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3rd Kent Artillery Volunteers (Royal Arsenal)

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Active  1860–1920
Branch  Territorial Force
Country  United Kingdom
Type  Artillery Regiment
3rd Kent Artillery Volunteers (Royal Arsenal)
Role  Garrison Artillery (1892–1908) Field Artillery (1908–1920)

The 3rd Kent Artillery Volunteers (Royal Arsenal) was a unit of the British Volunteer Force from 1860 to 1920. Originally raised from the workers of Woolwich Arsenal, near London, it later became a London unit of the Territorial Force and served on the Western Front. during World War I.



When an invasion scare in 1859 led to a flood of volunteers forming new military units to defend Great Britain, it was natural that men working at Woolwich Arsenal would organise themselves into an Artillery Volunteer Corps (AVC). (They also formed the 26th (Royal Arsenal) Rifle Volunteer Corps, which eventually became the 20th (County of London) Battalion, The London Regiment (Blackheath and Woolwich).) Formally constituted on 28 February 1860, and designated the 10th (Royal Arsenal) Kent AVC, the unit was manned by artisans from the Shot and Shell Factory. The nearby Royal Dockyards at Deptford and Woolwich also raised an AVC, numbered 14th (Royal Dockyard) Kent AVC. However, the dockyards closed in 1869 and the 14th Kent AVC was disbanded the following year. Originally raised as eight batteries, the strength of the 10th Kent AVC declined to six batteries during the 1860s, but it also had the small 2nd and 3rd Essex AVCs attached to it. The 9th Kent AVC, formed in 1860 at Plumstead, near Woolwich, was also absorbed by the 10th in 1873. In 1875 the 10th Kent Artillery Volunteers won the Queen's Prize at the National Artillery Association annual competition held at Shoeburyness Old Ranges.

During the 1880s many Artillery Volunteer units were reorganised, and the 10th Kent became the 3rd Kent Volunteer Artillery (Royal Arsenal), with its HQ and eight batteries at Woolwich, while the Essex and Plumstead units resumed their independent identities. In 1892 the unit was converted to the role of 'position artillery', with four batteries. In this role the 3rd Kent did well, winning the Queen's Prize for position artillery at the annual National Artillery Association competition held at Shoeburyness, for 1895, 1897 and 1898.

In 1902 the unit was redesignated 3rd Kent Brigade, Royal Garrison Artillery (Volunteers).

Territorial Force

By the time that the Territorial Force was formed under the Haldane reforms of 1908, Woolwich had been transferred from Kent to the new County of London, and henceforth the unit was administered by the London TF Association. It became II London Brigade of the Royal Field Artillery (RFA), assigned to the TF's 1st London Division with the following organisation:

II London Brigade RFA

  • 4th County of London Battery
  • 5th County of London Battery
  • 6th County of London Battery
  • II London Ammunition Column
  • Mobilisation and organisation

    Annual training for 1st London Division had just started when war was declared on 4 August 1914, and the II London Brigade promptly mustered at Woolwich for mobilisation. The infantry of the division were soon posted away to relieve Regular Army garrisons in the Mediterranean or to supplement the British Expeditionary Force on the Western Front. By January 1915, only the artillery and other support elements of the division remained in England, and these were attached to the Second Line TF division (58th (2/1st London) Division) that was being formed. The unit was numbered 1/II London Bde and formed a separate 2/II London Bde, which served with the 58th Division throughout the war.

    1/II London Brigade

    In August 1915 the 36th (Ulster) Division was being readied for service. Its infantry were largely drawn from the Ulster Volunteers and had already received weapons training before the war; the artillery however were newly raised Londoners, and the drivers were still being taught to mount and dismount from wooden horses. The 1st London Divisional Artillery were therefore attached to the Ulster Division until its own gunners were ready for active service. The London field brigades were re-equipped with 18-pounder guns and accompanied the Ulster Division to France, 1/I City of London Bde landing at Le Havre on 4 October 1915. It was in the Line by the middle of the month.

    In December, the Ulster Division's artillery arrived from England, and the London Divisional Artillery was transferred to the 38th (Welsh) Division, which had also arrived in France minus its own artillery. 1/II London Bde served with the Welsh Division from 11 December 1915 to 1 January 1916. It was next attached to IV Corps Artillery until the end of February. By now, 1st London Division (now numbered 56th (London) Division) was being reformed in France and its divisional artillery was finally able to rejoin.

