West Riding Artillery
|West Riding Artillery|
Artillery Volunteers 1859-1908
In 1860, as the British government feared invasion from the continent, the Secretary at War recommended the formation of Volunteer Artillery Corps to bolster Britain's coastal defences. The following Corps were raised prior to 1880:
- 1st Yorkshire (West Riding) Artillery Volunteer Corps raised at Leeds on 2 August 1860
- 2nd Yorkshire (West Riding) Artillery Volunteer Corps at Bradford on 10 October 1860
- 3rd Corps formed at York on 9 February 1861
- 4th Corps formed at Sheffield on 6 February 1861
- 5th Corps formed by 1864, but disappeared from the Army List in November 1874
- 6th Corps formed at Heckmondwike by June 1867 (from members of the 2nd Corps)
- 7th Corps formed at Batley on 2 October 1866 (disbanded in August 1877)
- 8th Corps formed at Halifax on 19 May 1871
They began as Coastal Artillery with 32 pounder guns. In 1868 the 5th Corps won the Queen's Prize at the annual National Artillery Association competition held at Shoeburyness. The following year the 7th Corps won the competition, with the 4th Corps winning it in 1872. By 1871, the 1st had grown to eight batteries and the 2nd had become the 1st Admin Brigade, Yorkshire (West Riding) Artillery Volunteers, containing five Yorkshire (West Riding) Artillery Volunteer Corps, numbered the 2nd, 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th. By 1880, a number of these Corps had been disbanded or absorbed and the batteries were distributed as follows:
- Numbers 1 to 4 at Bradford
- Numbers 5 and 6 at Heckmondwike
- Numbers 7 and 8 at Halifax
Various reforms from 1889 resulted all the corps being classed as 'Position Artillery' and armed with 40 pounder RBL guns. In 1892 the Corps were organised as part of the Western Division Royal Artillery and were titled 1st, 2nd and 4th West Riding of Yorkshire Volunteer Artillery, with headquarters at Leeds, Bradford and Sheffield respectively.
Territorial and Reserve Forces Act 1907
After the end of the Boer War in 1902, a review of the Army took place and a Royal Commission reported on the Militia and Volunteers. The War Office was concerned over the different standards of efficiency, but had to concede that this was in the hands of individual commanding officers. Secretary for War, Haldane, in the Liberal Government of 1905, was given the task of preparing legislation for reform. His Territorial and Reserve Forces Act 1907 brought together volunteer units to form the Territorial Force (to become the Territorial Army in 1921) giving them the same role as before, but, in addition, giving them the capability of acting as backup to the Regular Army if the need arose. In addition, the Act set up County Associations to help co-ordinate the work of the War Office and the new Territorial Force, and to recruit, house and administer the units. As a result units were configured as follows:
- 1st West Riding Brigade Royal Field Artillery (TF) - (HQ at Fenton street, Leeds)
- 2nd West Riding Brigade Royal Field Artillery (TF) - (HQ at Valley Parade in Bradford)
- 3rd West Riding Brigade Royal Field Artillery (TF) - (HQ at Sheffield)
Each brigade had three batteries and an ammunition column; they were equipped with 15 pounder guns. With the change to the smaller guns, steam tractors were no longer required and the barracks had to be adapted to accommodate horses.
First World War
In the Great War (1914–18) the three West Riding brigades were part of the 49th (West Riding) Division, going to France in 1915. Each formed a second line brigade in 1915 (2/1st and 2/2nd West Riding Brigade RFA (TF) respectively), which then supported 62nd Division. In May 1916 the Brigades were renumbered 245th, 246th and 247th Brigades Royal Field Artillery (TF).
