Royal Artillery

The Royal Regiment of Artillery referred to as the Royal Artillery and colloquially known as "The Gunners", is the artillery arm of the British Army. The Royal Regiment of Artillery comprises thirteen Regular Army regiments, King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery and five Army Reserve regiments. Artillery was used by the English army as early as the Battle of Crécy in 1346, while Henry VIII established it as a semi-permanent function in the 16th century; until the early 18th century, the majority of British regiments were raised for specific campaigns and disbanded on completion. An exception were gunners based at the Tower of London and other forts around Britain, who were controlled by the Ordnance Office and provided personnel for field artillery'traynes' as needed, their numbers were small. During the 18th century, the military became professional in the fields of artillery and engineering; when Marlborough was restored as Master-General of the Ordnance in 1714, he initiated a series of reforms, which included splitting the existing Ordnance Service into artillery and sappers or engineers.

This was approved and two permanent companies of field artillery were established in 1716, each 100 men strong. These were increased to four companies and on 1 April 1722 grouped with independent artillery units at Gibraltar and Menorca to form the Royal Regiment of Artillery. Selection and promotion within the Royal Artillery was based on merit, rather than the commission purchase system used elsewhere until 1870. A cadet company was formed at the Royal Military Academy or RMA Woolwich in 1741. In 1757, it split into each of twelve companies. Based in the Royal Arsenal, beginning in 1770 the regiment was rehoused in the Royal Artillery Barracks on Woolwich Common. A major innovation in 1793 was the establishment of the Royal Horse Artillery, designed to provide mobile fire support for cavalry units; the same year saw the foundation of the Corps of Royal Artillery Drivers to provide transport for the artillery. The regiment was involved in all major campaigns of the Napoleonic Wars; this period saw development of the Congreve rocket.

Their use in the War of 1812 is referenced in the line'rockets red glare' which appears in the Star-Spangled Banner. After Waterloo in 1815, Europe was at peace until the 1853 Crimean War. Overall supervision of the regiment was transferred to the War Office when the Board of Ordnance was abolished in 1855 and the War Office School of Gunnery established in Shoeburyness in 1859; when the British East India Company was dissolved in 1862, its artillery function was absorbed by the Royal artillery, giving it a total strength of 29 horse batteries, 73 field batteries and 88 heavy batteries. Military expenditure estimates for 1872 list the regimental strength as a total of 34,943 men and officers, including those in India. On 1 July 1899, the Royal Artillery was divided into three groups: the Royal Horse Artillery of 21 batteries and the Royal Field Artillery of 95 batteries composed one group, while the coastal defence, mountain and heavy batteries were split off into another group named the Royal Garrison Artillery of 91 companies.

The third group continued to be titled Royal Artillery, was responsible for ammunition storage and supply. Which branch a gunner belonged to was indicated by metal shoulder titles; the RFA and RHA dressed as mounted men, whereas the RGA dressed like foot soldiers. In 1920 the rank of Bombardier was instituted in the Royal Artillery; the three sections functioned as separate corps. This arrangement lasted until 1924. In 1938, RA Brigades were renamed Regiments. During the World War II there were over 1 million men serving in 960 gunner regiments. In 1947 the Riding House Troop RHA was renamed The King's Troop RHA and, in 1951, the title of the regiment's colonel-in-chief became Captain General; when The Queen first visited the Troop after her accession, it was expected that it would become "The Queen's Troop", but Her Majesty announced that in honour of her father's decision it would remain "The King's Troop". The Royal Horse Artillery, which has separate traditions and insignia, still retains a distinct identity within the regiment.

Before World War II, Royal Artillery recruits were required to be at least 5 feet 4 inches tall. Men in mechanised units had to be at least 5 feet 8 inches tall, they enlisted for six years with the colours and a further six years with the reserve or four years and eight years. They trained at the Royal Artillery Depot in Woolwich. From its beginnings, the Royal Artillery has been based in south-east London. In 2003 it was decided to move the hea

Dalia Sofer

Dalia Sofer is an Iranian-born American writer. Born in Tehran, Iran was raised in a Jewish family during revolutionary Iran, she moved to New York City when she was 11, she attended the Lycée Français de New York, went on to study French Literature at NYU with a minor in creative writing. She received an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College, her first novel, The Septembers of Shiraz, was published in 2007. Sofer is the recipient of the 2008 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for The Septembers of Shiraz, she has won a 2007 Whiting Award for fiction, has been a resident at Yaddo. The Septembers of Shiraz Man of My Time Profile at The Whiting Foundation New York Times Questions for Dalia Sofer

