4/73 (Sphinx) Special Observation Post Battery RA
|4/73 (Sphinx) Special OP Battery RA|
|Active||1980 – date|
|Role||Surveillance and Target Acquisition|
|Part of||5th Regiment Royal Artillery|
|Nickname||The Battery (The Fraggles)|
|Anniversaries||4 (Sphinx) Battery Alexandria Day 1st July
73 (Sphinx) Battery Alexandria Day 10th June
4/73 (Sphinx) Special OP Battery was formed in Germany in April, 1990 as part of 5th Regiment Royal Artillery. The Battery was formed by amalgamating the two separate Special OP Troops attached to the HQ Batteries of 5 Regt RA and 32 Regt RA. Q Battery was re-titled Q Headquarter Battery and 4 Battery & 73 Battery were merged with other locating Batteries in 5 Regt RA. The battery role was mooted in response to an identified capability gap in the surveillance of the Deep Battlefield. The "Depth Fire" concept proposed so-called "stay behind OPs" when it was identified that there was an inability to accurately assure heavy artillery deep into enemy territory. Along with being able to direct accurate artillery fire it would also mean that intelligence could be gathered at a tactical level on such things as headquarter locations, Main Supply Routes, reserve troop locations, vehicle concentrations and force numbers.
The way in which this would be carried out was by inserting troops into hides, allowing the enemy to advance over them. Then, using their hides as mounting bases the troops would establish covert OPs to locate rear area locations and movements of enemy signature equipment.
Due to its main role of directing artillery fire it was decided that this small, highly trained unit would be established within, and from Artillery units. One troop was first established in 1980 as part of 5 Heavy Regiment Royal Artillery, and later a second was formed when 32 Guided Weapons Regiment was re-rolled as the second Heavy Regiment. Initially a selection process was put into place by instructors and advisors who had experience in this field of work. After the bedding in period The Parachute Regiment were tasked to supply training instruction. 4/73 (Sphinx) Special OP Battery now recruit from all Arms.
As the skills base and operational capabilities have evolved, once again the battery have a specialised Subject Matter Expert in place in order to provide and sustain the operational effectiveness of this highly motivated body of Surveillance Soldiers.
Current role 
4/73 Battery is now regarded as a specialised unit to provide commanders with crucial battlefield intelligence on enemy positions. They are also referred to as the Artillery Special Forces and regularly conduct operations with other British Special Forces units on top secret missions around the world. Members of this battery are volunteers who have passed a 20 week Special Observer Patrols Course.
During Operation Herrick in December 2007 members of 4/73 Battery mounted the British Army's longest recorded desert patrol since World War II. During that tour two soldiers serving in the battery were killed: Tpr Jack Sadler HAC and Cpl Daz Gardiner REME.
Whilst most Gunners wear a dark blue beret, since 2008 soldiers of 4/73 Battery have changed to a Khaki beret to mark the close working relationship of the battery with the Honourable Artillery Company. Soldiers within the battery that have passed the STA Patrol Training selection course also wear the Special Observers badge on their arm as displayed above.
See also 
- Heidi Mines. "Covert gunners recall tough Helmand tour". MoD. "An elite unit within the Royal Artillery, 4/73 Battery were formed in 1993 to provide commanders with crucial battlefield intelligence on enemy positions and are tasked with directing artillery fire deep into enemy-held territory."
- "Artillery Soldier". MoD. "Volunteers for 4/73 Bty RA (5 Regt RA) will need to pass a 20 week Special Observer Patrols Course following Phase 2 Training. Further information can be found DIN: 2006 DIN002-211, a useful reference document for potential direct entry recruits."
- Mines, Heidi. "Life after Harry". Soldier magazine (October 2008).
- "Yorkshire Gunners Honoured For Service In Iraq And Afghanistan". "Earlier in the day, in what marks a historic change in the history of one of the Batteries from the Regiment - 4/73 (Sphinx) Battery, the traditional dark blue beret of the Royal Artillery was replaced with a khaki-coloured beret."