Following the War the names of the Brigades reverted to their pre-war designations - 1st, 2nd and 3rd West Riding Brigade RFA when they were reconstituted into the Territorial Army in 1920. This was short-lived, however, as in 1921 they were again renamed, this time as the 69th and 70th (West Riding) Brigades Royal Field Artillery (Territorial Army). In 1924, the Royal Horse, Royal Field Artillery and the Royal Garrison Artillery were reunited under one name and the brigades became the 69th and 70th (West Riding) Field Brigades Royal Artillery (Territorial Army). Similarly, when artillery brigades were rebranded as regiments in 1938, the West Riding brigades became the 69th and 70th (West Riding) Field Regiment RA(TA). In 1939, the 69th formed a Second Line regiment at Bramley, Leeds, 121 Field Regiment RA(TA); the 70th similarly gave rise to 122 Field Regiment RA (TA) in Bradford.
Second World War
The 69th Field Regiment, as part of the 49th (West Riding) Infantry Division, served in Iceland for two years and later, after their return to the United Kingdom, took part in the invasion of Normandy in June 1944, shortly after the D-Day landings of 6 June. The regiment served with the 49th Division in the Normandy Campaign during the Battle for Caen, Operation Astonia, garrisoning The Island in the aftermath of the failure of Operation Market Garden, and the Liberation of Arnhem in 1945.
Originally with the 69th Field Regiment in the 49th (West Riding) Division, the 70th Field Regiment was sent to France in 1940 as part of the 52nd (Lowland) Infantry Division. When the British Expeditionary Force had to withdraw, the 70th returned to the United Kingdom via Cherbourg with all their guns, vehicles and equipment intact. They were later transferred to 46th (West Riding) Infantry Division and fought with them in the Tunisia Campaign and later in Italy and the Greek Civil War.
The 121st Field Regiment was sent to Iraq in 1941, fought with the British Eighth Army in the North African Campaign and the American Fifth Army in the Italian Campaign before returning to the United Kingdom to take part in the Normandy invasion as a Medium Regiment with 5.5-inch Gun-Howitzers.
The 122nd Field Regiment, after training in the United Kingdom, was sent out to the Far East in late 1941. The 122nd suffered 13 war casualties during the Malayan Campaign up until the naval base at Singapore surrendered in February 1942 after the Battle of Singapore. Thereafter, more than 200 died, mainly as a result of their treatment as prisoners of the Imperial Japanese Army.
269th and 270th (West Riding) Field Regiment RA(TA) reconstituted in the TA in Leeds and Bradford respectively on New Year's Day 1947. Both units were equipped with the 25 pounder self propelled gun (the Sexton), and both became part of 49th (West Riding) Armoured Division. In 1956, they were re-equipped with 25 pounder (towed), familiar to so many. When Anti-Aircraft Command was abolished in the mid-fifties, 269th absorbed 321 (West Riding) HAA Regiment and the 270th absorbed 584 LAA Regiment RA (6th West Yorkshire) without changing their titles (although the 270th did move their HQ from Valley Parade to 584's barracks at Belle Vue, Bradford).
To mark the centenary of the formation of the 1st Yorkshire (West Riding) Artillery Volunteer Corps, the Freedom of the City of Leeds was granted to the 269th on 3 February 1960. Shortly afterwards, the 269th and 270th amalgamated with each other to form the 249th (The West Riding Artillery) Field Regiment RA(TA), with headquarters at Carlton Barracks in Leeds and batteries at Leeds, Bramley and Bradford.
This reform saw the Regiment reorganised as The West Riding Regiment RA (Territorials) on 1 April 1967: but, by 1969, the Regiment was reduced to a cadre at Bradford (some of Q Battery was absorbed into E Company, The Yorkshire Volunteers; 272 (West Riding Artillery) Field Support Squadron, 73 Engineer Regiment RE(V) also formed at Bradford). In 1971, this cadre was expanded to become "A" (West Riding Artillery) Battery, 3rd Battalion Yorkshire Volunteers. On 1 April 1975, an independent observation post battery, 269 (West Riding) OP Battery RA (Volunteers), was formed at Leeds from the cadre (and the cadre disbanded), reviving the West Riding Artillery lineage in the Royal Artillery.
- Litchfield, Norman and Westlake, p. 183
- Litchfield, Norman and Westlake, p. 189
- Army List, HMSO, 1892
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- Corry, p. 28
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