Make your own free website on Tripod.com

 BRITISH ARTILLERY IN WORLD WAR 2

 ARTILLERY ORGANISATIONS

This page provides an explanation of artillery regiment and headquarters organisation and establishments.  There are links to tables providing the detailed Organisation for Manoeuvre and associated summary establishment tables for several types of regiment.

Updated 6 June 2014

 

 

 

CONTENTS

 

INTRODUCTION

 

ESTABLISHMENTS

 

UNIT ORGANISATIONS

 

DIVISIONAL & CORPS ARTILLERY

 

SUPER HEAVY ARTILLERY

 

ARTILLERY HEADQUARTERS

 

COMBINED SERVICES UNITS  

AFTER WORLD WAR 2

 

INTRODUCTION

As with most armies, the British Army's organisation was decided by the General Staff, in accordance with the available manpower and the Army's doctrine. However, the detailed organisation of units was prepared and proposed by the 'owning' arm or service.  Organisations were manifested in three main types of document:  

•    The War Office's Order of Battle (ORBAT) that established the number of  formations and their composition in terms of the units they commanded in  accordance with the General Staff's Policy Decisions.  

•   The unit War Establishment (WE) prepared by the 'owning' arm or service,  approved by the War Office's Establishments Committee, published by Staff Duties branch and authorised by the Army Council.

Changes to unit organisation were often the result General Staff policy decisions concerning the scales of equipment such as weapons, vehicles and wirelesses, with Establishments and G1098 being subsequently amended.  

British units have 'peace' and 'war' establishments, the former being called 'reduced' prior to 1939.  War establishments are the full quota of men and equipment, while the first are reduced numbers appropriate to peace time training.  In 1939 regular and TA units in UK, and most regular units overseas and west of India, were mobilised and brought up to war strength with reservists.  The WE included 'first reinforcements' - battle casualty replacements.  Establishment documents were organised in Volumes, relevant to field artillery were Volume II (divisional troops) and Volume III (corps troops).  However, regiments in SE Asia were on different establishments and these were in Volume XV while airborne units were in Volume I, as were armoured units and formations until 1943.

The general policy was to have one standard organisation for each type of unit, no matter what its role.  This was followed in western theatres but the particular circumstances of Burma meant that units there generally had establishments unique to that theatre.  British Army World War 2 (WW2) establishments for units in filed formation can be found in the National Archives, London, files WO 24/949 to 951.

Separate pages provide information about the training organisation and the higher organisation as it related to artillery.  There is also a wider ranging overview of divisional and divisional artillery organisations, with summaries of supported arm (infantry battalion and armoured regiment) organisations here.  Anti-tank regiment organisations are explained separately.

ESTABLISHMENTS

There was an Establishment for every type of unit and HQ, it gave an entitlement to men (by rank and 'trade'), vehicles, and armament.  It was divided into 5 parts:

(i) tabulated all personnel by rank, regiment or corps and role (some officers, Warrant Officers and senior NCOs) against sub-unit, usually down to troop (ie platoon) level if the unit was organised that way.
(ii) tabulated the distribution of rank and file (junior NCOs and privates) by trades and duties.
(iii) tabulated transport by sub-units
(iv) tabulated weapons (excluding personal small arms if every man had one) by sub-units.
(v) gave the organisation of the unit by vehicle 'crew',  grouping them into sub-units. Typically a battery was divided into battery HQ, troop HQ and gun sections.  The detail sometimes included radios, first line ammunition and some information about the vehicle's role/what it carried, eg 'MT stores'.

Finally, notes detailed allowed substitutions for vehicles and detailed any variations for circumstances, listed the First Reinforcements and referenced the WE of any attached sub-units such as a Light Aid Detachment (LAD).

Part (v) Organisation was not definitive.  The Establishment stated that it was "intended merely as a guide to officers commanding units, and may be varied, within the number of ranks, tradesmen and vehicles provided, according to tactical or administrative requirements."  The wording is significant because it meant a unit could train and employ 'non-tradesmen' as they required.  

Army Form G1098 gave a detailed entitlement to equipment listed in the Establishment plus personal weapons, wireless, tools, stores and all other equipment, for example spare sights, signals equipment and cooking equipment.   Items like guns, wireless stations, vehicles and many other major items each comprised many separate items, these items were not individually listed in the G1098 but were part of a uniquely identified 'Complete Equipment Schedule' that was in turn listed in the G1098.  Some items, notably instruments and wireless, were 'controlled stores' and issue of replacements had to be authorised by the General Staff.  

