunners of Kohima" Referring to the exploits of 10 Fld Regt RA. Being a novice at this sort of thing i gathered as much as i could, and was assisted by many kind fellow Gunners, with great contributions. i was going to post the results on here. However, my lack of knowledge in the renumbering meant that i had been looking for the wrong 46 Bty, who turned out to be what is today 129(Dragon) Bty and their Lost Regt of 10 Fld RA now 40 Fld.

Although annoyed at my ignorance, it has since allowed me to carry out better research with more complete details. My 46 Bty were the original 18 Bty of 3 Fld Regt RA. I thought that i would have a look at the present 18 Bty's history and found that they are using parts of 46 Bty's history on their excellent site. The specific bits are in S.Africa during the Boer war campaigns of 1899-1902. What this suggests is that part of the modern day 18 bty's history is probably being used unknowingly by some other Bty and theirs and so on....Confused? You will be! :wink:

BTW...This confusion never occured within the RHA due to them being lettered..For example A Bty would remain so. The twenty seventh bty raised for war could then be titled AA Bty as an example...Please don't mention Eveready's or Duracells TA! :lol:
I agree with all above, I would suggest (as I have done on the RAA site, contacting the Secretary of the RAHS direct regarding membership, those below the rank of SNCO can join and are made very welcome (even non-gunners are accepted).

Why the rules haven't been changed is anyones guess. Gunnery history is a serious interest of mine, hence the book on the language of the regiment (showing how sad I really am!!). Going to the meetings of the RAHS and their battlefield tours is a great way of learning about the Regiment and the Batteries.

And just to prove a point, I wasn't anywhere near an SNCO rank.
Think that's bad, try TA Gunner history.

Since I joined up I have banged on endlessly about Bty History as it was such an important thing in my regular batteries.

However its difficult to track half of it down as we have not only amalgamations and re-rolling but complete cap badge changes (several times) so its difficult to put an exact finger on things such as seniority.

That leads me to a question, does anyone know exactly when seniority for a TA Bty should start ? My Bty has history back to 1793, however its Gunner overtones are dated to 1860, my guess is 1860 is where we can take our official date from as the previous service dates back to yeomanry days, is there a list of seniority fore TA Batteries does anyone know ?
I find it confusing that so much information is available about each Bty from 250 years ago, and yet it is very difficult to establish their modern history. If you try to find out about their campaigns in WW1 or WW2, you may get about as far as their war trail. This is a good start but won't tell you anything of their specific campaign..My lot for example started their WW1 trail in India, and then were posted to France and took part in the 2nd Ypres and Loos. In Oct 1915 they were sent to Salonika and spent the rest of the war there, this front was in many respects worse than the western front. Of all the campaigns of WW1 this has to be the least well recorded, and so finding their individual actions is nye on impossible.

Try and trace your Bty's history accurately if they were part of any AGRA or Indian Division during WW2, then try and trace details about their time fighting along side (In my lots case) the Free French Brigade in N.Africa. I have, and it's a nightmare, virtually nothing is available about them...Being a regiment within an AGRA, meant that they were shunted from Division to Division. This then leads to further problems because they may only fight within that formation for a month or so and then be sent back to AGRA for re-allocation to another formation. This means that in most cases their time within these various formations is not recorded as they were only attached

So much depended on the Officers writing down accurate histories for posterity, but it would seem that they were very lackadaisical in recording those details. And this, along with innumerable changes within our Regiment has lead to the current historical mess we're in. I'm sorry to say this, but i have to...The Royal Engineers units kept far more detailed and accurate records than we did, right down to company level. I possess one (East Lancs RE) during WW1, and the details are staggeringly good. Whereas we have to scrabble about trying to find details that probably aren't available, because some Gunner officer couldn't be bothered to keep an accurate diary of events, and later write down their history...

The Guns are our Colours and Ubique our battle honour, but what about the individual honour titles awarded to each Bty? Surely they should be highlighted more prominently, because it was these actions that make our history so grand. The infantry have their colours and the Cavalry their guidons, what about the Bty's without honour titles? Their histories are equally illustrious and deserve recognition, but are forgotten for no other reason than they were a TF Bty or War raised and later disbanded??

