Royal Artillery

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Royal Regiment of Artillery
Royal Artillery Badge.jpg
Royal Artillery Cap Badge
Active 1716 – Present
Country United Kingdom
Branch British Army
Role Artillery
Size 15 Regular regiments
7 Reserve regiments
Garrison/HQ Various: Larkhill (Regimental HQ), Catterick, Tidworth, Colchester, Hohne
Motto Quo Fas Et Gloria Ducunt (Where Right And Glory Lead)
Ubique (Everywhere)
March British Grenadiers (Quick March) The Royal Artillery Slow March, colloquially known as The Duchess of Kent (Slow March; also March Past for Kings Troop RHA) The Keel Row (Trot Past) Bonnie Dundee (Gallop Past)
Brigadier NH Eeles (Director Royal Artillery)
Captain General HM The Queen Elizabeth II
Master Gunner, St James's Park General Sir Timothy Granville-Chapman
Tactical Recognition Flash Royal Artillery TRF.svg
British Army arms and services
Flag of the British Army.svg
Combat Arms
Royal Armoured Corps
Army Air Corps
Combat Support Arms
Royal Artillery
Royal Engineers
Royal Corps of Signals
Intelligence Corps
Combat Services
Royal Army Chaplains Department
Royal Logistic Corps
Army Medical Services
Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers
Adjutant General's Corps
Small Arms School Corps
Royal Army Physical Training Corps
General Service Corps
Corps of Army Music

The Royal Regiment of Artillery, commonly referred to as the Royal Artillery (RA), is the artillery arm of the British Army. Despite its name, it comprises a number of regiments.


BL 8-inch Howitzer Mk 1 – 5 8 in (200 mm) howitzers of the 39th Siege Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery, in action near Fricourt in WWI.
Officers and senior enlisted men of the Bermuda Contingent, Royal Garrison Artillery (Bermuda Militia Artillery).

The introduction of artillery into the English Army came as early as the Battle of Crécy in 1346[1] but was not a permanent body, Henry VIII recognised what artillery could achieve and created a semi-permanent body of artillery. The recognition of the need for a permanent body of artillery however, did not happen until 1716.[1]

Before the 18th century, artillery 'traynes' were raised by royal warrant for specific campaigns and disbanded again when they were over.[1] On 26 May 1716, however, by royal warrant of George I two regular companies of field artillery, each 100 men strong, were raised at Woolwich.[1] The title "Royal Artillery" (RA) was first used in 1720.[1] On 1 April 1722 the two companies were increased to four and grouped with independent artillery companies at Gibraltar and Minorca to form the Royal Regiment of Artillery, commanded by Colonel Albert Borgard.[1] In 1741 the Royal Military Academy was formed in the Royal Arsenal at Woolwich (RWA) to provide training for RA and Royal Engineers (RE) officers.[1] The regiment expanded rapidly and, by 1757, had 24 companies divided into two battalions, as well as a cadet company formed in 1741.[1] During 1748, the presidential artilleries of Bengal, Madras and Bombay were formed.[1] 1756 saw the creation of the Royal Irish Regiment of Artillery.[1] In 1762 the Royal Artillery Band was formed at Minden. By 1771 there were 32 companies in four battalions, as well as two "invalid companies" comprising older and unfit men employed in garrison duties. During 1782, the regiment moved to the current Royal Artillery Barracks (front parade) on Woolwich Common.[1] In January 1793, two troops of Royal Horse Artillery (RHA) were raised to provide fire support for the cavalry, augmented by two more in November 1793.[1] All RHA personnel were mounted. The Royal Irish Artillery was absorbed into the RA in 1801.[1] During 1805, the Royal Artillery moved to Woolwich Common.[1] In 1819, the Rotunda was given to the regiment by the Prince Regent to celebrate end of the Napoleonic Wars. (It was originally built in St. James's Park as the outer casing of the tent in which the Prince Regent entertained the Allied sovereigns in 1814.[2]) In 1832, the regimental mottoes were granted.[3]

General George Campbell of Inverneill CB., Esquire, a Major General in the Royal Artillery.

