1st Kent Artillery Volunteers
|1st Kent Artillery Volunteers|
Kent Royal Garrison Artillery
Kent & Sussex Heavy Brigade
410 (Kent) Coast Regiment
Fort Clarence, Rochester
World War I
World War II
The 1st Kent Artillery Volunteers was a part-time unit of the British Army's Royal Artillery from 1860 to 1956. Primarily serving as coastal artillery defending the Port of Dover and other harbours in South-East England, the unit's successors also served in the heavy artillery role on the Western Front during World War I and as anti-aircraft artillery during the Blitz and later in the North African and Italian campaigns of World War II.
- 1 Origin
- 2 Reorganisation
- 3 Territorial Force
- 4 World War I
- 5 Interwar
- 6 World War II
- 7 Postwar
- 8 Honorary Colonels
- 9 Notes
- 10 References
- 11 External sources
Many Volunteer units were raised in Great Britain as a result of an invasion scare in 1859. These small independent units were quickly organised into larger groupings, and the 1st Administrative Brigade of Kent Artillery Volunteers was formed in August 1860. It comprised the following Corps:
- 1st Corps formed at Gravesend on 20 October 1859
- 2nd Corps formed at Faversham on 15 November 1859
- 3rd Corps formed at Folkestone on 7 November 1859 (transferred to the 1st Cinque Ports Artillery Volunteers in April 1860)
- 4th Corps formed at Sheerness Dockyard on 9 January 1860 (absorbed by the 13th Corps in late 1866)
- 5th Corps formed at Blackheath on 28 February 1860
- 6th Corps appeared in the Army List in March 1860 but was never formed
- 7th Corps formed at Greenwich in March 1860 but no officers were ever gazetted and it was removed from the Army List in 1862
- 8th Corps was never formed
- 9th Corps formed at Plumstead on 13 February 1860 and attached to the 10th Corps in 1870. Renumbered 2nd in 1880.
- 10th Corps formed at the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich on 28 February 1860. Renumbered in 1880 as 3rd Kent (Royal Arsenal)
- 11th Corps formed at Sandgate on 25 February 1860
- 12th Corps formed at Gillingham on 6 March 1860
- 13th Corps formed at Sheerness Dockyard on 1 March 1860, absorbed the 4th Corps in 1866
- 14th Corps formed at Woolwich Dockyard on 29 March 1860]; disbanded in 1870 when the dockyard closed
A reorganisation in May 1880 saw the Plumstead and Woolwich units become independent, and the remaining Corps were consolidated as the 1st Kent Artillery Volunteer Corps (1st KAVC) with HQ at Gravesend and eleven batteries provided as follows:
- Two Batteries by the 1st Corps
- Two batteries by the 2nd Corps
- Two batteries by the 5th Corps
- One battery by the 11th Corps
- One battery by the 12th Corps
- Three batteries by the 13th Corps
In 1887, the 1st KAVC was redesigned the 3rd Volunteer (Kent) Brigade, Cinque Ports Division, Royal Artillery, but this title only lasted until 1889, when it became 1st Kent Artillery Volunteer Corps (Eastern Division, Royal Artillery).
- 1st Kent Artillery Volunteers – Headquarters at Gravesend
- 2nd Kent Artillery Volunteers – Headquarters at Plumstead
- 3rd Kent Artillery Volunteers (Royal Arsenal) – Headquarters at Woolwich
When the Volunteers were subsumed into the new Territorial Force (TF) under the Haldane Reforms of 1908,  the 1st Kent Brigade provided the Home Counties (Kent) Heavy Battery, RGA, including its ammunition column, and three companies of the Kent and Sussex Royal Garrison Artillery. However, this unit was broken up in 1910, and the Kent batteries became the separate Kent RGA.
The Home Counties (Kent) Heavy Battery was based at Beaton Street, Faversham, with its ammunition column at Chatham. Equipped with four 4.7-inch guns it formed part of the Home Counties Division of the TF.  
