Military Wiki
1st Fife Artillery Volunteers
Active 1860–1967
Country  United Kingdom
Branch Flag of the British Army.svg Territorial Army
Type Artillery Regiment
Role Garrison Artillery (1860–1908)
Heavy Artillery (1908–1920)
Medium Artillery (1920–1956)
Field Engineers (1956–1967)
Engagements First World War:
Western Front
Second World War:
Battle of France
Dunkirk evacuation

The 1st Fife Artillery Volunteers, later the Highland (Fifeshire) Heavy Battery, was a volunteer unit first recruited in Fifeshire, Scotland, in 1860, which fought on the Western Front in the First World War. Its successor units expanded recruitment to Aberdeenshire and again fought in North West Europe, during the Second World War.

Volunteer Force (1859–1908)[]

The Volunteer Force came into existence in 1859 as a result of an invasion scare, and the subsequent enthusiasm for joining local Rifle, Artillery and Engineer Volunteer Corps.[1] By 1863, there were 11 Artillery Volunteer Corps (AVCs) in Fifeshire, mainly in coastal towns:[2]

  • 1st (Tayport) Fife Artillery Volunteers, formed at Ferryport on Craig, 26 January 1860
  • 2nd (Newport) Fife Artillery Volunteers, formed at Newport-on-Tay, 13 April 1860
  • 3rd (St Andrews) Fife Artillery Volunteers, formed on 6 March 1860
  • 4th (Inverkeithing) Fife Artillery Volunteers, formed on 3 March 1860
  • 5th (Kirkcaldy) Fife Artillery Volunteers, formed on 22 March 1860
  • 6th (Burntisland) Fife Artillery Volunteers, formed on 20 February 1860
  • 7th (Anstruther) Fife Artillery Volunteers, formed at Elie on 8 March 1860
  • 8th (Leven) Fife Artillery Volunteers, formed two batteries on 24 July 1860
  • 9th (Dysart) Fife Artillery Volunteers, formed on 19 September 1860
  • 10th (Wemyss) Fife Artillery Volunteers, formed out of the overflow of the 8th on 16 January 1862.
  • 11th (Kinghorn) Fife Artillery Volunteers, formed on 30 April 1863

Together, these units comprised the 1st Fifeshire Administrative Brigade based in St Andrews under the command of Lt-Col W.H.M. Dougall, a Royal Navy officer. The administrative brigade also included the 1st and 2nd Stirlingshire AVCs at Grangemouth and Stirling respectively. It retained its organisation of 13 corps (later companies) throughout the 19th century. They were not connected with the Fife Artillery, which was a Militia regiment based in Cupar.[3]

Despite the ban on Volunteer involvement in politics, the band of the 5th Fife Artillery Volunteers illegally took part in a trade union demonstration in July 1873. This was a recurrent problem with the Volunteer bands, which were only nominally under military control.[4]

At the time of the Childers Reforms in 1881, the Administrative Brigade was consolidated as the 1st Fifeshire Artillery Volunteers, covering Fifeshire and Stirlingshire, ranked 18th in the order of precedence of Artillery Volunteers. Later it was included in the Scottish Division of the Royal Artillery (RA).[5]

In 1889, a position battery of 16-Pounder Rifled Muzzle Loading (RML) guns was issued to the Corps and manned by 3rd Battery.[6] In 1892, this became the 1st Position Battery, with the 1st (Tayport) Company becoming the 2nd Position Battery, whilst the 2nd Company became the 3rd Position Battery.

In 1900, a new 14th Company was formed at Kirkaldy.[7]

By the end of the century, the Artillery Volunteers had been attached to the Royal Garrison Artillery (RGA), with the 1st Fifeshire forming part of its Southern Division.[8] In 1902, the unit was redesignated as 1st Fifeshire RGA (Volunteers). There was also an affiliated Cadet Corps at Kirkcaldy High School.[9]

Territorial Force (TF)[]

When the Volunteers were subsumed into the new Territorial Force in 1908 under the Haldane Reforms, the 1st Fifeshire RGA (V) (except No 7 Company) was split between three units: the Highland (Fifeshire) RGA, the Fifeshire Battery of the II Highland Brigade, Royal Field Artillery at Leven, and (together with the 1st Forfarshire RGA (V)) the North Scottish RGA, later renamed the Forth RGA, a 'defended ports' unit based at Edinburgh.[10][11][12][13]

