Berkshire Royal Horse Artillery

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Berkshire Royal Horse Artillery (T.F.)
1/1st Berkshire RHA (T.F.)
Active 21 July 1908 – 14 October 1919
Country  United Kingdom
Branch  British Army
Type Artillery
Size Battery
Part of 2nd South Midland Mounted Brigade
II Brigade, RHA (T.F.)
XIX Brigade, RHA (T.F.)
XX Brigade, RHA (T.F.)
peacetime HQ Reading
Equipment Ordnance QF 15-pounder
Ordnance QF 18-pounder
Ordnance QF 13-pounder
Engagements

First World War

Sheikh Othman
Sinai and Palestine 1916-18
First, Second, Third Battles of Gaza
Battle of Beersheba (1917)
Battle of Mughar Ridge
Battle of Nebi Samwil
Capture of Jerusalem
Second Transjordan Raid
Battle of Megiddo
Capture of Damascus

The Berkshire Royal Horse Artillery was a Territorial Force Royal Horse Artillery battery that was formed in Berkshire in 1908. It saw active service during the First World War in the Middle East, notably at Aden and in particular in the Sinai and Palestine Campaign, from 1915 to 1918. A second line battery, 2/1st Berkshire RHA, served on the Western Front in 1917 and 1918 as part of an Army Field Artillery Brigade. Post-war, it was reconstituted as a Royal Field Artillery battery.

History[edit]

Formation[edit]

The Territorial Force (TF) was formed on 1 April 1908 following the enactment of the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act 1907 (7 Edw.7, c.9) which combined and re-organised the old Volunteer Force, the Honourable Artillery Company and the Yeomanry. On formation, the TF contained 14 infantry divisions and 14 mounted yeomanry brigades.[1] Each yeomanry brigade included a horse artillery battery and an ammunition column.[2]

On 18 March 1908, Berkshire Royal Horse Artillery (Territorial Force) was proposed as a new unit and it was recognized by the Army Council on 21 July 1908 (and the ammunition column on 11 August 1908).[3] The unit consisted of

Battery HQ at Reading
Somerset Battery at Reading
2nd South Western Mounted Brigade Ammunition Column also at Reading[4]

The battery was equipped with four[1] Ehrhardt 15-pounder[5] guns and allocated as artillery support to the 2nd South Western Mounted Brigade.[6][a]

First World War[edit]

2nd South Midland Mounted Brigade
Organisation on 4 August 1914

In accordance with the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act 1907 (7 Edw.7, c.9) which brought the Territorial Force into being, the TF was intended to be a home defence force for service during wartime and members could not be compelled to serve outside the country. However, on the outbreak of war on 4 August 1914, many members volunteered for Imperial Service. Therefore, TF units were split into 1st Line (liable for overseas service) and 2nd Line (home service for those unable or unwilling to serve overseas) units. 2nd Line units performed the home defence role, although in fact most of these were also posted abroad in due course.[6]

1/1st Berkshire[edit]

The 1st Line battery was embodied with the 2nd South Midland Mounted Brigade on 4 August 1914 at the outbreak of the First World War. Initially, the brigade concentrated in Berkshire[8] and on 5 August 1914 was assigned to the 1st Mounted Division.[9] A decision was made to form a new mounted division from the mounted brigades in and around the Churn area of Berkshire. On 2 September 1914, 2nd Mounted Division, with Headquarters at Goring, came into being and 2nd South Midland Mounted Brigade was transferred to the new division.[10] I Brigade and II Brigade, RHA (T.F.)[b] were formed for the division and the battery was assigned to II Brigade, RHA at Churn, along with Nottinghamshire RHA and A Battery and B Battery, Honourable Artillery Company.[13][c]

In November 1914, the division moved to Norfolk on coastal defence duties.[10] Artillery headquarters was established at Cromer, before joining the divisional headquarters at Hanworth in December, and Berkshire RHA was at Little Walsingham (2nd South Midland Mounted Brigade was at Fakenham).[14]

Overseas service

In March 1915, the division was put on warning for overseas service. In early April, the division starting leaving Avonmouth and the last elements landed at Alexandria before the end of the month. By the middle of May, the horse artillery batteries were near Ismaïlia on Suez Canal Defences.[14] On 14 July 1915, Berkshire RHA (along with B Battery, HAC and 28th Indian Brigade) left for Aden.[15] They fought a sharp action at Sheikh Othman on 20 July that removed the Turkish threat to Aden for the rest of the war, before returning to Egypt.[16]

