2nd Glamorganshire Artillery Volunteers

The 2nd Glamorganshire Artillery Volunteers was a part-time unit of the British Army that defended the coast of South Wales from 1890 to 1942. Although it never saw action in its coastal defence role, it formed several siege batteries of heavy howitzers for service on the Western Front and Italian Front in World War I.

2nd Glamorganshire Artillery Volunteers
Glamorgan Royal Garrison Artillery
531st (Glamorgan) Coast Regiment, RA
Koning Soldaat., item 60.jpg
Cap Badge of the Royal Regiment of Artillery
Active1890–1942
Country United Kingdom
BranchFlag of the British Army.svg Volunteer Force/Territorial Force
RoleCoast Artillery
Part ofRoyal Garrison Artillery
Garrison/HQCardiff
Commanders
Notable
commanders
Sir Edward Hill, VD

Volunteer ForceEdit

The enthusiasm for the Volunteer movement following an invasion scare in 1859 saw the creation of many units composed of part-time soldiers eager to supplement the Regular British Army in time of need.[1][2][3] A number of Artillery Volunteer Corps (AVCs) were formed for coastal defence in South Wales, and by the 1880s they had been consolidated as the 1st Glamorganshire Artillery Volunteer Corps of 17 batteries. In 1890 the unit's headquarters (HQ) moved from Cardiff to Swansea, and the batteries grouped round Cardiff were separated to form a new 2nd Glamorganshire AVC.[a] After reorganisation these became 11 batteries (companies from 1891) distributed as follows:[4][5][6][7][8]

Sir Edward Hill, VD, MP, who had been Lieutenant-Colonel Commandant of the 1st Glamorganshire since 22 July 1864, retained the position with both units after 1 June 1890, though each had its own lieutenant-colonel and Honorary Colonel.[8]

The new unit formed part of the Western Division of the Royal Artillery (RA). In 1902 the RA's divisional structure was abolished, and artillery volunteers became part of the Royal Garrison Artillery (RGA). The Cardiff unit was designated the 2nd Glamorganshire RGA (Volunteers).[8][9]

Territorial ForceEdit

When the Volunteer Force was subsumed into the new Territorial Force (TF) under the Haldane Reforms of 1908,[10][11] the 1st Glamorganshire transferred to the Royal Field Artillery and the 2nd Glamorganshire became the Glamorgan and Pembroke RGA.[4][12][13] The 'Pembroke' part of the title was dropped in 1910 when a separate Pembroke RGA of three companies was formed.[14][15] The Glamorgan RGA was designated as a Defended Ports unit in Western Coast Defences, which was based at Pembroke Dock, and it had the following organisation:[4][12][16]

  • HQ at Cardiff
  • Nos 1–3 Companies at Cardiff
  • No 4 Company at Penarth
  • No 5 Company at Barry

World War IEdit

MobilisationEdit

The Glamorgan RGA mobilised in August 1914 as part of No 26 Coastal Fire Command, responsible for the defence of Swansea, Cardiff and Barry.[17] On the outbreak of war, TF units were invited to volunteer for Overseas Service and on 15 August 1914, the War Office (WO) issued instructions to separate those men who had signed up for Home Service only, and form these into reserve units. On 31 August, the formation of a reserve or 2nd Line unit was authorised for each 1st Line unit where 60 per cent or more of the men had volunteered for Overseas Service. The titles of these 2nd Line units would be the same as the original, but distinguished by a '2/' prefix. In this way duplicate brigades, companies and batteries were created, mirroring those TF formations being sent overseas.[18]

By October 1914, the campaign on the Western Front was bogging down into Trench warfare and there was an urgent need for batteries of siege artillery to be sent to France. The WO decided that the TF coastal gunners were well enough trained to take over many of the duties in the coastal defences, releasing Regular RGA gunners for service in the field, and 1st line RGA companies that had volunteered for overseas service had been authorised to increase their strength by 50 per cent.[19] Although complete defended ports units never went overseas, they did supply trained gunners to RGA units serving overseas. They also provided cadres to form new units for front line service, and the Glamorgan RGA is known to have raised at least four siege batteries in this way: 96th, 121st, 172nd and 359th.