You have just raised an interesting point - we no longer record our history. I know that from the tours I have done there are hundreds or thousands of photos out there in digital format. They may be collated and filed in a Bty archive but in 10 years time you won’t know who the people are, where they are and who took the photo. We no longer keep diaries (I wish I had and I will in the future) so unless there is a collator per Bty, then the history can be lost. Modern technology is the issue - we don't write anything anymore :( The Op Records process seems to be quite difficult and you will never collate all the data (purely because there are so many systems out there - hopefully JPA will solve that).

Possible solution:

1. Get a baseline of all Bty history - will take a long time but as we are reducing our commitments (ish - less for the backfilling), I am sure a couple of blokes can be spared/ funded to go to Firepower! to have a good stab - the staff there are also there to help and there will be some half-written/ researched pieces in the system.
2. From the serving (and those on the databases) members, ask them for photos/ experiences from their op tours. For the photos, get them to name them. Get guys together to go through photos and name them there and then.
3. Display the history. We may not have the rooms we used to have to display it all but there are offices that need brightening up (get people to take their own pictures down). Photograph/scan the pictures into IT and then database them and also show the pictures on a flat screen - we all like looking at moving pictures! Link them into a digital Bty Orders/ in the Bty Office so everyone sees them. There are issues with this (copy write of gp photos, scanning may degrade original pictures). The plus side is that Firepower! can get e-copies and they will also know what you have got - they do a lot of work in the sidelines which could aid your work.
4. Buy in from above. There needs to be some buy in as well as some funding from higher. Not sure what is out there.

As for the TA, then it will be a longer process than for the Regulars. There should be some MTDs (maybe) for this if you are lucky (I may be talking out of my ARRSE).

I would like to think that this may get us somewhere but I am not sure. I am quite passionate about history - it is the lifeblood of our Btys and that is who we are loyal to.

Any thoughts?


It will take a long time. As I have already said

I know what everyone means about the Regimental History, on a couple of occassions I have (foolishly, you might say) written to the Regimental Secretary offering to write/edit one of the volumes of the regimental history. I have after all written on the subject previously, however, not once have I received even the courtesy of a reply. I realise the Regt Sec is a busy man, but as he is the lead on the published history (or so I am led to beleive) a short response wouldn't have gone amiss.


How often do you get to Firepower?
GBTD...Therein lies the problem, before we can collate and then process a raft of photo's, we have to first know who they are of and what particular operation or action is being portrayed. So that we can accurately archive them into our history. The process as you said, would be time consuming and difficult, but would be worth it in the end i feel.

However, before any of this could take place each Bty would have to have it's original history brought up to date first. This would i feel allow a clean canvass, for any present or future operations to be added without confusion. Also it may encourage awareness in the history of each Bty, by it's serving members and as such they could contribute to their own history as they serve. That way nothing substantial would be getting lost or overlooked.

Also it would have to be available and accessable to all who were interested. Not everyone lives near Larkhill or Kew, so these histories must not be held by an organisation who would charge a fee for finding out details, or keep them locked away for their own cliques enjoyment. That would defeat the object. ARRSEpedia could be an option, but having seen some of the altered entries, not really a viable one.
There is of course another option, create our own RA History website and only allow registered users (whose credentials are known) to alter/amend entries. There are a number of excellent battery sites already, but wouldn't it be great if some of the information about our history was available on a respected and well ordered site.
OP_ACK said:
There is of course another option, create our own RA History website and only allow registered users (whose credentials are known) to alter/amend entries. There are a number of excellent battery sites already, but wouldn't it be great if some of the information about our history was available on a respected and well ordered site.
I concur with your assessment, perhaps we could set up a history web site. If not, then it appears that The RAA website would be the ideal alternative as it's moderated well and is all about our Royal Regiment. Perhaps it could be arranged for say someone like Assaye Gunner or YOU OP, to be the Mod. You both seem to be well qualified and have a great love of our history, so it seems you'd be ideal for the task :wink:

As you know, we already have a Regimental History section on the RAA site, I'm the moderator for it, and have already set up areas for Battery history etc. The hard part is getting people to actually put something on it.

