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Royal Horse Artillery

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Royal Horse Artillery
Cypher of the Royal Horse Artillery
Active1 February 1793 – present
Allegiance United Kingdom
Branch British Army
TypeHorse artillery
RoleThe King's Troop - Ceremonial
1st Regiment - Field Artillery
3rd Regiment - Field Artillery
7th Regiment - Airborne Artillery
SizeThree Regiments and one Ceremonial Battery plus affiliated TA Units
Part ofRoyal Artillery
Garrison/HQThe King's Troop - London
1st Regiment - Larkhill
3rd Regiment - Newcastle Upon Tyne
7th Regiment - Colchester
Motto(s)French: Honi soit qui mal y pense
"Shamed be whoever thinks ill of it."
MarchBonnie Dundee (Gallop march); The Keel Row (Trot March); The Royal Artillery Slow March sometimes referred to as Duchess of Kent March (walk march)
Captain General, Royal ArtilleryThe King
Colonel CommandantGeneral Sir Alexander Harley, KBE, CB
Tactical Recognition Flash
Astley, Worcestershire, grave of Major General Hill Wallace CB (1823-1899), late RHA[1]

The Royal Horse Artillery (RHA) was formed in 1793 as a distinct arm of the Royal Regiment of Artillery (commonly termed Royal Artillery) to provide horse artillery support to the cavalry units of the British Army.[2] Although the cavalry link remained part of its defining character, as early as the Battle of Waterloo the RHA was sometimes deployed more along the lines of conventional field artillery, fighting from comparatively fixed positions.[3]

The Royal Horse Artillery, currently consists of three regiments, (1 RHA, 3 RHA and 7 RHA) and one ceremonial unit (King's Troop, Royal Horse Artillery). Almost all the batteries of the Royal Horse Artillery have served continuously since the French Revolutionary Wars or Napoleonic Wars, except the King's Troop, created in 1946, and M Battery, which was 'reanimated' in 1993. Horses are still in service for ceremonial purposes but were phased out from operational deployment in the 1930s.


In 1793, in the course of the French Revolutionary Wars, Great Britain and allied European powers declared war on France over French occupation of the Rhine delta and Antwerp, precipitating the Flanders Campaign. Britain remained in conflict with France for almost 22 years, during which time significant progress was achieved in artillery development.[4]: p 24  The first two troops of Horse Artillery (A – later entitled "The Chestnut Troop" – and B) were raised in January 1793 at Goodwood, West Sussex, by the Master-General of the Ordnance, the 3rd Duke of Richmond, to provide fire support for the cavalry. They were joined by two more troops in November 1793. Each troop had six 6-pounder guns. Another development was the formation of a headquarters staff providing a channel between the regiment and the Board of Ordnance. Captain John Macleod was the first brigade major and became the first deputy-adjutant-general in 1795. By 1806, eleven troops had been formed, with ten companies of the Royal Irish Artillery incorporated, as the Seventh Battalion, after the union with Ireland in 1801.[4]: p 25  The Royal Regiment of Artillery was not part of the British Army at this time, but part of the establishment of the Board of Ordnance, with the Master-General its commanding officer; only after the Board's abolition in 1855 did the Artillery become part of the British Army under the Commander-in-Chief of the Forces.

All RHA personnel were mounted. Included in the establishment were 45 drivers and 187 horses, making it the first self-contained fighting unit of artillery.[4]: p 24  Initially, there was a clear distinction between the mounted Royal Horse Artillery and the rest of the Royal Artillery, who were dismounted. Whenever horses were needed for the rest of the Artillery (as they routinely were, to move field guns from place to place) they had to be hired along with civilian drivers. This was problematic, so in 1794 a separate Corps of Royal Artillery Drivers was raised (which did not affect the self-contained Royal Horse Artillery, but provided ready teams of draught horses and drivers for the field artillery units). After Waterloo, the Corps of Drivers was disbanded and instead artillerymen were trained as drivers, which gave the field artillery mounted status. When the Royal Artillery split into separate units in 1899, the term 'Mounted Branch' was used to refer collectively to the Royal Horse Artillery and the Royal Field Artillery, while 'Dismounted Branch' referred to the Royal Garrison Artillery.[5] The Royal Horse Artillery was, distinguished from the Field Artillery by (among other things) its speed: the need to keep pace with a cavalry charge was achieved initially by the Horse Artillery using lighter guns than the RFA, and later by their using proportionally more horses.[6][7]

The regiment wore light cavalry uniforms of blue with gold lace and red facings. Their overalls were grey with a red stripe and on their heads they wore the distinctive Tarleton helmets.[8] If needed, they carried 1796 light-cavalry sabres or their own semi-official RHA 1796P sabre.

The RHA participated in the major wars of two centuries, including the Napoleonic Wars, the War of 1812, the Indian Mutiny, the Crimean War, the Peninsular War, the Anglo-Zulu War, the Boer War, World War I and World War II.