Under Army Council Instruction 686 of April 1917, the coastal defence companies of the RGA (TF) were reorganised. By this stage of the war, the Glamorgan RGA serving in the Swansea and Severn Defences of Western Command consisted of just three companies, the rest having formed batteries for overseas service. These companies were given a slightly higher establishment (five officers and 100 other ranks) and renumbered, abolishing the 1st and 2nd Line distinction:[20]

  • 1/2 Company became No 1 Company
  • 1/3 Company became No 2 Company
  • 2/2 Company became No 3 Company

In April 1918 the Cardiff/Barry Garrison manned guns as follows:[21]

  • Nells Point, Barry Battery – 2 x 6-inch Mk VII guns
  • Penarth Head, Cardiff Battery – 2 x 6-inch Mk VII guns

The Swansea Garrison manned:

 
9.2-inch howitzer in action on the Somme, 1916.

96th Siege Battery, RGAEdit

According to WO Instruction No 181 of December 1915, 96th Siege Battery was to be formed at Pembroke Dock by three officers and 78 other ranks (the establishment of a full company) drawn from the Glamorgan RGA.[22] The battery actually formed on 1 January 1916 with three officers and 90 men from the Glamorgan RGA and 64 recruits from the Pembroke Dock RGA establishment, under the command of Major C.H.M. Sturgis.[23] It went out to the Western Front on 21 May 1916 and joined 19th Heavy Artillery Group in Third Army on 25 May, taking over four 9.2-inch howitzers in existing emplacements near Pommier from 62nd Siege Bty.[24][25]

96th Siege Battery saw its first action preparing for the Attack on the Gommecourt Salient in the Battle of the Somme.[26][27] As the final bombardment began on Z Day (1 July), the battery fired with such intensity that the oil in the guns' hydraulic recoil buffers boiled.[28] However, the Gommecourt attack was a disaster.[29][30]

Later the battery served at Arras and the latter stages of the Battle of Passchendaele, where the British artillery suffered badly from counter-battery fire, while their own guns sank into the mud and became difficult to aim and fire.[24][31][32][33][34] It then served through the defensive battles of the German Spring Offensive followed by the victorious Hundred Days Offensive.[35]

96th Siege Battery was disbanded in 1919.

 
Positioning a 9.2-inch howitzer and its ammunition in the mud of the Ypres Salient, 1917.

121st Siege Battery, RGAEdit

121st Siege Battery, RGA, was raised at Pembroke Dock on 22 March 1916 under Army Council Instruction 701 of 31 March 1916 with 3 officers and 78 other ranks from the Glamorgan RGA. It went out to the Western Front in July 1916, manning four 9.2-inch howitzers, and joined I ANZAC Corps in Fifth Army on 15 July in time for the Battle of Pozières. It was later engaged at Arras and Passchendaele.[24][31][36]

121st Siege Bty was joined by a section from 428th Siege Bty and expanded to six 9.2-inch howitzers by the end of 1917.[24] The battery was caught up in the 'Great Retreat' of March 1918, but returned during the Hundred Days campaign, including supporting the assault crossing of the St Quentin Canal on 29 September and participating in the crushing artillery barrages of the victorious Hundred Days offensive.[35][37]

121st Siege Battery was disbanded in 1919.

 
Crew positioning a 6-inch 26 cwt howitzer in 1918.

172nd Siege Battery, RGAEdit

172nd Siege Battery, RGA, was raised at Cardiff with three officers and 78 other ranks from the Glamorgan RGA under Army Council Instruction 1239 of 21 June 1916. It went out to the Western Front on 12 September 1916 equipped with four 6-inch 26 cwt Howitzers. It was engaged in the preparation for the Arras Offensive and at Passchendaele. 172nd Siege Bty was joined by a section from 415th Siege Bty on 26 August 1917, and brought up to a strength of six 6-inch howitzers.[24][31]

In November 1917 the battery was part of the reinforcements sent to the Italian Front after the disastrous Battle of Caporetto. It went into action supporting the Italian army holding the line of the River Piave and in June 1918 supported the defences during the Second Battle of the Piave River.[24][31][38][39][40][41][42][43]

The British guns participated in the final battle on the Italian Front, the stunning success of the Battle of Vittorio Veneto on 23 October. By 1 November the Austrian army had collapsed and the pursuing British troops had left their heavy guns far in the rear.[40][44][45][46][47]

172nd Battery was disbanded by the end of March 1919.[40][48]

 
Loading a 12-inch railway howitzer on the Western Front.

