9 (PLASSEY) BATTERY ROYAL ARTILLERY The Spring 2007 Meeting of the Society was held in the Newcome Hall at the Artillery Centre, Larkhill, on Thursday 19th April at 11 am. Brigadier Timbers was in the Chair and 26 members of the Society, four members’ guests, three former Battery Commander and five others attended the Meeting.
After the Secretary had given the usual parish notices, The Chairman said a few words about his forthcoming book about the Royal Artillery in Woolwich which he planned to publish in 2008. He the went on to welcome Major Anton Horne, Battery Commander of 9 (Plassey) Battery who, together with his team, was going to give a presentation on the history of his Battery.
Maj Horne It has been difficult to discern the exact details of what 9 (Plassey) Battery Royal Artillery has achieved over the last 258 years, due to the limited amount of archived information. The exception being major actions; therefore, we can only produce a reasoned assumption as to where the Battery has been, what it has achieved and what equipment it had.
The actions of the Battery for over 258 years have meant that it has not been disbanded. It has be placed in to suspended animation twice and been amalgamated on many occasions, but it is still here and the Army has continually ensured that the Battery has survived. So what makes a Battery more likely to survive than another, the answer is its history, honour and service. 9 (Plassey) Battery has these characteristics in abundance: the Battle of Plassey, 160 years service to the guns in India, actions in Salonika in the Great War, Malaya, Northern Ireland, Cyprus, the Falklands, Op GRANBY (Gulf 1990-91) and Op TELIC (Iraq 2003 to date)
I will start by introducing my presenting team:
Myself: Major A D E Horne RA (Anton) – Battery Commander
Captain D S Davenport RA (Dan) – Battery Operations Officer
Lieutenant R R M Stranks RA (Rupert) – Troop Commander
WO2 (BSM) A L McManus – Battery Sergeant Major
Between us we will cover:
The Campaigns in India
The Great War
The Post World War Two Period
The East India Company
The capture of Madras by the French in 1746 brought home to the Honourable East Indian Company the error of omitting artillery from its regular forces. So on 17th June 1748, the Court of Directors of the Company authorised the formation of three artillery companies in Bengal, Bombay and Madras. These orders took some months to reach India and did not become effective until 1749.
Bengal Artillery The first Bengal Artillery unit was raised in 1749. It was originally titled 1 Company, Bengal Artillery and was quartered in Fort William, Calcutta. The early records of the Battery were destroyed in the sacking of Calcutta in 1749, so the details are limited. However, it is known that the Battery was commanded by Capt Witherington and consisted of 5 other officers, 4 sergeant-bombardiers, 4 corporals, 100 gunners and 2 drummers. The company, much as like today, was double-hatted; as well as carrying out the normal artillery duties it also preformed engineering and labouring tasks.
The Black Hole of Calcutta Fort William was established to protect the Honourable East India Company’s growing trade interests in Bengal. The fort had the provided protection from the French and was a base from which to colonise the remainder of Bengal. The Nawab of Bengal, Suraj Ud Doulah was unimpressed with the British military build up and saw it as a direct threat to his rule in the province. He ordered an immediate halt to the fort’s military enhancements; however, the Company did not heed his instruction and continued their enhancements. The stand off came to a head in June 1756 when he laid siege to the fort.
The garrison commander organised an escape from the fort leaving behind a small military force to hold back the Nawab of Bengal’s army, until reinforcements could arrive. The remaining force was commanded by John Zephaniah Howell and was quickly depleted by casualties and deserters. This resulted in the defence becoming untenable. On the 20th June 1756 Fort William was in the hands of the Nawab. On capturing the fort the Nawab’s Army took 146 prisoners. They where all housed in a 14 by 20ft room which was later to become known as the ‘Black Hole of Calcutta.’ During the night 123 people died, including 45 members of our original Battery.
The remnants of the Battery escaped to Fulta and joined a detachment of Madras Artillery commanded by Lieutenant William Jennings, part of the relief force of 230 Europeans led by Major Kilpatrick. Further reinforcements arrived at Fulta from Madras in December 1756 under the command of Sir Robert Clive.
The Battery was equipped with 14 guns, most of which were 6-pounders. Under the command of the recently promoted Capt Jennings, they were involved in the battles against the Nawab’s Army at Budge-Budge on 29th December and the capture of the Hoogli River on the 10th January 1757. The Nawab then tried to counter-attack and assaulted Calcutta in February 1757, unfortunately for him, the attempt failed. Therefore, he was forced to make peace, but on terms advantageous to the Company.
WO2 (BSM) McManus The methods Clive employed to remove the Suraj Ud Doulah and establish the East India Company’s dominance over the territory were to become standard practice across the whole of the subcontinent for the next 100 years. Clive realised that stability in the region could not be achieved unless the current Nawab was removed from power and so he entered into secret negotiations with Mir Jafar Khan, Commander-in-Chief of the Nawab’s Army.
Figure 1 – Clive & Mir Jahan Khan
Clive promised Jafar that he would be installed as Nawab of Bengal if he betrayed his master. Suraj Ud Doulah became aware of the conspiracy and assembled his army about Plassey. His force contained a total of 70,000 soldiers, 18,000 horses and 53 heavy guns. The guns were heavily ornamented brass pieces and were mostly 24 and 32-pounders. Each platform was pulled by 40-50 bullocks and had an elephant to push when required. At Plassey the Nawab occupied a strong entrenched position and was clearly determined to stand.
Clive realised that the time for discussion was over and assembled his forces. He marched from Cutwa Fort on the evening of the 22nd June, his small army now contained 750 infantrymen of the 39th Regiment and the Honourable East India Company, 100 Bengal Artillerymen and 50 naval ratings from HMS Tiger who were employed as artillerymen, 200 Portuguese Eurasians and 2100 Sepoys. The force had ten small field guns, eight 6-pounders and two howitzers. His force was massively outnumbered, however, despite this enormous disparity, his own doubts and the advice of a council of war, he still decided to risk a general engagement.
Clive’s decision to risk an engagement was probably due to the strong words of Major Coote of the 39th Regiment, who encouraged, berated even, Clive to seize the day. For the action to be successful Clive was relying solely on the fact the Mir Jafar Khan would betray his Master.
