Wagon Soldiers

battery being towed“Wagon soldiers” is what the infantry sometimes called artillerymen, because they could ride into action, on horseback, on the limber or on the gun carriage itself. On marches, too, the long marches that were the only way of moving troops from place to place behind the lines, it seemed cushy to be able to ride rather than tramp.

As an inspector declared in his annual report on Army training, however, “It is not generally recognized how physically fit an artilleryman must be in order to carry out his duties to the best advantage.” He particularly recommended running, “a valuable form of physical exercise.”(1)

We only need to go back to another of John Boyd’s photographs to imagine the fitness demanded of gunners who have to manhandle the guns — taking the place of six light draught horses pulling the 2 1/2 tons of equipment riding on four wheels. (2)

1915 02 20 3 crop

(1) Memorandum on Army Training. Quoted in James D. Campbell. “The Army Isn’t All Work:” Physical Culture in the Evolution of the British Army, 1860-1920. 2012. 108
(2) More information about the eighteen-pounder here. It has to be admitted that the battery practising at Exhibition Camp in 1915 was hauling a twelve-pounder which was presumable lighter overall, though it was still usually pulled by a team of six horses.

The first image of the Royal Field Artillery circa 1914 is Crown copyright, and can be found in the collections of the National Army Museum.

The second image is from John Boyd’s First World War Photographs, City of Toronto Archives.

Copyright 2016. See “More about this project.”



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