In 1859, the term "battalion" was replaced by "brigade".[4]: p 64  which was in turn was replaced by "regiment" in 1939.[4]: p 103  The five Horse Artillery brigades consisted of two batteries each. Between 1899 and 1924, the Royal Artillery was divided with the creation of the Royal Field Artillery, which utilised horse for its medium-calibre guns.

When the Territorial Force was created in 1908, artillery units of the old Volunteer Force were converted into foot, horse, and garrison batteries. There were 14 batteries of horse artillery, 12 of which belonged to the RHA, the remaining two being provided by the Honourable Artillery Company.[9] Territorial batteries were of four guns each rather than the six guns of regular batteries. The principal weapon of Territorial RHA units was the Ordnance QF 15 pounder although the Ordnance BLC 15 pounder was issued to some second-line RHA units formed in 1914.[10]

At the outbreak of World War I the regular RHA comprised twenty-five batteries, eleven of those serving in India with the Indian Army.[11] They were equipped with the Ordnance QF 13 pounder.

In the 1920s, development of trucks and track vehicles brought an end to operational use of horses. By 1927, medium artillery was drawn by tractors instead of heavy draught horses. By 1937, nine field brigades had been mechanised as well as a brigade of RHA.[4]: p 104  The last battery to be mechanised was K Battery, in 1939.[12][13] Today, the ceremonial King's Troop alone retains the use of the mounted batteries.

At the onset of World War II, recruits were instructed that "the role of the Royal Artilleryman is, as it has ever been, to fight his gun, forgetful of self, to the last round in support of other arms."[4]: p 107 

Current regiments[edit]

A Guard of the King's Troop at Horse Guards Parade
The King's Troop, Royal Horse Artillery, at Trooping the Colour, in 2012

The following are current units of the Royal Horse Artillery:[14][15]

The Royal Horse Artillery provided the Queen's Guard on three occasions:

  • 1 RHA – January 1979
  • 7 Para RHA – March 1989
  • King's Troop – April 2007

The King's Troop provides the King's Life Guard in Whitehall for three weeks in August each year while the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment goes away for summer training.


Order of precedence[edit]

When on parade with its guns, the Royal Horse Artillery takes precedence over all. Without its guns, the Household Cavalry alone precedes the RHA.[citation needed]

Preceded by Order of Precedence Succeeded by

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Monument to Hill Family, Church of St Peter, Astley
  2. ^ "Royal Artillery". National Army Museum.
  3. ^ Kinard, Jeff (2007). Artillery: An Illustrated History of Its Impact. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO. p. 139.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Graham C. A. L. DSO psc, Brig Gen The Story of the Royal Regiment of Artillery RA Institution, Woolwich 1939
  5. ^ Marble, Sanders (2013). British artillery on the Western Front in the First World War. Farnham, Surrey, England: Ashgate. p. xv. ISBN 978-1-4094-1110-9. OCLC 808009793.
  6. ^ Strachan, Hew (1985). From Waterloo to Balaclava: tactics, technology, and the British army, 1815-1854. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-30439-9. OCLC 12053185.
  7. ^ Atkinson, Captain J. (1914). ABC of the Army: An Illustrated Guide to Military Knowledge for Those who Seek a General Acquaintance with Elementary Matters Pertaining to the British Army. London: Gal & Polden Ltd. p. 22.
  8. ^ "A Waterloo Officers Royal Horse Artillery Tarleton Helmet". The Military Gentleman. Retrieved 15 March 2013.
  9. ^ Westlake, Ray (20 June 2013). British Territorial Units 1914–18. Bloomsbury Publishing. pp. 3–. ISBN 978-1-4728-0451-8.
  10. ^ Becke, A. F. (1945). History of the Great War: Order of Battle of Divisions: Territorial Force & Mounted Divisions Pt. 2A. London HMSO.
  11. ^ Woodward, David (1978). Armies of the World 1854-1914. Sidgwick & Jackson. p. 117.
  12. ^ Gilberd, J.G. (1989). "Kings Troop Royal Horse Artillery". Boot and Saddle. Archived from the original on 9 February 2013. Retrieved 29 August 2012.
  13. ^ "Affiliations". Worshipful Company of Farriers. Archived from the original on 10 February 2012. Retrieved 29 August 2012.
  14. ^ "Army:Written question - 194616". UK Parliament. Retrieved 11 April 2020.
  15. ^ "Royal Artillery". www.army.mod.uk. Retrieved 11 April 2020.
  16. ^ "Honourable Artillery Company - British Army Website". Army.mod.uk. Retrieved 23 December 2016.
  17. ^ "Reservists pair with Airborne gunners - British Army Website". British Army. 27 September 2016. Retrieved 23 December 2016.
  18. ^ T.F.Mills (15 July 2007) [Created 1 August 2000]. "Royal Horse Artillery". Regiments.org. Archived from the original on 16 August 2007.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)

External links[edit]