Figure 2 – Map: The Battle of Plassey
At one o’clock the following morning of 23rd June 1757 the British formed up in front of the Plassey Grove, having European and Eurasian infantry in the centre, with the Sepoy infantry posted to each flank and three 6-pounders then posted outside them.
At day break the enemy advanced and opened a heavy artillery bombardment, to which the British guns responded effectively. Clive, however, could not afford too many casualties so he withdrew his infantry to the cover of the bank surrounding the mango grove. The enemy believed that the British were retreating and so attempted to close in, fortunately they were successfully kept in check by the 6-pounders firing through the embrasures cut into the mango grove bank.
The battle had now stalled and looked close to becoming a stalemate, so at noon the enemy withdrew. Clive instantly sent a detachment of two 6-pounders to take a position of two kilns, which had been used provide harassing fire onto the grove. At this point a heavy bank of cloud built up over the battlefield. Then, as often happens at that time of year in India, a violent thunderstorm burst and both armies were subjected to a torrential rainstorm. At that date the Nawab’s guns were probably still being loaded with loose powder ladles and were also likely to have been primed with loose powder. The Nawab’s artillerymen had failed to take precautions against the rain and so found their powder instantly wet and unusable. Suraj Ud Doulah then made the fatal mistake of assuming that the same must have happened to the Company’s artillery. In an attempt to clear the gun detachment from the Kilns he advanced his forces, he must have been thinking that the Clive’s force could now not withstand his superior numbers. However, the Company’s Artillery was manned by professionals who had nine years of practice and had already learnt to protect their powder from the rain. Suraj Ub Doulah’s advancing army was met by a three-round burst of case shot. The artillery instantly caused heavy causalities to the crowed infantry ranks, including their leader Meer Murdeen who was mortally wounded. The infantry, now leaderless, were decisively repulsed. The cavalry had also taken heavy losses; they had over-exposed their horses on the charge and so were easily dispersed.
The sight of his retreating forces panicked Suraj Ud Doulah, so much so that he appealed to Mir Jafar for help. Getting no response and fearful of treachery, he ordered his Army to retire to their fortified camp. He himself retreated further to Moorshedabab. Clive had not intended to take the offensive until nightfall, but on observing the general confusion occurring in the leaderless enemy he advanced. He led forward two companies on the left flank to drive out a party of Frenchmen who had remained in an attempt to cover the retreat. Once they were cleared, the British then conducted a general advance, leaving three platoons and a 6-pounder to cover Mir Jafar and his troops, who had not yet reviled their true allegiances. The remainder of the Nawab’s Army rallied at their fortified position and with fresh powder tried to counter-attack; this was quickly halted by the well-served British guns. The advance continued. By 5 o’clock the Company had also taken the town of Moorshedabab, capturing the Nawab’s baggage train and the 53 guns.
General Stubbs, the noted historian of the Bengal Artillery, wrote: ‘The battle of Plassey, from the commencement till the final advance to storm the entrenchment, was almost entirely an artillery engagement. The causalities though comparatively small (7 Europeans and 16 sepoys killed, 13 Europeans and 36 Sepoys wounded), were among the Europeans, principally in that arm. The victory laid the foundation of our empire in India. It concluded the war.’
Conquest of Bengal
Figure 3 – Map India
The Honourable East India Company’s influence after the Battle of Plassey continued to spread across Bengal. During this period the Battery was to see action in Bedarrah on 24th November 1759, Sherpuran on 23rd February 1760, Katwan on 19th July 1763, Gheriah on 2nd August 1763, Udwah Nala on 14th September 1763, Monghyr on 2nd October 1763, Buxar on 9th October 1764, Allahabad on 11th February 1765, Kora on 3rd May 1765 and Kalpi on 23rd May 1765.
In 1780 the Bengal Artillery was restructured, presumably due to the expansion of the Honourable East India Company in Bengal, and the Battery became 4 Company, 1 Bengal Artillery. Further restructuring in 1786 meant that the Battery became 5 Company, but later that year the Battery once again became 1 Company. In 1801 1 Company moved to 4 Battalion Bengal Artillery.
First Madras War As part of the Grand Army of Bhurtpore and Agra, the Battery was equipped with four 18-pounders and engaged in the following battles: 3rd May at the storming of Aligarh, on 11th September at the Battle of Delhi, on 4th October at Agra, in November at Laswari, on 21st December at Bandelkand, on 2nd January 1804 at Bhurtpore and in February 1804 at the Surrender of Gwalior and the Fall of Gohad.
In 1820 the Battery moved back to the 1st Battalion as No 3 Company but further changes in 1825 saw the Battery once again become 1st Company, in the 4th Battalion.
Gwalior Campaign: Battle of Maharajpur, 1843 Court feuds and intrigues in the State of Gwalior led to an attempt by the powerful Mahrattah army in that state attempting to seize power, thus posing a threat to the western borders of the East India Company. The Bengal Army was mobilised and the two sides met at Maharajpur. The guns were ordered to move forward quickly to engage the enemy, whereupon the Battery hastily deployed and was first to fire against the enemy. Although outgunned the Bengal Artillery eventually prevailed, creating the conditions for a successful infantry attack.
On 5th May 1844 the Governor General personally thanked the Battery for their actions at Maharajpur in his GOC-in-C letters
First Sikh War 1845-46
During the First Sikh War of 1845-46 the Battery was armed with 12-pounders. The Sikh population had become disillusioned with British rule and in 1845 decided to rebel. After a campaign of incredibly hard fought battles, the Battery joined the Army of The Sutlej and entered into the pivotal Battle of Sobraon on 10th February 1846. The Sikhs, with their backs to the Sobraon, refused to surrender and so were slaughtered where they stood. The following is a description of the final moments of the Battle.
“It was no longer a battle, it was simply carnage. The river had risen several inches during the night, but the Sikhs, refused to yield, plunged into it, and as shot and shell tore through them, their bodies were carried down the stream. The artillerymen did not like the work, but the Sikhs had to be taught a lesson, and were hard to instruct.”
After this battle the First Sikh War was essential over and the Sikhs eventually surrendered. Although they had lost, they were not beaten. After the conflict the Company did not adjust or attempt to resolve the issues, so a year later the 2nd Sikh War broke out.
