LAUGH OR CRY: PART VII
Peter Hart and Gary Bain examine the lot of the gunners as the Royal Artillery transitioned from redcoat-era gun lines into today’s versatile fighting arm
The artillery were the masters of the World War One battlefields. They wielded unimaginable powers of destruction on a scale never seen before, and it has been estimated that the guns caused far more casualties – perhaps as much as 60% – than any other weapon.
Beginning the war with small field pieces, using direct fire against targets within line of sight to support the troops, collectively the Royal Horse Artillery and its 13-pounder guns, the Royal Field Artillery, armed generally with the 18-pounder or 4.5in howitzer and the Royal Garrison Artillery, with its range of medium and heavy guns, grew exponentially in size throughout the war. Moreover, how artillery was used changed considerably. No military anticipated the years of static fighting and first relied on mobile batteries tasked with providing fire support in a manner not unlike that seen 100 years before.