Duke of Edinburgh's Own Edinburgh Artillery

The Duke of Edinburgh's Own Edinburgh Artillery was a part-time reserve unit of Britain's Royal Artillery based in the City of Edinburgh from 1853 to 1909. Volunteers from the unit served in the Second Boer War.

Duke of Edinburgh's Own Edinburgh Artillery
3rd Brigade, Scottish Division, RA
Duke of Edinburgh's Own Edinburgh Artillery (Western Division) RA
Duke of Edinburgh's Own Edinburgh Artillery RGA (M)
Country United Kingdom
Branch Militia
RoleGarrison Artillery
Part ofScottish Division, RA (1882–89)
Southern Division, RA (1889–1902)
EngagementsSecond Boer War
Colonel of
the Regiment
Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh


The long-standing national Militia of the United Kingdom was revived by the Militia Act of 1852, enacted during a period of international tension. As before, units were raised and administered on a county basis, and filled by voluntary enlistment (although conscription by means of the Militia Ballot might be used if the counties failed to meet their quotas). Training was for 56 days on enlistment, then for 21–28 days per year, during which the men received full army pay. Under the Act, Militia units could be embodied by Royal Proclamation for full-time service in three circumstances:[1][2][3][4]

  • 1. 'Whenever a state of war exists between Her Majesty and any foreign power'.
  • 2. 'In all cases of invasion or upon imminent danger thereof'.
  • 3. 'In all cases of rebellion or insurrection'.

The 1852 Act introduced Artillery Militia units in addition to the traditional infantry regiments. Their role was to man coastal defences and fortifications, relieving the Royal Artillery (RA) for active service.[1][2]


The unit was raised in Edinburgh in November 1854 under the title of Edinburgh Artillery Militia. The first commandant was Lieutenant-Colonel William Geddes, CB, (1794–1879) a retired officer of the East India Company's Bengal Horse Artillery, who was given the honorary rank of colonel. Geddes had seen a great deal of service in India, including the Nepal War, Third Mahratta War, Gwalior Campaign and First Anglo-Sikh War.[5][6] Octavius Pelly, a Half-pay Captain in the Madras Light Cavalry was appointed Major-Commandant on 28 October 1865 and promoted to Lt-Col on 26 March 1872.[7]

In June 1874, Queen Victoria's second son, Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, was appointed Honorary Colonel of the unit, and on 7 December 1875 the Queen approved the change of title to Duke of Edinburgh's Own Edinburgh Artillery Militia. The duke's insignia were included in the unit's badge.[5]

The Artillery Militia was reorganised into 11 divisions of garrison artillery in 1882, and the Edinburgh unit became the 3rd Brigade, Scottish Division, RA. When the Scottish Division was abolished in 1889 the title was altered to Duke of Edinburgh's Own Edinburgh Artillery (Southern Division) RA.[1][5][7][8] Lieutenant-Colonel Alan Colquhoun, a former officer in the Black Watch and the 16th Lancers, was appointed commandant on 20 August 1887.[7][9]

From 1902 most units of the Militia artillery formally became part of the Royal Garrison Artillery, the Edinburgh unit taking the title of Duke of Edinburgh's Own Edinburgh RGA (M).[1][5][7]


The unit was embodied for home defence three times:

South Africa

Under the Militia Acts, units could also volunteer for overseas service. The Duke of Edinburgh's Artillery did so in 1900, and was one of the six Militia Artillery units permitted to form a Service Company of volunteers to serve in South Africa alongside the Regulars.[1][5]

The company, under the command of Major J.E. Lee and consisting of five officers and 154 other ranks, embarked for South Africa on 23 March 1900 and landed at Durban on 1 May. On arrival they were combined with the service company of the Durham Artillery Militia, the composite unit being designated the Durham & Edinburgh Division RGA, under the command of Lt-Col H.P. Ditmas of the Durham Artillery.[5]