For particular types of unit, for example a field regiment, there were many changes in detail throughout the war.  These reflected lessons from the battlefield as well as new types of vehicles and equipment and changes to the soldiers' 'trade' structure.  However, in 1943 there was 'standardisation' of establishments, which incorporated the revised structure of tradesmen and non-tradesmen, standard vehicles and ensured that the number of men doing the same thing in different types of unit was consistent.

UNIT ORGANISATIONS

It's conventional to present military organisations as a structural 'organisation chart', and the figure below represents a generic one for field artillery.  However, while this represents the chain of command in an artillery regiment it does not reflect the complexity of a regiment's tactical organisation, and there were two of these.  One was the 'movement and deployment organisation called the  'Organization for Manœuvre', the other was the 'in-action' organisation designed for gunnery.    The 'raw' War Establishments, where part (v) gives an 'org chart' view, are interesting but tend to obscure more than enlighten, unless the reader has a good understanding of British artillery.  Most British combat units divided themselves in 'F', 'A' and 'B' Echelons, artillery didn't usually do this although it did designate 'B' Echelons.

Artillery Training publications explicitly detailed the 'Organization for Manœuvre' and implicitly directed the 'in-action' organisation.  Artillery Training Volume 2 'Deployment and Staff Duties' series of pamphlets (or Volume 1 'Tactical Handling' until 1941) for each type of regiment gave tables for the 'Organization for Manœuvre'.  It often differed from the way men and vehicles were allocated in part (v) of the WE and showed the organisation of a unit for its tactical deployment drills and procedures as conceived by the School of Artillery.  In other words it was an organisation that had evolved.  It defined the parties responsible for reconnaissance and preparation as well as the 'main bodies' and also assigned the individual vehicle role 'tac signs'.    Some of these Organizations for Manœuvre are available on this site, they are the key to understanding how artillery units actually 'worked'.  

In the 'in-action' organisation, the battery commander (BC) and troop commanders deployed forward, usually with the supported arm, and the rest of the battery occupied the gun area under the captain's (BK) command.  The gun area comprised two troop gun positions, the battery CP and the wagon lines (which included the gun tractors).  Regimental HQ deployed a main HQ in the vicinity of the battery gun areas and a regimental B Echelon some way to the rear under command of the quartermaster (QM).  From about mid-war a CO's tactical HQ was deployed at the supported infantry or armoured brigade HQ if the regiment was assigned in support (or under command) of a brigade.

The following figure outlines the structural organisation of the 1941 field regiment with 3 × 8 guns.  Its general pattern applied to other types of regiment and lasted throughout the war, the terminology is that of the time (ie before the formation of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) and Army Catering Corps (ACC)).  Medium regiments had only two batteries (2 × 8 guns), while heavy regiments had four batteries (4 × 4 guns).  Part (v) of the War Establishment represented this type of structure, similar to the following but usually down to section level (in artillery a section was two guns) and listing all vehicles and who went in them.  Note that this diagram does not include the RA staff sergeant and sergeant 'repair tradesmen' (artificers and fitters) who were distributed throughout the regiment.

Generic organisation of a regiment

A battery in this 1941 field regiment was about 200 all ranks and a medium battery was 253.  For comparison a British infantry company was about 125 all ranks, an armoured squadron about 130, and an engineer field company about 250.  The change between 1938 'field brigade RA' and the field regiment introduced less that 3 years later is significant.  In the former a battery of 6 guns had 1 major, 1 captain and 3 subalterns, the senior being the GPO and the others section commanders who undertook various roles, such as observing officer, wagon lines officer or battery leader as necessary.  By 1941 the battery had 8 guns with 1 major, 3 captains and 6 subalterns.

The greatest change in numbers was the reorganisation after the Fall of France.  At the outbreak of war a field regiment was 28 officers and 555 other ranks, the 1941 organisation increased this to 36 & 634.  Even more notably the 1944 organisation for a field regiment in a Light Division in SE Asia, still with 24 × 25-pdr, was 51 & 839!  All these figures exclude LAD and Signals Section.