The regiment was under the control of the Board of Ordnance until the board was abolished in 1855. Thereafter the regiment came under the War Office along with the rest of the army.[1] The School of Gunnery established at Shoeburyness, Essex in 1859.[1] In 1862 the regiment absorbed the artillery of the British East India Company—21 horse batteries and 48 field batteries—which brought its strength up to 29 horse batteries, 73 field batteries and 88 heavy batteries.[1]

On 1 July 1899, the Royal Artillery was divided into three groups: the Royal Horse Artillery of 21 batteries and the Royal Field Artillery of 95 batteries comprised one group, while the coastal defence, mountain, siege and heavy batteries were split off into another group named the Royal Garrison Artillery of 91 companies.[1] The third group continued to be titled simply Royal Artillery, and was responsible for ammunition storage and supply. Which branch a gunner belonged to was indicated by metal shoulder titles (R.A., R.F.A., R.H.A., or R.G.A.). The RFA and RHA also dressed as mounted men, whereas the RGA dressed like foot soldiers. In 1920 the rank of Bombardier was instituted in the Royal Artillery.[1] The three sections effectively functioned as separate corps. This arrangement lasted until 1924, when the three amalgamated once more to became one regiment.[1] In 1938, RA Brigades were renamed Regiments. During World War II there were over 1 million men serving in 960 gunner regiments.[4] In 1947 the Riding Troop RHA was renamed The King's Troop RHA and, in 1951, the title of the regiment's colonel-in-chief became Captain General.[1]

The Royal Horse Artillery, which has always had separate traditions, uniforms and insignia, still retains a separate identity within the regiment.[1]

Before the Second World War, Royal Artillery recruits were required to be at least 5 feet 4 inches (1.63 m) tall. Men in mechanised units had to be at least 5 feet 8 inches (1.73 m) tall. They initially enlisted for six years with the colours and a further six years with the reserve or four years and eight years. They trained at the Royal Artillery Depot in Woolwich.[5]

From its beginnings, the Royal Artillery has been based at Woolwich, in south-east London. In 2003 it was decided to move the headquarters to Larkhill on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire (the RA's training ground, where the Royal School of Artillery has been based since 1915). The last Royal Artillery troops left Woolwich Barracks in 2007; in 2012, however, the King's Troop, Royal Horse Artillery was relocated to Woolwich from their former headquarters in St John's Wood.[6]

The Royal Artillery today[edit]

Red and Blue Tactical Recognition Flash of the Royal Artillery

The Royal Artillery is equipped with a variety of equipment and performs a wide range of roles, including:

The Captain General of the regiment is Queen Elizabeth II. The post was previously known as Colonel-in-Chief until King George VI expressed the desire to be known as Captain General. The head of the regiment is the Master Gunner, St. James's Park.

The Royal Regiment of Artillery comprises both Regular (full-time) and Reserve (part-time) units. The current regiments of the Royal Artillery are:

Regular Army[edit]

The Royal Regiment of Artillery comprises the Royal Artillery and the Royal Horse Artillery. The Regular Army units are:

Regular regiments of the Royal Horse Artillery

Regular regiments of the Royal Artillery

Army Reserve[edit]

The Royal Regiment of Artillery is unique in that it has sub-units that often move between regiments, or are placed into suspended animation. See List of Royal Artillery Batteries.

Support to current operations[edit]

All Close Support Artillery Regiments deploy to Afghanistan with the L118 Light Gun. Some convert to the Light Gun for a six-month tour on Operation HERRICK and then revert to their primary role.

5th Regiment Royal Artillery deploys a battery on operations operating and supporting all Base ISTAR equipment and LCMR radar.

32nd Regiment Royal Artillery deploys a battery on operations operating the Hermes 450 UAV.

16th Regiment Royal Artillery deploys a battery to the Falkland Islands in its primary air defence role with the Rapier missile.

47th Regiment Royal Artillery are currently equipped with the Lockheed Martin Desert Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle and use this system on operations.

39th Regiment Royal Artillery have recently converted from the MLRS to the Guided MLRS for use on operations.


Air defence[edit]

The Royal Artillery is equipped with two main weapons in the air defence mission;

  • Rapier FSC – Rapier is the standard Low Level Air Defence (LLAD) weapon in the British Army. In the Royal Artillery, it equips 16 Regiment. No Army Reserve unit will be armed with Rapier under Army 2020.
  • Starstreak HVM – Starstreak is a continuation of the Blowpipe and Javelin series. In the RA it can be used as a shoulder-launched weapon, in the Lightweight Multiple Launcher (LML) or mounted on a Stormer armoured vehicle. The weapon equips 12 Regiment and two batteries of 106 Regiment RA(V) by Army 2020.

Close support[edit]

In the support mission, the Royal Artillery has three types of weapon;

  • MLRS – the Multiple Launch Rocket System equips the "heavy" regiments of the Royal Artillery, 39 Regiment and 101(V) Regiment.
  • AS-90 – the AS-90 is a self-propelled gun that equips five field regiments, 1 RHA, 3 RHA, 4 Regiment, 19 Regiment and 26 Regiment.
  • Light gun – the Light Gun is a 105 mm gun used in the close support mission in support of light or specialist forces. It equips three Regular regiments, 7 (Para) RHA, 29 (Commando) Regt RA and 40 Regiment RA, as well as three Army Reserve regiments – 100 Regt RA, 103 Regt RA and 105 Regt RA.

