What is a Master Gunner (UK Version)

PART ONE: BACKGROUND

1.0 Introduction

“The office of master-gunner was a very ancient one. As soon as there were guns, there was a master-gunner in charge of them, responsible for their upkeep and efficiency, and in command of the gunners who served them.” (Maurice-Jones, 2012, p.138).

WO1 Master Gunner Rank Slide

This article provides an overview of the role of Master Gunner, a position found with the Royal Regiment of Artillery, which forms part of the British Army.

Other countries also use the master gunner role/position, and these will be discussed in subsequent articles.

This article is divided into five parts for easier reading.

  • Part One is the background which provides a brief history of the Royal Regiment of Artillery, followed by a brief history of master gunners.
  • Part Two outlines the various gunnery staff and non-gunnery staff appointments for both officers and other ranks.
  • Part Three provides a brief outline of the training and training support organisations.
  • Part Four details the training courses undertake by potential gunnery staff, some of whom may eventually attain the appointment of master gunner.
  • Part Five provides some useful publications and links, as well as references.

For an outline of the Master Gunner, St James’s Park look here.

1.1 Brief History of the Royal Regiment of Artillery

The Royal Artillery (RA) is the common name for the Royal Regiment of Artillery, an arm of the British Army. Despite its name, it comprises a number of regiments.

“The Royal Artillery conducts the planning, integration and execution of Joint Fires and Low Level Air Defence throughout the battlespace, in order to find, fix, strike, exploit and protect in all weathers, in all theatres, 24 hours a day.” (RSA, 2018, p.2).

The following is an outline of select history of the RA:

  • At the Battle of Crecy, in 1346, is the first recorded use of artillery.
  • The term ‘train of artillery’ is noted for the first time in 1544.
  • First appointment of the Master Gunner of Whitehall and St James’s Park in 1678. Prior to 1700, artillery ‘traynes’ were raised by royal warrant for specific campaigns and disbanded once the campaign came to an end.
  • On 26 May 1716, King George I issued a royal warrant authorising the establishment of two regular companies of field artillery, each 100 men strong.
  • The title Royal Artillery was first used in 1720, and on 01 April 1722 the two original companies were increased to four, and grouped with the independent artillery companies at Gibraltar and Minorca to form the Royal Regiment of Artillery, commanded by Colonel (OF-5) Albert Borgard.
  • In 1741, the Royal Military Academy was established in the Royal Arsenal at Woolwich to provide training for RA and Royal Engineer (RE) officers. In the same year a cadet company was established.
  • In 1748, the presidential artilleries of Bengal, Madras, and Bombay (all in India) were established.
  • The Royal Irish Regiment of Artillery was established in 1756.
  • By 1757, the regiment had rapidly expanded to include 24 companies divided across two battalions, as well as the cadet company above.
  • In 1762, the Royal Artillery Band was established at Minden, the oldest British military band.
  • In January 1793, two troops (several troops form a company) of Royal Horse Artillery (RHA) were established to provide fire support for the cavalry. They were augmented by a further two troops in November 1793, and all RHA personnel were mounted.
  • Until 1794, the RA hired civilian horses and drivers to haul its guns, In this year the Corps of Captains’ Commissaries and Drivers was established to provide these services.
  • The Royal Irish Regiment of Artillery was absorbed into the RA in 1801. In 1805, the Royal Arsenal was moved to Woolwich Common.
  • In 1819, the Rotunda was given to the RA by the Prince Regent to celebrate the end of the Napoleonic Wars. The Rotunda was originally built in St James’s Park as the outer casing of the tent in which the Prince Regent entertained Allied sovereigns in 1814.
  • The regimental mottoes were granted in 1832. In 1833, King William IV granted the RA the privilege of bearing the Royal Arms over a gun with the motto ‘Ubique’ (Everywhere) in between ‘Quo Fas et Gloria Ducunt’ (whither right and glory lead) under the gun.
  • During the Crimean War (March 1854 to March 1856), the RA increased to 199 batteries.
  • Prior to 1855, the RA was under the control of the Board of Ordnance. When abolished in 1855, the RA came under the War Office, along with the rest of the British Army.
  • In 1859, the School of Gunnery was established at Shoeburyness, Essex. In the same year, battalions and companies were renamed brigades and batteries.
  • The RA absorbed the artillery of the British East India Company in 1862. The British East India Company had 21 horse batteries and 48 field batteries, bringing the strength of the RA to 29 horse batteries, 73 field batteries, and 88 heavy batteries.
  • On 01 July 1899, the RA was divided into three groups:
    • Group 1 composed of the Royal Horse Artillery (RHA) with 21 batteries and the Royal Field Artillery with 95 batteries;
    • Group 2 known as the Royal Garrison Artillery with 95 companies split between coastal defence, mountain, siege, and heavy batteries;
    • Group 3 known as simply ‘Royal Artillery’ was responsible for ammunition storage and supply.
    • The three groups effectively operated as separate corps.
  • In World War 1 (WW1), 1914 to 1918, the RA witnessed a massive expansion to 1,769 batteries in over 400 brigades, with approximately 548,000 personnel.
  • This ‘three groups’ arrangement lasted until 1924 when they were amalgamated to once more become one regiment.
  • In 1920, the rank of Bombardier was instituted.
  • Although horses are still in service for ceremonial purposes, they were phased out from operational deployment during the 1930’s.
  • In 1938, RA brigades (formerly battalions) were renamed Regiments. In this year also, the decision to mechanise the RHA and field artillery was approved.
  • World War 2 (1939 to 1945 ):
    • In early 1939, the Regular Army and Territorial Army (now Army Reserve) strength was approximately 105,000 personnel.
    • Prior to WW2, recruits had to be at least 5 feet 4 inches (1.63 metres) tall.
    • Personnel in mechanised units had to be at least 5 feet 8 inches (1.73 metres) tall.
    • By 1943, the RA manpower peaked at around 700,000 personnel (26% of total British Army strength). It has about 5% of officers, with personnel in 630 regiments (some 240 field artillery and 60 anti-tank), 65 training regiments and six officer cadet training units.
    • By the end of WW2, the RA was bigger than the Royal Navy with over a million personnel having served in over 950 regiments.
    • The RA suffered approximately 31,000 killed during WW2.
    • After WW2, the RA reduced to 250,000 personnel in 365 batteries, across 106 regiments. A decision was also taken to abolish the anti-tank artillery.
  • In 1947, the Riding Troop RHA was renamed The King’s Troop RHA. The RHA, which has always had separate traditions, uniforms, and insignia, still retains a separate identity with the RA.
  • In 1951, the title of the regiment’s Colonel-in-Chief became Captain General as King George VI expressed the desire to known by this title.
  • The mid-1950’s witnessed the abolition of anti-aircraft command and the entire coast artillery.
  • As a result of the Strategic Defence Review of 1993, the RA was reduced to 17 Regular regiments and 7 Army Reserve regiments.
  • By 2016, the RA was further reduced to 14 Regular regiments and 5 Army Reserve regiments.