The following table shows the ranks, in ascending order, and their typical positions in the Royal Artillery during WW2:

Other Ranks

Officers

Gunner (Gnr)

 

Second Lieutenant (2Lt)

 Gun Position Officer

Lance Bombardier (LBdr)

 

Lieutenant (Lt)

 Gun Position Officer
 Command Post Officer

Bombardier (Bdr)

 Gun Coverer

Captain (Capt)

 Troop Commander
 Adjutant
 Battery Captain

Lance Serjeant (LSjt)

 

Major (Maj)

Battery Commander
Brigade Major Royal Artillery
Regimental Second-in-Command

Serjeant (Sjt)

Gun Number 1

Lieutenant Colonel
(Lt Col)

 Regimental Commander
 Counter-Battery Officer

Staff Serjeant (SSjt)

Battery Quartermaster Serjeant

Colonel (Col)

 

Warrant Officer Class 3 (WO3)

Troop Serjeant Major

Brigadier (Brig)

Commander Royal Artillery

Warrant Officer Class 2 (WO2)

Battery Serjeant Major
Regimental Quartermaster Serjeant

Major General
(Maj Gen)

Major General Royal Artillery

Warrant Officer Class 1 (WO1)

Regimental Serjeant Major
Master Gunner

Lieutenant General
(Lt Gen)

 

 

 

General (Gen)

 

 

 

Field Marshal (FM)

 

Note that British units did and do not have 'Excutive Officers' (XOs).  RA officers also filled command and staff positions in formation HQs at all levels.

A regiment's Establishment included attached officers and soldiers from other corps.  These were:

In addition to the attached troops there were two elements with their own establishments that were part of an artillery regiment.

The Establishment listed the numbers of officers and soldiers by ranks and 'skills' in each type of regiment and its batteries.  Soldiers were divided into 'Tradesmen' and 'Non-Tradesman'.  The former received higher pay and some of the latter were designated as 'specialists'.  Some ranks were reserved for tradesmen and non-tradesmen in particular positions, for example a field regiment's 24 gun and 3 signal sergeants.  However, most ranks were available as a 'pool' that could be assigned to any individual, although some were reserved for 'repair tradesmen'.  Assigning these ranks to individuals was a matter for each regiment.  For example a 1944 field regiment had 358 'non-tradesmen' Gunners, of whom 35 could be Lance Bombardiers, although any of the 35 could be assigned to non-repair tradesmen.  Similarly with the 63 Bombardiers, of whom 15 could be Lance Sergeants.   The 73 repair tradesmen also had 13 NCO positions from Lance Bombardier to Staff Sergeant reserved for them, these are not shown in the diagram above.  

As the war progressed there were changes in soldier trades.  The main ones were:

In addition the 'Orderly Officer' in RHQ became the 'Intelligence Officer' and  a 'Technical Adjutant' was introduced in SP regiments, mirroring armoured corps practice.  In early 1945 another armoured corps practice was adopted, two of the four gun numbers on each gun in a SP regiment were 'removed' and 'replaced' by a 'gunner-operator' and a 'gunner-mechanic'.  Chaplains were held on the establishment of HQRA and assigned semi-permanently to individual regiments, and almost as important in late 1944 regiments gained a sergeant cook of the ACC.

It's not widely known that the British Army has long had several categories of officer, all of which appeared in artillery units. Most officers are conventionally commissioned, typically from officer training units but sometimes in the field and starting in the rank of 2Lt, and potentially reaching Field Marshal.  Most if not all of those commissioned in WW2 were wartime 'emergency commissions' for the duration of the war, and not the peacetime permanent 'regular' (usually commissioned from RMA Woolwich) or TA commissions.   Then there were the professionally qualified 'non-combatant' officers such as doctors, dentists, vets and some REME.  Chaplains wore officer rank insignia but were not commissioned.  Finally Quartermaster commissioned officers in the ranks Lt to Lt Col.  Although wartime exigencies sometimes dictated otherwise, QM commissioned officers were normally promoted from the Regimental Sergeant Majors and filled QM positions in units and staffs, although QMs had only been established in artillery regiments in 1938.  However, there were also QM type commissions for Warrant Officers with technical  backgrounds, and in artillery these included the WO1 Master Gunners, usually called 'District Officers' when commissioned in coast artillery.

In a battery the OP Parties each acquired a second vehicle, in 1944, to supplement their Armoured OP vehicle (carrier) or OP tank. This was an inevitable result of additional radios and the basic party increasing to 6 (officer, OPA, 2 driver-operators, driver-mechanic and signaller).  This second vehicle was a Jeep (Car, 5-cwt, 4 × 4) as these became available.  Jeeps also replaced many motor-cycles as the war progressed.  