Second Sikh War 1848-49 In the Second Sikh War the Battery was part of the Army of the Punjab. During the war the Battery first fought at the Battle of Chillianwallah, a battlefield which was dominated by jungle. On the first day the Army found themselves out-numbered and out-flanked and was forced to withdraw rapidly, leaving their injured and some guns behind. The Sikhs, due to the terrain and their independent commands, were unsure of how successful they had been and were preparing to withdraw for the evening. On seeing the Company’s men also withdrawing they advanced, slaughtering the wounded and taking some of the abandoned guns. An order was sent out that no one was to re-enter the jungle to reclaim the lost weapons and avenge the deaths.
The Company’s revenge would come at the Battle of Gujarat on 21st February 1849. Here the Battery was designated as a heavy a battery. The battle was to be an example of massed artillery fire and the Company made full use of its 88 guns. The following is a quote from Gen Stubbs:
“The artillery were given orders to advance. The fire of the 88 guns was so ably directed, it was more than what the Sikhs could have borne unflinchingly. As they said themselves ‘they were in hell’ while it lasted.”
This bombardment brought the fighting spirit of the Sikhs to an end. In March they surrendered and handed over all of their weapons.
Sepoy Mutiny in Delhi In 1857 the East India Company had been established in India for over a hundred years and were approaching the centenary of the Battle of Plassey. The Company had faced a century of conflicts and skirmishes during which they had on the whole been untouchable as the power on the Sub-continent and nearly always successful in battle. In 1857 they would face their great challenge to their authority; a mass revolt of their own Sepoy soldiers.
In 1857 a rumour spread through the Army that the new rifle cartridges were greased by fat from pigs and cows, this was offensive to both Muslims and Hindus respectively. There was already discontent throughout the native soldiers after a hundred years of foreign rule and this was enough to tip the balance. A prophet had also predicted that the rule of the English Raj would come to an end 100 years after the Battle of Plassey.
Figure 4 – Mutineering Sepoys
On 10th May 1857 native soldiers of 3rd Light Cavalry at Meerut refused to accept the new cartridges issued to them. This resulted in the dissenters being tried and found guilty: 80 received 10 years in jail and 5 received 5 years. On 11th May a riot erupted in the primary bazaar between locals and off duty soldiers. The jail was subsequently broken open and all the 3rd Light Cavalry prisoners were released. At the same time the 20th Native Infantry turned up on parade and started shooting at the white officers. The battalion then proceeded to Delhi, which would become the rebellion’s headquarters. In Delhi the resident cavalry officers were ordered out of the city, only to be then killed by their own men at the Kashmir Gate. On seeing the disaster befalling Delhi, Lt Willoughby managed to blow the magazine at the guardhouse, causing a huge explosion and denying the Sepoys its valuable ammunition.
In May the East India Company moved to siege Dehli. The Company was established for 23,000 soldiers, however, due to deaths and a shortage of recruits the force was at 75% of establishment and spread across the Sub-continent. The East India Company’s force would eventually contain 600 Cavalry, 2,400 Infantry, 22 light guns and 30 siege guns whereas the enemy had 100,000 men and the fort in Delhi, a ratio of 30:1.
Figure 5 – The Red Fort at Dehli
The Company occupied a ridge to the north of the fort, where their siege guns were in range of the walls of the fort. However, they were also in easy assault range of the fort, so on many occasions the sepoys would charge out the gates and attack the Company’s position. On 23rd June 1857, the anniversary of the Battle of Plassey, the enemy swarmed out of the Lahore Gate in the largest force they had ever assaulted with, trying to fulfil the prophecy; they were eventually repelled after a hard day’s fighting, but at the cost of 39 killed and 121 wounded.
By September the siege guns had breached the northern wall and on 14th September 1857 the fort was attacked. It took several days to win control of the city, but once complete, it brought a cessation to the fighting. With this small force the Company had held the ridge for three months, under constant attack. The Battery had fired throughout the siege and helped repel more than 26 assaults. Unfortunately, the cost to 1 Company, 4 Battalion was heavy, losing a total of five men during the siege and many more injured.
However, there was much to do by way of mopping up operations and during 1858 the Battery was involved in a skirmish at Najibabed, an action at Bareilly, operations around Shahjahanpur, actions at Barnai and Mohamdi and a night action at Shahabad before the Mutiny was finally crushed.
Departure for England
On 19th February 1862 the Honourable East India Company artillery was transferred to the Royal Artillery. The Battery was given the new title 1 Battery, 24 Brigade. Further changes in July 1872 meant that the Battery became 1 Battery, 23 Brigade. In 1876 the Battery received orders to move back to the United Kingdom, and was posted to Woolwich. The Battery was stationed at Woolwich, Sheerness, Dover and Guernsey and in 1877 was retitled once more, as 12 Battery 11 Brigade, and again in 1882 as 2 Battery Cinque Ports Division. In 1882 the Battery returned to the East with a posting to Burma where it was involved in the Third Burma War in 1885-86.
In 1889 mountain artillery was formed as a separate branch and the Battery became 2 Mountain Battery, a title it would retain for the next fifty years In 1899 the Royal Artillery divided into the Royal Horse and Royal Field Artillery and the Royal Garrison Artillery (RGA), the mountain batteries becoming the elite of the Royal Garrison Artillery.
The Great War Accounts of what the Battery achieved during the Great War are limited; however, we can piece to together roughly where the Battery was from the Divisional Orders of Battle.
Aug 1914 3 (Lahore) Indian Div Departed India for France 24 Aug 14
14 Dec 14 - 2 Apr 15 4 Div
2 Apr 15 - ? III Corps Arty
? - 17 Jul 15 12 Div
17 Jul -26 Jul 15 27 Div
26 Jul 15 - ? II Corps Arty Departed France for Salonika 29 Dec 15
30 Dec 15 - 7 Feb 16 10 (Irish) Div
7 Feb - 18 Jun 16 27 Div
18 Jun - ? Aug 16 28 Div
Aug 16 - Nov 18 not known
Editor’s Note: Herewith a summary of the 2 Mtn Bty War Diary for 1914-15:-
24 Aug Embark on BI SS Bancala, sailed 1130 am. Strength:
5 British officers
14 Public followers
6 Private followers
317 Total personnel
177 Ordnance mules
6 x 2.75-inch 10-pounder mountain guns
Escorts HMS Swiftsure, RIM Hardinge.