The Highland (Fifeshire) RGA consisted of a heavy battery and ammunition column based at Kirkcaldy, later at the Drill Hall, Elgin Street, Dunfermline, and was assigned to the Highland Division of the TF. From 1908 until the outbreak of war in August 1914, it was commanded by Major Lord Bruce, son of the Honorary Colonel of the 1st Fife RGA, the 9th Earl of Elgin and Kincardine (and himself later 10th Earl of Elgin and Kincardine).[13][14][15]

First World War[]

1/1st Highland (Fifeshire) Battery[]

The Highland (Fifeshire) Heavy Battery mobilised at Dunfermline with its four 4.7-inch guns and joined the Highland Division, which was concentrating around Bedford as part of First Army of Central Force. Having separated 'Home Service' men, who remained at the depots forming 2nd Line units with the recruits who were coming in, the division's 1st Line units (now distinguished by the prefix '1/') undertook training for overseas service. The Highland Division was later designated 51st (Highland) Division.[16]

1/1st Highland Battery went to France with the Highland Division, landing on 4 May 1915, but immediately left the division to join II Group Heavy Artillery Reserve, moving to IV Heavy Brigade RGA on 3 July.[16][17] Subsequently it passed from one Heavy Artillery Group (HAG) on the Western Front to another, supporting the various armies of the British Expeditionary Force as operations dictated. From 4 September until 6 November 1915, it was attached to the divisional artillery of 5th Division, then reverted to HAG control.[17]

On 10 December 1916, the battery was withdrawn from the line to rest and refit, replacing its 4.7-inch guns with 60-pounders. On 23 January 1917, it was joined by a section from 201st Heavy Battery, making it up to six guns. It then returned to action on 29 January. From late 1917, batteries ceased to be swapped between HAGs, and from 27 October 1917 until the end of the war a year later, 1/1st Highland Heavy Bty served with 83rd HAG (later 83rd Heavy Brigade). 83rd Brigade was a mixed grouping of heavy guns serving with First Army. On 18 August 1918, the brigade moved to Fourth Army and served with it during the triumphal advance of the Hundred Days campaign of 1918.[17][18]

2/1st Highland (Fifeshire) Battery[]

Shortly after the outbreak of war, on 31 August 1914, the TF was authorised to raise 2nd Line units from those men who had not volunteered for, or were not fit for, overseas service, together with new volunteers, while the 1st Line went overseas to supplement the Regulars. The role of the 2nd Line was Home Defence and training drafts for the army on active service.[19] 2/1st Highland (Fifeshire) Heavy Bty RGA was raised at Dunfermline for service with the 64th (2nd Highland) Division. In January 1916, the division was attached to the Eighth New Army and moved to Norfolk. In September 1916, the battery left 64th Division and was attached to the 3rd Provisional Brigade at Sheringham, which became 223rd Mixed Brigade in December 1916. The battery retained its obsolete 4.7-inch guns and remained with this brigade until the end of the war.[20][21]


When the TF was reformed in 1920, the battery was reconstituted as the 1st (Highland) Medium Brigade, RGA, with the headquarters now at Aberdeen. As well as men from the former Highland (Fifeshire) Battery, personnel were drawn from the 6th (Banff and Donside) and 7th (Deeside) Battalions of the Gordon Highlanders to bring it up to a strength of four batteries. It was renumbered as the 5th (Highland) Medium Brigade in 1921 when the TF was reorganised as the Territorial Army (TA). In 1924, the RGA was absorbed into the RA. The brigade was classed as 'Army Troops' within 51st (Highland) Divisional Area. By 1927, the unit's organisation was as follows:[22][23][24]
56th (Highland) Medium Brigade, RA (TA)

  • HQ at Aberdeen
  • 221st (Peterhead) Medium Battery (Howitzers)
  • 222nd (Fraserburgh) Medium Battery (Howitzers)
  • 223rd (Banffshire) Medium Battery (Howitzers)
  • 224th (Fife) Medium Battery

In 1938, the Dunfermline-based 224th (Fife) Bty was transferred to provide the basis for a new 71st (Forth) Anti-Aircraft Regiment, RA.[25][26] It was replaced by 174th Bty, transferred from the North Scottish Heavy Brigade (formerly the North Scottish RGA), a coast defence unit that included part of 1st Fifeshire RGA when it was reorganised in 1908 (see above). In 1938, the RA renamed its brigades as regiments. Thus, by 1939, the unit's organisation was:[22][27]
56th (Highland) Medium Regiment, RA (TA)

  • HQ at Drill Hall, 43 Skene Terrace, Aberdeen
  • 174th (North Scottish) Battery at Fonthill Barracks, Aberdeen
  • 221st (Peterhead) Battery at Peterhead
  • 222nd (Fraserburgh) Battery (H) at Drill Hall, Fraserburgh
  • 223rd (Banffshire) Battery (H) at Banff