359th Siege Battery, RGAEdit

359th Siege Battery trained as a BL 12-inch railway howitzer battery and went out to the Western Front on 10 June 1917 and joined 19th HAG with XV Corps on the Flanders coast. 10th HAG transferred to Fourth Army HQ on 1 August. The battery joined 76th HAG with Second Army in the Ypres Salient on 21 September, while Second Army was fighting the last stages of the Battle of Passchendaele. On 14 November the battery transferred to 80th HAG, but that headquarters was sent to the Italian Front, so the battery came under the command of other HAGs until January 1918, when it became 'Army Troops' and was no longer attached to a HAG.[24][31]

Railway construction lagged during the rapid advances of the Hundred Days Offensive and the battery was left behind in the Salient. It was still serving with Second Army when the Armistice came into force in November 1918.[35]

359th Siege Battery was disbanded in 1919.

InterwarEdit

After the TF was demobilised in 1919 the Glamorgan RGA was placed in suspended animation. It was reformed in 1920, and when the TF was reconstituted as the Territorial Army (TA) in 1921, the unit was designated as the Glamorgan Coast Brigade, RGA. It consisted of HQ and 181 Heavy Battery at the Drill Hall, Cardiff, in 53rd (Welsh) Divisional Area.[8][12][49] It was responsible for manning the two 6-inch guns at Lavernock Battery near Cardiff, and the two 4.7-inch guns at Mumbles Battery, near Swansea.[50] In 1924 the RGA was subsumed into the RA, and in 1938 the coast brigades were redesignated as heavy regiments, hence the unit at Cardiff became the Glamorgan Heavy Regiment, RA.[8][12]

A 1927 report on coastal defences by the Committee of Imperial Defence made recommendations for the defence of 15 home ports, and another eight schemes were added in 1929, including Swansea, Barry, Cardiff and Newport, but little was done to modernise them.[51]

World War IIEdit

MobilisationEdit

The regiment mobilised in Western Command on the outbreak of war in September 1939 with the single 181 Battery under command.[8][52] Cardiff and Barry were designated Class A defended ports, with guns installed in peacetime, though the defence schemes of both were still being prepared. On 12 April 1940 plans were made for 6-inch guns to be installed at Swansea.[51][53]

When the Battle of France turned against the Allies in May 1940, the Admiralty made a number of 6-inch guns available to the army for coastal defence, and when the whole of the UK was put on invasion alert after the Dunkirk evacuation a massive programme of coastal defences was initiated. Although this mainly involved the likely invasion areas of South and South-East England, an emergency battery of two BL 6-inch Mk XII naval guns was authorised on 12 June for Penarth, and two more of two BL 4-inch Mk VII naval guns each were authorised for Llanelli and Port Talbot on 21 July and completed by 24 August.[53] These guns were moved around as required: as of November 1940, Cardiff and Barry had four 6-inch guns, Swansea had two 6-inch and two 4.7-inch, and Llanelli had one 4-inch. Although designated a major port, Newport still had no guns.[54]

In September 1940 the coastal artillery was reorganised, and the regiment became 531st (Glamorgan) Coast Regiment.[12][55][56] In addition, 21st Coast Artillery Group (later 559th Special Coast Regiment) was formed in October at Mumbles, near Swansea.[57][58][59]

Britain's coastal defences reached their height in September 1941, by which time Cardiff, Swansea and Barry (all defined as major ports) each had two 6-inch guns, and Barry had two 4.7-inch in addition. Newport still only had two 12-pounders, as did Llanelli. Port Talbot had a defence battery of two 4-inch guns.[53]