Currently, the RA is composed of:

  • Regular Army (full-time personnel):
    • Royal Artillery; and
    • Royal Horse Artillery.
  • Army Reserve (part-time personnel).

Roles within the RA include ceremonial (King’s Troop RHA); self-propelled artillery; airborne artillery (light guns); surveillance and target acquisition (STA); air defence artillery; training and support; commando artillery (light guns); unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV); guided and multiple launch rocket system (MLRS and GMLRS; a type of rocket artillery); armoured artillery; and field artillery.

The RA’s traditional home has been Woolwich, South East London, but much of the training activity is undertaken at the Royal School of Artillery located at Larkhill, Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire.

1.2 Brief History of Master Gunners

The appointment of Master Gunner is an ancient one. In the past monarchs from time to time appointed a ‘master’ to specialise in their particular military arts, e.g. Wagonmaster, Trenchmaster, etc. and all, but the Master Gunner, have faded away.

The appointment of Master Gunner has held its ground for over six centuries and, as soon as Gunners became soldiers, Master Gunners have been put in charge of them – whether on board ship, in the field, or in the coast defence forts. The Master Gunner in the Royal Navy eventually lost the ‘Master’ part of their title, and became simple ‘Gunner’. In the field, the Master Gunner was the executive officer in charge of an artillery train and, as such, was responsible for the training of their men and the maintenance of the equipment in their charge. These Master Gunners disappeared with the arrival of commissioned “artillerists” with the “Trains of Artillery”

From the earliest days in forts the Master Gunner was not only answerable for the care and maintenance of ordnance, ammunition and stores, but also in executive command of the guns and Gunners in action. It was only with the appearance of the commissioned officer in coast artillery that they relinquished the last duty, and became responsible solely that the guns, ammunition and associated stores were properly maintained and accurately accounted for. The Master Gunner with their squad of ‘district-gunners’ was the central core of the coast-artillery from the days of Henry VIII onwards, in fact for most of the time they were the only coast-artillery at home. However, when coast artillery in the British Army was abolished in 1956 (and in New Zealand shortly afterwards) the appointment of Master Gunner lapsed.

There was a master-gunner in charge of the guns at the siege of Calais in 1386, and four at the siege of Harfleur in 1415. Towards the end of the 1400s, the increase in the number of guns and soldiers manning them, known as ‘Gunners’, in the King’s service called for improvements in their organisation and control.

Wherever Gunners where stationed a ‘Chief Gunner’ or ‘Master Gunner’ was put in charge of them. It was important to place a ‘superior’ Master Gunner in overall charge, whose purpose was to (Maurice-Jones, 2012):

  • Inspect the various stations from time to time; and
  • Make sure the Chief/Master Gunners were doing their jobs. For example, maintaining personnel and equipment ready for battle.

To this end Patrick de la Meyte was appointed Chief Cannoner in 1484. Patrick was the first of a long line of Master Gunners which continued with periodical variations in title down to the end of 1731.

The earliest establishment of regular artillery is noted in 1540, whose personnel were paid direct by the Exchequer but were under the Master-General and Board of Ordnance for appointments, efficiency, discipline, and administration (Maurice-Jones, 2012). Maurice-Jones (2012, p.7) considers “This was a wise arrangement as the Master-General and Board were also responsible for the forts themselves, their fortifications, guns, ammunitions, arms, stores, etc. and it was one of the duties of the Master Gunner of England – unfortunately only too rarely carried out – to inspect the forts and detachments of gunners stationed at them.” There were a number detachments across England consisting of a Master-Gunner or Chief-Gunner in charge – who was responsible to the Commander, usually known as the Captain of the Fort – and a squad of gunners (gunners, gunner’s mates, quarter-gunners, and matrosses).

“In [July-August] 1588, at the time of the [Spanish] Armada, there were sixteen master-gunner or chief gunner.” (Maurice-Jones, 2012, p.8).

Maurice-Jones (2012, p.11) notes that “At the time of the First Dutch War (1652-1654)” there were eleven “Master Gunner or Chief Gunner”, one each based at Berwick, Cowes, Deal, Dover, Hull, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Scarborough, Tilbury, Tynemouth, and Upnor (Chatham).

When the RA was formed in 1716 the Master-General of the Ordnance recommended the abolition of certain posts in the interests of economy, one of them being the Master Gunner of Great Britain (the premier Master Gunner, and the title then in use). However, as no superannuation was payable in those days, and as all Gunners signed on for life, the Master Gunner of Great Britain, then Colonel James Pendlebury RA, was permitted to retain the title and remain on the payroll until his death in 1731.

Between 1678 and 1731, there simultaneously existed the Master Gunner of Great Britain and the Master Gunner of Whitehall and St James’s Park. However, unlike the Master Gunner of Great Britain who oversaw all Chief and Master Gunners, the Master Gunner of Whitehall and St James’s Park had other responsibilities (look here [LINK] for further details).