The 2nd Mounted Division was dismounted in August 1915 and served at Gallipoli.[17] The artillery batteries and ammunition columns, signal troops, mobile veterinary sections, Mounted Brigade Transport and Supply Columns and two of the Field Ambulances were left behind in Egypt.[14] The division returned from Gallipoli in December 1915 and was reformed and remounted.[18] On 10 December 1915, Berkshire RHA briefly rejoined the division from Ismailia, Suez Canal Defences; on 17 January 1916 it was transferred with 2nd South Midland Mounted Brigade to the Western Frontier Force.[19]

Imperial Mounted Division

The Imperial Mounted Division was formed in Egypt in January 1917; 2nd South Midland Mounted Brigade (by now numbered as 6th Mounted Brigade) was one of the four cavalry brigades selected to form the division. Berkshire RHA joined the division on formation and was assigned to XIX Brigade, Royal Horse Artillery (T.F.).[20][d] In practice, the battery remained attached to its mounted brigade.

The battery, and its brigade, served with the Imperial Mounted Division in the Sinai and Palestine Campaign as part of the Desert Column. With the division, it took part in the advance across the Sinai. The battery was re-equipped with four 18 pounders[21] in time for the First Battle of Gaza (26 – 27 March 1917). It also took part in the Second Battle of Gaza (17 – 19 April 1917).[22]

In June 1917, the Desert Column was reorganised from two mounted divisions of four brigades each (ANZAC and Imperial Mounted Divisions) to three mounted divisions of three brigades each (ANZAC, Australian – Imperial Mounted Division renamed – and the new Yeomanry Mounted Division).[23] Consequently, the 6th Mounted Brigade, along with Berkshire RHA, was transferred from the Imperial to the Yeomanry Mounted Division on 27 June 1917.[24]

Yeomanry Mounted / 1st Mounted / 4th Cavalry Divisions

Berkshire, RHA (by now re-equipped with four 13 pounders) joined the Yeomanry Mounted Division with 6th Mounted Brigade on 27 June 1917 and transferred to XX Brigade, Royal Horse Artillery (T.F.) when it joined the division on 5 July 1917.[25] The battery remained with the division when it was restructured and indianized[e] as the 1st Mounted Division[f] (from 24 April 1918) and later renamed as 4th Cavalry Division (23 July 1918).[26]

During its time with the Yeomanry Mounted Division, the division served as part of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force in Palestine. From 31 October it took part in the Third Battle of Gaza, including the Battle of Beersheba (in GHQ Reserve) and the Capture of the Sheria Position under the Desert Mounted Corps (DMC). Still with the DMC, it took part in the Battle of Mughar Ridge on 13 and 14 November and the Battle of Nebi Samwil from 17 to 24 November. From 27 to 29 November, it withstood the Turkish counter-attacks during the Capture of Jerusalem.[23]

Once the division was restructured and renamed, it served with the DMC for the rest of the war, taking part in the Second Transjordan Raid (30 April to 4 May 1918) and the Final Offensive, in particular the Battle of Megiddo (19 to 25 September) and the Capture of Damascus (1 October).[27]

The 4th Cavalry Division remained in Palestine on occupation duties after the end of the war. However, demobilization began immediately and most of the British war time units had left by May 1919.[27] The Berkshire battery were reduced to cadre in Egypt on 14 October 1919.[28]

2/1st Berkshire[edit]

2/1st Berkshire RHA (T.F.)
Active 1914 – 1919
Country  United Kingdom
Branch  British Army
Type Artillery
Size Battery
Part of 2/2nd South Midland Mounted Brigade
CLVIII Brigade, RFA
Equipment Ordnance BL 15 pounder
Ordnance BLC 15-pounder
Ordnance QF 18-pounder
Engagements

First World War

Western Front

Berkshire RHA formed a 2nd line in 1914, initially designated as the Berkshire (Reserve) Battery RHA[29] and later given a fractional designation as 2/1st Berkshire Battery, RHA.[6]

The battery joined the 2nd line 2/2nd South Midland Mounted Brigade when it was formed in September 1914.[30] On 6 March 1915, the 2/2nd Mounted Division was formed to replace 2nd Mounted Division which had been warned for overseas service. The brigade joined the division on East Coast Defences in March 1915 and concentrated at King's Lynn with the battery at North Runcton.[31][g]

