Catalogue description War Office: Director of Artillery, later Director of Royal Artillery: Reports and Appreciations

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Details of WO 196
Reference: WO 196
Title: War Office: Director of Artillery, later Director of Royal Artillery: Reports and Appreciations

This series consists chiefly of Reports and appreciations on the defence of coasts and fortresses at home and overseas, prepared for the Director. They have been collected from a variety of sources, and the majority date from the 1930s and 1940s.

The series also includes trials reports of equipment carried out and originated by the School of Artillery, Larkhill.

The series includes material which would otherwise be found amongst the Records of the Chief of the (Imperial) General Staff and its directorates (WO).

Date: 1892-1969

The records of the Director are arranged geographically and alphabetically with the UK, appearing under the heading 'Coast Defences General'.

Related material:

Similar trials reports, chiefly relating to armour, can be found in:

War Office files relating to artillery training generally may be found under Codes 35 (F) and (J) in WO 32

Other records concerning coast defences ca be found in WO 192

WO 194

WO 341

For records of the Clothing and Equipment Physiological Research Establishment see WO 352

Separated material:

The School of Artillery dates from 1920; no discrete body of records of the School of Artillery during the early part of its existence appears to have survived.

Held by: The National Archives, Kew
Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English

Ministry of Defence, Director General of Artillery, 1964-

War Office, Chief of the General Staff, Director of Artillery, 1904-1909

War Office, Chief of the Imperial General Staff, Director of Artillery, 1909-1940

War Office, Chief of the Imperial General Staff, Director of Royal Artillery, 1942-1964

War Office, Commander-in-Chief, Director of Artillery, 1870-1895

Physical description: 93 file(s)
Access conditions: Subject to 30 year closure
Immediate source of acquisition:

from 1970 Ministry of Defence

Accruals: Series is accruing.
Administrative / biographical background:

Director of Artillery

A post of Director of Artillery existed over most of the second half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th. The rank and duties of the Director varied over the decades according to how broadly the term 'artillery' was defined by the War Office.

In 1855 a Fortification Branch was established in the War Office. In 1887 it became a division of the Commander-in-Chief's Military Department, having within it both an Inspector-General of Fortifications (a lieutenant-general), and a Director of Artillery (a major-general). In 1895, in the reorganisation of that year, the Branch became an independent department within the War Office, and the post of Director of Artillery lapsed.

Earlier, in 1877, an Armaments Division had been established under a Director of Artillery within the Commander-in-Chief's Military Department, but by 1879 there was an Inspector-General of Artillery in the Military Department, and the Armaments Department had become the Ordnance Department including, as one of its senior posts, the Director of Artillery and Stores.

In 1904 the Ordnance Department and the Fortifications and Works Department were brought together within the Master-General of the Ordnance's [MGO] organisation, with Directors of Artillery and Fortifications and Works supporting MGO. The post of Inspector-General of Fortifications was abolished.

In June 1915 the Directorate of Artillery's responsibility for munitions supply, contracts and inspection, and for the Royal Ordnance Factories [ROFs] passed to the Ministry of Munitions, and that for munitions design, pattern and testing followed in March 1916. From October 1917, the MGO was an additional member of the Munitions Council. After the war the various functions which had been transferred to the Ministry of Munitions returned gradually.

In October 1924, owing to the increasing range of duties of the Artillery Directorate it was found necessary to sub-divide the existing directorate into two, and a second post of Director of Artillery was created with direct responsibility to MGO.

On 1 October 1927, the distribution of duties between the Quarter-Master-General [QMG] and the MGO was modified. Thereafter MGO became responsible for all duties relating to military stores (other than building, railway and transport, medical and veterinary stores), while QMG took over from MGO responsibility for all duties in connection with building works. The Directorate of Fortifications and Works [DFW] became the Directorate of Works, and the second Directorate of Artillery became the Directorate of Mechanization. In October 1935 the Directorate of Works was again styled Directorate of Fortifications and Works.

