Royal Horse Artillery



Fuentes d'Onor, Portugal - 11th May 1811

"The French with one shock drove in all the cavalry outguards, and cutting off Captain Ramsay's battery, came sweeping in upon the reserves of horse and upon the Seventh Division. But their leading squadrons approaching in a disorderly manner, and, at the same time, a great commotion was observed in their main body. Men and horses were closed with confusion and tumult towards one point, a thick dust arose, and loud cries, and the sparkling of blades, and the flashing of pistols, indicated some extraordinary occurrence. Suddenly the multitude became violently agitated, an English shout peeled high and clear, the mass was rent asunder, and Norman Ramsay burst forth at the head of his battery, his horses, breathing fire, stretched like greyhounds across the plain ,the guns bounding behind them as things of no weight, and the mounted gunners followed in full career." (Richard Cannon A History of the 14th Light Dragoons 1837). Sadly, Captain Ramsay was later to be killed in action at Waterloo.

No reference work on British cavalry would be complete without mention of the Royal Horse Artillery, a regiment which has its origins in the French Revolutionary Wars of 1792-1802. The Seven Years War of 1754-63 had previously seen a change in the way mounted troops were used, with a trend towards lighter and more mobile cavalry units which would leave heavy guns, usually drawn by teams of oxen, far behind.

In 1793, Charles Lennox, Duke of Richmond and Master-General of the King's Ordnance, raised four troops of artillery armed with light (6-pounder) guns drawn by teams of horses, not the traditional heavy shire horses, but light horses which could keep up with their counterparts in the 'light dragoons'. The men wore traditional Royal Artillery uniforms (including the Tarleton helmet) but were not recognised as a separate regiment, the Royal Horse Artillery, until after Wellington's victory at Waterloo.

Fighting first in Belgium in 1799, by 1805 the Horse Artillery had expanded to 12 troops which included elements of the Irish establishment. The Regiment made a significant contribution to Wellington's success on the Spanish peninsula (1808-14) and thereafter at Waterloo.

Elements of the Regiment served in India throughout the 19th Century but especially when the East India Company's troops, which included horse artillery regiments, were assimilated into the British army in 1858. They also served in the Crimea and Southern Africa, both during the tribal wars and the Second Boer War.

(The current 13-pounder 'Nery' gun used by the ceremonial King's Troop RHA was first introduced in 1904 and served throughout World War I).