By 1824 (Maurice-Jones, 2012, p.136) there were 59 master-gunners, with positions for 76 master-gunners (11 positions unfilled and some covering more than one station). In a return submitted to the Master General of Ordnance by Lieutenant General Robert Douglas in February 1824, he added (Maurice-Jones, 2012, p.138):

“The general duties of master-gunners are to see that Ordnance, Carriages, Ammunition, and Stores are preserved in good order and report defects; to keep the batteries clean, to fire salutes where ordered, and hoist the flag; also to render quarterly and annual accounts of the Ordnance and Stores in their charge to the Principal Storekeeper’s Office at the Tower. All the master-gunners detailed in this Return had served sixteen years or upwards in the Royal Artillery previous to being appointed master-gunner.”

“One casualty of the Crimean War (March 1854 to March 1856) was the Board of Ordnance with its Master General, Lieutenant General, and civilian members.” (Maurice-Jones, 2012, p.142). The terrible sufferings of the troops before Sevastopol during the winter of 1854-55, the complete breakdown of all supply and transport, and the utter collapse of military organisation and administration in the theatre of war caused a great outcry at home both in and outside Parliament with the result that a Parliamentary Committee was appointed to inquire into the general administration of the Army. Among the Committee’s many recommendations was the abolition of the Board of Ordnance about which it had nothing good to say and a great deal to its discredit. So in May 1855 the ‘Letters Patent’ were cancelled, and the Royal Regiment of Artillery, the Corps of Royal Engineers, the guns, the coast-defences, the forts and fortresses, the ammunition, arms, equipment, and stores were at long last transferred to the War Department and found themselves under the joint rule of the Secretary of State for War and the Commander-in-Chief.

Up to the Crimean War it was a basic principle of the Royal Artillery that a marching-company could at any time, with scarcely any further training, become a field-battery, a siege train, a fortress company, or a coast defence unit, and, if given the necessary equipment, carry out the duties on active service competently and efficiently. The Crimean War proved this principle to be false.

A reorganisation of the Royal Artillery in 1859 witnessed the demise of the Invalid Detachment who had served in the coast-artillery, replaced by the Coast Brigade, of which there were “131 Master-Gunners” assigned by 1881 (Maurice-Jones, 2012, p.157).

Pre-WW1 Coast Artillery Master Gunner Chevron (1)

Up to World War Two (1939 to 1945), those aspiring to become Master Gunners had to undertake a twelve month course. However, at the start of the war this was shortened to 3 months, and then increased to 5 months from 1941.

Key dates:

  • There was a Master Gunner in charge of the guns at the siege of Calais in 1386, and four at the siege of Harfleur in 1415.
  • Patrick de la Meyte is appointed Chief Cannoner in 1484.
  • In the 1500s, “the senior master-gunner was styled the Master-Gunner of England”. (Duncan, 1872). During this period most received “letters patent from Elizabeth [the monarch]”, but only two appear to have been soldiers by profession with the majority being “chosen for their knowledge of laboratory duties” (Duncan, 1872).
  • In 1548, the establishment of a small train of artillery consisted of 1 Master of Artillery, 1 Lieutenant of Artillery, 1 Master-Gunner, 109 Gunners of various pay (Duncan, 1872).
  • There were 16 Master or Chief Gunners positions in 1588.
  • There were 11 Master or Chief Gunners positions in 1652.
  • In 1618, the establishment of a train of artillery consisted of 1 General of Artillery, 1 Lieutenant of Artillery, 10 Gentlemen of Artillery, 25 Conductors of Artillery, 1 Master-Gunner, 136 Gunners, 1 Petardier, 1 Captian of Miners, 25 Miners, 1 Captain of Pioneers, 1 Surgeon, and 1 Surgeon’s Mate (Duncan, 1872).
  • Valentine Pyne was a Captain and Master Gunner of England from 1666, followed by Captain Richard Leake from 1677 (The National Archives, 2019).
  • Some sources refer to the appointment of Master Gunner of Great Britain as early as 1678, but Duncan (1872) still refers to the title Master-Gunner of England in 1682 and 1872. A Royal Warrant, dated 22 August 1682, refers to the Master-Gunner of England (Duncan, 1872).
  • In 1720, there was a proposal to raise the number of master gunners from 38 to 41 (Duncan, 1872).
  • “This version of the story was committed to paper by one who was present with the company at Martinique [in 1809], Master-Gunner Henry McElsander, who joined it three years after the amalgamation, and remained in it until promoted to be Serg[ean]t.-Major at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich.” (Duncan, 1872).
  • There were 76 Master Gunner positions in 1824. RA transferred from the Board of Ordnance to the War Department in 1855.
  • There were over 131 Master Gunner positions in 1881.
  • Army Order (AO) 174 of 1915 stated that:
    • Warrant Officers Class I (WO1) Master Gunner, 1st Class wore a Crown and Wreath and Gun.
    • A WO1 Master Gunner, 2nd Class wore the Royal Arms and Gun.
    • Warrant Officers Class II (WO2), Master Gunner 3rd Class, wore a Crown and Gun.
    • Theses badge were worn below the elbow.
  • AO 309 of 1918 stated that:
    • A Serjeant-Major, School of Gunnery, wore the Royal Arms and crossed Guns.
    • A WO2 Master Gunner, 3rd Class, wore a Crown and Wreath and Gun.
    • A laboratory Quartermaster-Serjeant wore a Crown and Wreath and crossed Guns.
    • A Quartermaster-Serjeant Instructor in Gunnery wore a Crown and Wreath and crossed Guns.
    • Battery or Company Serjeant-Major Instructor in Gunnery wore a Crown and crossed Guns.
    • All of the above badges were worn on the forearm.
    • AO 300 of 1918 cancelled AO 174 of 1915.
  • 12 month Master Gunner course shortened to 3 months in 1939.
  • Master Gunner course increased to 5 months in 1941.
  • Coast artillery is abolished in the British Army and the appointment of Master Gunner lapses.
  • In 1963 the Royal Artillery decided to revive the appointment of master gunner, to be appointed from current Sergeant Major Instructor Gunnery (SMIG) appointees.
  • In 1980, the RA abolished the appointment of Assistant Instructor in Gunnery (AIG) and substituted SMIG, which now carried the rank of Warrant Officer Class Two (WO2). When the WO2 (SMIG) is promoted WO1 they are normally appointed Master Gunner.
  • “The former hallowed appointment of Master Gunner for WOI and WOII’s has been replaced by Sergeant Major Instructor in Gunnery (SMIG), the appointment can now be held by SSgts (being called TSM) to WOI, they all still wear the white covers of their service dress caps when carrying out range duties (similarly qualified officers are Instructors in Gunnery (IG)).” (Mackinlay, 2008, p.113).
  • “In April 2019 he [Major General Jeremy ‘Jez’ Bennett] also became the first regimental colonel commandant of the Royal Artillery, acting as the link between the Master Gunner and the serving Regiment.” (DSEI, 2019).