Surveillance and target acquisition[edit]


Order of precedence[edit]

Preceded by
Royal Armoured Corps
Order of Precedence Succeeded by
Corps of Royal Engineers

When on parade with its guns the Royal Horse Artillery takes precedence over all Army units.

The Future of the Royal Artillery[edit]

Under the Army 2020 Concept, there will be the 1st Artillery Brigade and Headquarters South West based at Tidworth. These regular army regiments will remain:[9]

  • 1st Regiment Royal Horse Artillery – AS-90 and GMLRS
  • 3rd Regiment Royal Horse Artillery – 105mm
  • 4th Regiment Royal Artillery – 105mm
  • 5th Regiment Royal Artillery – Surveillance and Target Acquisition
  • 7th Parachute Regiment Royal Horse Artillery – 105mm
  • 12th Regiment Royal Artillery – Air Defence (Starstreak)
  • 16th Regiment Royal Artillery – Air Defence (Rapier)
  • 19th Regiment Royal Artillery – AS-90 and GMLRS
  • 26th Regiment Royal Artillery – AS-90 and GMLRS
  • 29th Commando Regiment Royal Artillery – 105mm
  • 32nd Regiment Royal Artillery – Unmanned Air Systems
  • 47th Regiment Royal Artillery – Unmanned Air Systems
  • The King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery – ceremonial

The Army Reserve Units that will stay under Army 2020 are:

  • The Honourable Artillery Company – Surveillance and Target Acquisition
  • 101st (Northumbrian) Regiment Royal Artillery (Volunteers) – GMLRS
  • 103rd (Lancashire Artillery Volunteers) Regiment Royal Artillery – 105mm
  • 104th Regiment Royal Artillery (Volunteers) – Unmanned Air Systems
  • 105th Regiment Royal Artillery (Volunteers) – 105mm
  • 106th (Yeomanry) Regiment Royal Artillery – Air Defence (Starstreak)

Due to the disbanding of the 39th RA, It has been noted that six AS-90 batteries and one GMLRS battery will form the three artillery regiments support the three Reaction Force Brigades.[10] 1 RHA has already announced that it will be one of those artillery regiments.[11]

It however has been claimed that the RA may lose its M2270 GLMRS in the future.[12]

12th and 16th RA will continue to be under the joint Army-RAF unit, Joint Ground Based Air Defence.[13][not in citation given (See discussion.)] 5 RA, along with 104 RA, will be under the 1 Intelligence and Surveillance Brigade.[14]

A list of Army Reserve (formerly Territorial Army) units has recently been published. 100th (Yeomanry) Regiment Royal Artillery will be suspended in animation.[15]

101st (Northumbrian) Regiment Royal Artillery will be fully re-roled to GMLRS. 106th (Yeomanry) Regiment Royal Artillery will entirely be re-roled to Starstreak missiles, on Stormer vehicles or LML.[16]

Sporting and social[edit]

The Regimental family supports a wide range of social and sporting activities including – in addition to football, rugby, cricket, sailing etc. – the RA Hunt and a Point-to-Point racecourse. The Regimental magazine, "Gunner" is published monthly and the RA Journal (with a more academic flavour) twice a year. The RA Association has branches across the UK and some internationally.


The Regimental museum, "Firepower" is located in the Royal Arsenal at Woolwich.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v History and Traditions of the Royal Artillery
  2. ^ Woolwich Common in Garden and Landscape Guide
  3. ^ The Royal Artillery has the motto and battle honour Ubique ("Everywhere"), granted by William IV in 1833. The subsidiary motto is Quo fas et gloria ducunt ("Where right and glory lead"). Both mottoes are shared with the Royal Engineers, due to the shared Board of Ordnance history.
  4. ^ Royal Artillery History
  5. ^ War Office, His Majesty's Army, 1938
  6. ^ King's Troop moves to its 'spiritual home' in Woolwich at BBC News, 7 February 2012. Accessed 8 February 2012
  7. ^ 39 Regt RA – British Army website
  8. ^ Although the Honourable Artillery Company currently has an artillery role, it is a separate regiment in its own right, with its own colours, uniforms and traditions
  9. ^ Transforming the British Army
  10. ^ "UK Royal Artillery rolls out new structure". 18 February 2013. Retrieved 6 March 2013. 
  11. ^ "Operations & Training – British Army Website". Retrieved 6 March 2013. 
  12. ^ About IHS Jane's
  13. ^ Regular Army Basing Matrix
  14. ^ Army 2020 Report
  15. ^ Summary of Army 2020 Reserve Structure and Basing Changes, pages 4–6
  16. ^ Summary of Army 2020 Reserve Structure and Basing Changes, pages 3,5
  • Graham C A L DSO psc, Brig Gen The Story of the Royal Regiment of Artillery RA Institution, Woolwich 1939

External links[edit]