Royal Artillery Uniforms

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The Honourable Artillery Company is the oldest Regiment in the British Army but, paradoxically, the second most senior unit of the Territorial Army. In 1537, the Overseers of the Fraternity or Guild of St George received a Charter of Incorporation from King Henry VIII. According to the Charter, the Guild was intended for The better increase of the Defence of this our Realm and maintenance of the Science and Feat of shooting Long Bows, Cross Bows and Hand Guns. The Guild became known as The Gentlemen of the Artillery Garden, after its practice ground in Spitalfields, then simply as The Artillery Company. The word artillery was used at that time to describe archery and other missile weapons, while guns were known as great artillery. The courtesy prefix Honourable was first used in 1685 and officially confirmed by Queen Victoria in 1860.

Captains of the Artillery Garden provided officers for the London Trained Bands, a citizen militia, most notably when they assembled at Tilbury Camp in 1588 to oppose the Spanish Armada. Members of the Artillery Company fought on both the Royalist and Parliamentary sides during the Civil War of 1642 to 1649. Although the Companys silver was lost during that war, its archives survive from 1657 onwards. Since 1633, a Court of Assistants, similar in its constitution to the governing bodies of many of the City Livery Companies, has governed the HAC. The first Annual General Court for which a record can be found was held in 1660.

The Company has always had strong connections with the City. In the early part of the 17th Century, the Court of Aldermen appointed the chief officers and paid the professional soldiers who trained members of the Company. Even today, the Lord Mayor, Aldermen and Sheriffs are honorary members of the Court of Assistants.

Since the Restoration, the Company has provided Guards of Honour in the City for visits by members of the Royal Family, foreign Royalty and other Heads of State.

The Companys role in restoring order to the City following the Gordon Riots of 1780 prompted the gift of its first cannon b

City Corporation and led to the creation of an HAC Artillery Division.

In 1830, King William IV ordered the uniform of the HAC to be based on that of the Grenadier Guards. Thirty years later, control of the Company moved from the Home Office to the War Office and, in 1889, a Royal Warrant gave the Secretary of State for War full control of the Companys military affairs. The Light Cavalry was formed in 1861 as a reconnaissance unit for the infantry, becoming a horse battery in 1891 and accounting for the Regiments link with the Royal Horse Artillery (RHA). In 1979, the Court agreed to reconstitute the Light Cavalry for ceremonial tasks.

The HAC received its first Battle Honour, South Africa, 1900-02, for its service in the Boer War. Almost two hundred members of the Company served in South Africa, the majority in the City Imperial Volunteers as infantry, mounted infantry, and in a Field Battery that was officered and for the most part manned by members of the Company. The Company became part of the newly formed Territorial Army with the passing of the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act in 1907. Its property and privileges are protected by the Honourable Artillery Company Act 1908

 Two Infantry Battalions and five Batteries of the HAC fought in the First World War. The 1st Battalion served in France and Flanders, with particular distinction at Hooge, Beaucourt, and Gavrelle. The 2nd Battalion saw active service in France and in Italy, where it played an important role in the crossing of the River Piave. Two Batteries went to the Middle East to fight in Aden, Egypt, and Palestine, while two Reserve Batteries and a Siege Battery fought in France. In total, almost thirteen thousand members of the Company served during the First World War and over sixteen hundred of these were killed or died of wounds or sickness. Three members of the HAC were awarded the Victoria Cross. Lieutenant A. O. Pollard, VC, MC, DCM (1893-1960) and Lieutenant R.L. Haine, VC, MC (1896-1982) received the medal for conspicuous bravery and determination while they were fighting with the 1st Battalion at Gavrelle in April 1917. Lieutenant (Acting Captain) T. T. Pryce, VC, MC & Bar (1886-1918), who was originally a private in the 1st Battalion, won a posthumous Victoria Cross as an officer in the Grenadier Guards.

A detachment of HAC Metropolitan Special Constables was formed in 1919 .The Artillery Division of the HAC was granted the privilege of firing Royal Salutes at the Tower of London in 1924. The following year saw the formation of the Company of Pikemen and Musketeers. 

