The Artillery

The 1st Hull Heavy Battery was  recruited from Kingston upon Hull. It was the first unit of the Royal Garrison Artillery raised for ‘Kitchener’s Army‘ and it went on to serve as a howitzer battery in the East African Campaign and as a siege battery on the Western Front. In September 1914, Lord Nunburnholme who was simultaneously raising the ‘Hull Pals’ Brigade (10th–13th Service Battalions of the East Yorkshire Regiment), also raised the 124th (2nd Hull) and 146th (3rd Hull) Heavy Batteries and the 31st (Hull) Divisional Ammunition Column. Lord Nunburnholme borrowed Hull City Hall and opened it on 6 September as the Central Hull Recruiting Office for all the units being raised in the city. Douglas Boyd, a Hull Corporation employee, was commissioned as Lieutenant and appointed recruiting officer. By 15 September, 80 men had been enrolled for the battery, many drawn from the shipbuilding and engineering firms in Hull, while drivers came from the rural villages of the East Riding. It reached its full war establishment by mid-December, when it was authorised to recruit an additional depot section to supply reinforcements. A typical Heavy Battery, contained 5 Officer, 170 men, 4 artillery pieces, 8 ammunition wagons, 86 draught horses and between 17-26 riding horses.

The recruits began training at East Hull Barracks on Holderness Road, performing drill in nearby East Park. The men lived at home, and until uniforms arrived the men of 1st Hull Batteryy were distinguished form the other East Riding recruits by wearing a red and blue armband on their civilian clothes. The battery’s guns, four Boer war -era 4.7 inch guns, arrived at Kingston Street Station in late October, and the men dragged them through the streets of Hull, first to Wenlock Barracks, then on to East Hull Barracks.

On 5 November, Captain Williams handed over command and reverted to the RNR (he commanded armed merchant vessels later in the war). The new CO was Temporary Captain, John McCracken, who had been an RGA Battery Serjeant-Major with 23 years’ experience at the outbreak of war. As part of 11th Division, the battery was formally designated 11th (Hull) Heavy Battery on 1 May 1915, when it established its headquarters outside the city at the former Hedon Racecourse. Here the horse teams were lodged in the racing stables and the battery began serious training.

The photo above, shows the (11th (Hull) Heavy Battery in East Africa. They were formed from the 1st Hull Heavy Battery in 1916. They had trained with 11th (Northern) Division, but left the Division in June 1915 to join 30th Division. In February 1916 they transferred to 38th Brigade RGA and were deployed in the East African Campaign, arriving at Kilindini on the 16th of March 1916. In a largely forgotten campaign in a forgotten theatre, the 11th Hull Heavy Battery arrived at Kondoa Irangi in German East Africa to support General J. L. Van DeVenter’s South African 2nd Division who had become beleaguered there. The 11th Hull Heavy Battery were led by Captain Orde Brown to relieve Van Deventer’s forces at Kondoa.
Today we remember the lads from Hull in their epic traverse of the Massai Steppe from Himo Bridge Camp, ridden with disease and weakened by hardship taking 17 days to trek the 200 miles from Himo to Kondoa. They took up position on Battery Hill at Kondoa on the night of 3rd June 1916. Their timely arrival opposed the German East African forces led by General Von Lettow Vorbeck.

1st Hull Heavy Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery. A 5 inch Howitzer
East Riding RGA -8 inch, howitzer, in action, September 1916.
2nd East Riding Artillery Volunteers, pulling a 18pounder through the mud, Zillebeke, 9th August1917
THE CAMPAIGN IN GERMAN EAST AFRICA DURING THE FIRST WORLD WAR. German East African Campaign. 5′ howitzer firing at Chiramaka, near Mtama, in action on Lindi Line in October 1917. This gun belonged to 11th Hull Battery. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:
2nd East Riding Bty., RFA

In addition, Hull recruited 3 Heavy Batteries of Artillery. These were

  • The East Riding Royal Garrison Artillery, formed by Lt Col, Robert Hall to defend the City and Humber Estuary. It was based at Spurn Point.

  • The East Riding Fortress Engineers, formed and commanded by Lt Col E M Newell.

  • The 2nd Northumbrian Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, led by Lt Col, J B Moss, DSO. It was formed in Hull in April 1916. In August 1917 it was converted into 8th Battalion of Royal Defence Corps.

Hull also formed its own 32nd Divisional Ammunition Column, from members of the City Police Force and Tramways. This was commanded by Lt Col, James Walker. The original artillery of the 32nd Division moved to France to join the 31st Division on 8 December 1915.

Cap Badge of the 1st Hull Heavy Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery,_Royal_Garrison_Artillery


A German 77 mm field gun – the most common German artillery piece of World War I. One of ten guns given to Hull in January 1919 in recognition of the City’s contribution to the War. Four of the guns had been captured by the East Yorkshire Regiment on 2nd September 1918. People paid to see them and the proceeds were given to Hull’s VAD Hospitals. This gun stood outside an Antiques shop on Beverley Road (opposite the Dorchester Hotel)  until the 1970’s.

For more information please see links –,_Royal_Garrison_Artillery#cite_note-11,_Royal_Garrison_Artillery

First part of six sections of a recording of a long interview with L.J. Ounsworth, Royal Artillery (interviewer unknown). Length 30 mins approx, includes: training at Hedon Race Course, Hull after joining up as a signaller. They completed two years of peace time cavalry training within six months. Continues directly into the second part.


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