While camped at Durban the Duke of Edinburgh's provided a guard of two officers and 100 men for the prison ship SS Catalonia, as well as men for the town guard and escort duties. On 2 December the company moved to the 'Tin Town' camp at Ladysmith where they guarded a Prisoner-of-war camp, manned the outposts of the Ladysmith defences, and sent detachments to Van Reenan's, Blan Blank, Acton Homes and Harrismith as required. The company manned two Howitzers, one at Rifleman's Post under the command of Major Lee, and one at King's Post under Captain W.H. Thornhill. On 9 September 1901 the company moved to Kakkerstroom to collect a thousand Boer prisoners of war and escort them to Durban and thence by sea to Bombay, where the company remained to guard them until sailing for home in November 1901.[5]

The Duke of Edinburgh's lost three gunners who died of disease during the campaign. Major Lee, Captain (later Major) Thornhill (twice), and Corporal J. Dempsey were Mentioned in dispatches.[5][12][13]


After the Boer War, the future of the Militia was called into question. There were moves to reform the Auxiliary Forces (Militia, Yeomanry and Volunteers) to take their place in the six Army Corps proposed by St John Brodrick as Secretary of State for War. Some batteries of Militia Artillery were to be converted to field artillery. However, little of Brodrick's scheme was carried out.[14][15]

Under the sweeping Haldane Reforms of 1908, the Militia was replaced by the Special Reserve, a semi-professional force whose role was to provide reinforcement drafts for Regular units serving overseas in wartime. Although the majority of the officers and men of the Duke of Edinburgh's RGA (M) accepted transfer to the Special Reserve Royal Field Artillery, all these units were disbanded in March 1909.[1][5][16][17][18]

Honorary Colonels

The following served as Honorary Colonel of the unit:


  1. Litchfield, pp. 1–7.
  2. Dunlop, pp. 42–5.
  3. Grierson, pp. 27–8.
  4. Spiers, Army & Society, pp. 91–2.
  5. Litchfield, pp. 78–83.
  6. Hodson, 'Geddes'.
  7. Army List, various dates.
  8. Spiers, Late Victorian Army, pp. 63–4.
  9. Burke's, 'Colquhoun'.
  10. Edinburgh Gazette, 3 May 1859.
  11. Edinburgh Gazette, 6 December 1859.
  12. Lord Roberts' dispatch of 4 September London Gazette, 10 September 1901.
  13. Lord Kitchener's final dispatch London Gazette 29 July 1902.
  14. Dunlop, pp. 131–40, 158-62.
  15. Spiers, Army & Society, pp. 243–2, 254.
  16. Dunlop, pp. 270–2.
  17. Spiers, Army & Society, pp. 275–7.
  18. Litchfield, Appendix 8.


  • Burke's Peerage, Baronetage and Knightage, 100th Edn, London, 1953.
  • Col John K. Dunlop, The Development of the British Army 1899–1914, London: Methuen, 1938.
  • Lt-Col James Moncrieff Grierson (Col Peter S. Walton, ed.), Scarlet into Khaki: The British Army on the Eve of the Boer War, London: Sampson Low, 1899/London: Greenhill, 1988, ISBN 0-947898-81-6.
  • Maj V.C.P, Hodson, Officers of the Bengal Army 1758–1834, 6 Vols, 1927/Uckfield: Naval & Military Press, 2001, ISBN 978-1-84342-186-3.
  • Norman E.H. Litchfield, The Militia Artillery 1852–1909 (Their Lineage, Uniforms and Badges), Nottingham: Sherwood Press, 1987, ISBN 0-9508205-1-2.
  • Edward M. Spiers, The Army and Society 1815–1914, London: Longmans, 1980, ISBN 0-582-48565-7.
  • Edward M. Spiers, The Late Victorian Army 1868–1902, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1992/Sandpiper Books, 1999, ISBN 0-7190-2659-8.
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