29 December 2009
Ray Westlake on The Honourable Artillery Company, part 8 of his series on the Territorial Force of 1908-1920 ...
The Honourable Artillery Company has the longest continuous history of any formation, Regular or Territorial, within the British Army. It was chartered by Henry VIII on 25th August 1537 as a group of gentlemen willing to instruct officers of the Trained Bands of London in the use of longbows, crossbows and handguns ‘...for the better increase of the defence of this our realm’. The Trained Bands assembled at Tilbury in 1588 to contest the Spanish Armada should it reach the capital.
Known first as the Fraternity or Guild of St George; later as the ‘Gentlemen of the Artillery Garden’ – until 1642 their training ground was in Artillery Lane, Spitalfields – then simply as The Artillery Company, it was not until 1665 that the title ‘Honourable’ was used. The word ‘artillery’ at this time was used in the ancient sense and referred to archery and other hand-held weapons that dispatched missiles – cannon was known as ‘great artillery’.
So Honourable Artillery Company it was, and Honourable Artillery Company it remained and this ancient regiment with its four infantry companies took the field in 1908 as Army Troops attached to the 1st London Division.
Read more in the January/February edition of the Armourer.