At this stage of the war, the coast defences in Glamorgan were as follows:

  • 531st (Glamorgan) Coast Regiment[12][56]
 
BL 6-inch Mk VII naval gun in typical coast defence mounting (this example is preserved at Newhaven Fort).
    • HQ at Cardiff[57]
    • 130 Bty – joined by June 1941[59]
    • 145 Independent Bty – joined by August 1941[59][60]
    • 181 Bty – left by June 1941[59]
    • 188, 189 Btys – formed 15 May 1941;[59] joined before December 1941[60]
    • 192, 365, 366 Btys – joined by June 1941[59]
    • 427 Bty – joined by August 1941[59][60]
  • 559th Special Coast Regiment[58]formed June 1941
    • HQ at Mumbles[57]
    • 146, 298, 401, 401 Btys[59]
    • 32 and 33 Coast Observer Detachments – joined by December 1941[60]

Mid-WarEdit

At the end of 1941 the defences of the Severn Estuary were completely reorganised: on 19 December 531st Rgt lost five of its batteries to two new coast regiments, 570th and 571st, formed from Flat Holm and Brean Down Fire Control respectively. They were replaced two newly-formed batteries, 430 and 431 joining 531st and 559th Rgts. This gave the following organisation:[60][57][55][61][62]

  • 531st (Glamorgan) Coast Regiment
    • HQ Cardiff
    • 130 Bty – became independent by November 1942[63]
    • 170 Independent Bty – joined by November 1942[63]
    • 181 Bty – left by May 1942[63]
    • 187 Bty – joined by mid-July 1942[63]
    • 427 Bty – left by mid-July 1942 for 514th Coast Rgt[63]
    • 430 Bty – joined December 1941[60]
  • 559th Coast Regiment
    • HQ Mumbles
    • 146, 401, 431 Btys
    • 298 Bty – left May 1942 for 562nd Coast Rgt[63]
    • 299 Bty – joined May 1942 from 562nd Coast Rgt[63]
    • 402 Bty – left May 1942 for 554th Coast Rgt[63]
    • 422 Bty – joined by November 1942 from 561st Coast Rgt[63]
    • 431 Bty – formed December 1941[60], joined by May 1942[63]
    • 32 Coast Observer Detachment – left by December 1942 for 532nd (Pembroke) Coast Rgt[64]
    • 33 Coast Observer Detachment
    • 36 (Mobile) Defence Troop, RA – joined January 1942,[60] disbanded May 1942[63]
  • 570th Coast Regiment
    • HQ Flat Holm
    • 145, 188, 189 Btys
  • 571st Coast Regiment
    • HQ Brean Down
    • 365, 366 Btys

531st, 570th and 571st Coast Rgts were under HQ Severn Defences, while 559th, further west at the Mumbles, was directly under Western Command until it joined Severn Defences in 1942.[63]

Late WarEdit

By 1942 the threat from German attack had diminished and there was demand for trained gunners for the fighting fronts. A process of reducing the manpower in the coast defences began.[65] 531st (Glamorgan) Coast Rgt was stood down[b] in December 1942 and its batteries assigned to 570th Coast Rgt, which together with other reassignments gave Severn Defences the following organisation in 1943:[12][56][64][66]

  • 559th Coast Rgt
    • 299, 422, 431 Btys
    • 24 Coast Observer Detachment – joined by July 1943[66]
    • 33 Coast Observer Detachment
  • 570th Coast Rgt
    • 145, 146, 170, 187, 205, 430
    • 1, 2 Coast Observer Detachments – disbanded by May 1943[64]
    • 105 Coast Observer Detachment – joined by December 1942
    • 106 Coast Observer Detachment – joined by December 1942,[64] to 532nd Coast Rgt by July 1943, returned by November 1943[66]
  • 571st Coast Rgt
    • 184, 188, 189, 366
    • 78 Coast Observer Detachment – joined by November 1943[66]