- HQ at Sheerness
- No 1 Company at Fort Clarence, Rochester, Kent
- No 2 Company at Gravesend
- No 3 Company at Dover
Nos 1 and 2 Companies formed part of Eastern Coast Defences at Chatham, while No 3 Company was in South Eastern Coast Defences at Dover.
World War I
On the outbreak of war on 4 August 1914, the Kent RGA went to its war stations manning the coast artillery and the Heavy Battery mobilised at Faversham. After mobilisation, units of the TF were invited to volunteer for Overseas Service, and on 15 August the War Office issued instructions to separate those men who had signed up for Home Service only, and form these into reserve units. On 31 August, the formation of a reserve or 2nd Line unit was authorised for each 1st Line unit where 60 per cent or more of the men had volunteered for Overseas Service. The titles of these 2nd Line units would be the same as the original, but distinguished by a '2/' prefix. In this way, duplicate battalions, brigades and divisions were created, mirroring those TF formations being sent overseas. Thus were formed the 1/1st and 2/1st Home Counties (Kent) Heavy Bys.
The Home Counties Division accepted the liability for service in India to release the regular units of the garrison there for active service on the Western Front. However, heavy artillery was not required for India, so when the division departed on 30 October, the 1/1st Bty stayed behind with the 2nd Home Counties Division that was being formed.
1/1st Home Counties (Kent) Heavy Battery
The battery formally joined 2nd Home Counties Division on 30 October, and the division assembled in billets round Windsor, Berkshire during November. It was numbered 67th (2nd Home Counties) Division in August 1915. On 17 November, the 1/1st Bty left the division to equip for overseas service, and it landed at Le Havre on 29 December 1915, joining the XVI Heavy Brigade, RGA, on 31 December.
The battery (normally referred to as the 1/1st Kent Heavy Bty) transferred to the 48th Heavy Artillery Group (HAG) on 25 April 1916.
48th Heavy Artillery Group was assigned to the Attack on the Gommecourt Salient in the forthcoming 'Big Push' (the Battle of the Somme). Positioned near Berles-au-Bois, north of Gommecourt, its main role was counter-battery fire to destroy the German guns, although its 4.7-inch guns could not actually reach the German heavy gun positions in the rear. The planned seven-day bombardment of the German positions began on 24 June but 48th HAG did not participate in this programme on the first three days (U, V and W Days), only carrying out some 'night line' harassing fire into German-held villages.
The 4.7-inch guns joined in the bombardment programme at dawn on 27 June (X Day), firing into the village of Bucquoy at 06.00. However, accuracy was poor: when the Kent battery fired 30 shells at German Battery position 504 at 11.04, only three were on target. Later the guns practised a six-minute hurricane bombardment on the German positions. Y Day was spent shelling German gun positions, but the weather was poor for observation. Because of the weather, the attack was postposed for two days, and the additional days (Y1 and Y2) were used for further bombardment. On Y2, 48th HAG engaged 18 separate targets, and 1/1st Kent Bty fired 228 rounds, but this was far below the 400 per battery permitted, because of difficulties of observation. Many of these rounds were wide of their intended targets.
On Z Day (1 July), the entire artillery supporting 56th Division fired a 65-minute bombardment of the German front, starting at 06.25. At 07.30 the guns lifted onto their pre-arranged targets in the German support and reserve lines as the infantry got out of their forward trenches and advanced towards Gommecourt. At first this went well for 56th Division. Despite casualties from the German counter-bombardment on their jumping-off trenches, the smoke and morning mist helped the infantry, and they reached the German front line with little loss and moved on towards the second and reserve lines. The artillery Observation Posts (OPs) reported the signboards erected by the leading waves to mark their progress. However, the OPs themselves came under attack from the German counter-bombardment, which prevented supplies and reinforcements crossing No man's land to reaching the leading waves who had entered the German trenches. The heavy guns tried to suppress the German artillery, but the commander of 56th Division commented that although 'our counter-batter groups engaged a large number of German batteries – the results were not apparent'. By mid-afternoon, the division's slight gains were being eroded by German counter-attacks, and all the remaining gains had to be abandoned after dark.