    In April 1916 a Regular battery (109th Battery, from XXIII Brigade Royal Field Artillery, which had been serving in 3rd Division), joined 1/II London Bde. In May, TF artillery brigades were numbered in sequence with the Royal Field Artillery: 1/II London became CCLXXXI Brigade (281 Brigade), and the batteries became A–D. Shortly afterwards D (109th) Battery was exchanged with a battery (formerly 10th County of London Battery) from the divisional howitzer brigade, equipped with 4.5-inch howitzers. Brigade Ammunition Columns were also abolished at this time. In the winter of 1916–17, TF field artillery batteries were reorganised from a four-gun to a six-gun establishment, so C Battery was split between A and B Batteries, and to make up the numbers 109th Battery rejoined together with a howitzer section from other London Field Brigades which were broken up. For the remainder of the war, therefore, 1/II City of London had the following organisation:

    CCLXXXI Brigade RFA

  • 109th Battery
  • A Battery
  • B Battery
  • D (Howitzer) Battery
  • CCLXXXI Bde supported 56th Division in the following actions:


  • Battle of the Somme
  • Attack at Gommecourt Salient, 1 July
  • Battle of Ginchy, 9 September
  • Battle of Flers-Courcelette, 15–22 September
  • Battle of Morval, 25–27 September
  • Capture of Combles, 26 September
  • Battle of the Transloy Ridges, 1–9 October
  • 1917

  • German Retreat to the Hindenburg Line, 14 March–5 April
  • Battles of Arras
  • First Battle of the Scarpe, 9–14 April
  • Third Battle of the Scarpe, 3–4 May
  • Third Battle of Ypres
  • Battle of Langemarck, 16–17 August
  • Battle of Cambrai
  • Capture of Tadpole Copse, 21 November
  • Capture of Bourlon Wood, 23–28 November
  • German Counter-attacks, 30 November–2 December
  • 1918

  • First Battles of the Somme
  • First Battle of Arras, 28 March
  • Second Battle of the Somme
  • Battle of Albert, 23 August
  • Second Battles of Arras
  • Battle of the Scarpe, 26–30 August
  • Battles of the Hindenburg Line
  • Battle of the Canal du Nord, 27 September–1 October
  • Second Battle of Cambrai, 8–9 October
  • Pursuit to the Selle, 9–12 October
  • Final Advance in Picardy
  • Battle of the Sambre, 4 November
  • Passage of the Grande Honnelle, 5–7 November
  • Throughout this period, even when the infantry of the division were resting, the divisional artillery were frequently left in the Line supporting other formations. 56th Division was relieved and drawn back into support by midnight on 10 November 1918, but its artillery remained in action until 'Cease Fire' sounded at 11.00 on 11 November when the Armistice with Germany came into force.

    2/II London Brigade

    After the First Line divisional artillery left for France, 2/II London Bde joined 58th Division on 27 September at Saxmundham with the following composition:

    2/II London Brigade RFA

  • 2/4th London Battery
  • 2/5th London Battery
  • 2/6th London Battery
  • 2/II London Brigade Ammunition Column
  • The division remained in East Anglia, digging trenches, manning coastal defences. and training, until July 1916, when it moved to Salisbury Plain for final training. By then the artillery had received their 18-pounders and 4.5-inch howitzers. As with the other TF artillery, the brigade was assigned a number and 2/II London became CCXCI Brigade (291 Brigade). The batteries were redesignated A–C, a howitzer battery was added and became D Battery, and the brigade ammunition columns were abolished. The division began embarking for France on 20 January 1917 and by early February it was on the Western Front, where it remained for the rest of the war.

    CCXCI Bde supported 58th Division in the following actions:


  • German Retreat to the Hindenburg Line, 17–28 March
  • Battle of Bullecourt, 4–17 May
  • Actions on the Hindenburg Line, 20 May–16 June
  • Third Battle of Ypres
  • Battle of the Menin Road Ridge, 20–25 September
  • Battle of Polygon Wood, 26–27 September
  • Second Battle of Passchendaele, 26 October–10 November
  • 1918

  • First Battles of the Somme
  • Battle of St Quentin, 21 March–3 April
  • Second Battle of Villers-Bretonneux, 24–25 April
  • Battle of Amiens 8–11 August
  • Second Battle of the Somme
  • Battle of Albert, 22–23 August
  • Second Battle of Bapaume, 31 August–1 September
  • Battles of the Hindenburg Line
  • Battle of Épehy, 18 September
  • Final Advance in Artois and Flanders, 2 October–11 November.
  • After the Armistice came into force, skilled men began to return home. Full demobilisation got under way in March 1919 and the artillery left for England on 4 April.


    When the Territorial Army was reformed in 1920, the II Londons became 360 (4th City of London) Battery in the 1st (City of London) Brigade alongside which they had fought throughout the war. The battery was based with the rest of the brigade in Bloomsbury, and the link with Woolwich ended. Just before World War II, 360 Battery was split off to form a duplicate unit (138th Field Regiment), which fought in Tunisia and Italy.


    The II London Field Brigade is listed on the City and County of London Troops Memorial in front of the Royal Exchange, with architectural design by Sir Aston Webb and sculpture by Alfred Drury. The left-hand (northern) figure flanking this memorial depicts a Royal Artilleryman representative of the various London Artillery units.


    3rd Kent Artillery Volunteers (Royal Arsenal) Wikipedia

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