L (Néry) Battery History
The Battery was formed as 3rd Troop (later renamed 1st Troop) around 1809 when the East India Company governed Bengal and extending its trade and influence into the Indian territories. The Bengal Horse Artillery was formed to give quick fire support to the armies of the East India Company. It was 3rd Troop Bengal Horse Artillery, which was to become L Battery.
In the first half of the nineteenth century the battery took part in every form of warfare in and around India. Mountain warfare against our later friends the Ghurkhas in 1812, siege warfare at Hathras and the great fortress of Bhurtpore and open warfare in both Sikh wars- the Bengal Horse Artillery took part in them all. Armed with the lightest of guns, which were effective only at very short ranges, and exploiting their superb mobility, they could be seen galloping into action in front of the long scarlet clad line of Bengal Infantry. Resplendent in their laced jackets and brass mounted Roman helmets, the Troops of the Horse Artillery would gallop forward with the cavalry and come into action shattering an enemy counter charge with deadly salvoes of case shot. It was the age panache on the battlefield, when men fought and died in their gilded accoutrements. It was the age of rigid discipline in close order drill and great lines of battle drawn up to face each other 100 yards apart. It was one in which battlefields were shrouded in drifting powder smoke and the balance hung on the ability of soldiers to endure a sudden and daunting number of casualties and still retaliate with parade ground precision.
Before being absorbed into the Royal Artillery in 1861 the 1st Troop of the 3rd Brigade, Bengal Horse Artillery (as it had become) saw service in the Indian Mutiny. Here the first of four Victoria Crosses was awarded to Gunner Conolly. During action against mutineers Gunner Conolly was wounded three times but remained at his gun until a counter attack was launched by the infantry and the situation restored.
After the Indian Mutiny, the dominions of the East India Company were made over to the crown and the Bengal Horse Artillery was disbanded. Therefore in 1861 the Troop became “F” Battery Royal Horse Artillery and 1889 renamed as L Battery Royal Horse Artillery. Very little action took place between then and 1914.
In 1914 L Battery rode into battle in support of 1st Cavalry Brigade as part of the British Expeditionary Force in the Great War. The greatest exploit in all it’s history was to occur during the famous “Retreat from Mons”when the battery took part in an action, referred to as “The Affair at Néry”, which was believed by many to be the turning point of the 1st World War. During the action at the village of Néry, L Battery suffered heavy losses but fought bravely until the last gun had expended all it’s ammunition and held the German 4th Cavalry Division at bay. Three Victoria Crosses were awarded to the battery for that action together with the battle honor title Néry.
After re-equipment the battery went through the ill-fated Gallipoli campaign and later returned to the Western Front where it was in the thick of the fighting until the Armistice in 1918.
Between the wars L(Néry) Battery served successively in Germany, as part of the occupation forces, Ireland, India, Egypt and England. In 1938 the battery was mechanized and became “L” Troop of L/N Battery RHA. It was in this orbat that it returned toFrance in 1939, and later took part in the campaigns in Greece and the western Desert. In 1942 the battery regained it’s separate identity and advanced through North Africa with the 8th Army. It arrived in Italy in time for the famous battles for the Cassino Monastery and had reached the Bologna area at the final capitulation of the German armies.
The two years following the war were spent in Italy, Palestine and Egypt and it was not until December 1947 that the battery returned to England. With the rest of 2nd Field Regiment Royal Horse Artillery it moved to Hildersheim, West Germany where it remained as part of BAOR for the next eight years.
On 1st February 1958, as part of the reorganisation of the army, the battery ceased to be part of the Royal Horse Artillery and became L(Néry) Battery Royal Artillery.
From 1958 until 1961 the battery served in Malaya where it saw active service, returning to Colchester as part of the Strategic Reserve. In 1964 the battery, with the Regiment, moved to Cyprus as a peacekeeping force joining the United Nations during the four-month tour to stop the Greeks and Turks fighting over island sovereignty.
In 1965 the battery moved to Portsmouth Barracks in Munster, West Germany and remained there until 1968 when it moved back to the UK and Barnard Castle in County Durham. After a three-year tour in England the battery moved back to Germany, this time to Hemer until 1977, it then moved to Ubique Barracks in Dortmund for a short tour before moving to Larkhill in 1979 as the Support Regiment to the Royal School of Artillery.
In 1982 the battery returned to Munster in West Germany with 2nd Field Regiment where it remained till the disbandment of the Regiment in 1993 and the battery moved to Tidworth as part of 1st Regiment Royal Horse Artillery. In 1998 this famous battery with a magnificent record suffered the humiliation of “cadreisation”, losing it’s guns and reducing to Tac Group strength but remaining within 1st RHA.
Over the past fifty years the battery has been equipped with a variety of artillery weapons including: 4.2” Mortar – 25 Pounder – 5.5” Gun – 105mm Pack Howitzer –105mm Light Gun – M109 – ASA90 / seen active service in Malaya, Cyprus, The Falklands, Kosovo and Iraq amongst others.