Over the next two years, the 1/1st Kent Bty was moved from one HAG to another as circumstances demanded. On 12 February 1917, the battery was joined by a section of 118th Heavy Bty RGA to make it up to a strength of six guns. The 118th Heavy Bty was a regular unit formed at Woolwich shortly after the outbreak of war and had been in France with 4.7-inch guns since 6 November 1914. By now, the heavy batteries on the Western Front were adopting the modern 60-pounder in place of the obsolete 4.7-inch.
In late 1917, the policy was changed, and HAGs became permanent formations. 1/1st Kent Bty joined the 92nd HAG on 13 January 1918 and remained with it until the end of the war. On 1 February 1918, the HAGs became Brigades once more, and 92nd became 92nd (Mobile) Brigade, RGA, composed of four six-gun batteries of 60-pounders, and joined First Army on the same day.
During the German Spring Offensive of March 1918, the 92nd (M) Bde was sent to reinforce the hard-pressed Third Army, and remained with it until the Armistice with Germany on 11 November 1918.
After the German offensive was halted, the Allies went over to the attack in the Hundred Days Offensive, which gathered pace once the St Quentin Canal had been crossed. Mobile heavy guns had to be moved up to support the successive attacks. On 8 October, 92nd (M) Bde was assigned to counter-battery fire to support IV Corps' attack (the Battle of Cambrai (1918)).
For Third Army's attack on the River Selle, 92nd Bde was again attached to IV Corps Artillery. Now there was no long preliminary bombardment, instead a surprise attack was made at 02.00 on 20 October under a full moon. During the October fighting heavy guns were not used on the towns to avoid casualties among French civilians, but the 60-pounders were used to 'search' roads and forest clearings. Again, on 4 November, at the Battle of the Sambre, 92nd (M) Bde supported IV Corps in a complex fire programme to assist 37th Division and the New Zealand Division in capturing the old fortress of Le Quesnoy.
2/1st Home Counties (Kent) Heavy Battery
The battery formally separated from 1/1st Bty on 26 December 1914, but it was January 1916 before it received its guns. Even then, vital equipment such as sights were still lacking. 67th (2nd Home Counties) Division had a dual role of training drafts for units serving overseas and at the same time being part of the mobile force responsible for home defence. From November 1915 it formed part of Second Army, Central Force, quartered in Kent with 2/1st Bty at Ightham.
In September 1916, the battery moved to Mundesley in Norfolk, where it joined 4th Provisional Brigade. Provisional brigades were TF home defence formations composed of men who had not signed up for overseas service, but after the Military Service Act 1916 swept away the Home/Foreign service distinction all TF soldiers became liable for overseas service, if medically fit. The Provisional Brigades' role thus expanded to include physical conditioning to render men fit for drafting overseas. The 4th Provisional Brigade became the 224th Mixed Brigade in December 1916 ('mixed' in this context indicating a formation of infantry and artillery with supporting units).
At the time of the Armistice, 2/1st Battery was still at Mundesley as part of 224th Mixed Bde.
The Imperial German Navy only carried out 12 bombardments of British coastal targets during World War I, so most of the extensive coastal defences were never tested. Many of the trained men in these defences were transferred to meet the desperate need for heavy and siege gun units overseas, particularly on the Western Front. Kent was, however, an exception to the inactivity, and the ports of Margate, Broadstairs, Ramsgate and Dover were bombarded in April 1917 (the Second Battle of the Dover Strait), and Dover was shelled again (the last such bombardment of the war) on 16 February 1918. The batteries at Ramsgate and Dover were engaged on these occasions.
