The Garrison is a volunteer hobby group of historians whose passion is the Royal Regiment of Artillery. The group has three sub–sections: Field Artillery, Anti-Aircraft Artillery and a Searchlight unit, with which we undertake historical displays depicting various aspects of life in the Royal Artillery during the Second World War.
The Garrison concentrates its efforts on portraying three Royal Artillery Batteries: 489 Bty, 124th (Northumbrian) Field Regiment RA (TA); 82 Bty 25th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment RA; both of which were in 50th Tyne Tees Division, and 301 Bty, 93rd (Mixed) Searchlight Regiment RA (TA) which was part of Ack-Ack Command. The 93rd was famous at the time for being the only all-female regiment in the history of the British Army.
The Garrison has also on occasion re-enacted scenarios of the Royal Artillery outside of the European Theatre. The group's Far East impression - 1st Bty (The Blazers), 28th Jungle Field Regiment RA - was re-created during the 60th anniversary of the end of the war in St. James Park. Whilst for the Maltese Artillery Regiment, we recreated the 12th Field Regiment RA and 4th Searchlight Regiment RA during a visit to Malta in 2006.
More recently the group has begun to expand beyond the chronological limits of the Second World War. The acquisition in 2012 of an 18-pounder field gun has allowed the Garrison to put on First World War displays. Also in 2012, as part of the Jubilee celebrations, we did our first post-war field gun display, representing a National Service era artillery troop circa 1952.
The Garrison has three informal regional groups: the main HQ is at the historic Tilbury Fort in Essex, with members largely coming from London, Kent and Essex. At Tilbury Fort; we have barracks, stores and some space to display our vehicles and artillery, thanks to English Heritage; this is where the concentration of our field guns and other bulky equipment is based. A second group is based in the West Country, with several other guns, vehicles and equipment stored near Salisbury in Wiltshire. The third group is our Northern section, most of whom come from Yorkshire. This regional structure - supplemented by other members from other parts of the country (and indeed other countries) provides the group with the flexibility to put on numerous small local events as well as to come together for much bigger events when necessary.
Our main aim is to promote awareness of the events during the Second World War, a period important in our nation's history. We also educate the public about the role of the Royal Artillery and Auxiliary Territorial Service gunners in war and in peace, in the front line and in garrison. The members work hard to maintain a high standard of historical accuracy and we try to do justice to those who served their country, especially those who did not return, without glorifying war.
The Garrison's members feel it is important to keep alive the memory of the servicemen and women that fought in the Second World War, so we try to portray (as far as is possible) different aspects of the wartime experience, from the uniform an ordinary soldier wore to their equipment, the food they ate, the vehicles they used, the music they listened to and their military life in general. This allows members to gain some insight into the friendships, discipline, hardship and life-changing experiences service personnel had in the six years of the war. It can be hard work, sweating away in battle dress and jerkin operating the 25-pounder, Bofors and searchlight equipment, but it is interesting and rewarding! We also have a social and learning side to our programme each year, meeting veterans who reminisce about life in the services, giving talks at museum, historical sites or to groups and schools demonstrating everything from uniform and personal kit, to battle tactics, orders and firing 21-gun salutes!
The Garrison is proud to say we can work in partnership, as every army needs to do - often meeting up, and working with other Second World War re-enacting groups, portraying other arms of the services. One of the great benefits of re-enacting is going round the country (we have also participated in events in France, Holland and Malta); there is always something more to learn about at each venue or monument we visit.
The Group has done many events to be proud of from firing the Royal Salute for the Queen on her arrive in Jersey for the 60th anniversary of it liberation, the Living Museum in St. James Park through to supporting the Armed Forces of Malta with their anniversary event, just a few of those special events more of which you can see in the past events section.
In total the Field Artillery Section can muster a full battery of eight 25-pouders with ammunition limbers and tractor units. However, getting all this hardware together in one place is an expensive and difficult procedure - and thus very rare. At most of the larger events we limit ourselves to a troop sized display of four guns. The searchlight section has access to a 150cm searchlight projector along with a wartime Lister generator to power it. Members also own a range of other war time vehicles including: motorbikes, a 15cwt Morris-Commercial, a 15cwt Bedford MW, several Jeeps, an Austin Tilley, a White Scout Car and a 3-ton Bedford OY. We also co-operate whenever we can with other re-enactment groups (such as Ack Ack Living History Group and Historic Maritime Society) who have access to vehicles to further enhance our displays and put on a good show.
Members spend many hours researching the wartime history of the Royal Artillery and attached Corps. There are also a number of keen collectors of militaria in the group. This is another popular part of the hobby as there are many things to collect, including uniforms, badges, books, webbing, vehicles, and civilian clothes. Every re-enactor has a collection of something no matter what period they do. This often results in member picking up an interest in several different aspects of the 1940s, and sometimes branching out into other areas of related re-enactment - the Royal Navy, the Royal Air Force or the Home Guard and civilian!
Do you want to join the group? Look at the membership section!
Do you want to see us in action? Look at the Events diary!
The Garrison is a non-profit making organisation governed by a Constitution and a set of membership rules. Join us and help recreate the past for the benefit and education of all our audiences!