9 Sep Disembark Suez, march to Ishmailia camp by Sweetwater Canal.
28 Sep March to Alexandria
29 Sep Embark on SS Corsican, with mules and detachment of drivers on SS Californian.
Also 3DG, T Bty RHA, remainder of III Mtn Bde RGA, inf bn and 1 Fd Coy RE
7 Oct Arrive Marseilles, exercise mules and horse.
11 Oct Arrive Gibraltar, HMS Leviathan as escort.
16 Oct Arrive Liverpool. Train to Ashurst Camp, Aldershot. BSM died at Liverpool,
BQMS appointed BSM.
20 Oct III Mtn Bde redesignated III Pack Bde and reorganised. Followers sent home to
India. BAC at Portsmouth.
18 Nov Move to Lyndhurst Camp.
18-20 Nov 120 men detailed to participate in funeral parade for Lord Roberts in London.
9 Dec Embark at Southampton on Leyland Liner SS Cestrian. Sail for France.
10 Dec Disembark Le Havre. By train to Rouen, Hazebrouck and Strazele. Then march
via Steenwerke, Bailleul and Neippe to Ploegsteert Wood.
15 Dec Two guns deploy in trenches in support 11 Inf Bde, 4 Div at the east end of
The Battery subsequently employed regularly in trenches in support of brigades of 4 Inf Div. BAC split and No1 Sect joins Battery.
In April 1915, the Battery deploys in the area of Hill 60, during the Second Battle of Ypres.
In July the Battery moves south to area Armentieres and Bois Grenier
In August the Battery returns to area Mount Kemmel in support of 50 Div.
As an aside, the 2.75’’ mountain gun must not have been the most effective weapon for the trench warfare. The ammunition would have been too light to be effective at destroying bunkers or wire; this was an environment for heavier weapons. Despite this, and on account of the size and manoeuvrability the guns were frequently deployed in the front line trenches where they successfully dealt with troublesome strongpoints.
With the Battery’s experience of warmer climes and its ability to move relatively easily, it would have made good sense to send the Battery elsewhere so in late 1915 III Mountain Brigade departed France for Salonika where it arrived on 29th December 1915. The Battery arrived at the front in Salonika after the Serbians had been forced to withdraw to Scutari in October 1915. The entry of the Battery into the war in Greece was due to political differences between France and ourselves. The French had a very offensive attitude and wanted to push the Bulgarians back, whereas Britain only wanted to commit enough forces to appear to be protecting Greece in the hope that the Greek government would join the war on the Allied side.
The Battery initially deployed to the defensive position set up in the hills surrounding Salonika. The French were keen to push back north to the border and prepare for an offensive. The British refused, saying that their forces were only there for the defence of Salonika. However, by March, General Milne, the British commander, allowed a limited force forward to support an advance up the Vardar Valley. General Mahon was tasked with the mission, however, he stated that he would only go on the offensive if he had more mountain artillery. As there was only III Mountain Artillery Brigade in the theatre at that point it is extremely likely that the Battery was involved in this manoeuvre.
In Autumn 1916 the Battery was involved in the advance to the Struma Valley where they provided cover to the infantry assaults and helped check the Bulgarian counter-attacks. In April 1917 the Battery was involved in the assaults around the area of Lake Dorjan, where all mountain batteries fired in direct support of infantry battalions. In September 1918 the Battery took part in the pursuit of the Bulgarian forces back across the border and allowing the return of the Serbians to Belgrade.
Figure 6 – Map Salonika
Figure 7 – 2.75-inch mountain gun in action
The Inter-War Years, 1919-1939 The Battery returned to England after the Great War and reduced to a cadre which merged with 38 Company Royal Garrison Artillery and was retitled 2 Pack Battery in I Mountain Artillery Brigade at Bulford. In 1924 the Royal Field Artillery and the Royal Garrison Artillery merged once more as the Royal Artillery.
The Battery returned to India in the 1920s and joined 24 Indian Mountain Artillery Brigade at Razmak, Waziristan in 1928. It was retitled 2 Light Battery.
On 16th April 1936 2nd Light Battery was granted the sub-title 2nd (Plassey) Light Battery, but this distinction presaged a bitter disappointment. The Battery was the British battery in an Indian mountain brigade. Under Army Orders it was decided that in 1937 that the light batteries would form new field brigades; the Battery was to be withdrawn from the Indian Establishment and converted to 102 Fd Bty and brigaded in 29 Fd Bde (at that point unraised). However the Indian Army was forming new mountain brigades and batteries and as far as can be determined, the Battery was ordered to hand over its guns, mules and equipment to these new batteries and although it became 102 Light Battery it did not reorganise as stated; the personnel were posted and the Battery was placed in suspended animation. Thus on the eve of the Second World War, and after nearly 190 years service it is ironic that the Battery went into suspended animation when nearly every other part of the Army and Artillery would be expanded over the next few years.
Post-Second World War After the end of World War II the British Army needed to be restructured. There were Territorial Army units that needed to be deactivated and reformed back in their Drill Halls in Britain; long-standing regular units were stationed in now unstrategic locations, and with the wrong equipment, and a number of linked batteries needed to be unscrambled. But primarily the Army was far too large. A renumbering Committee was set up to decide a method to discern which units would remain, who would be renamed, who would be placed into suspended animation and who would be disbanded. The Committee produced its Report in 1946 and decided to place all the Regiment’s batteries in order of seniority by date of formation on a single roll. Only RA batteries were involved – the RHA retained their existing letters. The senior batteries received the lowest numbers, which would then follow them even if they changed role or parent unit. We are now able to trace a battery post-1947 by reference to its number that has not changed since then; it is now accepted that they did make several errors in placing batteries in the correct order according to seniority, but the Committee did not have access to Lt Col Laws’ later research on battery histories. The directions to carry out the changes were contained in Army Council Instruction (ACI) 229 of 1947 dated 19th March 1947.