By April 1918, the Dover Garrison batteries (originally manned by No 3 Company Kent RGA and regular RGA units) were as follows:
- Dover Turret: 2 x 6-inch Mk VII guns
- Admiralty Pier Battery: 2 x 12-pounder QF guns
- South Breakwater Battery: 2 x 6-inch Mk VII guns
- Knuckle Battery: 3 x 4-inch QF guns
- Citadel Battery: 2 x 9.2-inch Mk X guns
- Langdon Battery: 3 x 9.2-inch Mk 10, 2 x 6-inch Mk VII
- Harbour Battery: 2 x 12-pounder field guns
Kent Heavy Brigade
When the TF was reconstituted as the new Territorial Army (TA) in 1920, the Kent RGA was reformed in 1920, becoming the Kent Coast Brigade, RGA in 1921 and the Kent Heavy Brigade in 1924 when the RGA was subsumed into the Royal Artillery: 
- HQ at Fort Clarence, Rochester
- 166 Hy Bty at Fort Clarence (166 (City of Rochester) Bty from 1925)
- 167 Hy Bty at Pelham Road, Gravesend
- 168 Hy Bty at Northampton Street, Dover
- 169 Hy Bty at High Street, Sheerness
- 170 Hy Bty at Willson's Road, Ramsgate
In 1932, the brigade was split up. 166 (City of Rochester) Battery became an independent anti-aircraft (AA) battery, later joining 55th (Kent) AA Bde. 167 and 169 Batteries joined the Essex Heavy Brigade to form the Thames and Medway Heavy Brigade, RA, based at Rochester. The rest of the brigade merged with the single-battery Sussex Heavy Brigade to form the Kent and Sussex Heavy Brigade, RA:
- HQ at Lewes, Sussex, later at Liverpool Street, Dover
- 159 (Sussex) Bty at Brighton, later at North Street, Lewes
- 168 (Kent) Bty at Liverpool Street, Dover
- 170 (Kent) Bty at Willson's Road, Ramsgate
205 (Chatham and Faversham) Battery
Meanwhile, the Home Counties (Kent) Heavy Battery was reconstituted as 205 (Chatham and Faversham) Medium Battery at Sittingbourne, later at the Drill Hall, Chatham. It formed part of 13th (Kent) Medium Brigade (formerly 4th Home Counties Brigade, Royal Field Artillery). This unit was soon redesignated 52nd (Kent) Medium Brigade, and in 1935 became 58th (Kent) Anti-Aircraft Brigade. The following year, 205 (Kent) AA Battery was transferred to 55th (Kent) AA Brigade (see above).
Early in 1939, as part of the doubling of the strength of the TA after the Munich Crisis, 205 (Kent) Battery left 55th AA Regiment (as RA brigades were now termed) to join a new 89th (Cinque Ports) AA Regiment, which was forming as a duplicate of 75th (Cinque Ports) AA Regiment.
World War II
Kent and Sussex Heavy Regiment
On the outbreak of World War II, the regiment went to its war stations manning coastal guns under Dover Fire Command. After the Dunkirk evacuation, the coastal defence of South East England became a critical priority. On 14 July, the Kent and Sussex Heavy Regiment was split into three separate coast regiments, each of three batteries:
- 519th (Kent and Sussex) Coast Regiment at Dover
- 520th (Kent and Sussex) Coast Regiment at Dover Citadel
- 521st (Kent and Sussex) Coast Regiment at Newhaven, East Sussex
Defence of Dover
- see main article Dover Strait coastal guns, 1940–1944
Dover was in range of German batteries mounted on the French coast and their first shells fell on Dover on 12 August 1940. Prime Minister Winston Churchill ordered the emplacement of long-range guns and by September two long-range Counter Bombardment (CB) fire commands were being added to the harbour defences, manned by the Royal Artillery and Royal Marines. Eventually, the coast artillery at Dover was developed as follows:s
Western CB Fire Command
- Lydden Spout Battery: 3 x 6-inch guns installed May 1941
- Hougham Battery: 3 x 8-inch guns installed September 1942
- Capel: 3 x 8-inch guns installed May 1942
Harbour Fire Command
- Langdon Battery: 2 x 6-inch guns prewar; 1 gun added September 1940
- Dover Turret: 2 x 6-inch prewar
- Breakwater: 2 x 6-inch and 2 x 9.2-inch prewar; 1 twin 6-pounder added May 1940
- Dover Western Heights: 2 x 6-inch installed September 1940
- Eastern Arm: 2 x twin 6-pounder installed September 1939
- Pier Extension: 2 x 12-pounder guns prewar; 1 gun added February 1940
- Knuckle: 2 x 4-inch installed August 1940
Eastern CB Fire Command
- Wanstone Battery: 4 x 5.5-inch guns installed September 1940; 2 x 15-inch guns installed September 1942
Newhaven Fort had 4 x 6-inch and 2 x 12-pounder guns.
