2nd Regiment, Royal Horse Artillery
|B Brigade, RHA|
II Brigade, RHA
2nd Regiment, RHA
|Active||13 April 1864 – 1 July 1889|
1 March 1901 – September 1914
October 1919 – 1 February 1958
|Engagements||World War II|
2nd Regiment, Royal Horse Artillery was a regiment of the Royal Horse Artillery that served in World War II. It saw action in France, Greece, North Africa and Italy. It was redesignated as 2nd Field Regiment, Royal Artillery in 1958.
The regiment had an earlier incarnation as B Brigade, RHA, formed from the Horse Brigade, Royal Artillery in 1864 before being broken up in 1889. It was reestablished in 1901 as II Brigade,[a] RHA but was broken up at the outbreak of World War I as its constituent battery was posted away.
B Brigade, RHA
As a result of the Indian Rebellion of 1857, the British Crown took direct control of India from the East India Company on 1 November 1858 under the provisions of the Government of India Act 1858. The Presidency armies transferred to the direct authority of the British Crown and its European units were transferred to the British Army. Henceforth artillery, the mutineers most effective arm, was to be the sole preserve of the British Army (with the exception of certain Mountain Artillery batteries). On 19 February 1862, the Bengal, Bombay and Madras Horse Artilleries transferred to the Royal Artillery as its 2nd to 5th Horse Brigades.[b]
The 1st Brigade with 10 batteries was much larger than the other four (with four to seven batteries each). A reorganization of the Horse Artillery on 13 April 1864 saw 1st Brigade split as A and B Horse Brigade, Royal Artillery, 2nd Brigade become C Brigade, 3rd become D Brigade, 4th become E Brigade, and 5th become F Brigade. As battery designations were tied to the brigade the battery was assigned to, the batteries were also redesignated. B Horse Brigade, RA comprised:
- A Battery, B Horse Brigade (A/B) - formerly D Battery[c] at Aldershot
- B Battery, B Horse Brigade (B/B) - formerly E Battery[d] at Woolwich
- C Battery, B Horse Brigade (C/B) - formerly F Battery[e] at Woolwich
- D Battery, B Horse Brigade (D/B) - formerly H Battery[f] at Aldershot
- E Battery, B Horse Brigade (E/B) - formerly I Battery[g] at Newbridge
From 1866, the term "Royal Horse Artillery" appeared in Army List hence the brigade was designated B Brigade, Royal Horse Artillery from about this time. Another reorganization on 14 April 1877 saw the number of brigades reduced to three (of 10 batteries each). B Brigade was extensively reorganized: its batteries were transferred to the new A Brigade and it was reformed with the batteries of the old C and D Brigades.
The number of brigades was further reduced to two (of 13 batteries each) in 1882. C Brigade was broken up on 1 April 1882 and it batteries transferred to A and B Brigades. The brigade system was finally abolished in 1889. Henceforth, batteries were designated in a single alphabetical sequence in order of seniority from date of formation.
II Brigade, RHA
The brigade system was revived in 1901. Each brigade now commanded just two batteries and a small staff (a Lieutenant-Colonel in command, an adjutant and a brigade sergeant major). Initially, batteries were not assigned to brigades in any particular order, but in 1906, at the insistence of Edward VII, brigades were redesignated so that batteries were roughly in order of seniority (hence I Brigade commanded A Battery and B Battery).
II Brigade, RHA was formed on 1 March 1901 as the VI Brigade-Division, RHA with B Battery and C Battery. In 1903 it was redesignated as VI Brigade, RHA and was stationed at Ipswich. On 1 October 1906, it was redesignated as II Brigade, RHA.
By the time World War I broke out, B Battery had been transferred to I Brigade, leaving just C Battery at Canterbury, attached to 4th Cavalry Brigade. In September 1914, C Battery transferred to XIV Brigade which joined 7th Division at Lyndhurst on formation. The brigade HQ was dissolved.
- C Battery, RHA from IV Brigade, RHA in Belgium in July 1919
- H Battery, RHA from VII Brigade, RHA in Germany in early 1919
- K Battery, RHA also from IV Brigade, RHA
Between December 1919 and March 1920 it moved to India, where C Battery was stationed at Meerut, H Battery at Sialkot and K Battery at Risalpur. In November 1926, the brigade moved to Abbassia, Egypt (with L Battery instead of H Battery), before returning to Newport in December 1931 (L Battery at Trowbridge). By December 1936, I Battery replaced K Battery, and in May 1938 N Battery replaced C Battery. By now the brigade commanded I, L and N batteries.
