1st Wessex Artillery
|1st Wessex Artillery|
|Role||Garrison Artillery (1860–1908)
Field Artillery (1908–1932)
Heavy Anti-Aircraft Artillery (1932–1967)
- 215th Brigade Royal Field Artillery and 57th (Wessex) Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery redirect here.
An invasion scare in 1859 led to a surge of new Rifle and Artillery Volunteer corps coming into existence across Great Britain, forming a large Volunteer Force. The 2nd Hampshire (2nd Hants) Artillery Volunteers (AV) were formed at Southsea in May 1860 and the following year became part of the 1st (Portsmouth) Administrative Brigade of the Hampshire Artillery, along with the 1st Hants AV at Bitterne, Southampton, and the 3rd Hants (Dockyard) AV raised from civilian staff of Portsmouth Dockyard. In 1871 the 2nd Hants absorbed the Dockyard AV. The 2nd Hants AV drilled on the guns at Southsea Castle and was attached to the Royal Garrison Artillery.
In 1880 the Administrattive Brigade was consolidated as the 1st Hampshire (Hants and Dorset) Artillery Volunteer Corps, with the 2nd Hants AV providing Batteries Nos 5 to 12 at Portsmouth. The unit was redesignated the 1st Volunteer (Hampshire) Brigade, Souther Division, Royal Artillery, in 1886. However, it was broken up again in 1889, and the 2nd Hants AV regained its independence.
(an 11th company was raised later).
- 1st Hampshire Battery at Portsmouth
- 2nd Hampshire Battery at Portsmouth
- 3rd Hampshire Battery at Gosport
- 1st Wessex Ammunition Column, newly raised at Southsea
Nos 10 and 11 Companies were separated to form the nucleus of 2nd Wessex (Howitzer) Brigade RFA on the Isle of Wight. 2nd Hants Volunteer Artillery also provided the nucleus of the Wessex (Hampshire) Heavy Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery, with headquarters at Southsea.
As the change of title indicates, 1st Wessex Brigade was now trained and equipped as field artillery rather than garrison artillery. It formed part of the Wessex Division of the TF. When war was declared in August 1914 the whole division was at its annual camp on Salisbury Plain.
World War I
On mobilisation in 1914, the Territorials of the Wessex Division were sent to India to relieve British and Indian Regular troops for the Western Front. The artillery left behind their horses and their ammunition column, which were needed in France.
With the expansion of the army, the division was designated 43rd (Wessex) Infantry Division in April 1915 and 1st Wessex Brigade became CCXV (or 215) Brigade RFA. Its three batteries were renamed A, B and C.
All those Territorials who had not volunteered for overseas service, together with the recruits, were left behind to form Second Line units. The 45th (2nd Wessex) Division containing the CCXXV (2/1st Wessex) Bde RFA resulted from this process, and was ready so quickly that it followed the 43rd to India in December 1914. These units remained in garrison in India, supplying drafts to the First Line and other theatres throughout the war until they had virtually disappeared. CCXXV Bde was broken up in April 1917.
With a reformed Brigade Ammunition Column, CCXV Bde moved in October 1916 to Basra to take part in the Mesopotamian campaign, and on 8 December 1916 it joined 3rd (Lahore) Division of the Indian Army on the Tigris front. At this time it had 524 (Howitzer) Battery (4 x 4.5-inch howitzers) attached, which remained with the brigade until September 1917.
From 14 December 1916 until 19 January 1917 the division participated in the advance to the Hai and the capture of the Khudaira Bend. The one-hour bombardment at Khudaira by 3rd Division's guns on 9 January was described by the Turks as 'violent' and caused heavy losses. When the infantry went in they occupied the Turkish front line in minutes with few losses. The Turks counter-attacked under cover of a mist, but when that cleared a 15-minute bombardment enabled the British to secure the position.
After the capture of Baghdad, 524th (Howitzer) Battery was lent to 7th (Meerut) Division for the advance on Hassaiwa and Fallujah, which was captured on 19 March 1917. In parallel, the rest of CCXV Bde was with another force advancing towards Khaniqin, where they were supposed to link up with Russian troops. There was no sign of the Russians, but the Turks were present in force in the Jabal Hamrin hills. A brigade group including B Battery CCXV was ordered to outflank this position, and at one point B/CCXV was engaging the enemy at 1500 yards' range from open positions in the plain. But the Turkish position was too strong and the British force had to fall back towards Baghdad.