At the outset of the Second World War the Infantry Battalion of the HAC became an Officer Cadet Training Unit. The 11th and 12th HAC Regiments of Royal Horse Artillery served in North Africa and in Italy. In 1942 they were re-equipped with Priest self-propelled guns (American 105 mm guns mounted on tank

chassis). The 13th HAC Regiment of Royal Horse Artillery fought in Normandy and Holland and across the Rhine into Germany. The Company also provided a Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment and two Heavy Anti-Aircraft Batteries of the Royal Artillery. Major R. H. Cain, VC (admitted to the HAC in 1928) was awarded the Victoria Cross while serving with the South Staffordshire Regiment during the Battle of Arnhem in September 1944. Nearly four thousand members of the Company received commissions and over seven hundred members lost their lives during the Second World War.

In 1947 the Company was reorganised into an Infantry Battalion and two Royal Horse Artillery Regiments, of Self-propelled Artillery and of mobile Heavy Anti-Aircraft Artillery. The latter Regiment was disbanded eight years later. The Territorial Army became the Territorial and Army Volunteer Reserve from 1967 until it resumed its original name in 1980. The HAC was reorganised into four squadrons that formed part of the British Army of the Rhine in 1973. The present-day role of the HAC is to provide surveillance and target acquisition patrols for the NATO Allied Rapid Reaction Corps.





The Royal Artillery Uniforms - circa 1812 - Officers

The Royal Artillery were not extensively involved in rocket duties in the field and it was not until after 1847, when the Rocket Troop of the Royal Horse artillery reverted to a conventional gun troop, that rockets become a regular part of the equipment of field artillery regiments.Uniforms
The Officers of the Royal Artillery, when away from headquarters, were well known for adopting any style of dress that took their fancy or their purse. In the main they were required to wear similar items as the men but of better quality and with gold lace. There is a joke in the gunners that if two officers turn up dressed alike, the junior has to go and get changed! This is not so far from the truth , even today.

A 2.125 inch wide white, buff leather sword belt and frog used to carry the sword. The precise style of the belt plate is unclear and several styles are possible.

B Alternative sword belt with slings to attach to the rings of a scabbard. The hook allows the sword to be worn up.

C Standard waist sword belt with slings. This style was worn under the sash.

D Officer in full dress order - circa 1813. The coat is the long tailed version of the laced jacket used for dress occasions. Reconstruction after Campbell and Macdonald

E Officer in field order, reconstruction after Campbell and Macdonald. He wears the short version of the laced jacket with the top three buttons undone and the laced lapels turned and button across the chest. The hat is the 'Belgique' version introduced in 1813. The trousers were initially grey and later changed to mixed cloth, (grey) trousers. Trousers were often worn overall with gaiters still worn over the boots and strapped under the instep. The trousers were fitted with a front flap fly that was secured at each corner by buttons on the waistband. The trousers were supported by linen braces that buttoned at the waist. Boots were of black leather

F Officer in field order - circa 1808. Reconstruction after Macdonald. White breeches with boots were worn but knee length gaiters were also listed for some orders of dress. He wears the 'Stovepipe' shako and the long tailed coat.

G Officers of the Royal Artillery carried the 1797 Infantry Sword. The hilt consists of gilt brass pommel in the shape of a faceted urn topped with acanthus leaves, silver wire wound grip, gilt knuckle bow to a quillon with acanthus decoration at its finial and twin gilt shells strengthened around the edges and decorated with acanthus leaves under the shells. These are fixed but on some examples the inner shell is hinged to fold flat when the sword is sheathed. The blade is straight of flattened diamond section. Most swords of this pattern had straight cut and thrust blades with a single edge and short false edge. The black leather scabbard has the usual mounts for both sword rings and a frog stud. Overall length was 39 inches. The blade some 32.5 inches long, is 1.125 inches wide at the shoulder. It was carried in a black leather scabbard fitted with rings and at the top, a frog stud. The weight was 1 LB 10 oz and the scabbard weighed 1 lb. A brass, one piece, version of similar pattern was issued to SNCOs.

H Officers gilt belt plate after Parkyn. Artillery regiments are know to have adopted different styles often showing the regimental number.

I Officers gilt button introduced in 1802. Artillery regiments are know to have adopted different styles often showing the regimental number.

