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Meet the artillery

Find out about the Royal Artillery - the Gunners!


Meet the artillery

The Royal Artillery are a very noisy part of the Army. Now if you’re not quite sure what the Royal Artillery do or why they might be noisy, then here’s a clue for you – they’re sometimes known as “The Gunners”.

It’s all about very loud guns! And if you’re thinking – hang on, Arsenal – the famous football team are called The Gunners, well there’s a connection there.

The Royal Arsenal, Woolwich was a real place – it made and tested weapons and ammunition, explosives and armour for the British armed forces at a site on the south bank of the River Thames, not far from here in Woolwich. This area of London has been known as Arsenal to this day.

The job of the Royal Artillery

The job of the Royal Artillery is to provide the fire power to the Army – finding the enemy and then striking them when needed with everything from explosive shells to precision rockets.

Even when Britain isn’t at war, these experts in firepower can be found on operations all over the world – for example helping protect civilians in places like Afghanistan.

Technology and the Royal Artillery

The Royal Artillery are experts in using a lot of technology – digital cameras, heat and movement detectors, computers, radars and satellites, because the more information they have… the more they know where the enemy is and make sure they hit their targets.

The history of the Royal Artillery

The Royal Artillery, which comprises both Regular and Reserve units, was originally formed in 1716 in Woolwich. Today, the Regimental Home is on the southern edge of Salisbury Plain – a perfect setting for training and firing live rounds over several miles.

Check out Firepower: The Royal Artillery Museum – it’s a military museum in Woolwich which tells the story of the Royal Artillery and of the Royal Arsenal

The Royal Artillery’s arsenal

The Artillery have a huge ‘arsenal’ at their fingertips – from the AS90 Tracked Armoured Field Howitzer that has a top speed of 55mph and can fire a 96 pound shell 24 kms, to pilotless air vehicles that collect battlefield intelligence beaming images to base whilst in flight, and hi-tech radars that detect enemy rockets, artillery and mortar attacks.

Ceremonial duties

You are unlikely to see artillery in battle, you might see them on ceremonial duties in London. There’s a special unit of the Royal Artillery based here. It’s quite a small part but a very important one and has something in common with the Cavalry.

The King’s Troop is a mounted ceremonial unit. It’s their job to fire royal salutes on royal anniversaries and state occasions, like birthdays and funerals.

The salute is fired from six special field guns which are a hundred years old – they were used in the First World War. Before a salute, it takes 15 cans of wood polish, seven tubes of metal polish, a can of linseed oil, four cans of penetrating oil and 13 man-hours to turn out a gun and limber – that’s the wheeled cart it rides on.

Training and maintenance

The Kings Troop have everything at Woolwich that they need for training and maintenance. It has massive outdoor training areas, an indoor riding school, a veterinary clinic, stabling for 140 horses, a saddlers’ workshop and a tailors’ workshop where all the tack is stitched by hand, and the largest, most modern blacksmith’s forge in the Army – it shoes over 70 horses a week!

Even if the ceremonies are old – this building is very modern!   Biomass boilers generate renewable energy to provide heating and hot water from the 40 tonnes of waste produced by the horses each week.

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Life in the Armed Forces

Find out about Life in the Armed Forces

More From Life in the Armed Forces