The Committee also took the opportunity to regularise the position of certain batteries that had been suspended by earlier Army Orders. ACI 229/47 also connected certain newly formed batteries with units that had been suspended; at Serial 9 to Appendix A it stated that a new battery to be known as 9 (Plassey) Airborne Anti-tank Battery was to assume the traditions, history, plate, property and funds of 102 Fd Bty (suspended) (late 2 Lt Bty of 1937), to be regimented in 2 Air Landing Anti-tank Regiment which will have the new title 66 Airborne Anti-tank Regiment. The new battery was in fact formed from the personnel of 300 Air Landing Anti-tank Battery of 2 Air Landing Anti-tank Regiment.
But further changes were to follow. The first entry of the Battery History Book reads:
“Under the authority 20/Arty/6283 AG 6(a) of 23rd June 1950 9 Airborne Light Battery (Plassey) RA of 66 Airborne Light Regiment RA is to be reduced to a cadre of 1 Officer and 1 Other Rank’. Cadre 9 (Plassey) Airborne Light Battery RA is to be redesigned 9 (Plassey) Heavy Anti-aircraft Battery RA. The Battery will be reorganised, 9 HAA Battery RA will move from Cambridge Barracks, Woolwich, London SE18 to Seaton Barracks, Crownhill, Plymouth and be regimented in 65 HAA Regiment RA. Funds and property of sentimental and/or intrinsic value will accompany the cadre. 246 HAA Bty is to lapse into suspended animation and all personnel are to be absorded by 9 HAA Bty RA. Equipment, stores and vehicles in possession of 246 HAA Bty RA will be taken over by 9 HAA Bty RA”.
The new Battery Commander, Maj C C L Pusinelli, wrote:
“The officers and men of 246 HAA Bty RA are proud to carry on the traditions of this very old Battery. May the War Office in its wisdom cease from this game of redesignations”.
But owing to the reduction in the size of the Army after World War II the redesignations did continue. The next edition of the Battery History reads:
“On 15 Mar 55 a letter N 1033/142 Arty of 12 Mar 55 was received, to which was attached War Office (AG6) letter 20/Arty/6459(AG6a) of 28 Feb 55, stating 204 Locating Battery RA would be placed in suspended animation. The date ordered later to be 31 Mar 55. At the same time the men of 204 Locating Battery RA were to be posted the next day to 9 (Plassey) Locating Battery RA, taking over all the silver, traditions etc of 9 (Plassey) HAA Bty RA which was disbanded in the UK at Plymouth’.
Now based in Hohne, Germany as part of BAOR, the Battery’s future was still not secure, as recorded in the Battery History Book on 14 November 1955:
“The unpleasant, but naturally expected news was received that the Battery was to be run down in BAOR and placed into suspended animation in the UK. This news was received with dismay by members of the unit, who hoped to be able to continue as a unit, if needs be in a different role.”
On 15th July 1956 the Battery went into suspended animation with the BC, Maj A C C Magrath, writing the following:
“Before closing this chapter of the Battery’s History, the writer earnestly hopes that the War Office’s continual game of ‘shufflebottom’ may shortly cease and that this very old Battery may acquire a home with a permanent unit of the ‘New Army’ and avoid the monotonous and frustrating changes which have taken place since World War II. Then will there, perhaps, be an opportunity to carry on the traditions of PLASSEY in a more appropriate and constructive way.”
According to Laws’ Serial 245 the Battery was resuscitated on 1 January 1959 as 9 (Plassey) LAA Battery, part of 12 Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment. The Battery History book starts to tell the history of Plassey Battery in April 1961, when the Battery was based in Germany commanded by Maj Warburton and equipped with the Bofors 40mm L70 gun.
Malaya, Singapore and Borneo On 15th October 1962 the DRA visited and announced that in 1963 the Battery would move along with the Regiment to Malaya. In 1963 the Battery enhanced its AD capability by adding FCE 7 to its Bofors guns. As well as converting the Battery’s Radar Operators onto the new equipment, the Battery also conducted pre-deployment training for Malaya.
Figure 8 – Map Malaysia and Indonesia
Figure 9 – L40/70 Bofors Gun
On 16th September 1963 the Advance Party left for Malaya, with the remainder of the Battery shortly following to Tampin Airfield in Malaya, with the final flight arrived on 26th September. On 18th March 1964 the Battery was renamed 9 Light Air Defence Battery (ACI 93/64). Later that month the Battery received orders to move to Kuching Airport via a sea move to Singapore followed by an airlift into Kuching and by 10th March the Battery had occupied their new positions at the airport. On the 24th March, with the loading hoppers filled, the Battery became operational. The Air Control States were ‘tight’ during day light hours and ‘free’ by night. This was the first time a FCE 7 light air defence battery had been deployed in an operational role. The Battery’s radar capability was further enhanced in May when the 4 Mark 7/3 radar detachment arrived with its 500 mile range. In June 1964 the Battery recovered back to Tampin Airfield. The operational tempo did not ease with 90 members of the Battery deployed to Singapore to help quell riots on the island, and the BC having to rush back from a firing camp to conduct a recce of RAF Tengah. The Battery met the challenge and was complete in that location by 10th September 1964. After 5 months it moved to Kuching for a second time and was re-established there by 17th March 1965. The Battery was responsible for the AD of the position, patrolling the local area (12 square miles of jungle) and manning the 90cm searchlights (used for illuminating the jungle for the infantry). The Regiment then received orders to leave the Far East and by May had reorganised back in Llanelly Barracks, Dortmund.
Serving in Germany in the 1960s was just as intensive as serving in the Far East. With the Cold War in full flow the Battery had to constantly remain at a high state of operational readiness. Within two days of returning to Germany the Regiment received the codeword ‘Quick Train’, meaning that the Regiment must deploy immediately from camp to its pre-designated positions. The Regiment had two hours to achieve this, but it only required 90 minutes, quite a remarkable achievement. Although they managed to achieve the deadline, the results were only just acceptable. The crews were not yet ready for the higher tempo of operations, but in only a short period of time the Battery had reached the exacting standard required for soldiering in Germany.
Northern Ireland - Andersonstown 1971-72 In 1970 the focus for the Battery changed with the situation in Northern Ireland dramatically deteriorating. In December the Battery began its first phase of Northern Ireland training. The training was conducted in Norfolk and the Battery Commander, Maj B C M Harding MC (who was in the audience) ensured that the Battery was put thoroughly through its paces.
