British Artillery Organisation

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Hierarchical Path: Seven Years War (Main Page) >> Armies >> British Army >> British Artillery Organisation


Up to 1716 there was no permanently established artillery corps in the British army; `traynes` of artillery were raised when needed by Royal Warrant and disbanded again when the conflict was over.

In 1716 the first permanent artillery regiment was raised in Woolwich; in 1722 it was grouped together with the artillery companies in Gibraltar and Minorca to become the Royal Regiment of Artillery. As the effective management of artillery involved a lot of scientific knowledge, the usual pool of recruitment for officers of infantry and cavalry (well-heeled, well connected young aristocrats, whose commissions were bought for them) was of little use and officers came from the academic backgrounds and from the ranks of the professional gunners themselves.

While the cavalry and infantry (apart from the guards) were administered from Whitehall, the artillery were administered by the Board of Ordnance and promotion was purely by merit, not by purchase. The standard of training and organization of the new arm were high and battlefield performance improved considerably as a result. After a few years, the establishment of each company was increased to permit the inclusion of Gentlemen Cadets, who would be trained before being commissioned.

In 1740 a cadet school was opened at Woolwich and in 1764 this became the Royal Academy. Cadets were instructed in gunnery, ballistics, fortification, French, mathematics and algebra, to fit them for service in the combined artillery / engineer corps.

Evolution throughout the War

Up to 1757 there were eighteen companies of artillery; in this year, they were reorganized into two battalions of twelve companies each.

In 1760 this became three battalions, each of ten companies. The major personalities of the artillery of this period were: General John Armstrong, Colonel Albert Borgand, John Mueller and Benjamin Roberts.


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Gun handling

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Dawson, Dawson and Summerfield, Napoleonic Artillery, Crowood Press, 2007.

Kinard, Jeff, Artillery: An Illustrated History of its Impact, ABC Clio, 2007.

Lawson, Cecil C P; A History of the Uniforms of the British Army, Vol IV, Norman Military Publications, 2006.

Scharnhorst, Gerhard Johann David, Handbuch für Offiziere in den Andwendbaren Theilen der Kriegeswissenschaft, Hanover, 1787.


Digby Smith for the initial version of this article