J Officers' plume, cockade and crimson and gilt cords for the 'Belgique' shako.

K Officers short, laced, jacket circa 1810. Rear view showing the triangle of lace at the waist. After Campbell and MacDonald

L Officers jacket circa 1810 - front view. The lapels could be folded over to present a plain front. (See E)

M Officers Gilt braid loop with red centre.

N Badges of rank were silver and followed the practice of the infantry. Junior officers wore a fringed epaulette while Captains wore one with a bullion fringe. Majors and above wore two bullion epaulettes with one star for majors, a star and crown for Colonels and a crown for Lt Colonels.

O Officers and NCOs wore the crimson sash at the waist and secured on the left. The sash for NCOs was of simpler design.

P Cocked hat or bicorn worn for levee, dress, walking out,and parade. When on parade the hat was worn fore and aft. Off parade it was worn across the head.


The Royal Artillery Uniforms - circa 1812 - Other ranks

The Royal Artillery were not extensively involved in rocket duties in the field and it was not until after 1847, when the Rocket Troop of the Royal Horse artillery reverted to a conventional gun troop, that rockets become a regular part of the equipment of field artillery regiments.
Royal Artillery rocket activities were mainly limited to a cadre of experts based at the Royal Laboratory at Woolwich, and they they did provide personnel for the Siege of Copenhagen in 1807, the Flushing campaign and small detachments sent to support the RHA rocket detachments in the field, mainly in the peninsula campaigns. Their involvement spanned the period from 1805 until the end of the napoleonic era and their uniforms altered accordingly. The uniform depicted here is the dress of 1813 but the main areas of variance for the earlier periods are noted.Uniforms
The limited information suggest that the braiding of the Royal Artillery uniform jacket changed about 1810, perhaps so that they did not match those of the guards regiments. This applied particularly to the braid at the top of the cuff, around the pockets and marking the rear vent of the jacket. Standard items issued to all arms were the 'Italian' water bottle. The flat, 2-pint, wooden barrel, seven inches diameter and four inches deep, bound with iron hoops and carried on a one inch wide, brown leather strap adjusted by a buckle and slide. It was usually painted light blue and carried the Board or Ordnance cipher and, or a broad arrow and usually some individual troop or regimental identification in white. The other item was the haversack or bread bag. Made of canvas or linen with a buttoned flap and a 3-inch wide strap of the same material. It was usually fawn or off white in colour and adjusted by a buckle and loop. It was worn, with the water bottle, over the right shoulder.

A The second version of the 'Stovepipe' shako introduced about 1803. It was of a lighter pattern made of felt and slightly shorter being about eight inches high with a top diameter of some seven inches. In 1808 the white plume was ten inches tall for all ranks in the Royal Artillery.

B Royal Artillery shako plate of thin brass was six inches tall and some four inches wide. In the infantry style but with the garter replaced by a strap inscribed 'ROYAL REG OF ARTILLERY'. Below the strap a mortar with piles of shot either side.

C Side view of the shako showing the rear fall (neck protector) which was worn tied up or tucked into the hat. The white over red plume depicted by Atkinson is unlikely.

D Gunner, circa 1813, wearing the plain white 36 round cartridge pouch. The regimental lace for senior NCOs was gilt, that for Corporals and below, was a yellow worsted braid. The trousers were fast blue or grey. Trousers were worn overall, with half gaiters still worn over the boots and strapped under the instep. Boots were of black leather.

E Corporal - circa 1813 - interpretation after Hamilton Smith. He carries the RA pattern sabre and the special RA pouch with tools which was worn on top of the bayonet or sword belt. Non Commissioned Officers wore yellow worsted chevrons mounted on a red background, Senior Non Commissioned Officers probably wore a gilt lace of better quality.

F Gunner, circa 1808. After Atkinson. White breeches with black cloth gaiters were standard wear.

G The 'Belgique' shako introduced into the RA in August 1813. It was about an inch broader at the base than the top, the taper being on the rear. The top was some seven inches tall and just under seven inches diameter. The false front rose to some eight and three quarter inches. It carried a white plume and yellow worsted cords. The lower tassel was one inch from the base the other, two inches. The cord above them was stitched to the shako to prevent them swinging about.