Just before the outbreak of war in September 1939, the regiment was split into two: 56th Medium Regiment retained 174 and 221 Btys; the new 65th Medium Regiment based in Banff had 222 and 223 Btys. Both regiments formed part of the Highland Area of Scottish Command[22][28][29]

Second World War[]

56th (Highland) Medium Regiment[]

The regiment went to France with the British Expeditionary Force in October 1939 as part of III Corps.[29][30][31]

When the Battle of France began on 10 May 1940, the regiment accompanied the BEF's advance into Belgium, and then its retirement to defend the Escaut line.[32] German breakthroughs elsewhere forced the BEF to retreat to Dunkirk, where the artillery had to destroy its guns and await evacuation (Operation Dynamo).

After the evacuation from Dunkirk, the regiment became part of Eastern Command of Home Forces in June 1940.[33][34] It was sent, with whatever guns could be obtained, to assist in the defence of Essex, where it came under the Commander Royal Artillery (CRA) of 15th (Scottish) Division. According to the divisional historian:

'The guns had the stupendous task of covering from static positions the whole forty miles of the Divisional front from Southend along the Essex coast to Harwich. And what guns! The field regiments averaged eight museum pieces per regiment ... The pride of the C.R.A.'s flock was the 56th Medium Regiment, which he superimposed over the whole front. Its armament showed a pleasing variety, consisting of four 6-inch howitzers, six 6-inch mortars, two 4.7-inch Q.F. naval guns, two 4-inch B.L. naval guns, one 75m (French) gun taken off a ship, two 12-pounders on fixed mountings, and four 6-pounders. The rumour that Mons Meg was on her way south to join the party proved unfounded'.[35]

The Essex coastal defences were stood down in 1941 and the units returned to training.[36] 56th Medium Regiment never saw active service again. It joined 76th Infantry (Reserve) Division on 25 January 1943, remaining with it until 1 September 1944, when the division was disbanded and the regiment joined 47th Infantry (Reserve) Division until the end of the war.[33][34][37]

56th Medium Regiment was placed in suspended animation in 1946.[22]

65th (Highland) Medium Regiment[]

When the regiment mobilised in September 1939, its 6-inch howitzers apparently still had wooden wheels from its horse-drawn days.[38] It too joined the BEF, arriving in April 1940 and coming directly under General Headquarters (GHQ). It also lost its guns in France and became part of Northern Command in Home Forces after the evacuation from Dunkirk.[29][30][31]

In May 1944, the regiment joined Second Army preparing for Operation Overlord and went to Normandy as part of 4th Army Group Royal Artillery.[29][33][38][39] The regiment landed on 8 June and proceeded to Colleville-sur-Orne, where it initially gave fire support to 1st Special Service Brigade, 6th Airborne and 51st Highland Divisions.[40]

The regiment continued to serve in North West Europe until the end of the war.[29][33][38][39]

65th Medium Regiment was placed in suspended animation in 1946, and disbanded in 1947.[22]


When the TA was reconstituted in 1947, 56th Regiment was reformed as 356th (Highland) Medium Regiment, RA, initially forming part of 84 (Field) Army Group Royal Artillery, though that group was disbanded in 1950.[22][41][42] On 31 October 1956, it was converted into 278th (Buchan & Banff Artillery) Field Squadron, Royal Engineers, as part of 117 Field Engineer Regiment.[22] In 1961, the squadron was assigned to 51sth (Highland) Division/District RE, but was disbanded in 1967.[43]

Honorary Colonels[]

The following served as Honorary Colonel of the 1st Fife Artillery and its successors:[27]

  • W.H.M. Dougall, RN, commanding officer from 1860, appointed 7 December 1872
  • S. Grace, VD, appointed 12 July 1890
  • 9th Earl of Elgin and Kincardine, KG, GCSI, GCIE, appointed 26 March 1902[15]

56th (Highland) Medium Regiment:

