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The Honourable Artillery Company
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A brief history of the Honourable Artillery Company

Detail of a German Pickelhaube helmet

The Honourable Artillery Company is the oldest regiment in the British Army, capable of tracing its history back to 1296. It received a Royal Charter from King Henry VIII in 1537, authorising the formation of a perpetual corporation for the defence of the realm to be known as the Fraternity or Guild of Artillery of Longbows, Crossbows and Handguns, more briefly, the Gentlemen of the Artillery Garden. In 1656 it was first referred to as the Artillery Company and, in 1685, the Honourable Artillery Company, though it was not until 1860 that Queen Victoria officially confirmed this name.

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Early history

This early history to be filled in later.

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The First World War

The history of the HAC in the First World War is a little complex due in part to its unusual nature. It is my intention here only to give an outline of my understanding of its character in the First World War. For a better and more complete understanding you should search out the various books on the subject, though there is a site giving a little more detail.

At the beginning of the war the Company consisted of:

  • one infantry battallion, and
  • ‘A’ and
  • ‘B’ artillery batteries.

With the onset of war the HAC, in common with other Territorial Force units, formed second line units and, some time later, third line units – though the latter units were never sent overseas.

The 1st Battalion was sent to France in September 1914 where it remained for the whole of the war. The 2nd Battalion didn’t go to France until October 1916 and then moved on to fight in Italy in November 1917.

The HAC raised three infantry battalions and seven artillery batteries altogether, providing two infantry battalions and five batteries to the First World War:

  • the 1/1st Battalion Territorial Force, was formed on the 4th August 1914 to the 20th September 1914 at the Armoury House, Finsbury, and was attached to the 1st London Division (56th Div),
  • the 2/1st Battalion Territorial Force was formed at Finsbury on the 2nd September 1914. It stayed in England until Oct 1916, when it went to France and joined the 22nd Brigade, 7th Division,
  • 3/1st Battalion Territorial Force, was formed at Walton-on-Thames in Dec 1914. It supplied drafts to the 1/1st and 2/1st Battalions,
  • 2nd Battalion Territorial Force,
  • the ‘A’ and
  • ‘B’ artillery batteries were sent to Egypt in April 1915, serving with the Egyptian Expeditionary Force in the desert and, later, in Palestine,
  • 309th Siege Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery, which was formed in November 1916, was sent to France in April 1917 where it remained until the end of the war,
  • the ‘2/A’ and
  • ‘2/B’ artillery batteries were sent to France in June 1917 as part of the 126th Army Field Artillery Brigade.

The above breakdown has to be checked and verified.

In the course of the Great War, the Honourable Artillery Company lost 57 Officers and 838 other ranks, the latter including my grandmother’s brother and his best friend, my grandfather.

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