2nd Regiment, RHA
In 1938, field artillery brigades were reorganized as two 12-gun batteries. Rather than disband existing batteries, they were instead linked in pairs. On 11 May, H Battery (from 8th Field Brigade) and I Battery were linked as H/I Battery, RHA and L Battery and N were linked as L/N Battery, RHA. With effect from May 1938, brigades were redesignated as regiments and II Brigade became 2nd Regiment, RHA on 21 May. The regiment was mechanized in August 1939 replacing its horses and 13 pounders with 3.7" Howitzers towed by Dragon gun tractors.
World War II
At the outbreak of World War II, 2nd RHA was assigned to 1st Support Group of The Armoured Division. In October 1939, it moved to France where it was placed under direct command of General Headquarters, BEF. It was still serving with the BEF when the Battle of France broke out in May 1940. After evacuation from the continent, it was assigned to 2nd Support Group of 2nd Armoured Division, but did not join until July 1940. It was transferred to Egypt with the division.
From January to May 1941, it was assigned to 1st Armoured Brigade and took part in the Battle of Greece. On return to Egypt, it game under direct command of the Middle East Forces (MEF). At the end of January 1942 it rejoined 1st Support Group briefly.
The experience of the BEF in 1940 showed the limitations of having artillery regiments formed with two 12-gun batteries: field regiments were intended to support an infantry brigade of three battalions (or armoured brigade of three regiments). This could not be managed without severe disruption to the regiment. As a result, field regiments were reorganised into three 8-gun batteries. Surprisingly, it was not until April 1942 that its batteries were unlinked. H/I once again formed H and I batteries and L/N reformed as L and N batteries. N Battery returned to the UK to join 6th Regiment, Royal Horse Artillery. At this point the regiment was armed with twenty four 25 pounders.
From 21 April 1942, the regiment served with 22nd Guards Brigade under command of 2nd South African Division in the Battle of Gazala. On 25 June it transferred to 22nd Armoured Brigade and took part in the Battle of Mersa Matruh and the Defence of the El Alamein Line.
On 24 August 1942 it joined 1st Armoured Division. It served with this division throughout the rest of the Western Desert Campaign and the Tunisia Campaign, in particular, the battles of El Alamein, Tebaga Gap, Akarit, El Kourzia and Tunis. It moved with the division to Italy in May 1944, fighting at the Battle of Coriano on the Gothic Line. It left 1st Armoured Division on 26 September 1944 and came under direct command of Headquarters, Allied Armies in Italy where it remained until May 1945.
In 1948, H Battery transferred to 6th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery and O Battery, RHA joined in its place. On 1 February 1958, 2nd Regiment RHA reverted to RA status as 2nd Field Regiment, Royal Artillery. I Battery transferred to 4th Regiment, RHA just before conversion, with N Battery replacing it.
- The basic organic unit of the Royal Artillery was, and is, the Battery. 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 World War I, 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) 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.
- The original Horse Brigade Royal Artillery formed 1st Horse Brigade RA, the 1st Brigade Bengal Horse Artillery became 2nd Horse Brigade RA, the Madras Horse Artillery became 3rd Horse Brigade RA, the Bombay Horse Artillery became 4th Horse Brigade RA and the 2nd Brigade Bengal Horse Artillery became 5th Horse Brigade RA. The 3rd Brigade Bengal Horse Artillery was split between 2nd and 5th Horse Brigades RA. These brigades performed an administrative, rather than tactical, role.
- Formed as E Troop, Horse Artillery on 1 November 1794, later E Battery, RHA.
- Formed as F Troop, Horse Artillery on 1 November 1794, later D Battery, RHA.
- Formed as G Troop, Horse Artillery on 1 September 1801, later G Battery, RHA.
- Formed as I Troop, Horse Artillery on 1 February 1805, later I Battery, RHA.
- Formed as The Rocket Brigade, Horse Artillery on 7 June 1813, later O Battery, RHA.
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