DisbandmentEdit

The manpower requirements for the forthcoming Allied invasion of Normandy (Operation Overlord) led to further reductions in coast defences in April 1944: 559th and 571st Coast Rgts were disbanded and 570th had all their batteries assigned to it, 24 and 33 Coast Observer Detachments replacing 105 and 106, though they also left in July. By this stage of the war many of the coast battery positions were manned by Home Guard detachments or in the hands of care and maintenance parties. The separate HQ for Severn Fixed Defences was also disbanded, and the regiment came directly under Western Command.[55][58][62][66][67] 570th Coast Rgt itself was disbanded in June 1945, shortly after VE Day.[55][61][68][69]

PostwarEdit

When the TA was reformed in 1947, 531st (Glamorgan) Coast Regiment was formally disbanded,[55] and the 664th (Welsh) Coast Regiment was formed as a new unit at Cardiff, though it is unclear why it was not considered as a successor to 531st Coast Rgt. In 1950 the 'Welsh' subtitle was changed to 'Glamorgan'. In 1953 the regiment was amalgamated with 425th (Pembroke) Coast Rgt to form 408th Coast Rgt based at the Defensible Barracks, Pembroke Dock, with R and S Btys provided by the 664th.[15][70][71][72][73] The new regiment took the subtitle 'Glamorganshire and Monmouthshire' in 1954, but was broken up in 1956. The Glamorgan batteries were amalgamated into 281st (Glamorgan Yeomanry) Field Regiment while the Pembroke batteries were amalgamated into 302nd (Pembroke Yeomanry) Field Regiment.[15][70][73][74][75]

Honorary ColonelsEdit

The following served as Honorary Colonel of the unit:[8]

FootnotesEdit

  1. ^ The original 2nd Glamorganshire AVC had been formed at Briton Ferry on 2 June 1860, and later established batteries at Skewen and Neath before being absorbed into the 1st in 1880.
  2. ^ As an established TA unit it could not be simply disbanded, and was probably placed in 'suspended animation' at this time.