In July the British resumed their advance, making for Ramadi. CCXV had its own A and B Batteries, 66th Battery and 524 (Howitzer) Battery under command. Contact was made at Mushaid Ridge, where the force was held by heavy fire from the banks of the Euphrates Canal and from the Regulator House. 2nd Battalion 7th Gurkha Rifles and CCXV Bde were ordered to try a left flanking movement. The Turks had about six guns firing very accurately, but 66th and 524th Batteries got the upper hand and by 1830 hours the Gurkhas were across the canal, only to come under heavy fire from the Ramadi trenches. Forward artillery observers saw signs of a Turkish retirement and brought down fire on the Aziziya Ridge to cut them off. But now confusion set in: Turkish shells cut telephone wires, two forward observers were wounded, and a dust storm blew up. Then two guns of B Battery were hit. No effective artillery bombardment was possible and the attack had to be called off. The flanking force had lost 566 casualties, 321 from the effects of heat.
On 7 August 1917 CCXV's 18-pounder batteries were renamed again, as 1086, 1087 and 1088, and 1087 Battery was then broken up (probably to make the other batteries up to 6 guns each). CCXV Bde transferred to 15th Indian Division on 4 October 1917 and gained an extra battery: 2/1st Nottinghamshire Royal Horse Artillery (renumbered 816 Battery RFA in February 1918).
With 15th Indian Division on the Euphrates front, CCXV Bde participated in the occupation of Hīt on 8 March 1918 and the Action of Khan Baghdadi on 25 March 1918. At the latter battle, CCXV and CCXXII Brigades advanced by alternate batteries over rough country under heavy enemy fire. 1088 Battery lost a gun and many casualties, but they continued moving forward and kept the momentum of the infantry advance going. By now the gunners were so far forward that they were engaging at ranges of 1800–2200 yards, putting down a steady barrage on the Turkish trenches followed by 15 minutes of intense fire, described by the RA's historian, Gen Sir Martin Farndale, as 'the most accurate seen so far' on the Mesopotamian Front. The infantry were able to enter these trenches with few casualties, taking many prisoners and enemy guns.
After Khan Baghdadi, CCXV was sent to the rear to ease supply problems, and therefore took no part in the pursuit to Kirkuk through April and May. 15th Indian Division played little part in the final battles in Mespotamia. CCXV Bde was placed in suspended animation in 1919.
In 1920 the Territorial Army was reformed and prewar TF units reconstituted. 1st Wessex reabsorbed the Wessex Heavy Battery and now became 54th (Wessex) Field Brigade, Royal Artillery (RA), organised as follows:
- 213 (Hampshire) Battery at Portsmouth
- 214 (Hampshire) Battery at Southsea
- 215 (Hampshire) Battery at Gosport
The unit was given a new role and title in 1932 as 57th (Wessex) Anti-Aircraft Brigade RA, (TA), taking over 219 (Isle of Wight) Battery from 95th (Hampshire Yeomanry) Field Regiment – this battery had originally been part of 2nd Wessex Bde, soon it absorbed 216 Battery at Cosham which had a similar history.
- RHQ at St Pauls Road, Southsea
- 213 (Portsmouth) Light AA Battery at Southsea
- 214 (Southsea) AA Battery at Southsea
- 215 (Gosport and Fareham) AA Battery at Walpole Road, Gosport
- 219 (Isle of Wight and Cosham) AA Battery at Drill Hall, Newport.
As Britain's AA defences were expanded before World War II, on 1 April 1938 the regiment became part of the newly-formed 35th Anti-Aircraft Brigade at Fareham, which soon became part of a new 5th AA Division raised in September 1938 with responsibility for the south and south-west of England.
World War II
Anti-Aircraft Command mobilised in August 1939, ahead of the declaration of war, and 57th AA Regiment was transferred to a new 65th AA Brigade in 5th AA Division, responsible for the AA defence of Southampton and Portsmouth and it remained with it through the Battle of Britain and the Southampton Blitz.
In October 1942, 57 (Wessex) HAA Regt with 213, 214 and 215 Batteries was sent to North Africa to join 12 AA Bde in Eighth Army. Two of the batteries were equipped with the older 3-inch 20 cwt gun on a modernised trailer, rather than the newer 3.7-inch. This was because the lighter 3-inch was easier and quicker to deploy in the rough country anticipated for this campaign. The regiment remained with 12 AA Bde to the end of the campaign in May 1943.
In September 1943, 12 AA Bde including 57 HAA Rgt sailed direct from Tunisia to take part in the landings at Salerno on mainland Italy (Operation Avalanche). When German counter-attacks threatened to break through 56th (London) Division to the beachhead on D+3, one newly-arrived battery of 57 HAA Rgt was called upon to join the divisional fire-plan under control of field regiment Observation Post parties. The regiment fired 6000 rounds on enemy positions, road junctions, buildings and troops.