H The RA brass shako plate. Five and one half inches tall and three and three quarters inches wide it was similar to the infantry plate but with a strap inscribed 'ROYAL REG OF ARTILLERY'. Inside this was the GR cypher reversed and below the strap a mortar with a fused grenade either side.

I The yellow worsted hat cords. Other designs are of a similar design to that shown for the officers.

J Side view of the shako showing the height of the false front and the rear fall (neck protector) which was worn tied up or tucked into the hat. The white plume rises from a black rosette with a regimental button at the centre.

K Two views of the bayonet belt with buckle rather than the usual plate. Note the button loop at the rear to attach the frog to the button at the rear waist of the tunic. Also shown is the sword belt with frog for the artillery sabre. SNCOs carried a brass hilted version of the infantry officers sword. Accouterment were army style and other ranks carried a cartridge box and bayonet on whitened, 2.125 inch wide, buff (buffalo) leather cross belts. The bayonet and scabbard were worn with the cross belt over the right shoulder and on top of the cartridge pouch cross belt worn over the left shoulder.

L Other ranks, brass button. The post 1803 pattern is a strap inscribed 'ROYAL REG OF ARTILLERY'. and surmounted by a crown. In the centre is the Royal Cypher.

M Late pattern 1770 Artillery Carbine. The ramrod is now steel and a later pattern lock has been fitted. The brass fittings are very similar to the normal land pattern. Overall length 52.5 inches, barrel 37.125 inches, calibre 0.68 inches. The effective range was about 200 yards, weight with the bayonet was just over eleven pounds. A picker and brush to clean musket lock were worn on a two part white leather strap that attached to a button on the tunic, behind the cross belt. The india pattern artillery carbine began to replace this gun after 1812.

N Royal Artillery sabre which was often carried in lieu of the bayonet. It had a brass hilt and an overall length 29.25 inches. The length of blade 23.5 inches, weight some 24 ounces. The scabbard was in black leather with brass fittings.

O Other ranks jacket circa - 1810. Representation after Hamilton Smith. The Royal Artillery jacket was based upon that of a 'Royal Regiment' except that the colours were reversed and flat yellow worsted lace was worn. The other ranks jackets were single breasted with short skirts and lined with white linen. The turn backs were sown down and faced with red serge and edged with lace. Dependent upon the height of the wearer the coat front had up to ten equally spaced, bastion laced buttonholes. The yellow lace loops (P) were some four inches long at the neck reducing to some three inches long at the waist. The collar was of red serge, three inches deep and lined about by flat yellow worsted lace. The collar was cut away at the front to reveal the black leather stock, which was worn underneath. The cuffs were square, of red serge, some three and one half inches deep and carried four, equally space, buttoned loops of yellow lace with the front pair astride the front seam of the sleeve. The red shoulder straps (Q) were pointed at the end they buttoned and square at the other where they were sewn to the jacket. They were edged on the sides with yellow lace.

S Rear view of other ranks jacket - circa 1809. Reconstruction after Atkinson. This is the pre 1810 style that carries the extra lace on the vent of the jacket, the cuffs (R) and pockets (V). These lace distinctions are very similar to those of guards regiments and this may be why they were discontinued. The shoulder straps are shown with yellow tufts and the turnbacks are white.

T Rear view of other ranks jacket - circa 1813. Reconstruction after Hamilton smith and MacDonald. The skirts of the jacket carry oblique pockets. (Originally the pockets were horizontal but later changed to oblique, probably around 1810). The rear of the jacket was also decorated by a triangle of lace between the hip buttons. This is the style where the extra lace on the vent of the jacket, the cuffs and pockets is no longer worn. The shoulder straps are shown without yellow tufts.

U Royal Artillery pouch badge. Hamilton Smith shows a plain white cartridge pouch with a badge similar to that of the buttons.

W Royal Artillery pouch of white leather. The cross belt carries two adjusting buckles and a red cord for the powder flask. Two vent pins and a small hammer are carried on the front. This belt was worn over the bayonet or sword belt and it may have been worn by specific gun numbers as Hamilton smith shows a plain version worn in the usual manner.