In June 1971 the Battery conducted a unit move from Napier Barracks, Dortmund to Barton Stacey Camp in Hampshire. This was a welcomed move for most of the Battery, who had been overseas for the majority of their military careers.
The Battery was not allowed to settle for long in Barton Stacey, and in September took over Public Duties from the 1st Battalion the Grenadier Guards. The Battery were the first non- guards unit to perform this duty in peacetime in 250 years and were responsible for guarding Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London and the Bank of England.
Figure 10 – Public Duties 1971
In October the Battery resumed their training for Northern Ireland, with the emphasis being placed on fitness and marksmanship. Once the recce was completed the training switched to patrolling, searching and house clearance drills. The Battery was also reorganised into a Battery HQ/Ops Room and three platoons. By mid-November the training was complete and on the 25th the Battery moved to Northern Ireland. The Battery occupied the buildings next to the Bus Station in Andersonstown and the surrounding area was their area of responsibility for the next four months.
Figure 11 – Andersonstown
Notable incidents included:
1st Week – Capture of a Revolver, 3 IEDs and a casualty
2nd Week – 2 soldiers seriously wounded.
Seven terrorist captured and a large find.
3rd Week – 17 shooting and 6 bomb incidents
4th Week – Major arms find and 12 terrorist captured
5th Week – Cordon and search op resulting in arrests
6th Week – Capture of 56lb of gelignite
Bdr B A Kinsnorth and Gnr F Jefferies were seriously wounded when an armour piercing round went through the side of a ‘pig’ (Humber 1-ton APC) mobile patrol
Conversion to Rapier In July 1972 the Battery moved to Kirton-in-Linsey, Lincolnshire, where on 21st September the Rapier ORBAT was adopted. The Battery moved to Netheravon to conduct the first ever Rapier conversion course. The conversion lasted just under two months and was followed by a confirmatory exercise. The Battery found itself under pressure on the exercise as it had been out of role for over a year. On 4th January 1973 the Battery received their first four Rapier (P40) systems, with a further four were collected on 31st January. A missile practice camp was run at the RA Ranges in the Hebrides; however, it was not until 6th March that the Battery to gain clearance to fire. Soon after the Battery was operational and exercising throughout Europe.
Figure 12 - Rapier
In April 1974 J Troop of the Battery was renamed 13 Troop. On 12th June, having conducted their pre-deployment training, 13 Troop deployed to Armagh for a four-month tour with 4th Field Regiment. 13 Troop returned from Northern Ireland in October. Bdr Dooley received the Queen’s Gallantry Medal for services in the province.
Meanwhile, the rest of the Battery prepared for Ex MACE in Cyprus and deployed on 5th July 1974. The exercise, unfortunately, did not go according to the plan. On 14th July the National Guard staged a coup and President Makarios fled the country. The following weekend the Turkish army invaded Northern Cyprus and the Battery took part in the security operation to protect the Sovereign Base area, its radar installations and supervised the refugees. The Battery flew back to UK in August, having been reinforced and then replaced by 41 RM Cdo. It then carried out an Arms Plot move to Dortmund in 1975.
Northern Ireland – Armagh 1976 From September to December 1976 the Battery was once again training for operations in Northern Ireland, and conducted their training on Sennelager Training Area under the supervision of NITAT (Northern Ireland Training & Advisory Team). Prior to Christmas leave the Battery found out that they would be deploying to Armagh and would take over from the Grenadier Guards on 26th January 1977. This tour was much quieter than the previous visit to the Province. The Battery made one major find (1 x Mauser, 1 x Bruno, 1 x single point rifle sight and 179 rounds of mixed ammunition) and dealt with several IEDs. In April the Battery was contacted twice with high velocity rounds; fortunately no one was injured. On 11th May 1977 a mobile patrol was contacted by four high velocity rounds. Gnr J D Jones was hit in the shoulder and was evacuated to hospital, where his condition was reported as ‘satisfactory’. The follow up found four Armalite cases, but nothing further. On the 23rd May the Battery handed over to the Queen’s Own Hussars and returned to Germany.
Northern Ireland - Portadown 1979-80
After the usual exercises in Northern Germany it was soon time to return to Northern Ireland. This time the Battery deployed to Portadown, in 1979. Again the tour was much quieter than the previous one, the Battery were now working more closely with the police forces and other agencies in the province. The inserts in the history book shows that the tour was approached with a professional attitude, with all ranks having high morale and a good sense of humour. On return to Germany the Battery prepared to move again. In June 1981 the Battery left Dortmund and returned to Kirton in Linsey.
The Falklands War 1982
In 1982 the rhythm of life that the Battery had grown used to changed dramatically with the illegal Argentinian occupation of South Georgia on 19th March, and the invasion of the Falkland Islands on 2nd April. The Battery started the year preparing for an Air Defence camp in the Hebrides and a deployment to Cyprus. In February the rhetoric between Great Britain and Argentina grew, but no one was particularly paying any attention to the situation. The Battery went on Easter block leave, only to be called back being told that they were going to war in the South Atlantic. On return the Battery started to conduct pre-tour training and in May went to the Hebrides to conduct a firing camp. All safety restrictions were removed and for the first time Rapier was allowed to be fired without any personnel under concrete cover.
Once the camp was complete the Battery drove their kit to Southampton, where it boarded the MV Edmund, which then sailed to Ascension. The Battery personnel would join their equipment there having flown to the island from UK. At Ascension the Battery boarded the Edmund, which was now escorted by the Sheffield and Coventry and sailed to the Exclusion Zone. The Battery deployed onto the Falkland Islands at Port Stanley on the night of the surrender. Half the Battery deployed by landing craft and the other half landed on the jetty. The Battery moved into defensive positions around Port Stanley, with BHQ remaining in the capital. After six weeks the Battery moved to Port San Carlos, remaining there until they handed over their equipment and role to 58 Battery in October 1982. During the actual conflict the only part of the Battery that was on the Falkland Islands, were the crews and equipment of the DN 181 Radar detachments, reinforcing T Battery.