For X Corps' crossing of the River Volturno in October, 12 AA Bde's units were deployed to protect bridges, field gun positions and landing grounds. 'The Luftwaffe was very active in attempting to deny the crossings, particulalrly in the use of Me1092 and Fw190s in fighter-bomber attacks. Seven were shot down, two by 213rd/57th HAA Battery, which knocked down an Me109 with 13 rounds'. 
However, the threat from the Luftwaffe declined as the campaign progressed, and the versatile 3.7-inch HAA guns began to be used in field roles as corps medium artillery. From October to December 1943, 12 AA Bde was static, with all of its regiments and batteries engaged in corps tasks in the forward area.
In January 1944, 12 AA Bde moved up to cover the crossing of the Garigliano. Bde HQ reported that 57 HAA, operating in a dual AA/field role, had a particularly busy time involving 16 AA engagements, in which there were two Category 1 kills for the expenditure of 222 rounds, intermixed with firing 10,880 rounds against counter-bombardment and opportunity targets on the ground. Continuous rapid fire led to overheating and twice the usual amount of barrel wear for the guns. In addition, the gunlaying (GL) and local warning (LW) radar sets of the batteries operating up forward in the ground role provided the only AA early warning coverage across the front.
Once US Fifth Army had crossed the river and the siege of Monte Cassino begun, 12 AA Bde was transferred to British XII Corps for the Rapido river crossings and the advance along Highway 6 up the Liri Valley. Again the HAA batteries were heavily involved in Corps fireplans, particularly for counter-mortar shoots. Some HAA troops of 4 guns fired over 3000 rounds.
Once Rome was captured in June and the Germans pulled back to the Gothic Line, 12 AA Bde moved up, providing one HAA battery to each divisional artillery in X Corps, the remainder guarding airfields and river crossings in the Tiber Valley.
On the reconstitution of the TA in 1947, the regiment was designated 457 (Wessex) HAA Regiment RA. In the 10-year plan for the TA the regiment was to form part of 73 AA Bde in 2 AA Group, but that only lasted a short while. In 1955 the regiment absorbed 428 HAA Regiment, formerly Princess Beatrice's Isle of Wight Rifles, which formed P (Princess Beatrice's Isle of Wight) Battery alongside Q (Portsmouth) and R (Gosport) Batteries. In 1963, the regiment absorbed 295 (Hampshire Carabiniers Yeomanry) HAA Regiment, and became 457 (Wessex) Heavy Air Defence Regiment, RA, (Hampshire Carabiniers Yeomanry).
In 1967 the regiment became infantry as C Company (Wessex Royal Artillery Princess Beatrice's) in the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Territorials, but when that regiment was subsumed into the Wessex Regiment the Royal Artillery and Hampshire Yeomanry links were discontinued. However, when 106 (Yeomanry) Regiment Royal Artillery was created in 1999, the old number '457' was revived for 457 (Hampshire Yeomanry) Battery.
- The Hon Patrick Seely, TD, third son of Brig-Gen 'Jack' Seeley, 1st Lord Mottistone, served as an officer in the regiment before World War II. He was re-commissioned in May 1939, and became the regiment's first commanding officer after it was reformed in 1947.
There is a memorial plaque on the seafront at Hayling Island to 219 Batty, 57 HAA Regiment. Unveiled in July 1994, it lists the names of six men of the battery killed during a German air raid on Portsmouth and Hayling Island on the night of 17/18 April 1941.
The Palmerston Forts Society has a re-enactment group, the Portsdown Artillery Volunteers, based on the 2nd Hants Artillery Volunteers.
- Litchfield & Westlake, p. 90.
- "1st Wessex Regiment, RA (TA) [UK]". Web.archive.org. Retrieved 2013-02-05.
- Litchfield, pp. 89–92.
- "2nd Wessex Regiment, RA [UK]". Web.archive.org. Retrieved 2013-02-05.
- Litchfield, p 93.
- Litchfield, p 92.
- The Long, Long Trail. "The Royal Field Artillery of 1914-1918". 1914-1918.net. Retrieved 2013-02-05.
- "Royal Field Artillery Batteries". Web.archive.org. Retrieved 2013-02-05.
- Farndale, Forgotten Fronts, p. 334.
- "The 43rd (Wessex) Division of the British Army in 1914-1918". 1914-1918.net. Retrieved 2013-02-05.