PART TWO: GUNNERY & NON-GUNNERY APPOINTMENTS

2.0 Introduction

“…the master gunner – the regiment’s most senior specialist…” (Giannangeli, 2019).

There are a currently a number of appointments for personnel within the RA depending on their rank and whether they are an officer or other rank, as noted below.

2.1 Officer Appointments

The current (as of December 2019) appointments for officers in the RA include (FOI2019/12188):

  • Chief Instructor: Lieutenant Colonel (OF-4).
  • Senior Instructor: Major (OF-3).
  • Instructor Gunnery (IG): Major to Captain (OF-2).
  • Technical Gunnery Instructor (TIG): Captain.
Warrant Officer Class 1, Master Gunner Class 1, Rank Slide, DPM (1)

2.2 Other Ranks Appointments

The current (as of December 2019) appointments for other ranks in the RA include (FOI2019/12188):

  • Gunnery Staff:
    • Warrant Officer Class One Royal Artillery Master Gunner: WO1 (RAMG).
      • For example, Master Gunner – ISTAR & GBAD Wing (Section 3.1).
    • Warrant Officer Class One Royal Artillery Master Driver: WO1 (RAMD).
    • Warrant Officer Class One Master Gunner: WO1 (MG).
    • Warrant Officer Class One Regimental Sergeant Major Instructor: WO1 (RSMI).
    • Warrant Officer Class Two Sergeant Major Instructor Gunnery: WO2 (SMIG).
      • For example, SMIG Unmanned Air Systems (UAS).
      • I believe SMIG replaced the Assistant Instructor Gunnery (AIG), aka Ack-IG.
    • Staff Sergeant Qualified Gunnery Instructor: SSgt (QGI).
  • Non-Gunnery Staff:
    • Warrant Officer Class One Royal Artillery Sergeant Major: WO1 (RASM).
    • Warrant Officer Class One Regimental Sergeant Major: WO1 (RSM).
    • Warrant Officer Class Two Regimental Quarter Master Maintenance: WO2 (RQMS(M)).
    • Warrant Officer Class Two Regimental Quarter Master Technical: WO2 (RQMS(T)).
    • Warrant Officer Class Two Battery Sergeant Major: WO2 (BSM).
    • Warrant Officer Class Two Troop Sergeant Major: WO2 (TSM).
    • Warrant Officer Class Two/Staff Sergeant Warrant Officer Communication & Information System: WO2/SSgt (WOCIS).
    • Warrant Officer Class Two/Staff Sergeant Sergeant Major Signals: WO2/SSgt (SMS).
    • Staff Sergeant Troop Battery Quarter Master Sergeant: SSgt (BQMS).
Figure 1: RA & RHA Ranks Guide (Source: FOI2019/12188)

2.3 Instructors of Gunnery in Other Services

The other Services also employ gunnery staff, as outlined below:

  • AIG is an abbreviation for “Assistant Instructor of Gunnery (Royal Air Force)” (MOD, 2008, p.19). AIG noted as, by 2014, “Assistant Instructor of Gunnery” (MOD, 2014, p.20).
  • “Central Gunnery School (Royal Air Force)” (MOD, 2008, p.73; MOD, 2014, p.79).
  • “Gunnery Instructor (Royal Navy)” (MOD, 2008, p.171; MOD, 2014, p.183).
  • “Gunnery Officer (Royal Navy)” (MOD, 2008, p.172; MOD, 2014, p.185).
  • “Instructor of Gunnery (Royal Air Force)” (MOD, 2008, p.195; MOD, 2014, p.210).

PART THREE: TRAINING & TRAINING SUPPORT

3.0 Introduction

This section of the article briefly outlines the training and training support organisations that may be involved in the training of potential gunnery staff.

3.1 Royal School of Artillery

The Royal School of Artillery (RSA) is the principal training establishment for artillery warfare in the British Army. It is located at Larkhill Garrison, Larkhill, on the south edge of Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire. The RSA is part of the Artillery Centre. To the west of the RSA is the main ammunition compound for the area, known as Fargo.

The role of the RSA is to “Deliver high quality and operationally relevant training across the artillery system of systems in order to meet the individual training needs of Defence.” (RSA, 2018, p.2).

It is also the home of the Gunnery Training Team, which provides a training consultancy service to the Royal Artillery and the wider Army.

3.2 14 Regiment RA

The 14th Regiment Royal Artillery is located at the Royal Artillery Barracks, Larkhill. The regiment is the RA’s training support regiment providing Phase 2 (employment) training to new Gunners, as well as supporting the training and development of the wider RA (British Army, 2019a & 2019b).