Figure 13 – Falkland Islands
On 29th February 1984 the Battery deployed to the Falklands again as part of the garrison roulement. They arrived in Port Stanley and then deployed to protect San Carlos Water. B Troop deployed to Ajax Bay to rebuild their old position. In April the new FSB1 Rapier arrived. In June the Battery handed over to 58 Battery once again and sailed for Ascension via Port Stanley on the SS Uganda.
Northern Ireland 1986 - PGF (HMP Maze)
On 25th August 1986 the Battery deployed on a 10 week tour of Northern Ireland. The Battery assumed command of PFG (HMP Maze) (Prison Guard Force) from a squadron of 4 RTR. The tour passed without any major incidents and the Battery returned safely to Dortmund on 26th November 1986.
In March 1987 the Battery was tasked to patrol the East German border. In March and April the Battery were the first to convert to Tracked Rapier and conducted confirmatory training on Soltau Training Area.
United Nations Tour of Cyprus 1988-89
The Battery deployed to Cyprus on 6th December 1988 as part of the Dhekelia Detachment based in Alexander Barracks, Dhekelia.
The Battery’s first mission was to protect British interests, installation and personnel in the Eastern Sovereign Base Area. They achieved this by patrolling, manning OPs and guarding both installations and the Sovereign Base Area Police at their Permanent VCPs. On 27th January 1989 the Battery’s mission changed, they exchanged roles C Battery, 3 RHA and moved to Ayios Nikolaos, becoming the external security force for 9 Signals Regiment at Mercury Barracks. On the 5th March the Battery’s role changed again, this time the Battery would don the UN blue beret and become members of the United Nations Peace Keeping Force. For this tasking the Battery was dispersed across the Buffer Zone in a number of half troop locations, each with their own TAOR and responsible for observing both sides of the conflict. The Battery remained in this location for the remainder of the tour and handed over to 97 Battery (Lawson’s Company) of 4th Regiment on 6th June 1989.
Gulf War 1 – 1991 (Op GRANBY)
As tension rose in the Persian Gulf it became clearer that 12th Regiment RA would have to supply an Air Defence capability to the ground forces deployed. Due to manning shortages the Commanding Officer decided to amalgamate T and 9 Batteries to create a 12 Tracked Rapier launcher battery. The new Battery was to be commanded by BC T Battery, but comprising of more men from 9 (Plassey) Air Defence Battery than T Battery. This may have been due to the fact that the Battery was commanded by an American officer and with the obvious operational implications of having an American officer leading British troop in war.
Figure 14 – Gulf War 1 – Op GRANBY
On 1st November 1991 9 Battery absorbed the majority of men from T Battery which was re-rolling to become an HQ Battery. Due the amalgamation the Battery’s strength went from 74 to 143! Further changes occurred on 18th June 1992 when the Battery drop the ‘Air Defence’ from its title and simply become 9 (Plassey) Battery Royal Artillery.
In May 1993 the Battery started its conversion to the HVM system. After a conversion period the Battery conducted the first ever HVM SP Firing Camp at the Royal Artillery Ranges Manorbier in December 1993. The weapon system formally arrived at the Regiment in Germany on 19th January 1994.
Figure 15 – HVM
United Nations Tour of Cyprus 1995
In August 1995 the Battery moved from Dortmund to its present day location at Dempsey Barracks, Sennelager. As with all of the Battery’s moves, they were not allowed to settle for long and in October 1995 they began four weeks training for the forthcoming United Nations Roulement Regiment tour of Cyprus. On the 6th December 1995 the Battery took over from a battery of 29 Commando Regiment RA in Nicosia. Once again the Battery occupied the Troop Houses on the Green Line and instantly started to revitalise them. As was expected the tour passed without any major incidents and on the 3rd June 1996 a battery of 39 Regiment RA took over the duties of the Battery.
Northern Ireland – Bessbrooke Mill 1998
On 4th January 1998 the Battery adopted the ORBAT of the Bessbrooke Mill Battery for yet another tour of the province. The following is an extract from the Second Volume of Battery History:
“The intensity of the Op during the ceasefire has been both surprising and also provided the impetus for a great tour. The period was characterised by short, no notice actions designed to destabilise the Peace Process and to push support towards the dissident terrorists. Meanwhile, we policed both the Referendum (for Peace) and the elections for the Northern Ireland Assembly. Both activities passed off peacefully although the Battery was re-inforceded to 19 multiples for 17 polling stations.”
The terrorist threat rose steadily from deployment, the previous Battalion having been mortared twice the week before we arrived. The main threat was from the Proxy or VBIED although it appeared that the terrorists were using all weapon types. The Battery was tested by a series of hoaxes, elaborate planned bombs and the use of firearms. Procedures were tightened up and our integration with the RUC reinforced.
United Nations Tour of Cyprus 2001
The Battery returned for the fourth time to Cyprus in June 2001. The Battery was renamed Sector 2 East, which reflected the position along the Cyprus Buffer Zone. The Cyprus situation was now in its twenty-seventh year, so the Battery’s mission was to maintain the status quo between the two opposing forces in order to allow a long term political solution to be found. The tour unsurprisingly passed without incident and the Battery returned to Sennelager in November 2001.
Iraq 2003 (Op TELIC 1) 9 Battery reinforced 12 Battery on Op TELIC 1 in 2003. 12 Battery were stood down just before H-Hour due to the coverage provided by the US patriot missiles. 12 (Minden) Battery then re-roled to their secondary role, providing local area patrols and prisoner handling for the remainder of Op TELIC 1.
For the fifth time the Battery deployed to Cyprus in October 05. The Battery was renamed Sector 2 Operations Battery and was responsible for the integrity of the Buffer Zone within their areas of responsibility. Of note LBdr Krumlish receive a Force Commander commendation for bravery, for his leadership during an incident with a Cypriot hunter in the Buffer Zone.
The Future The future, of course, is unknown, but planned activities in 2008 include:
Operational tours in 2008:
Secondary role with 7 Armoured Brigade – Op TELIC 12
Mini Unmanned Vehicle – Op TELIC / HERRICK
Phalanx (C RAM) – Op TELIC
A unit move to Thorney Island, co-located with 47 Regiment Royal Artillery.