- "43rd (Wessex) Division". Web.archive.org. Retrieved 2013-02-05.
- The Long, Long Trail. "The 45th (2nd Wessex) Division of the British Army in 1914-1918". 1914-1918.net. Retrieved 2013-02-05.
- Fardndale p 335.
- Farndale, Forgotten Fronts, p. 242.
- Perry, 3rd (Lahore).
- Farndale, Forgotten Fronts, p. 243.
- Farndale Forgotten Fronts, p. 255
- Farndale, Forgotten Fronts, pp. 255–6
- Farndale, Forgotten Fronts, p. 264.
- Perry, 15th Indian
- The Long, Long Trail. "The Royal Horse Artillery of 1914-1918". 1914-1918.net. Retrieved 2013-02-05.
- Farndale, Forgotten Fronts, p. 272.
- Farndale, Forgotten Fronts, p. 275.
- Monthly Army List, May 1939.
- Portsmouth at Drill Hall Project
- Gosport at Drill Hall Project
- Newport at Drill hall Project
- 5 AA Division 1940 at British Military History
- Routledge, Table LX, p. 378.
- Routledge, Table LXV, p. 396.
- Farndale, Years of Defeat, Annex D, p. 257.
- "RA 1939-45 57 HAA Rgt". Ra39-45.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk. Retrieved 2013-02-05.
- "RA 39-45 5 AA Div". Ra39-45.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk. Retrieved 2013-02-05.
- Routledge, p. 179; Table XXIV, p. 162; Table XXV, p. 164.
- Joslen, p. 486.
- Routledge, pp. 271, 273.
- Routledge, p. 283.
- Routledge, Table XLIV, p. 293.
- Joslen, p. 467.
- Farndale, Years of Defeat, Annex M, p. 333.
- Routledge, Table LXXIV, p. 441.
- Litchfield, Appendix 5, p. 334.
- [http://british-army-units1945on.co.uk/territorial-army-royal-artillery/444-473-regiments.html 444–473 Rgts RA at British Army 1945on.
- Burke's; Monthly Army Lists. He was commissioned 2/Lt in the 95th (Hampshire Yeomanry) Field Brigade, RA, on 26 June 1931, then Lt in the 57th (Wessex) 27 June 1934; re-commissioned 1 May 1939; promoted Lt-Col 1 May 1947.
- Monthly Army Lists.
- UKNIWM Ref 21275
- "Portsdown Artillery Volunteers Re-enactment". Palmerstonfortssociety.org.uk. 1908-03-31. Retrieved 2013-02-05.
- Ian F.W. Beckett, Riflemen Form: A study of the Rifle Volunteer Movement 1859–1908, Aldershot: Ogilby Trusts, 1982, ISBN 0 85936 271 X.
- Burke's Peerage, Baronetage and Knightage, 100th Edn, London, 1953.
- 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.
- Gen Sir Martin Farndale, History of the Royal Regiment of Artillery: The Years of Defeat: Europe and North Africa, 1939–1941, Woolwich: Royal Artillery Institution, 1988/London: Brasseys, 1996, ISBN 1-85753-080-2.
- Lt-Col H.F. Joslen, Orders of Battle, United Kingdom and Colonial Formations and Units in the Second World War, 1939–1945, London: HM Stationery Office, 1960/Uckfield: Naval & Military, 2003, ISBN 1-84342-474-6.
- Litchfield, Norman E H, and Westlake, R, 1982. The Volunteer Artillery 1859-1908, The Sherwood Press, Nottingham. ISBN 0-9508205-0-4
- Norman E.H. Litchfield, The Territorial Artillery 1908–1988 (Their Lineage, Uniforms and Badges), Nottingham: Sherwood Press, 1992, ISBN 0-9508205-2-0.
- F.W. Perry, History of the Great War: Order of Battle of Divisions, Part 5B: Indian Army Divisions, Newport, Gwent: Ray Westlake Military Books, 1993, ISBN 1-871167-23-X.
- Brig N.W. Routledge, History of the Royal Regiment of Artillery: Anti-Aircraft Artillery 1914–55, London: Royal Artillery Institution/Brassey's, 1994, ISBN 1-85753-099-3.
- Land Forces of Britain, the Empire and Commonwealth
- The Long, Long Trail
- The Regimental Warpath 1914–1918
- The Royal Artillery 1939–45
- UK National Inventory of War Memorials
- Victorian Forts and Artillery
- 106 Regiment RA (V)
- Portsdown Artillery Volunteers
- The Drill Hall Project.
- British Army units from 1945 on