artillery-militia

The Fife Artillery Militia

A group of Militia Officers

In 1854 Britain was fighting against Russia in the Crimea in its first major war since the Napoleonic wars almost 40 years before. Troops were needed overseas and the Government decided to re-embody the Militia to garrison the home defences. The Nature of Warfare had changed in the quiet days of the Militia with more emphasis on Artillery.

Therefore several of the Militia regiments were converted to Artillery when they were reformed and Fifeshire was one of those chosen for the new role.

New Officers were appointed and recruiting was brisk throughout 1854-55, the newly enrolled recruits pressed quickly into service as the Regiment was on active duty at Leith Fort almost straight away. Once the Crimean War was over it wasn't long before the Regiment was called upon again. In 1859-60 (as the British and French were fighting the Second Opium War against China) the Regiment was embodied and served in the Forts on the south coast of Devon and Hampshire. Indeed it would be common practice for the Militia to travel quite a way to Portsmouth and Plymouth for their yearly month of training but they would not be fully embodied again until the South African War of 1899-1902.

The Artillery Militia in general was done away with in the Army reforms of 1908 and those men that chose to continue with service joined the Special Reserve Royal Field Artillery, part of the new Territorial Force. According to Norman Lichfield this force was quickly dispensed with after only 6 months or so and the Militia in Fife finally vanished in 1909. However looking at individual soldiers records it is apparent that many simply shifted into other local RFA units and served through WW1.

The Headquarters

Artillery Militia outside their first Headquarters

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The Headquarters of the Artillery Militia was in Cupar, occupying the old Jail. Afterwards this building was occupied by Watts the seedsman for many years and much later became a nightclub, after being empty a little while it has now reopened as a pub/restaurant.

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The 2nd headquarters

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Later they moved to take over the new Cupar Jail when it was vacated. This building was later used by the Territorial Association and the Fife and Forfar contingent of the Queens Own Yeomanry still occupy it today.

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The training guns outside the later Headquarters

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I am currently working through the musters of the Artillery Militia and will put together another database for its Soldiers soon. It will not be as complete as the earlier databases as muster rolls only exist for 1854-56 & 1859-75.

It is possible to see individual records for 885 men from the Fife Artillery Militia from the late Victorian Period on findmypast in the WO 96 Militia records and there are a few others hiding in the WO 97 series for those men that left the Militia to join the Regular Army and the Staff Sergeants appointed by the Royal Artillery who finished their long careers training Militiamen. Men from the Fife Artillery Militia also turn up serving in other units (unsurprisingly the Royal Field Artillery mainly) in the WW1 service and pension records which are available online at Ancestry.

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Other Sources

St Andrews University Collections have a couple of photographs of the Militia at this period

Militia on the Fluthers (now a car park) Cupar 1850's

Another group of Officers

Photographs of some of the badges of the Militia Artillery are in the Gallery

The Militia Artillery 1852-1909 by Norman Litchfield is the book on the subject and contains much useful information on the Militia Artillery in General