The batteries of the division were quite unready for war. Three had no horses, the fourth had just 23; three batteries had over 200 men on average, but the other just 91. The Berkshire battery was only issued with sights for its Ordnance BL 15 pounders in December 1915, but had no ammunition. On 17 January 1916 it received four slightly more modern Ordnance BLC 15-pounders, eight ammunition wagons and 210 rounds of ammunition per gun.[31]

The battery remained with the division when it was redesignated as 3rd Mounted Division in March 1916 and as 1st Mounted Division[f] in July 1916.[31] In September 1916, the battery was attached to the 7th Cyclist Brigade in 2nd Cyclist Division (former 4th Mounted Division) until the division was broken up on 16 November 1916.[33]

The battery (along with 2/1st Shropshire RHA)[9] joined CLVIII Brigade, RFA when it was reformed[h] at Heytesbury, Wiltshire on 13 April 1917.[36] The two RHA batteries provided the manpower for the Brigade Ammunition Column.[37] The battery (personnel only) disembarked at Boulogne on 24 May 1917. It was equipped with 18 pounders and the brigade became an Army Field Brigade.[i] On 6 July 1917, the battery was redesignated as C/CLVIII Battery[36] and 2/1st Shropshire RHA became A/CLVIII Battery.[9]

At the Armistice, the battery (by now made up to six 18 pounders) was still with CLVIII Army Brigade, RFA[38] serving as Army Troops with the Fifth Army.[39]

Post war[edit]

Berkshire RHA was not reconstituted until 7 February 1920 when it formed a battery (later numbered 264th) in 1st South Midland Brigade, RFA (later 66th (South Midland) Field Brigade, RA)[40] and ceased to be a Royal Horse Artillery battery. On 1 November 1938, 264th Battery was separated from 66th Field Brigade and expanded to form 80th (Berkshire) Anti-Aircraft Brigade, RA. One of its batteries was designated 249th (Berkshire RHA) Anti-Aircraft Battery, RA.[41]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Frederick says Berkshire RHA was assigned to the 1st South Midland Mounted Brigade[3] and Warwickshire Royal Horse Artillery to the 2nd South Midland Mounted Brigade.[7] However, as 1st South Midland Mounted Brigade included the Warwickshire Yeomanry and the 2nd South Midland Mounted Brigade include the Berkshire Yeomanry, this is probably an error.
  2. ^ The basic organic unit of the Royal Artillery was, and is, the Battery.[11] When grouped together they formed brigades, in the same way that infantry battalions or cavalry regiments were grouped together in brigades. At the outbreak of the First World War, a field artillery brigade of headquarters (4 officers, 37 other ranks), three batteries (5 and 193 each), and a brigade ammunition column (4 and 154)[12] had a total strength just under 800 so was broadly comparable to an infantry battalion (just over 1,000) or a cavalry regiment (about 550). Like an infantry battalion, an artillery brigade was usually commanded by a Lieutenant-Colonel. Artillery brigades were redesignated as regiments in 1938. Note that the battery strength refers to a battery of six guns; a four-gun battery would be about two thirds of this.
  3. ^ B Battery, HAC joined the division from Canterbury and was attached to 2nd South Midland Mounted Brigade.[14] It replaced Warwickshire RHA in I Brigade when it was posted to France on 1 November.[15]
  4. ^ The other three batteries were Nottinghamshire RHA, A Battery, HAC and B Battery, HAC.[20] All four batteries were originally part of the 2nd Mounted Division.[13]
  5. ^ British divisions were converted to the British Indian Army standard whereby brigades only retained one British regiment or battalion and most support units were Indian (artillery excepted).
  6. ^ a b Not to be confused with the original 1st Mounted Division which became 1st Cyclist Division in July 1916. It never left the United Kingdom.[9]
  7. ^ 2/1st Nottinghamshire RHA, 2/1st Warwickshire RHA, and 2/A Battery, HAC formed the other three batteries of the division.[32]
  8. ^ The original CLVIII Brigade, RFA was formed for 35th Division in Accrington and Burnley from December 1914.[34] It was broken up in France between 8 January and 28 February 1917.[35]
  9. ^ Army Field Artillery Brigades were artillery brigades that were excess to the needs of the divisions, withdrawn to form an artillery reserve.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Westlake 1992, p. 3
  2. ^ Westlake 1992, p. 5
  3. ^ a b Frederick 1984, p. 673
  4. ^ Conrad, Mark (1996). "The British Army, 1914". Retrieved 27 November 2013. 
  5. ^ Clarke 2004, p. 23
  6. ^ a b c Baker, Chris. "The Royal Horse Artillery". The Long, Long Trail. Retrieved 27 November 2013. 
  7. ^ Frederick 1984, p. 674
  8. ^ Rinaldi 2008, p. 59
  9. ^ a b c d Becke 1936, p. 6
  10. ^ a b Rinaldi 2008, p. 36
  11. ^ "The Royal Artillery". Ministry of Defence (United Kingdom). Archived from the original on 23 October 2013. Retrieved 18 November 2013. 
  12. ^ Baker, Chris. "What was an artillery brigade?". The Long, Long Trail. Retrieved 18 November 2013. 
  13. ^ a b Becke 1936, p. 12
  14. ^ a b c d Becke 1936, p. 16
  15. ^ a b Frederick 1984, p. 449
  16. ^ Farndale 1988, p. 357
  17. ^ James 1978, p. 35
  18. ^ Becke 1936, p. 17
  19. ^ Becke 1936, p. 14
  20. ^ a b Perry 1992, p. 54
  21. ^ Farndale 1988, p. 83
  22. ^ Perry 1992, p. 56
  23. ^ a b Becke 1936, p. 34
  24. ^ Perry 1992, p. 55
  25. ^ Becke 1936, p. 33
  26. ^ Perry 1993, p. 22
  27. ^ a b Perry 1993, p. 24
  28. ^ Frederick 1984, p. 686
  29. ^ Rinaldi 2008, p. 242
  30. ^ James 1978, pp. 16,17,26
  31. ^ a b c Becke 1936, p. 25
  32. ^ Becke 1936, p. 22
  33. ^ Becke 1936, p. 29
  34. ^ Becke 1945, p. 57
  35. ^ Becke 1945, p. 55
  36. ^ a b Becke 1936, p. 24
  37. ^ Baker, Chris. "Extract from war diary of 158 Brigade RFA". The Long, Long Trail. Retrieved 27 November 2013. 
  38. ^ BEF GHQ 1918, p. 79
  39. ^ BEF GHQ 1918, p. 28
  40. ^ Frederick 1984, p. 518
  41. ^ "Berkshire Artillery, Royal Artillery at regiments.org by T.F.Mills". Archived from the original on 16 August 2007. Retrieved 2014-01-03. 