The regiment, which can trace its lineage back to the formation of 28 Field Regiment in 1900, is composed of:

  • 1st Battery RA “The Blazers”:
    • Training Support.
    • There are three sections, weapons troop, precision fires, air defence and ground based ISTAR.
  • 24 (Irish) Battery RA:
    • Phase 2 (employment) training for soldiers.
    • The battery supply the Field Army with professionally trained individuals who are immediately employable.
    • Provides initial trade training (ITT) and other training including: AS90; L118 Light Gun; MLRS; signals; equestrian acquaint course; functional skills; mental resilience training; driving qualifications; and basic dismounted close combat.
  • 34 (Seringapatam) Battery RA:
    • Training Support.
    • The firing battery of 14 Regiment, supporting courses run by the RSA, as well as training conducted by the wider Army.
    • Deploys for approximately 200 days each year.
    • REME Workshops.

PART FOUR: MASTER GUNNER COURSES

4.0 Introduction

As noted by Evans (2014) gunnery staff are not the same as artillery staff. They are graduates of 12 month courses (shortened during WW2 to 3 months, then 5 months from 1941). There is one course for officers, usually captains, and one for staff sergeants who (generally) become warrant officers on completion. Thereafter the warrant officer’s careers are invariably entirely as members of the gunnery staff, and many master gunners are commissioned as permanent members of it. The officer graduates often do only one posting as a member, but during WW2 a significant number of artillery commanders were its graduates.

4.1 UK Master Gunner Course Details

“RSA gunnery instruction is delivered by the Gunnery Staff, the deep technical experts of the RA. Officers qualify from an 8 month technical course and Non Commissioned Officers qualify from a year long technical course. These instructor courses are also taught at RSA.” (RSA, 2018, p.2).

Within the British Army, both officers and enlisted (other rank) personnel may attend ‘gunnery staff’ courses with training delivered at one of three wings (RSA, 2018):

  • Command and Tactics (CT) Wing:
  • Intelligence, Surveillance, Targeting, Acquisition, and Reconnaissance and Ground Based Air Defence (ISTAR & GBAD) Wing; and
  • Close Support (CS) Wing.
Figure 2: RSA Gunnery Staff Courses

The RSA, through RSA Defence Engagement, also offers training to international students under the International Defence Training (IDT) scheme. In the 2017 iteration of the IDT booklet of training available to international students, it noted the following courses (British Army, 2017; RSA, 2018).

4.2 Gunnery Career Course (Close Support) (GCC (CS))

The Gunnery Career Course (Close Support) (GCC (CS) is the premier course for Royal Artillery Senior Non-Commissioned Officers (SNCO’s) producing high-grade SNCO’s with a superior understanding of Close Support artillery (RSA, 2018).

Graduates are assured and effective instructors with the knowledge to advise the Chain of Command on the technical employment of Close Support Artillery.

Classroom-based and practical learning is reinforced with studies held at the Royal Military College of Science, where students study the science and engineering behind artillery pieces, the design and construct of projectiles their fuzes and associated propellants. Students investigate the current and emerging technologies related to gun, shell and propellant design and design and produce directed work on the subjects.

Visits to UK Defence Industry companies – focusing on manufacture, technological development and military acquisition – expose students to artillery systems procurement and the manufacturing processes.

Artillery Command, Control, Communication and Information systems and procedures are covered in depth and practiced both in the simulated and field environment. UK Tactics and Doctrine are considered, centring on the employment of field artillery and the reconnaissance and deployment of the artillery system. Wider exposure to all Royal Artillery capabilities, for example Precision Fires and Battlefield Radar, is given.

Student methods of instruction are refined via the level 3 Diploma in Training and Education and design skills are taught, and practiced, with the Defence System Approach to Training qualification. Gun Position Safety and Range Planning are covered in depth. Command Leadership and Management modules are studied and students are given the opportunity to gain on the job experience, as SNCO gunnery instructors, in their own specialty.

The knowledge gained over the course is tested throughout and the course culminates with a confirmation live exercise which is designed, planned and delivered by the students.

  • Aim of course:
    • The aim of the course is to develop selected SNCO’s who have completed at least 12 years in their particular trade and have been graded as being the top 10% of practitioners in their specific Close Support specialty.
  • Outline of syllabus:
    • The course focuses all aspects of field gunnery from design to tactics and deployment.
    • In-class and practical learning is reinforced with studies held at the Royal Military College of Science, where students study the science and engineering behind artillery pieces, the design and construct of projectiles their fuzes and associated propellants.
    • Students investigate the current and emerging technologies related to gun, shell and propellant design and design and produce directed work on the subjects.
    • Visits to UK Defence Industry companies – focusing on manufacture, technological development and military acquisition – expose students to artillery systems procurement and the manufacturing processes.
    • Artillery Command, Control, Communication and Information systems and procedures are covered in depth and practised both in the simulated and field environment.
    • UK Tactics and Doctrine are considered, centring on the employment of field artillery and the reconnaissance and deployment of the artillery system.
    • Wider exposure to all Royal Artillery capabilities, for example Precision Fires and Battlefield Radar, is given.
    • Student methods of instruction are refined via the level 3 Diploma in Training and Education and design skills are taught, and practised, with the Defence System Approach to Training qualification.
    • Gun Position Safety and Range Planning are covered in depth.
    • Command Leadership and Management modules are studied and students are given the opportunity to gain on the job experience, as SNCO gunnery instructors, in their own specialty.
    • The knowledge gained over the course is tested throughout and the course culminates with a confirmation live exercise which is designed, planned and delivered by the students.
  • Rank range:
    • SNCO.
  • Entry standards:
    • DIT qualified.
    • Experience of commanding a detachment in a Field Artillery trade.
  • Duration:
    • 46 weeks.
  • Qualifications gained:
    • Successful candidates gain the Qualified Gunnery Instructor (QGI) qualification denoting membership of the Gunnery Staff.
    • This qualification allows them to fill the highest grade Gunnery Staff instructional and staff appointments.
  • Frequency:
    • 1 course per year.
Warrant Officer Class 1, Master Gunner Class 2, Rank Slide, DPM (1)

4.3 Gunnery Career Course (GCC) ISR/GBAD

The GCC (ISTAR/GBAD) produces high-grade SNCO’s with a superior understanding of not only ISR/GBAD artillery, but of the Artillery system of systems. The course is specific to the ISTAR/GBAD specialty (ACS, STA, UAS, and GBAD).

