Northumberland Militia Artillery

The Northumberland Militia Artillery was a part-time reserve unit of Britain's Royal Artillery based in the County of Northumberland, from 1854 to 1909.

Northumberland Militia Artillery
3rd Brigade, Northern Division, RA
Northumberland Artillery (Western Division) RA
Northumberland Royal Garrison Artillery (M)
Country United Kingdom
Branch Militia
RoleGarrison Artillery
Part ofNorthern Division, RA (1882–89)
Western Division, RA (1889–1902)
Garrison/HQTynemouth (1854)
Newcastle upon Tyne (1854–61)
Berwick-upon-Tweed (1861–1909)
Lt-Col Sir Charles Reed, KCB
Lt-Col Sir Francis Blake, 1st Baronet, of Tillmouth Park


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 home defence 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 formed in July 1854 under the title of Northumberland Militia Artillery. It was one of the smallest artillery militia corps to be raised at that time, with an establishment of only 161 all ranks, including permanent staff, organised in two batteries. Initially, its headquarters was at Tynemouth, but it moved to Newcastle upon Tyne in December 1854.[5][6]

In May 1860, while the Northumberland Artillery was embodied for service during the Indian Mutiny, there was a riot at Tynemouth Castle and North Shields, in which the militiamen were accused of maltreating the police in the discharge of their duties. The disgusted townsfolk urgently requested the Northumberland Artillery to be removed from the area or disbanded completely. The unit was moved to Ireland, and in September 1861 its headquarters was shifted to Berwick-upon-Tweed, where it remained for the rest of its existence.[5]

The first commandant was Captain Charles Clementson, who was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel when the establishment was increased to four batteries in the 1860s. He was succeeded from 6 August 1868 by Lt-Col Charles Reed.[6] By 1868 the establishment had risen to 392 in four batteries, which was increased to five batteries in 1874 and to six in 1882.[5][7]

The Artillery Militia was reorganised into 11 divisions of garrison artillery in 1882, and the Northumberland corps became the 3rd Brigade, Northern Division, RA. When the Northern Division was abolished in 1889 the title was altered to Northumberland Artillery (Western Division) RA.[1][5][6][8]

From 1902 most units of the Militia artillery formally became part of the Royal Garrison Artillery, the Berwick unit taking the title of Northumberland RGA (M).[1][5][6]


The unit was twice embodied for home defence:[5][6]

  • Indian Mutiny: 4 April 1859 to 2 March 1861. The corps was embodied at North Shields,[9] moving to Hexham,[10] and Tynemouth[11] before going south to Sheerness in the summer of 1859.[12] It was back in Tynemouth by the autumn[13] and remained there until May 1860 when it was involved in a riot (see above). Thereafter it was sent to Ireland, first at Cork,[14] then at Kinsale,[15] where it stayed until the end of its embodiment.[16]
  • Second Boer War: 7 May to 11 October 1900.


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.[17][18]

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 Northumberland RGA (M) accepted transfer to the Special Reserve Royal Field Artillery, all these units were disbanded in March 1909.[1][5][19][20][21]

The last commanding officer was Lt-Col Sir Francis Blake, 1st Baronet, of Tillmouth Park.[6][22]


In 1854 the officers of the Northumberland Militia Artillery wore badges that were unique to the unit. Their black leather helmet carried a plate consisting of an ornate silver shield surmounted by a crown and surrounded by a laurel wreath. The shield bore the star of the Order of the Garter with the garter strap in gilt and blue enamel and the cross of St George enamelled red. Below the star were crossed gilt cannons. Beneath the shield was a scroll inscribed 'NORTHUMBERLAND'. The officers' regimental pattern button was silvered with a scalloped edge, bearing the three cannons in pale from the arms of the Board of Ordnance surmounted by a crown, with a scroll underneath inscribed 'NORTHUMBERLAND ARTILLERY'.[5]

Honorary Colonel

The following officer served as Honorary Colonel of the unit:[6]

  • Lt-Col Sir Charles Reed, KCB (1820–1908), former commandant, appointed 10 November 1888.[23]

See also

Militia and Volunteers of Northumberland


  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. 122–5.
  6. Army List, various dates.
  7. Litchfield, Appendix 7.
  8. Spiers, Late Victorian Army, pp. 63–4.
  9. Edinburgh Gazette, 3 May 1859.
  10. Edinburgh Gazette, 7 June1859.
  11. Edinburgh Gazette, 5 July 1859.
  12. Edinburgh Gazette, 2 August 1859.
  13. Edinburgh Gazette, 6 September 1859.
  14. Edinburgh Gazette, 5 June 1860.
  15. Edinburgh Gazette, 3 July 1860.
  16. Edinburgh Gazette, 5 March 1861.
  17. Dunlop, pp. 131–40, 158-62.
  18. Spiers, Army & Society, pp. 243–2, 254.
  19. Dunlop, pp. 270–2.
  20. Spiers, Army & Society, pp. 275–7.
  21. Litchfield, Appendix 8.
  22. Burke's, 'Blake of Tillmouth'.
  23. Reed at


  • 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.
  • 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.

External sources

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