Bibliography[edit]

  • Becke, Major A.F. (1936). Order of Battle of Divisions Part 2A. The Territorial Force Mounted Divisions and the 1st-Line Territorial Force Divisions (42–56). London: His Majesty's Stationery Office. ISBN 1-871167-12-4. 
  • Becke, Major A.F. (1945). Order of Battle of Divisions Part 3B. New Army Divisions (30–41) & 63rd (RN) Division. London: His Majesty's Stationery Office. ISBN 1-871167-08-6. 
  • Clarke, Dale (2004). British Artillery 1914–19 Field Army Artillery. Volume 94 of New Vanguard Series. Oxford: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 1-84176-688-7. 
  • Farndale, General Sir Martin (1988). The Forgotten Fronts and the Home Base, 1914–18. History of the Royal Regiment of Artillery. Woolwich: The Royal Artillery Institution. ISBN 1-870114-05-1. 
  • Frederick, J.B.M. (1984). Lineage Book of British Land Forces 1660–1978. Wakefield, Yorkshire: Microform Academic Publishers. ISBN 1-85117-009-X. 
  • James, Brigadier E.A. (1978). British Regiments 1914–18. London: Samson Books Limited. ISBN 0-906304-03-2. 
  • Perry, F.W. (1992). Order of Battle of Divisions Part 5A. The Divisions of Australia, Canada and New Zealand and those in East Africa. Newport, Gwent: Ray Westlake Military Books. ISBN 1-871167-25-6. 
  • Perry, F.W. (1993). Order of Battle of Divisions Part 5B. Indian Army Divisions. Newport, Gwent: Ray Westlake Military Books. ISBN 1-871167-23-X. 
  • Rinaldi, Richard A (2008). Order of Battle of the British Army 1914. Ravi Rikhye. ISBN 978-0-97760728-0. 
  • Westlake, Ray (1992). British Territorial Units 1914–18. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-85532-168-7. 
  • Order of Battle of the British Armies in France, November 11th, 1918. France: General Staff, GHQ. 1918. 

External links[edit]