The most significant organisations, as used in the European, African and Mediterranean Theatres were:

In 1944 a new type of organisation appeared: a 'Field Regiment RA in a Light Division'.  Artillery units in such divisions, which were designed for the war in South East Asia, had establishments in the series XV/65n/.    These 25-pdr field regiments had several distinguishing characteristics.  First they were some 200 men stronger than a standard field regiment, notably having 4 additional officers in each battery, including 2 captains and their parties designated as 'forward observation officers' in addition to the 2 troop commanders.  Next they had two organisations - 'Normal' and 'Alternative', both had the same number of men but differed greatly in their vehicles.  The Normal establishment had fewer vehicles all of which were 'cars, 5-cwt' (ie Jeeps).  This meant that a substantial portion of the men were designated as 'Marching', including the CO, BCs and observers.  The Alternative organisation had transport for all, using cars 5-cwt, FA tractors for the guns, Armoured OP vehicles and 15-cwt half-tracks for observers,  3-ton lorries for ammunition and stores and a 'Tractor, Crawler class 4 with angle-dozer'.  

Similar issues faced the airborne artillery, but here they made use of bicyles and motor-cycles instead of foot.  These batteries had another interesting feature, each section of two guns was commanded by an officer.  Air Landing Light Battery 1944 .

DIVISIONAL AND CORPS ARTILLERY

Most types of division had their own artillery under command, it was 'organic' in US terms.  It comprised an HQRA, field regiments, an anti-tank regiment and for most of the war a Light Anti-Aircraft (LAA) regiment.  The standard infantry division artillery remained little changed through the war, three field regiments totaling 72 guns.  However, there were variations in Burma, and some divisions in UK were on a lower establishment of two field regiments.

The main variations were in armoured divisions as these evolved.  It's possible to identify 9 significant changes in armoured division organisation between 1939 and 1945, excluding changes in its brigade organisations, although some of these were peculiar to the Middle East and Italy!  Naturally these changes did no always take effect in all theatres at the same time.  From a field artillery perspective the significant changes were:

Other types of division with field artillery were:

Above divisional level there was initially 2 field, 2 medium and 1 survey regiments under command of each corps.  In addition there were additional field, medium and heavy regiments under GHQ command and assigned as necessary.  However, from late 1942 when AGRAs were formed to command the 'pool' of artillery regiments under army or higher command a corps artillery was reduced to a single survey regiment (although there were corps LAA and anti-tank regiments as well).  AGRAs were under Army command and generally allocated one to a corps, although for significant operations additional AGRAs were often allocated (having been removed from other corps).  In practice there were additional regiments variously under army group or theatre command and War Office control and allocated as required.

While there was some variation, an AGRA normally comprised four medium regiments, a heavy regiment and an army field regiment.  By 1944 an AGRA usually had equal numbers of 5.5 inch and 4.5 inch guns.  Usually medium regiments had one or the other but sometimes a regiment had a battery of each.  AGRAs also had a signal company, providing a signal section to each regiment and the AGRA HQ, and an ammunition company of the RASC.

SUPER HEAVY ARTILLERY

Some super heavy artillery went to France with the BEF in 1939-40.  Super heavy batteries had only 2 guns, 9.2-inch or larger.  All the guns were WW1 'left-overs'.  After the fall of France they had a role in UK in case of invasion.

In early 1944 the ORBAT included a Super Heavy Regiment HQ (III/11G/3) and batteries equipped with 9.2-inch guns (III/11C/3) and 12-inch Howitzers  (III/11E/3) all on railway mountings and tractor drawn 12-inch Howitzers (III/315/1).

In September 1944 the establishments for a Super Heavy Group RA assigned to 21st Army Group were approved.  It comprised:

In the event only the Group HQ and road regiments went to France.

ARTILLERY HEADQUARTERS

Artillery HQs (HQRA at division and corps, and AGRA HQs) and specialist staffs (Counter Bombardment Office) had their own Establishments and were not part of the parent formation HQ establishment.  However, the formation HQ (division or corps) had their own signal regiment on its own separate establishment and this provided R Signals men, vehicles, radios, etc to the HQRA.  Artillery commanders at division and corps were brigadiers, titled 'Commander, Corps, Royal Artillery' (CCRA) and 'Commander, Royal Artillery' (CRA).   For the first three years of the war there was also a 'Commander, Corps, Medium Artillery' (CCMA), his HQ included the CBO.  The CCMA was replaced by Commander, Army Group, Royal Artillery (CAGRA) but the CBO remained under CCRA command.

