Royal Artillery History
Oswestry also introduced us, through talks and lectures, to the long and proud history of The Royal Regiment of Artillery. From its beginnings in 1486, its founding in 1716, its battles in which it received glory, its mystique, the Royal Artillery received the honor of always being placed on the right of the line in any parade. The regimental badge exemplified this, showing a field gun surmounted by a crown with the word ‘Ubique’- Everywhere – for it fought in British Army battles in all the corners of the world. And the second part of the motto also spoke to this pride, ‘Quo Fas Et Gloria Ducunt’- Whither Right and Glory Lead.
Many different skills were required in the Royal Artillery it being a highly skilled and scientific fighting arm. For as it developed through the centuries, the science of gunnery has become exact. At the extremes soldiers serve the guns through brawn, and soldiers directed the guns fire through brains.
How to make best use of what they had we were given interviews by Personnel Selection Officers. and simple tests. These were to determine our academic standing, aptitudes and IQ. This process determined whether one was sent directly to a gun regiment for training to man a gun, or to training units as, for example, driver, signaler, cook or any of the other army “trades,” or to the War Office Selection Board (WOSB) for officers. Out of this process I did well, and I was selected to go for training as a Surveyor RA. This, was classified as an ‘A trade’ within the artillery and the highest trade under the army system. It too brought higher pay.
The Surveyor Royal Artillery
The skill of the surveyor was required with the development of artillery on the battlefield. In early days guns were laid and fired over open sights at an enemy in view. The gunlayer’s skill was paramount. This changed with guns that could fire over longer distances and engage the enemy further away.
The Boer War (1899-1902) more than amply demonstrated the need for new skills where the enemy was often not in sight. Boers fought on an empty battlefield. They with their excellent long range rifles and marksmanship from cover and at a distance could, and did, readily pick off infantry, gunners and horses. It did not help that the British soldier’s traditional uniform then was of a scarlet coat and white belts and straps. The British army had to shed that and this led to the introduction of khakai and blanco. And not before time, its tactics virtually unchanged since the Napoleonic wars and Waterloo were changed too.