NotesEdit

  1. ^ Beckett.
  2. ^ Litchfield & Westlake, pp. 1–3.
  3. ^ Spiers, pp. 163–8.
  4. ^ a b c Litchfield & Westlake, p. 81.
  5. ^ 1st Glamorgan Artillery Volunteers at Regiments.org.
  6. ^ "2nd Glamorgan Artillery Volunteers at Regiments.org". Archived from the original on 27 December 2005. Retrieved 27 December 2005.
  7. ^ Litchfield & Westlake, p. 5.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g Army List, various dates.
  9. ^ Litchfield & Westlake, p. 6.
  10. ^ Dunlop, Chapter 14.
  11. ^ Spiers, Chapter 10.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g Litchfield, p. 81.
  13. ^ London Gazette, 20 March 1908.
  14. ^ London Gazette, 14 October 1910.
  15. ^ a b c Litchfield, p. 204.
  16. ^ Conrad 1914.
  17. ^ Farndale, Forgotten Fronts, pp. 402, 409.
  18. ^ Becke, Pt 2b, p. 6.
  19. ^ WO Instruction No 248 of October 1914.
  20. ^ Army Council Instructions April 1917.
  21. ^ Farndale, Forgotten Fronts, Annex 4.
  22. ^ WO Instructions December 1915.
  23. ^ MacDonald, Pro Patria Mori, p. 172.
  24. ^ a b c d e f g 'Allocation of Siege Batteries RGA', The National Archives (TNA), Kew, file WO 95/5494/4.
  25. ^ MacDonald, Lack of Offensive Spirit, pp. 106, 172; Appendix 3.
  26. ^ MacDonald, Lack of Offensive Spirit, pp. 216–21; 265.
  27. ^ MacDonald, Pro Patria Nori, pp. 172, 188.
  28. ^ MacDonald, Pro Patria Mori, p. 258.
  29. ^ MacDonald, Pro Patria Mori, pp. 358–422, 456–7.
  30. ^ Edmonds, 1916, Vol I, pp. 467–71.
  31. ^ a b c d e 'Allocation of HA Groups', TNA file WO 95/5494/1.
  32. ^ Becke, Pt 4, pp. 74–8.
  33. ^ Farndale, Western Front, pp. 211–13.
  34. ^ Wolff, pp. 223–35, 249–51.
  35. ^ a b c Farndale, Western Front, Annex M.
  36. ^ Army Council Instructions March 1916.
  37. ^ Farndale, Western Front, pp. 307–9; 318–20.
  38. ^ Falls, pp. 89–92, 131–2, 143, 157–67.
  39. ^ Campbell, pp. 96–100.
  40. ^ a b c Shepard, in Campbell, p. 125.
  41. ^ Thompson, pp. 328–30, 344–7.
  42. ^ Kurt Peball, 'The Piave: Austria's last Throw', Purnell's History of the First World War, Vol 7, No 6, pp. 2833–8.
  43. ^ Philip Warner, 'The Piave: Italian Counterattack', Purnell's History of the First World War, Vol 7, No 6, pp. 2839–47.
  44. ^ Campbell, pp. 101–4.
  45. ^ Falls, pp. 169-77.
  46. ^ Thompson, pp. 356–64.
  47. ^ Franco Velsecchi, 'Vittorio Veneto', Purnell's History of the First World War, Vol 7, No 14, pp. 3064–71.
  48. ^ Campbell, pp. 106–19.
  49. ^ Titles & Designations.
  50. ^ Maurice-Jones, p. 221.
  51. ^ a b Collier, Chapter III.
  52. ^ Western Command 3 September 1939 at Patriot Files.
  53. ^ a b c Farndale, Years of Defeat, Annex B.
  54. ^ Collier, Appendix XIX.
  55. ^ a b c d e Farndale, Years of Defeat, Annex M.
  56. ^ a b c 531 Coast Rgt at RA 1939–45.
  57. ^ a b c d Farndale, Years of Defeat, Annex H.
  58. ^ a b c 559 Coast Rgt at RA 1939–45.
  59. ^ a b c d e f g h Order of Battle of Non-Field Force Units in the United Kingdom, Part 20: Coast Artillery, 1 June 1941, with amendments, TNA file WO 212/117.
  60. ^ a b c d e f g h Order of Battle of Non-Field Force Units in the United Kingdom, Part 20: Coast Artillery, 16 December 1941, with amendments, TNA file WO 212/118.
  61. ^ a b 570 Coast Rgt at RA 1939–45.
  62. ^ a b 571 Coast Rgt at RA 1939–45.
  63. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Order of Battle of Non-Field Force Units in the United Kingdom, Part 30: Coast Artillery, Defence Troops, Royal Artillery, and AA Defence of Merchant Ships, 14 May 1942, with amendments, TNA file WO 212/122.
  64. ^ a b c d Order of Battle of Non-Field Force Units in the United Kingdom, Part 30: Coast Artillery, Defence Troops, Royal Artillery, and AA Defence of Merchant Ships, 12 December 1942, with amendments, TNA file WO 212/123.
  65. ^ Collier, Chapter XIX.
  66. ^ a b c d e Order of Battle of Non-Field Force Units in the United Kingdom, Part 7: Coast Artillery, Defence Troops, Royal Artillery, and AA Defence of Merchant Ships (July 1943), with amendments, TNA file WO 212/124.
  67. ^ Order of Battle of the Forces in the United Kingdom, Part 7, Coast Artillery and AA Defence of Merchant Ships (1 April 1944), with amendments, TNA file WO 212/120.
  68. ^ Order of Battle of the Forces in the United Kingdom, Part 7, Section A – Coast Artillery (June 1945), TNA file WO 212/121.
  69. ^ Collier, Chapter XXI.
  70. ^ a b Litchfield, p. 83,
  71. ^ 638–677 Rgts RA at British Army 1945 on.
  72. ^ 414–443 Rgts RA at British Army 1945 on.
  73. ^ a b 372–413 Rgts RA at British Army 1945 on.
  74. ^ 266–288 Rgts RA at British Army 1945 on.
  75. ^ 289–322 Rgts RA at British Army 1945 on.

ReferencesEdit

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External sourcesEdit