I'll PM Assaye Gunner and see if he is interested in developing it with me. And you!!!!
Don't forget GBTD :lol:

Seriously, if we could get as many contributors as possible, it would be an ideal basis for a great site...But of course, that depends on those that are prepared to share their knowledge. The site would only work, if everyone was prepared to do a piece about their Bty's history themselves. This could then be catalogued on a database and easily accessed by all...We shall see what happens?? Anything achieved, does not excuse the RAHS for their membership criteria and how it is worded!

Edited to add...There is much bumping of gums about which is the best Bty or Regiment in the R.A....If you feel strongly about your Bty's history then contribute and prove your point...Of course i happen to know 46 (Talavera) Bty's history dwarfs all others :wink: :lol: :lol:
The one thing that it would be necessary top avoid is stories of the "I remember when..." variety, whilst they are interesting and are of course very much to do with Bty history, it isn't always formal history, and I think that is what we would be aiming at.

I'll PM GTBD as well regarding this and hopefully we can get something started. For example, I have some old spreadsheets (unfortunately not computerised, but I can do that) showing some of the various Bty lineage following the changes in 1949 and a huge sheet showing RHA lineage.

These could, once transcribed and suitably acknowledged, be made available on a website.
OP_ACK said:

How often do you get to Firepower?
Not often. However, I am in comms with them and they want to help.

As for hosting, maybe RAA or even the Btys' own pages on the Army website. What we shouldn't do is use a new server - it will just be too messy.

Maybe try it on the RAA and then put it forward to the Gunners?

Sounds good to me, as I said previously, the structure is already there within the RAA site so starting there and then migrating to a dedicated area within the RA site (even if it has to be a sub site of the RAHS page) would make sense.
To be fair to the thread I do not think it will become too popular, if it stays up there for at least a week without being bumped by the same 3 people I will do so. What I am reading so far is the old and bold (mainly ex Gunners) writing in the thread. As much as I enjoy the history of the Royal Regiment and attend reunions every year I believe that our history is learned by individals when they become loyal to that battery.

The younger gunners are already given briefings when joining their respective regiments about the history of every battery in it. Loyalty to a battery as you know is a process that happens over time by shared experiences, either operational hardships, exercises and the odd drunken night and not something that should be forced upon them.

Again let me say that the history of the RA is something I enjoy myself, the regiments and individual batterys do still have a battery birthday and reunions so it is not a forgotten thing.
My reply to a sticky request.
This is about gauging potential interest in the subject and perhaps, setting up a thread where all Bty's are represented in one way or another. As you say all the bty's celebrate Their honour title days, and perhaps that should be enough. Maybe it won't create any real interest, but at least the space is there should they wish to share their Bty's history. If as you say there is no real interest then that's unfortunate, but shouldn't preclude us from giving it a go. There are lots of contributors to the Gunner thread, all from different Bty's. If each gave a post on their Bty's history then it would soon mount up and become a pretty substantial database of Gunner information...Without outsiders trying to mar it's intentions.

I think OP ACK has it just about right, there is a smashing history thread on there and perhaps we could try and encourage others to place their Bty knowledge in there...I note that L, N and O Bty's potted histories are in there already, and a good read they are. In fact all the current data relates to the RHA Bty's, mostly contributed by Assaye Gunner and they are a great read...I hope that the situation in Gunner history is not as bad as GQ predicts!!

At this point i have to admit that my main interests lie in the Bty histories, rather than the regimental ones. Regiments are transient things where any bty's can be brought together. Battery's on the other hand are where most Gunners loyalties remain, because it is with these that they serve. Of course i realise that in some cases the regiment may be the predominant factor in the historical sense, particularly when it comes to war raised units. These would be very difficult in tracing because of their short lives as serving units, within such a vast organisation as the Royal Regiment Of Artillery. Whilst it would be impossible to make an exhaustive list of histories, it would be good to at least highlight as many as possible.

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