The organisation of HQsRA reflected that of an infantry or armoured brigade:  a brigadier in command and a major as his principal G staff officer (Brigade Major).  The HQRA commanded all artillery, AA and anti-tank as well as field, in the division, AGRA or corps troops.  

The staff included a Staff Captain responsible for A & Q matters and infantry divisions had a REME captain because their LADs were commanded by WOs whereas in armoured divisions officers commanded LADs.  HQRA in an armoured division also had 4 liaison officers that they could deploy.  Minor changes were made towards the end of the war, AGRAs gained a GSO3 (captain), and an Army Education Corps officer was added to all HQsRA, part of their role being to act as watchkeepers.  Detailed organisations are shown in:

Of course other parts of the signal regiment also provided communications services for HQRA, the cable section, the operating section (which operated the divisional telephone exchange and provided cipher operators), the security section that monitored communications and the technical maintenance section.

Finally, there was a Counter Battery Officer's Staff, this was a corps level unit responsible for hostile battery intelligence and control of counter-battery fire, more information is on the Target Acquisition page.  The 1944 organisation provided two divisional sections, a section for Corps HQ and an Air-photo Interpretation Section, this organisation is shown here.

COMBINED SERVICES UNITS

'Combined services' meant that two or more of the RN, Army or RAF were involved.  RN or RAF elements existed in several field artillery units.  At the beginning of the war RAF signallers were on the war establishment of medium and possibly some other regiments.  See Medium Regiment 1939 this arrangement, designed to enable arty/R, did not last long.  RAF meteorologists were also part of sound ranging units, see Survey Regiment 1943, and variously attached to units and HQsRA, see the Meteor page.

However, the largest combined RA/RAF units were the Air OP squadrons, see the Other Firepower page for full details including a manpower table.  In summary these were RAF squadrons commanded by a RA major with all pilots being RA and the ground crew being a mixture of RAF (mostly aircraft maintenance tradesmen) and RA signallers and drivers, who sometimes flew to provide another pair of eyes.

There was one type of combined RA/RN unit: a combined operations bombardment unit, the WE for a troop was XII/140/1 effective date October 1943.  These troops provided liaison and observers for naval gunfire and comprised:

AFTER WORLD WAR 2

Unit designations remained unchanged apart from survey regiments being re-designated ‘observation’ and subsequently 'locating’.  However, HQ batteries were introduced into all regiments and the signals section underwent 'gunnerfication', with the signals officer becoming RA and the R Signals element being reduced to rear link (to HQRA and brigade HQ) communications only.  Off-setting this, the RA repair tradesmen (gun fitters, vehicle-mechanics, etc) were transferred to REME and LADs enlarged to absorb them as well as the 'REME attached' from regimental establishments.  Driver-mechanics were abolished.  The ranks of lance sergeant and WO3 were abolished but additional sergeants were established.

The size of RHQ and HQ battery steadily increased while gun batteries became smaller.  There was a major contraction in the number of regular units in the early 1960's when conscription ended and of TA units in 1967 when TA field formations were abolished.  

In the late 1950's field and medium batteries reverted to 6 guns and the number of officers in a battery reduced from 10 to 7.  Batteries were also equipped with the 'high roof' Saracen FV610 RA armoured command post and field regiments generally had 2 batteries of 25-pdr and one of 5.5-inch.  CP procedures were revised for a single working CP in each battery although each had two CPs giving a reserve, a resource for fire plans and enabling slick deployment drills.  In 1981 some field batteries (105mm and 155mm) became 8 gun again but the single working CP was retained.  Heavy regiments from the 1960's onwards had no OPs, however, field batteries had a third OP party provided by the Territorial Army but with vehicles and equipment held by the regular battery.

In 1957 the Air OP squadrons became the nucleus of the new Army Air Corps (although this Corps has WW2 antecedents).  In the 1960's many field regiments had their own air troop of observation helicopters.

In the 1960's divisional HQRA became part of signals regiment establishments.  Instead of separate HQs and signal regiment they were combined as 'HQ and Signal Regt' on a single establishment, this reduced the number of administrative positions and included all the commanders and staff officers.  Artillery brigades also had a combined 'HQ and Signal Sqn'.

Directory

Top

Copyright © 2002 - 2014 Nigel F Evans. All Rights Reserved.