13 January 2009

Honourable Artillery Company

The Honourable Artillery Company (HAC) is the oldest surviving regiment in the British Army and can trace its history back to 1296. It is still headquartered at Bunhill Fields just beyond the City of London boundaries.

Under the terms of the 1907 Territorial and Reserve Forces Act of 1907, the HAC was due to be re-named the 26th (County of London) Battalion. It was however, (and presumably after stringent protests by various people of influence) allowed to retain its original name, and thus the 26th Battalion title was never used. In addition, the Honourable Artillery Company Act, passed in 1908 protected the Company's property and privileges.

In 1914, The HAC comprised two batteries of horse artillery (each with an ammunition column), and an infantry section of four companies. The army service numbers and corresponding joining dates below, relate only to the infantry. In addition, there were other series of numbers (prefixed D and M) which are also not considered below.

7 joined on 27th April 1908
196 joined on 26th April 1909
269 joined on 21st November 1910
624 joined on 23rd January 1911
320 joined on 28th October 1912
799 joined on 13th November 1913
2322 joined on 4th September 1914
2667 joined on 25th November 1914
2781 joined on 9th December 1914
3016 joined on 25th January 1915
3052 joined on 3rd February 1915
3218 joined on 8th March 1915
3426 joined on 26th April 1915
3569 joined on 26th May 1915
3765 joined on 7th June 1915
4027 joined on 4th July 1915
4275 joined on 30th August 1915
4367 joined on 27th September 1915
4575 joined on 25th October 1915
4656 joined on 1st November 1915
6594 joined on 5th January 1916
7044 joined on 17th February 1916
7178 joined on 8th March 1916
7509 joined on 28th April 1916
7553 joined on 4th May 1916
8546 joined on 10th August 1916
9022 joined on 21st September 1916
9181 joined on 4th October 1916
9320 joined on 3rd November 1916
9551 joined on 1st December 1916
9928 joined on 17th January 1917
10137 joined on 1st February 1917
10511 joined on 1st March 1917
10809 joined on 8th May 1917

Although the HAC was a Territorial Force battalion, men serving with the infantry companies were not renumbered in 1917 and newly enlisted men post January 1917 were given numbers in the original series. Men serving with the RHA batteries of the HAC were renumbered.

The image on this post is taken from the Jeaffreson pedigree website and shows 5019 Private Ronald Percy Jeaffreson who volunteered to serve his King and Country in September 1915 and who, according to his army service number with the HAC, must have joined the regiment around 10th November that year. He was killed in action at Bullecourt on 3rd May 1917 aged 19 years, and is commemorated on Bay 1 of the Arras Memorial.

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From the Naval & Military Press:

"The HAC, a Territorial regiment, was unique in that it was composed of both artillery and infantry, and it is also the oldest regiment in the British Army. In August 1914 it consisted of an infantry battalion and two field artillery batteries, “A” and “B”. On the outbreak of war, as with other TF units, they all formed second line units and eventually third line, though none of the latter went overseas. Because many members of the HAC were taking commissions in the Royal Garrison Artillery in the summer of 1916, it was decided to form an HAC Siege Battery; this was done in November 1916 and it was designated “309th Siege Battery, RGA.” (See link and information below).

"The 1st Battalion went to France in September 1914 and remained there throughout the war. The 2nd Battalion followed in October 1916, joined the 7th Division and in November 1917 went with it to Italy where it remained to the end. The newly created 309th Siege Battery went to France in April 1917 and fought there to the end of the war. The two first line artillery batteries sailed for Egypt in April 1915 and served with the Egyptian Expeditionary Force in the desert and in Palestine while the two second line batteries, “2/A” and “2/B”, both went to France in June 1917 as part of the 126th Army Field Artillery Brigade.

"Each of the units has a section to itself and each section has its own chapters numbered separately. The story begins with the 1st Battalion, then follow ‘A’ Battery. ‘B’ Battery, the Siege Battery, 2nd Battalion, 2/A Battery, 2/B Battery and finally the third line units and the regimental Depot. There is a combined regimental Roll of Honour, arranged alphabetically (officers and men together), and each entry gives name and christian names (no regimental number); the date he joined the HAC; his unit (battalion or battery); the date he went overseas; the date and circumstances of death and place of death. In a number of cases more information on the man’s service is given. Likewise the list of Honours and Awards is a combined one giving service details of each recipient (there were two VCs to the 1st Battalion), and members of the HAC receiving awards while serving with other units are shown in a separate list, again with service details. There are three indexes, one of people, one of places and one of units. There are some interesting photos and though the maps are clear they lack tactical/operational details. Nevertheless this is a good, well-written history, clearly intended for the members of the Regiment."