  • Col A.W. McPherson, appointed 7 May 1935


  1. Beckett.
  2. Beckett, Appendix VIII.
  3. Monthly Army List January 1866, January 1872.
  4. Beckett, p. 145.
  5. Monthly Army List December 1880, January 1884.
  6. Lt Gen Sir James Moncrieff Grierson, Records of the Scottish Volunteer Force 1859–1908, William Blackwood & Sons Ltd, 1909. P141-142
  7. Lt Gen Sir James Moncrieff Grierson, Records of the Scottish Volunteer Force 1859–1908, William Blackwood & Sons Ltd, 1909. P142
  8. Monthly Army List January 1899.
  9. Quarterly Army List October 1907.
  10. London Gazette, 20 March 1908.
  11. London Gazette, 14 October 1910.
  12. Litchfield, p. 273.
  13. 13.0 13.1 Monthly Army List August 1914.
  14. Litchfield, p. 283.
  15. 15.0 15.1 Burke.
  16. 16.0 16.1 Becke, Pt 2a, pp. 103–5.
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 The National Archives (TNA), Kew, file WO 95/5494 C & I.
  18. Farndale, Western Front, p. 384.
  19. Becke, Pt 2b, p. 6.
  20. Becke, Pt 2b, pp. 58–9.
  21. Farndale, Forgotten Fronts, p. 411.
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 22.3 22.4 22.5 22.6 Litchfield, p. 271.
  23. Titles and Designations, 1927.
  24. Litchfield, Appendix IV.
  25. Glasgow Herald 13 January 1938.
  26. Monthly Army List, January 1938.
  27. 27.0 27.1 Army Lists, various dates.
  28. Scottish Command 3 September 1939 at Patriot Files
  29. 29.0 29.1 29.2 29.3 29.4 Highland Area 1939 at British Military History.
  30. 30.0 30.1 Ellis, Appendix I.
  31. 31.0 31.1 Joslen, p. 462.
  32. Ellis, p. 71.
  33. 33.0 33.1 33.2 33.3 British Artillery in World War 2.
  34. 34.0 34.1 56 Med Rgt at RA 39–45. Archived 2016-03-03 at the Wayback Machine.
  35. Martin, p. 8.
  36. Martin, p. 10.
  37. Joslen, pp. 41 & 99.
  38. 38.0 38.1 38.2 65 Med Rgt at RA 39–45. Archived 2016-03-03 at the Wayback Machine.
  39. 39.0 39.1 Joslen, p. 463.
  40. 65 Med Rgt at Pegasus Archives.
  41. Watson. Archived March 3, 2016, at the Wayback Machine.
  42. Litchfield, p. 326.
  43. 256–300 RE Sqns at British Army 1945 on.


  • Ian F. W. Beckett, Riflemen Form: A study of the Rifle Volunteer Movement 1859–1908, Aldershot: Ogilby Trusts, 1982, ISBN 0-85936-271-X.
  • Maj A. F. Becke,History of the Great War: Order of Battle of Divisions, Part 2a: The Territorial Force Mounted Divisions and the 1st-Line Territorial Force Divisions (42–56), London: HM Stationery Office, 1935/Uckfield: Naval & Military Press, 2007, ISBN 1-84734-739-8.
  • Maj A. F. Becke,History of the Great War: Order of Battle of Divisions, Part 2b: The 2nd-Line Territorial Force Divisions (57th–69th), with the Home-Service Divisions (71st–73rd) and 74th and 75th Divisions, London: HM Stationery Office, 1937/Uckfield: Naval & Military Press, 2007, ISBN 1-84734-739-8.
  • Burke's Peerage, Baronetage and Knightage, 100th Edn, London, 1953.
  • Major L. F. Ellis, History of the Second World War, United Kingdom Military Series: The War in France and Flanders 1939–1940, London: HM Stationery Office, 1954.
  • General Sir Martin Farndale, History of the Royal Regiment of Artillery: Western Front 1914–18, Woolwich: Royal Artillery Institution, 1986, ISBN 1-870114-00-0.
  • Gen Sir Martin Farndale, History of the Royal Regiment of Artillery: The Forgotten Fronts and the Home Base 1914–18, Woolwich: Royal Artillery Institution, 1988, ISBN 1-870114-05-1.
  • Lt Gen Sir James Moncrieff Grierson, Records of the Scottish Volunteer Force 1859–1908, William Blackwood & Sons Ltd, 1909.
  • Norman E. H. Litchfield, The Territorial Artillery 1908–1988 (Their Lineage, Uniforms and Badges), Nottingham: Sherwood Press, 1992, ISBN 0-9508205-2-0.
  • Lt-Gen H. G. Martin, The History of the Fifteenth Scottish Division 1939–1945, Edinburgh: Blackwood, 1948/Uckfield: Naval & Military Press, 2014, ISBN 978-1-78331-085-2.
  • Osborne, Mike, 2006. Always Ready: The Drill Halls of Britain's Volunteer Forces, Partizan Press, Essex. ISBN 1-85818-509-2
  • Titles and Designations of Formations and Units of the Territorial Army, London: War Office, 7 November 1927.

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