Writing only a few years after the war, the historian Macpherson commented that no unit other than the artillery had gone through “such great changes and developments, and there was hardly a unit which changed its interior organization to so great an extent.”
The technological changes in gunnery have already been hinted at, and we will learn more as Percy does. It is the interior organization that concerns us now.
The renumbering of the battery (and of all its equipment) takes place in a much larger context – one military and one political. We’ll look at the military first.
In September 1914, the First Canadian Divisional Artillery had three artillery brigades; each brigade consisted of three batteries, each of which had six eighteen-pounder guns. Each brigade also had a headquarters and a brigade ammunition column. It was a beautiful organization: 1st Brigade had batteries #1, 2, and 3; 2nd Brigade had batteries #4, 5, and 6, and so on.
Only a few months later, each battery was reduced from six to four guns. The argument was that six guns (two at the front lines and four in the rear) was too much for a single major to manage on a mobile battlefield. It turned out, of course, that at the same time as the reorganization was taking place, the armies were digging into their trenches, and it is much easier to keep track of six guns when they are all dug into emplacements and pits.
The reorganization looks easy, even elegant, on paper: again three brigades with consecutively numbered batteries, but now there were four batteries per brigade. To achieve this result, each of the three original batteries in a brigade gave up a section of two guns. Two of these sections joined to make the fourth battery in each brigade, and the remaining two were sent to depot batteries; that is, they were kept in reserve. I will spare you the details of battery renumbering, but it is rather like dominoes, only with more than one line of tumbling bricks: of the twelve batteries in the three reorganized brigades, only half retained their old numbers.
In general, that was the organization that applied to Percy and his pals when they arrived at Witley in September 1916. There were four brigades, the 12th, 13th, 14th, and 15th, in what was then the 4th Divisional Artillery. Each brigade had four 4-gun batteries, but the numbering system was no longer as coherent: Percy’s 12th brigade consisted of the 47th, 48th, 49th and 54th batteries. The Brigade Ammunition Columns had been absorbed into the Divisional Ammunition Column.
Don’t worry — there is no exam on this stuff. Information comes from a variety of sources.
Canadian Artillery Association. Officers who served Overseas in the Great War with the Canadian Artillery 1914-1919. 1922
Maccpherson, J.S.B. “The Canadian Artillery.” In Volume 6: Special Services, Heroic Deeds etc. of Canada in the Great War: An Authentic Account o9f the Military History of Canada from the Earliest Days to the Close of the War of the Nations. Toronto, 1921. 1.
Nicholson, G.W.L. The Gunners of Canada. The History of the Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery. Volume 1. 1534-1919 Toronto, 1967.