Shropshire Royal Horse Artillery

 

The Shropshire Royal Horse Artillery : outline history

In the Napoleonic Wars

Volunteer artillery units were first raised within the county during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. The first was the Artillery Company of the Shropshire Regular Militia, established in 1795.

The Oswestry Artillery was raised by Capt. Thomas Newenham originally as infantry, on 22nd August 1803, and converted to Artillery on 13th March 1804, whilst the Shropshire Volunteers, raised on 9th July 1803 by Colonel John Kynaston Powell, comprised both Infantry and Artillery companies.

All these Artillery units ceased to exist after 1815.

The Volunteer Movement

The Volunteer revival of 1859-60, brought about by fear of war with France and the perceived threat of invasion, saw the formation in the county of 18 Volunteer Rifle Corps, of which the 9th (Shrewsbury) was converted to Artillery in May 1860.


ON_LONG_MYND

An early photo of 32-pounder "postion guns" of the SAV on Long Mynd.

It became the 1st Shropshire Volunteer Artillery Corps and was 47th in the national order of precedence of county Volunteer Artillery units.

The 1st Shropshire Volunteer Artillery Company (VAC) from Shrewsbury was joined by the 1st Staffordshire VAC (from Etruria) in the 1st Adminstrative Brigade, Shropshire Artillery Volunteers.

In 1880, the units of the Brigade were consolidated to form the 1st Shropshire and Staffordshire Artillery Volunteers, which in 1902 became the 1st Shropshire and Staffordshire Royal Garrison Artillery Volunteers.

The Shropshire elements were stationed at Shrewsbury, Wellington and Church Stretton.

The formation of the Territorial Force

In 1908, with the formation of the Territorial Force, the Shropshire Artillery Volunteers became Royal Horse Artillery, to enable them to serve as the artillery arm of the newly-constituted Welsh Border Mounted Brigade of Yeomanry.

2___NEWILL_SRHA_AUG_1914

Shrewsbury in 1914 : under Major R A Newill

Only 11 volunteer batteries werre designated Royal Horse Artillery - an honour which nevertheless required the complete re-training and re-equipment of the unit. An Artillery Column for the Welsh Mounted Brigade was based at Church Stretton.

During the 1914-1918 War

Despite this, during the 1914-18 War, the Shropshire R.H.A. actually served as Royal Field Artillery.

The original Shropshire Royal Horse Artillery (1-1 SRHA) became “A” Battery, 293 Brigade, R.F.A. A second, war-raised battery (2-1 SRHA) was raised and served as “A” Battery, 158 Brigade, R.F.A. They both served entirely on the Western Front in 1917-18 and saw some very severe fighting.

3___SOME_SRHA_1917

Some of 1/1 SRHA in 1917

Most of the men of the Artillery Column (Church Stretton) served in France with 58th Trench Mortar Brigade - far removed from their original training.

For details of their service, see the history by Derek Harrison : "The Shropshire RHA, 1908-1920" - available in the Museum bookshop.

Between the Wars

The battery was re-formed in 1920 as the Shropshire Royal Garrison Artillery, becoming in 1921 the 240th (Shrops. R.H.A.) (Howitzer) Medium Battery, R.A., in the 60th Medium Brigade, R.A. (Territorial Army).

In 1939, the 240th Battery joined 51st (Midland) Medium Regt., R.A. (T.A.).

In the Second World War

After training at Stone and Bradford-on-Avon, the battery embarked for service with the British Expeditionary Force on February 1st 1940, equipped with 6-in. Howitzers.

In April, the Battery moved to the Maginot Line under command of 51 (H) Division, here receiving its baptism of fire. Following the enemy's advance, the Battery moved north for the battle of the River Somme, but was sent back to the UK and disembarked in England on June 13th, 1940.

WITH_5.5_GUNS_ELLESMERE_1941

Training with 5.5" guns at Ellesmere in 1941

During the Battle of Britain the unit formed three coast defence batteries, but in December 1940, rejoined the regiment at Ellesmere. The battery moved to Bedford in July 1941.

In 1942, the battery embarked at Liverpool, arriving in Egypt in October. In January 1943, it was re-equipped with 4.5" howitzers and shortly afterwards took part in the battles of Mareth, Wadi Akarit and EnfIdaville in Tunisia, supporting the 8th Army. The battery disembarked at Salerno in Italy, on October 7th 1943, coming under command of the 5th Army and taking part in the battle of the River Voltumo and the first battle of Cassino.

After a short period with 8th Army on the east coast for the opening of the battle of the River Sangro it returned to 5th Army, the Shropshire gunners fighting at Cassino again, the River Garigiano, the final battle of Cassino and the breaking of the Hitler and Gustav Lines.

Following a short rest in Egypt and Palestine, the unit was again in action in Italy with the 8th Army, in November 1944, for the assaults on Forlimpopoli, Forli and Faenza.

After a period during which the battery supported Indian, Polish and Italian divisions, it left Italy in April 1945 for France and Germany. On arriving in Germany, the battery came under the command of 34 Armoured Brigade in Westphalia, where it remained until the end of the war.

Casualties:
Killed, or died of wounds and sickness, 13; wounded 9; P.O.W. 4.

Awards:

1 Territorial Decoration; 5 Military Crosses; 3 Military Medals and 14 Mentions in Despatches.

The Heirs of the Shropshire RHA

On the re-formation of the T.A. in 1947, the Shropshire battery joined 639 Heavy Regiment, the only T.A. Regiment equipped with 155 mm self-propelled guns. "P" (Shropshire R.H.A.) battery was the senior battery in 639 Heavy Regiment R.A. (Worcestershire Regt.) (T.A.), a regiment formed by the conversion of the 8-l0th Worcestershire Regiment to artillery on 1st Janaury, 1947.

SRHA_Larkhill_1966_with_PG

SRHA at Larkhill in 1966 : Major P. Graham in command.

In the 1961 re-organisation of the T.A., the Shropshire RH.A. became the Territorial element of H.Q. Royal Artillery, 48th Division (T.A.), with Headquarters in Shrewsbury, and the Artillery Intelligence Staff Troop of 887 Locating Battery, R.A. (T.A.), with Headquarters at Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire. This renewed contact with Staffordshire revived the artillery associations which had existed prior to 1908 and during the period 1938-46.

In 1967, the Shropshire RH.A. was amalgamated with the Shropshire Yeomanry, in which it became "A" Squadron.

Successive reorganisations and amalgamations have placed the Shropshire Yeomanry into the Mercian Yeomanry (1971), which became the Queen's Own Mercian Yeomanry (1973) and then the Royal Mercian and Lancastrian Yeomanry.

The Shropshire elements of the R.M.L.Y. now carry forward the Artillery Volunteer traditions of Shropshire.