Wainuiomata railway proposals

Multiple proposals have been made for a branch line railway to Wainuiomata as part of the Wellington commuter railway network. Despite strong local pressure at times during the 20th century, none of the proposals have come to fruition. Wainuiomata is in an isolated valley separated from Lower Hutt by the Eastern Hutt hills. In the 19th and early 20th centuries this isolation made communication difficult and a railway was desired to provide more efficient access to the outside world; as roads improved and car ownership rates rose during the 20th century, this function of a proposed railway declined, but at the same time the population of Wainuiomata increased and commuters to Wellington desired a railway line. However, the terrain is not favourable for a railway. A line into Wainuiomata would require either a steep route over the hills, resulting in a slow journey, or a lengthy and costly tunnel; this geography has been the main contributing factor to the rejection of all proposals so far. The first proposal for a railway to Wainuiomata came as part of a route for the Wairarapa Line across the Rimutaka Range.

Four routes were surveyed, including one through Wainuiomata. It was suggested by a Mr Sinclair, who farmed in the area and claimed he knew a route over the Rimutakas; the line surveyed by John Rochfort and his party ran from Kaitoke, at the northern end of the Hutt Valley, across the Eastern Hutt Hills into the valley of the Wainuiomata River, which it followed before crossing into the valley of the Orongorongo River. To leave the Orongorongo River and reach the Wairarapa, the line had to follow a tributary stream to a height of 344.5 m, from which it faced a sudden and insurmountable drop to the Wairarapa. Accordingly, the proposal was given no further consideration; the circuitous nature of the route via Kaitoke meant an abbreviated form of this proposal was never subsequently considered for a line to Wainuiomata. In order to enhance links between the Hutt Valley and the Wainuiomata Valley under development, to cater for the needs of expected future residential development in the Wainuiomata Valley, a tunnel between the two valleys was proposed in 1928.

On 2 July, an internal Railways Department memorandum noted of the proposal, made by the mayor of Lower Hutt in a recent meeting with the department: Preliminary negotiations with affected land owners were commenced in September. An agreement was entered into between the department and the development company on 1 October, which set out the terms of the project and made the following points: The development company would construct a two-lane road tunnel, 55 chains in length, between Gracefield Road and the Wainuiomata Valley; the Railways Department would be granted the exclusive right to operate motor or electrical services through the tunnel. The development company would reserve sufficient land in the Wainuiomata Valley for terminal purposes for any services operated by the Railways Department through the tunnel; the company was to reserve a strip of land along the new main road through the company’s subdivision for the possible future installation of an electrical tramway. The Railways Department would commence operating a bus service from the Wainuiomata Valley to Wellington, Lower Hutt and Petone via the tunnel once there was a permanent resident population in the Wainuiomata Valley of at least 50 families.

The Railways Department would, when the amount of traffic was sufficient to justify it, construct at its own expense an electrical tramway from Gracefield Road to the Wainuiomata subdivision. In early 1929 the Railways Department encountered difficulties in trying to arrange for the acquisition of some of the required land from Morley & Co. Mr C. Morley had purchased the land while visiting New Zealand in 1927, with a specific purpose for the land in mind was unwilling to exchange with the land sought by the department or be compensated for it. On being notified by the department that it intended to indefinitely postpone negotiations for the purchase of the affected land, Morley thanked them by letter on 23 May 1929 for their candour and advised that he intended to proceed with his intentions for the land. Though planning work for another facet of the project, the widening of Park Road, continued for several months, it appears that by the following year work on the project had ceased. A missive from the District Engineer's Office in 1952 concerning the industrial development at Seaview covered the possible future transport needs of the Wainuiomata Valley, which at the time had not long been under development as a residential and industrial area.

The District Engineer made the point that the floor of the Wainuiomata Valley was some 300 ft higher than that of the Hutt Valley, he thus considered that it would be improbable for Wainuiomata to have a rail link. However, he did consider that the expected completion of the road tunnel under construction would make for much easier road access into Wainuiomata; as the Hutt Valley portal of the tunnel was near Gracefield Station, it would be prudent to consider the possibility of the increased importance of the Hutt Valley Industrial Line to serve Wainuiomata. To this end, he suggested various works and railways facilities that would be required to handle this traffic, including: Road overbridges for Park Road and Seaview Road, both of which were expected to become arterial thoroughfares. Relocation of the branch line to facilitate the construction of the Seaview Road overbridge. Installation of passenger platforms at Gracefield Station and related facilities. Provision of a marshalling yard, local sidings, goods shed, heavy crane, other freight handling facilities for Gracefield Station.

A straight shunting leg southward from the Gracefield Station yard with parall