Term one of the course focuses on expanding the students’ knowledge of the British Army’s Capstone doctrine, military planning and Battle Group and Brigade level tactics. The students are also enrolled onto a Level 4 Diploma in Education and Training. They also receive a 3 week advanced Artillery Command Systems package, 2 weeks of military Science and Technology instruction, and a Virtual Battlefield Simulation course.

During term two, students are divided into disciplines according to trade. Those who hail from an ISR background attend the Surveillance, Target and Acquisition training facility at Upavon where they receive bespoke training on the following ISR capabilities: ASP, MAMBA, LCMR and DH3. The remainder of the students will receive training on the following GBAD capabilities: Rapier FSC, HVM SP, HVM LML and LEAPP. This training is delivered at either the RSA or in Thorney Island on the South coast of England. During term two students will also explore future, trade specific capabilities and emerging technologies. To ensure the students receive a higher level of understanding of the capabilities studied, they will conduct numerous Industry and defence visits within the UK and overseas.

Term three sees the students deliver an array of projects conducted throughout the course. These include: Defence System Approach to Training, Doctrine and Tactics, planning and execution of a Battlefield Study, and Missile Practice Camp. This final term also contains two NATO capability comparison exercises in Germany and Poland. The knowledge gained over the course is tested throughout and culminates with a confirmation live exercise which is designed, planned and delivered by the students.

Students promoted to WO2 may be appointed as Sergeant Major Instructor in Gunnery (Air Defence) (SMIG (AD)) or Sergeant Major Instructor in Gunnery (Targeting) (SMIG (Tgt)). Once promoted to WO1 they can be appointed to Master Gunner.

  • Aim of course:
    • This GCC produces high-grade SNCO’s with a superior understanding of not only ISR/GBAD artillery, but of the Artillery system of systems.
  • Outline of syllabus:
    • Term one focuses on expanding the students’ knowledge of the British Army’s’ Capstone doctrine, military planning and Battle Group and Brigade level tactics.
    • In term two students are divided into disciplines according to trade.
    • Term 3 sees the students deliver an array of projects conducted throughout the course.
  • Remarks:
    • The Gunnery Careers Course produces high-grade SNCOs with a superior understanding of Close Support artillery.
    • Graduates are assured and effective instructors with the knowledge to advise the Chain of Command on the technical employment of Close Support Artillery.
  • Rank range: SNCO’s.
  • Duration: 46 weeks, over three terms.
  • Qualifications gained: Qualified Gunnery Instructor (QGI).

4.4 Gunnery Career Course (Find/Protect) GCC (F/P)) GBAD & ISR

  • Aim of course:
    • To develop the professional knowledge and skills of selected WO’s and SNCO’s in order to prepare them for increased technical and training responsibility at regimental duty and gunnery staff.
  • Outline of syllabus:
    • The syllabus covers:
      • The organisation, roles and tactical employment of GBAD units and formations.
      • All technical aspects of current and future GBAD weapon systems;
      • C2 (command and control) systems.
      • Range planning, conduct and safety procedures and the delivery and evaluation of training, including practical assessment of their instructional ability.
      • Technical and tactical deployment of Target Acquisition Systems, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, Sound Ranging, Targeting and Radar.
      • Meteorology and Survey are also covered in depth.
  • Remarks:
    • Students visit either the major UK ranges or overseas ranges in order to run missile practice camps.
  • Rank range: Sergeant to Warrant Officer Class Two.
  • Entry standards:
    • DIT qualified (or equivalent);
    • Experience of commanding an Air Defence Equipment Detachment and a sound knowledge of basic Air Defence procedures.
    • Experience of commanding a detachment in a STA Artillery trade.
  • Duration: 49 weeks.
  • Qualifications gained:
    • Sergeant Major Instructor in Gunnery (Air Defence) – SMIG (AD).
    • Sergeant Major Instructor in Gunnery (Targeting) – SMIG (Tgt).
    • Also the opportunity to gain a Diploma in Management.
  • Frequency: 1 course per year.

4.5 Instructor Gunnery (IG)

  • Close Support (CS) or Ground Based Air Defence (GBAD/ISTAR). Remarks:
    • All attend the 8 week Common module then split into Discipline module – CS or GBAD/ISTAR (Section 4.5.1. or 4.5.2).
  • Rank range:
    • Captain (OF-2) to Major (OF-3).
  • Duration:
    • One year.

4.5.1 Gunnery Staff Officers Course (Close Support)

The Gunnery Staff Officers’ Course is the premier course for officers within the RA, producing officers with an in-depth technical understanding of artillery capabilities, combined with tactical application of Offensive Support in the likely future battlespace (RSA, 2018).

Graduates will have the a well-honed ability to instruct, assure and advise the Chain of Command and to positively influence key fields of acquisition, safety and capability development. Further, students have the option to further develop their technical understanding with the Cranfield University delivered technology modules and the attainment of a Post Graduate Certificate in Gun Systems Design (with the opportunity to complete the full MSc post the course).

Instructional skills are developed through the attainment of the Level 4 Diploma in Training and Education, and Project Management is introduced via the Association for Project Managers Professional (APMP) project management qualification.

On-site education is complimented with educational visits to leading Defence Industry works, Battlefield studies and visits to the UK’s naval and air offensive support contributors.