The post of Director of Artillery continued under MGO until 1938, thence in the Directorate of Munitions Production until 1940 when that Directorate was absorbed by the Ministry of Supply, and the post of Director of Artillery again lapsed.

In 1942 the post of the (by then) Director of Royal Artillery was revived within the War Office, in the department of the Assistant-Chief of the Imperial General Staff [ACIGS]. He had responsibility for organisation and weapon policy, co-ordination of progress and development, weapons and controlled equipment at home and overseas, and ammunition at home and overseas. This continued as a general staff post into the post-war period, and thereafter in the unified Ministry of Defence after 1964.

School of Artillery

From 1778 specialist training of Royal Artillery officers was carried out at the Royal Military Repository, Woolwich. By the middle of the nineteenth century artillery training comprised gun drill, which could be carried out on the gun park; manoeuvres, which required a far larger area; and target practice, which demanded the most land of all.

During the early nineteenth century manoeuvres and live firing took place on Woolwich Common but later live firing was permitted only at Plumstead Marshes and Shoeburyness, where the School of Gunnery was established in 1859. It comprised two branches: Horse, Field, Mountain and Garrison Artillery gunnery at Shoeburyness, and Militia and Volunteer Artillery gunnery at Woolwich.

From about 1882 an artillery practice summer camp was established at Lydd. The site was also used for Ordnance Committee experiments. In 1990 the Repository at Woolwich was closed and the staff were transferred to Lydd, becoming the Siege Artillery branch of the School of Gunnery.

In 1897 the War Office began what was to be a very large programme of land acquisition on Salisbury Plain for use as firing ranges. By 1899 over 22,000 acres had been acquired in the Larkhill and West Down areas but although the ranges came into immediate use for practice camps the School of Gunnery did not move to Larkhill until 1915. The Army Council Instruction of that date referred to this as a temporary move, but it proved to be permanent. An additional centre of instruction for overseas units was established at Chapperton Down in 1916, at first known as the Overseas Artillery School but soon as the Chapperton Down Artillery School.

A heavy artillery training centre had been formed at Woolwich in 1916, moving to Winchester in 1917. In December 1919 the Army Council decided that the School of Instruction for Royal Horse Artillery, the Chapperton Down Artillery School, and the Heavy Artillery Training Centre were to be combined as the School of Artillery at Larkhill. During 1921 the Siege Artillery School moved from Lydd and also became part of the School of Artillery.

The Second World War saw a big expansion of the School, marked by the development of specialised Wings, although its core structure remained as it had been pre-war. Preliminary steps were taken in 1939 to form a school for heavy artillery on railway mountings but in Spring 1940 it was decided to form a School of Super-heavy Railway Artillery at Catterick. In March 1940 the Royal Artillery School of Survey was established, absorbing the 40th Survey Training Regiment RA; in October 1942 the School of Survey became a part of the new Survey Wing. Within Equipment Wing the School undertook work connected with trials and operational research on behalf of the War Office, the Board of Ordnance and the Ministry of Supply; in 1943 a group of scientists under Dr R J Whitney was attached to advise on certain matters concerned with radar, gunnery and equipment. Close liaison with the Royal Navy was developed during the war and from 1941 every gunnery staff course paid a visit to HMS Excellent and each naval gunnery course spent a week at Larkhill. The Army Photographic Research Branch was co-located with the School.

Changes in the school following the war were principally in response to the gradual but fundamental changes in the nature of artillery weapons: the adoption of radar range finding equipment, guided weapons, nuclear weapons and computer control systems. In 1970 the Anti-Aircraft School at Manorbier was amalgamated with RSA Larkhill; and the title Royal was conferred on the combined establishment. In 1971 the school comprised seven wings: Gunnery, Air Defence, Tactics, Locating, Signals, Administrative, and REME. Its duties and responsibilities are laid down in a charter issued by the Director of Artillery.

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