The West Riding Regiment Royal Artillery (Territorials)

In 1860, as the Government feared invasion from the continent, the Secretary at War recommended the formation of Volunteer Artillery Corps to bolster our coastal defences. One Corps was formed in August of that year in Leeds and another, in October, in Bradford. They began as Coastal Artillery with 32 pounder guns and in 1886 became Position Artillery with 40 pounders. In 1898 they changed again to Garrison Artillery with 4.7 inch guns drawn by steam tractors. During this time they raised a number of batteries in nearby towns; at times, each Corps having as many as eight batteries. This expansion caused new barracks and drill halls to be built and local training areas to be found.

After the end of the Boer War in 1902, a review of the Army took place and a Royal Commission reported on the Militia and Volunteers. The War Office was concerned over the different standards of efficiency but had to concede that this was in the hands of individual commanding officers. Secretary for War, Haldane , in the Liberal Government of 1905, was given the task of preparing legislation for reform. His Territorial and Reserve Forces Act, 1907, brought together volunteer units to form the Territorial Force (to become the Territorial Army in 1921) giving them the same role as before, but, in addition, giving them the capability of acting as backup to the Regular Army if the need arose. The result was that the Leeds and Bradford Artillery lost their Heavy Guns and became Field Brigades. In addition, the Act set up County Associations to help co-ordinate the work of the War Office and the new Territorial Force, and to recruit, house and administer the units.

Thus in 1908 there was the 1st West Riding Brigade Royal Field Artillery (T.F.) with its headquarters at Fenton street, Leeds, and the 2nd West Riding Brigade Royal Field Artillery (T.F.) with its H.Q. at Valley Parade in Bradford. Each brigade had three batteries and an ammunition column and they were equipped with 15 pounder guns. With the change to the smaller guns, steam tractors were no longer required and the barracks had to be adapted to accommodate horses.

The Great War

In the Great War (1914 - 18) both brigades were part of the 49th (West Riding) Division, going to France in 1915, and each formed a second line brigade which then supported 62nd Division. In February 1920 the two brigades were reformed at Leeds and Bradford and the following year were re-designated 69th and 70th (West Riding) Brigades Royal Field Artillery (T.A.). Having been re-designated as Regiments in 1938, both remained as Field Regiments up to the Second World War, but the horses were replaced by Motor Transport.

In May 1939, the 69th formed a Second Line regiment at Bramley, Leeds (121 Field Regiment R.A. (T.A.) and 70th similarly gave rise to 122 Field Regiment R.A. (T.A.) in Bradford. During WWII 69th, as part of 49 (West riding) Division served in Iceland for two years and later, after their return to U.K., took part in the invasion of Normandy in June 1944.

121 Field Regiment went to Iraq in 1941, fought with the 8th Army in North Africa and the American 5th Army in Italy before returning to U.K. to take part in the Normandy invasion as a Medium Regiment with 5.5 inch Gun-Howitzers.

70th went to France in 1940 as part of the 52nd (Scottish Lowland) Division. When the British Expeditionary Force had to withdraw, 70th returned to U.K. via Cherbourg with all their guns, vehicles and equipment intact. They were later transferred to 46th (North Midland) Division and fought with them in the Tunisian campaign and in Italy and Greece.

122, after training in U.K., went out to the Far East, suffering war casualties of 13 until the Naval base at Singapore surrendered in February 1942. Thereafter, more than 200 died, mainly as a result of their treatment as Prisoners of War.

Unique honour
An honour, unique at the time for a T.A. unit, was conferred upon the 70th in September 1945. They were granted the Freedom of the City of Bradford.

The 1st January 1947 saw the two Regiments renumbered as 269 (WR) Field Regiment R.A. (T.A.) in Leeds and 270 (WR) in Bradford. Both units were equipped with the 25 pounder self propelled gun (the Sexton). In 1956 they were re-equipped with 25 pounder (towed), familiar to so many. When Anti-Aircraft Command was abolished in 1954, 321 Anti-Aircraft Regiment at Bramley was incorporated into 269, whilst 270th incorporated 584 Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment at Belle Vue Barracks in Bradford and moved their HQ from Valley Parade to Belle Vue.

November 1960 saw yet another reorganisation with 269 and 270 combined to form 249 (The West Riding Artillery) Field Regiment R.A., T.A. which, officially, came into existence on 1st February 1961, with Headquarters at New Carlton Barracks in Leeds and batteries at Leeds, Bramley and Bradford. So came together two regiments who started out alongside each other a hundred years earlier.

This new structure was not to last long. 1966 was, for 249, the last full year as a Gunner Regiment. Their final demise as a Regiment came in March 1969, surviving only as The West Riding Artillery Territorials (Cadre). In 1971 this cadre was expanded to become "A" (West Riding Artillery) Battery, 3rd Battalion Yorkshire Volunteers, later to become "B" Company 3rd/4th Battalion Yorkshire Volunteers.

This brief history of the West Riding Regiment Royal Artillery (Territorials) was prepared by the late Lt Colonel J.C."Mitch" Mitchell T.D., who said the job was easy, as he was able to refer to the following works:
The Bradford Volunteer Artillery - a Mini Archive 1914 - 1938, by RTP Peacock MBE
The Leeds Volunteer Artillery by W Seddon
The Bradford Volunteer Artillery - 70th(WR) Field Regiment RA TA 1939 - 1946 by J Douglas
121 Field/Medium Regiment 1939 - 46 by RW Morris
The Bradford Volunteer Artillery - 122(WR) Field Regiment RA TA 1939 - 1942 by E Ackroyd
also published in paperback under the title "A freedom dearly bought".
The Leeds Volunteer Artillery 1947 - 1971 by JT Wyatt

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last update:2nd January 2000