  • Aim of course:
    • The Gunnery Staff Officers’ Course is the premier officer course within the Royal Artillery.
    • It delivers in-depth technical and tactical employment training in order to qualify selected officers as Instructors in Gunnery.
  • Outline of syllabus:
    • The course focuses on the development of technical, doctrinal and tactical knowledge and the honing of practical artillery skills.
    • All aspects of modern artillery systems and their enabling organisations and processes are covered both in a classroom environment and confirmed and tested on selected live-fire exercises.
    • Student Instructors become the experts in all aspects of exercise and range safety allowing them to create and manage artillery ranges in accordance with current safety regulations.
    • Students gain the coveted Full Spectrum Targeting Course qualification and have an introduction to Joint Battlespace Management.
    • Students will have the option to further develop their Technical understanding with the Cranfield University delivered technology modules and the attainment of a Post Graduate Certificate in Gun Systems Design (with the opportunity to complete the full MSc post the course).
    • Instructional skills are developed through the attainment of the Level 4 Diploma in Teaching and Learning, and Project Management is introduced via the Association for Project Managers Professional (APMP) project management qualification.
    • On-site education is complimented with educational visits to leading Defence Industry works, Battlefield studies and visits to the UK’s naval and air offensive support contributors.
  • Rank range: OF-2 to OF-3.
  • Duration: 11 months.
  • Qualifications gained:
    • Instructor in Gunnery (IG) qualification noting membership of the Gunnery Staff.

4.5.2 GBAD/ISTAR Instructor in Gunnery Course (IGC)

The IGC (ISTAR/GBAD) produces officers with an in-depth technical understanding of RA Capabilities combined with tactical application across the doctrinal frameworks with the ability to instruct, assure and advise the Chain of Command and to positively influence key fields of acquisition, safety and capability development (RSA, 2018).

The course focuses on 3 main functional areas; the ‘Sensors’, the ‘Shooters’ and the ‘Deciders’. Within these areas, students explore in service capability, studying doctrine and tactics, specific platform technology, the Army’s training system and most importantly how to integrate capability into the Artillery system as well as the Joint or Combined environments. This is underpinned by an in depth study of science technology enabling students to develop a thorough understanding of in service and future capabilities.

In addition students study acquisition completing the APMP project management qualification and instructor skills are developed through a Level 5 qualification in Education and Training. Student IG’s become the experts in all aspects of exercise and range safety allowing them to create and manage artillery ranges in accordance with current safety regulations.

  • Aim of course:
    • The premier officer course within the Royal Artillery delivers in-depth technical and tactical employment training in order to qualify selected officers as Instructors in Gunnery.
    • Experienced officers (Captains and above) who possess the necessary experience and technical acumen are selected and developed over an 11 month period into subject matter experts who fill demanding instructional, acquisition and command appointments.
  • Outline of Syllabus:
    • The course focuses on 3 main functional areas:
      • The ‘Sensors’;
      • The ‘Shooters’; and
      • The ‘Deciders’.
    • Within these areas, students explore in service capability, studying doctrine and tactics, specific platform technology, the Army’s training system and most importantly how to integrate capability into the Artillery system as well as the Joint or Combined environments.
    • This is underpinned by an in depth study of science technology enabling students to develop a thorough understanding of in service and future capabilities.
    • In addition students study acquisition completing the APMP project management qualification and instructor skills are developed through a Level 5 qualification in Education and Training.
    • Student IGs become the experts in all aspects of exercise and range safety allowing them to create and manage artillery ranges in accordance with current safety regulations.
    • Modules include:
      • Baseline module.
      • Doctrine and Tactics (including planning – Battlegroup to Brigade).
      • Level 5 Teaching and Learning.
      • Science & Technology (aimed at, & taught to AS level).
      • Training Systems.
      • GBAD and ISTAR Platform Training.
      • Joint Battlespace Management Course.
      • GBAD Engagement Officers course.
      • ISTAR Ops Officers course.
      • European exercises.
  • Rank range: OF-2 to OF-3.
  • Duration: 11 months

4.6 Legacy Courses

In 2006, the 33-week Gunnery Instructors Course (Close Support) (GIC (CS)) was for RA officers with a minimum rank of Captain, who had completed the Captains Course (Close Support), and were experienced as a Brigade Reconnaissance Officer (BRO), Forward Observation Officer (FOO), and Battery Commander (BC) (RSA, 2006).

The aim of the course was to train officers able to plan, execute, instruct, advise and assess field artillery systems up to divisional level. This involved range planning, management and supervision as well as tactical handling and understanding of the operating procedures for all systems to the appropriate level. During the course students learned to plan, execute, instruct, advise and assess close, general support and locating artillery systems up to divisional/OSG level. It also trained students to plan field artillery training support, conduct safe live field artillery firing practices, and to perform the duties of a trials officer. Finally, students were trained on advising on the procurement of field artillery equipment, coordinating and administering visits and demonstrations, and to provide Subject Matter Expert (SME) advice and advise on the capabilities of UK and foreign field artillery equipment. There was one course per year with a maximum of twelve students, who were selected by the RA MCM Division.

The 11-month (47-week) Gunnery Career Course (Field) (GCC (FD)) was for selected SNCO’s and warrant officer, with the aim of developing the professional knowledge and skills to prepare students for the increased responsibility at regimental duty and gunnery staff (RSA, 2006). Students were selected via the GCC Selection Board, with one course per year, and a maximum of twenty students.

The 33-week Gunnery Instructors Air Defence (GIC (AD)) course was for selected officers in the rank of Captain, with the aim of providing specialist education in the technical operation of UK GBAD weapon systems, the doctrinal and tactical employment of UK and NATO GBAD and the supervision and conduct of both live and dry AD training (RSA, 2006). Once qualified the student could be subsequently employed as an AD instructor or within a technical AD staff appointment. There was one course per year with a maximum of six students, who were selected by the RA MCM Division.

PART FIVE: MISCELLANEOUS

5.0 Summary

This article provides an outline of the role and history of a master gunner in the Royal Regiment of Artillery.