166 (City of Rochester) Battery
- See main article 55th (Kent) HAA Regiment
At the start of World War II, 55th AA Regiment, including 166th (City of Rochester) Bty, was serving in Anti-Aircraft Command in the Heavy AA (HAA) role with 28th (Thames and Medway) Anti-Aircraft Brigade. During The Blitz 28th AA Bde guarded the Thames, Chatham and Dover in 6th AA Division. In 1941, the regiment left AA Command and became part of the War Office Reserve before sailing for the Middle East. It took part in the Allied invasion of Sicily in 1943 and the subsequent Italian Campaign, where in the absence of air attacks it frequently engaged ground targets in a medium artillery role. 55th (Kent) HAA Regiment was placed in suspended animation in 1946.
205 (Kent) Battery
89th AA Regiment, including 205 (Kent) Bty, also served with 28th (Thames and Medway) AA Bde at the start of the war, but sailed for Egypt in December 1939. It then served with the Eighth Army in North Africa and Italy until it was placed in suspended animation in September 1944.
521st Coast Regiment was placed in suspended animation in June 1945, and 519th and 520th Coast Regiments the following year. In 1947, when the TA was reconstituted, 520th Regiment was disbanded, while 519th and 521st were reformed as 410th (Kent) Coast Regiment and 411th (Sussex) Coast Regiment respectively. The Kent unit was organised as follows:
410 (Kent) Coast Regiment
- HQ Dover
- P Bty Dover
- Q Bty at Folkestone
- R Bty at Ramsgate
- S Bty at Dover
410 (Kent) Coast Regiment formed part of 101 Coast Brigade. In 1956, the regiment was converted to the infantry role and became 5th Battalion The Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment).
- J.B. White, appointed to 1st KAVC 20 October 1887
- J.D. Palmer, appointed to 1st KAVC 5 November 1892
- Sir Horatio G.G. Palmer, appointed to 1st Kent RGA (V) 18 September 1904 and to Kent TGA (TF) 14 June 1911
- Sir Henry Lennard, 2nd Bt, appointed to Kent Coast Bde 5 Apr 1922
- Maj the Hon J.J. Astor, MP, appointed to Kent Heavy Bde 23 November 1927, then joint Hon Col of Kent and Sussex Heavy Bde
- E.L Beves, VD, appointed to Sussex Heavy Bde 6 August 1929, then joint Hon Col of Kent and Sussex Heavy Bde
- Litchfield and Westlake, pp. 98–102.
- Beckett, Appendix VIII.
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- Named Heavy Rgts at RA 39–45.
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- Farndale, Years of Defeat, Annex D.
- Farndale, p. 246.
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- Routledge, Table LXV, p. 396.
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- Joslen, pp. 485, 488.
- Routledge, pp. 259–63; Table XLII, p. 267; 279-81, 285–6 & Table XLIV, p. 293.
- 2 AA Brigade History of the Italian Campaign for the period August 1944–April 1945, TNA file WO 204/7240.
- 89 HAA Rgt at RA 39–45
- Routledge, p. 157; Table XXIV, p. 162; Table XXV, p. 164; p. 289–93.
- 521 Coast Rgt at RA 39–45.
- 372–413 Rgts at British Army 1945 on.
- Litchfield, Appendix 5.
- Coast Bdes at British Army 1945 on.
- Buffs at British Army 1945 on.
- Army List, various dates.
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- British Army units from 1945 on
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- Naval History Net
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