As mentioned above, this separate history (also republished by the Naval & Military Press) concentrates on 309 Siege Battery.

"Army Council Instruction (ACI) 2268 of 6th December 1916 authorised the formation, in London, of No.309 (Honourable Artillery Company) Siege Battery, R.G.A. from personnel of the H.A.C. with effect from 27th November 1916. It was to be equipped with four 6-inch B.L. Howitzers. After five months training in various camps in the UK the Battery landed at Le Havre on 27th April 1917 with a full complement of 137 officers and men, and a week later it went up to the line in Ypres as one of the five batteries comprised in the 88th Heavy Artillery Group. Later, in February 1918 the number of howitzers was increased to six bringing the personnel strength up to 180 all ranks.Throughout the war the total number posted to the battery was 401 of whom 5 officers and 34 other ranks were killed and six officers and 64 other ranks wounded. Thirty-one left the battery to take up commissions in other batteries. The nominal roll is provided in an appendix showing the dates of joining the battery; the names of those who died are boxed.

"This book provides not only an accurate history of the battery but also a representative account of life in a howitzer battery on active service. In his War Books Cyril Falls refers to it as one of the very best of unit narratives which is high praise indeed. It certainly does bring out another side of the war, that of action and existence well behind the front line trenches, on the receiving end of enemy counter-battery fire and counter bombardments; this war was essentially a war of the guns."

I also offer a comprehensive, fast and cost-effective military history research service. Follow the link for more information.

Also read my posts on numbering in the London Regiment battalions:

City of London Battalions

1st (City of London) Battalion (Royal Fusiliers)
2nd (City of London) Battalion (Royal Fusiliers)
3rd (City of London) Battalion (Royal Fusiliers)
4th (City of London) Battalion (Royal Fusiliers)
5th (City of London) Battalion (Rifle Brigade)
6th (City of London) Battalion (Rifles)
7th (City of London) Battalion
8th (City of London) Battalion (Post Office Rifles)

County of London Battalions

9th (County of London) Battalion (Queen Victoria's Rifles)
10th County of London) Battalion (Hackney) [Originally Paddington Rifles]
11th (County of London) Battalion (Finsbury Rifles)
12th (County of London) Battalion (The Rangers)
13th (County of London) Battalion (Kensington)
14th (County of London) Battalion (London Scottish)
15th (County of London) Battalion (Prince of Wales's Own Civil Service Rifles)
16th (County of London) Battalion (Queen's Westminster Rifles)
17th (County of London) Battalion (Poplar & Stepney Rifles)
18th (County of London) Battalion (London Irish Rifles)
19th (County of London) Battalion (St Pancras)
20th (County of London) Battalion (Blackheath & Woolwich)
21st (County of London) Battalion (First Surrey Rifles)
22nd (County of London) Battalion (The Queen's)
23rd (County of London) Battalion
24th (County of London) Battalion (The Queen's)
25th (County of London) Cyclist Battalion
28th (County of London) Battalion (Artists Rifles)


David Porter said...

Notice the big increase in numbers in late 1915. This is because during the Derby Scheme period all new recruits were given this four figure sequence - including the artillery. On each recruiting day the men would be put into 3 alphabetically sorted groups - 3rd Bn. infantry, 3/A battery, 3/B battery - then numbered. At the end of the Derby Scheme period most of the existing artillery were then moved to this sequence in the 5xxx and 6xxx range. All the artillery 4 figure numbers were revised to the six figure sequence in January 1917 to reflect joining date - "A" batteries first (approx 770 men) then "B" batteries. It does seem complicated but it means that nobody in the HAC had the same number from early 1916.

Paul Nixon said...

Very interesting and useful information David; thank you for posting it. Was that referenced in an ACI or is that information you have come across elsewhere?


David Porter said...

I was just curious as to why some of the artillery had four figure numbers and went through a lot of MICs and Service Records. Survival rate is quite good which helps. I expect there was some kind of instruction issued but it didn't apply to any of the other RHA TF batteries.

Paul Nixon said...

Well done; looks as though you cracked the code, and survival rate of service records definitely helps when trying to make head or tail of these numbers.


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