But after that the Battery’s future employment is less clear. Ladies and Gentlemen that concludes our presentation on the history of 9 (Plassey) Battery. Thank you for your attention and please feel free to ask questions.
Maj Heaney: What exactly is an MUAV?
BC: Phoenix, of which you may have heard, is a UAV – Unmanned Air Vehicle, a guided drone; a MUAV is a Mini-Unmanned Air Vehicle. It is used for aerial reconnaissance at battlegroup level, is hand-held, launched by an elastic band and has a range of 10 kms.
Maj Allen: Where did the Honourable East India Company recruit its European soldiers?
BC: I’m not entirely sure. I know that many were Portugese.
Maj Braisby: In the early days there was a mixture of European soldiers and native sepoys.
BK: Mostly Europeans to man the guns, then trusted natives were permitted to do this.
Lt Col Ayers: The Europeans were mostly Irish, with some English and Scots and some Europeans, many of whom were German. Some Indians were trusted as gunners.
Brig Timbers: The reason the Honourable East India Company Artillery was absorbed by the Royal Artillery was that there were so many India gunners; but after the Mutiny they were not trusted.
Brig Hall: It is interesting to look up Plassey on the internet and see what the Indian attitudes to the political at the time are: the regard the English as perfidious and guilty of double dealing. Casualties to the British force were 22, whereas they the Indians suffered over 1,000. We forget, sometimes, that Plassey was of immense significance. When I was chairman of the Army & Navy Club, we needed names for some of the rooms: Marlborough and Wellington were obvious enough, but the third was by a long margin, Clive.
Lt Col Townend. The 39th Foot, later the Dorset Regiment and now the Rifles, were immensely proud of their battle honour of Plassey and bore “Primus in Indis” (First in India) on their cap badge.
Brigadier Timbers then invited the former Battery Commanders to say a few words about their time in the battery, starting with Brig Harding, whose CO got an MC and was later Master Gunner, FM Sir Dick Vincent.
Brig Harding. It was all a long time ago. I remember there were a heck of a lot of barricades, but we got them all down. The Battery was first rate when I took over, largely the result of the efforts of my predecessor, Geoff Freeman. It was said that Northern Ireland was a battery commanders campaign, and a bombardiers war, certainly I had some well-trained and led NCOs. Andersonstown was sticky, partly a reaction to the Parachute Regiment. The Battery was allocated Andersonstown by the CO on the strength of their performance in the training village at Lydd; they arrived to find the CIVPOP erecting barricades and when they recognised the CIVPOP as being from Headquarter Battery, who they loathed, they got stuck into them and destroyed the barricades immediately, so we allocated the toughest area. They were good soldiers willing to go for it, well-led by both the officers and NCOs.
Brig Timbers: I remember that we in 2 Fd Regt took over. It was recognised that 12 had done very well and been allowed to go for the IRA and get them on the back foot.
Brig Harding. What I particularly remember about the incident was that I had just arrived back from R&R to find the Deputy Commander 39 Brigade preparing to send in two infantry battalions to clear the place up. I was briefed by the BK who said that everything was OK although a bit tired. So we mounted the operation quickly and had all the barricades down by 9 am and the two battalions were not required after all.
Lt Col Snowdon. I was Battery Commander 1988-90. We did a tour in Cyprus, which was then known as Op QUEEN’S KNIGHT. We were the first Gunners, attached to 3 RHA. It was a challenge
Lt Col Lewis. I was Battery Commander in the 1950s when the Battery was a heavy Anti-Aircraft battery in Plymouth. It was during the Cold War and we were responsible for the air defence of Bristol. We had to be operationally efficient, but this was difficult in the days of national Service and the high turn-over of personnel. Plymouth was OK. I remember we had a practice emergency call-out. The battery column was three miles long, and march discipline was rather rigid, a stop at regular intervals, regardless of where you were. Well we stopped in the middle of Taunton and it took five hours to sort out the mess.
Maj Horne I would like to end by saying something about the friction of life today. We deploy tomorrow to the Czech Republic, then on return train with our affiliated battlegroups in the CAST and CATT (Combined Arms Staff Trainer and CA Tactical Trainer) then deploy to BATUS for a series of back-to-back exercises from August to November. Then we move to Thorney Island where we start pre-deployment training for Op TELIC 12 (Iraq) where we expect to be deployed with an infantry battalion, hopefully with an operational area of our own. This will be from may to November next year. Then we start on STANEVAL preparation – Air Defence operational readiness.
The Chairman brought the meeting to an end by saying that the history of 9 Battery demonstrated how complicated some of our battery histories have been; change and counter-change, order and counter-order, and this has been reflected in many of our battery history presentations. I’m glad that the Battery has survived for Plassey is a splendid honour title. He especially thanked Anton Horne for the presentation, especially as they were deploying on exercise the next day.
The Meeting finished at 1235, and was followed by lunch in the RA Mess, Larkhill.
Battery Titles since 1749:
1749 1 Company, Bengal Artillery
1780 4 Company, 1 Bengal Artillery
1786 5 Company, 1 Bengal Artillery
1 Company, 1 Bengal Artillery
1801 1 Company, 4th Battalion Bengal Artillery
1820 3 Company, 1st Battalion Bengal Artillery
1825 1 Company, 4th Battalion, Bengal Artillery
1862 1 Battery, 24 Brigade RA
1872 1 Battery, 23 Brigade RA
1876 12 Battery, 11 Brigade RA
1882 2 Battery, Cinque Ports Division RA
1889 2 Mountain Battery RA
1899 2 Mountain Battery RGA
1899 2 Pack Battery RGA
1924 2 Light Battery RA
1936 2 (Plassey) Light Battery RA
1937 Suspended as 102 (Plassey) Light Battery RA
1947 9 (Plassey) Airborne Light Battery RA
1950 9 (Plassey) Heavy Anti-Aircraft Battery RA
1955 9 (Plassey) Locating Battery RA
1959 9 (Plassey) Light Anti-Aircraft Battery RA
1964 9 (Plassey) Light Air Defence Battery RA
1972 9 (Plassey) Air Defence Battery RA
1992 9 (Plassey) Battery RA
Subordination since 1900:
1914-1918 III Mountain Brigade RGA