5.1 Useful Publications

  • Books:
    • Maurice-Jones, K.W. (2012) The History of Coast Artillery in the British Army. Luton: Andrew UK Limited.
    • Cooper, J. (2015) Tank Master Gunner Course 40 Years Later – What’s Next? Available from World Wide Web: https://www.benning.army.mil/armor/eARMOR/content/issues/2015/JUL_SEP/3Cooper15.pdf. [Accessed: 25 September, 2019].
    • Campbell, A. (1971) The Dress of the Royal Artillery. First Edition. London: Arms & Armour Press.
    • Campbell, D.A. (1960) The Dress of the Royal Artillery from 1898-1956. Woolwich: Royal Artillery Institution.
  • UK Military:
  • US Military:
    • Field Manual (FM):
      • FM 3-22.27 (FM 23.27): MK 19, 40-mm Grenade Machine Gun, Mod 3. Appendix B: Gunnery Tests. Change 1, 14 September 2006.
    • Training Circular (TC):
      • TC 3-20.31-1: Gunnery Skills Test. 10 November 2015.
      • TC 3-20.31-4: Direct Fire Engagement Process (DIDEA). 23 July 2015.
    • Department of the Army Form (DA Form):
      • DA Form 7558-R: HBCT Gunnery Skills Test (GST) Individual Roll-Up. 01 September 2009.
      • DA Form 7662-R: HBCT Gunnery Skills Test (GST) Platoon Roll-Up. 01 September 2009.
      • DA Form 7665-R: HBCT Gunnery Skills Test (GST) Company Roll-Up. 01 September 2009.
      • DA Form 7758: Gunnery Skills Test (GST) Individual Roll-Up. 01 September 2015.
    • Army Doctrine Publication (ADP):
      • ADP 3-0: Operations. October 2017.
      • ADP 7-0: Training. July 2019.
    • Army Doctrine Reference Publication (ADRP):
      • ADRP 7-0: Training Units and Developing Leaders. August 2012.

5.2 Useful Links

5.3 References

British Army. (2017) International Defence Training (Army) Catalogue. Available from World Wide Web: https://www.army.mod.uk/media/2776/idta_13092017.pdf. [Accessed: 25 September, 2019].

British Army. (2019a) Phase 2/3: 14 Regiment RA. Available from World Wide Web: https://www.army.mod.uk/who-we-are/our-schools-and-colleges/artillery/. [Accessed: 29 September, 2019].

British Army. (2019b) Who Are We: 14th Regiment Royal Artillery. Available from World Wide Web: https://www.army.mod.uk/who-we-are/corps-regiments-and-units/royal-artillery/14th-regiment-royal-artillery/. [Accessed: 29 September, 2019].

Bunn, J. (2019) U.S. Master Gunners bring Expertise to Brigade Combat Team. Available from World Wide Web: https://www.armyrecognition.com/analysis_focus_army_defence_military_industry_army/u.s._master_gunners_bring_expertise_to_brigade_combat_team.html. [Accessed: 25 September, 2019].

DSEI (Defence and Security Equipment International). (2019) Jeremy Bennett. Available from World Wide Web: https://www.dsei.co.uk/speakers/jeremy-bennett. [Accessed: 23 September, 2019].

Duncan, F. (1872) History of the Royal Regiment of Artillery: Volume I – To the Peace of 1783. Available from World Wide Web: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/52258/52258-h/52258-h.htm. [Accessed: 23 October, 2019].

Evans, N.F. (2014) British Artillery in World War 2: Glossary. Available from World Wide Web: http://nigelef.tripod.com/glossary.htm#Gunnery_staff. [Accessed: 23 September, 2019].

FORSCOM (US Army Forces Command). (2014) Master Gunners Confer. Available from World Wide Web: https://www.facebook.com/pg/FORSCOM/photos/?tab=album&album_id=10152686682504299. [Accessed: 25 September, 2019].

Giannangeli, M. (2019) Shock Report: Army Cuts Led to Soldiers Firing Artillery Shells into Farmer’s Field. Available from World Wide Web: https://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/1172381/army-cuts-missile-patney-wiltshire-news-andrew-snook. [Accessed: 23 September, 2019].

House of Commons. (1834) Reports from Committees: Fourteen Volumes. Session 04 February-15 August 1834. Available from World Wide Web: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=InBbAAAAQAAJ&pg=RA3-PA3&lpg=RA3-PA3&dq=master+gunner+st+james%E2%80%99s+park&source=bl&ots=Ov8v5odtcX&sig=ACfU3U2blWqS3kXdPV4XAcRLMz11Y_OUAQ&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwia5YT79ufkAhUNJBoKHR3CCUg4KBDoATACegQIBxAC#v=onepage&q=master%20gunner%20st%20james%E2%80%99s%20park&f=false. [Accessed: 25 September, 2019].

Mackinlay, G.A. (2008) “A Moment in Time” The British Army at a Moment in Time – 1 July 2007: A Look at and from it of the Makeup of the Regular and Territorial Army. Available from World Wide Web: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/10621/1/Thesis_A_Moment_in_Time_31st_July_2008.pdf. [Accessed: 23 September, 2019].

Maurice-Jones, K.W. (2012) The History of Coast Artillery in the British Army. Luton: Andrew UK Limited.

MOD (Ministry of Defence). (2008) MOD Acronyms and Abbreviations. Available from World Wide Web: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/227048/acronyms_and_abbreviations_dec08.pdf. [Accessed: 25 September, 2019].

MOD (Ministry of Defence). (2014) MOD Acronyms and Abbreviations. Available from World Wide Web: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/ministry-of-defence-acronyms-and-abbreviations. [Accessed: 25 September, 2019].

Myers, M. (2018) Army Plans to Roll Out New Master Gunner Badge for Qualified Soldiers. Available from World Wide Web: https://www.armytimes.com/news/your-army/2018/01/30/army-plans-to-roll-out-new-master-gunner-badge-for-qualified-soldiers/. 23 September, 2019].

RSA (Royal School of Artillery). (2006) Royal School of Artillery (RSA) Pamphlet 7 Courses Handbook. Larkhill: HQ DRA.

RSA (Royal School of Artillery). (2018) Training Opportunities – The Royal School of Artillery. Available from World Wide Web: https://www.army.mod.uk/who-we-are/our-schools-and-colleges/artillery/. [Accessed: 29 September, 2019].

The National Archives. (2019) Will of Valentine Pyne, Captain and Master Gunner of England lying in the Old Artillery… Available from World Wide Web: https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/D708633. [Accessed: 23 October, 2019].

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