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History

Whinyates' Troop RHA represent not only the Troop of Edward Charles Whinyates during his time with 'O' Troop from 1813-1816 but the formation of the Rocket Troop throughout the Napoleonic period. Our group forms part of the Board of Ordnance and covers all aspects of Artillery and their support whilst on campaign

A Brief History of the Royal Artillery

 Throughout the period we portray, the Royal Artillery was not strictly a part of the army coming directly under the Master General of Ordnance (The Board of Ordiance) and not Horseguards.

  Although the Royal Regiment of Artillery had been in existence since its Royal Warrant in 1716, at the outbreak of the Napoleonic wars it was still relatively small compared to other armies in Europe, numbering only 7 Battalions of 10 Companies in 1792. The battalions were numbered 1 to 7 and although the companies were lettered A to J they were more commonly known by the name of the officer who raised it. The battalions that existed were all Foot Artillery but by 1793 the need for fast moving artillery support to move with Cavalry was recognized.


A warrant was issued to raise Troops of Royal Horse Artillery rising to 12 troops by 1806. The Troops were not grouped into Battalions but remained an independent administrative unit. Both Foot and Horse Artillery were a part of the Royal Regiment of Artillery whose headquarters was based at Woolwich (only moving to Larkhill in 2007). The regimental headquarters consisted of the Deputy Adjutant-General Royal Artillery, an assistant and 5 Sergeant Clerks.

In 1801 the Act of Union with Ireland saw the disbandment of the Royal Irish Artillery, a large part of which was absorbed into the newly formed 8th Battalion Royal Artillery. By 1807 a further 2 battalions had been added to the regiment bringing it to 10 Battalions. The only other additions were the amalgamation of all of the independent Rocket Detachments in 1813 into the 1st and 2nd Rocket Troops, Royal Horse Artillery. The other part of the Royal Artillery that warrants mention is the Corps of Drivers formed by the Duke of Richmond in 1794 to replace the previous system of hiring drivers to move the artillery trains. Although they were better than the civilian drivers, they had no loyalty to the Guns and were of dubious character. One officer described them as ‘that nest of infamy’ possibly resulting from an incident when some of them were caught selling stolen gun ammunition to the Spanish Artillery. One of the main reasons for the slow expansion of the artillery was the fact that all of its officers had to undergo formal training at theRegiment’s Depot at Woolwich and even the soldiers had to be trained in gunnery skills. Officers could not bye commissions or promotion within the regiment, both had to be earned on merit which had the effect of distancing artillery officers from those of other corps.

It would be impossible to list the actions and battle honours of the Artillery as they were effectively at every engagement serving with great courage and dignity. The modern day regimental Battle honour is Ubique  (given in 1833) meaning everywhere which summarises their place in battle perfectly.

The History of Congreve Rockets 

Rocket Artillery was a fledgling concept with the British Army in the early 1800s and considered to be top secret.

The development of the use of the rocket in the British army was mainly due to one man, William Congreve, who began experimenting with rockets in 1804. It was obvious to him that a rocket, having no recoil on the point from which it was fired, might easily be utilised to fire from those positions from where ordinary artillery could not be fired, not only on land but also afloat. Mobility, therefore, was one of the great advantages of Congreve's invention; wherever an infantryman or packhorse could go the rocket could go. Roads made no difference and no artillery train was needed unlike conventional artillery. This also meant of course that the large number of horses, along with the tons of hay and oats, needed to move artillery trains would also be unnecessary.

First of all, Congreve turned his attention to the range. He bought some of the largest rockets he could get made in London, but found that in trials none of them exceeded more than five or six hundred yards. However, by a little modification he managed to increased the range from 600 to 1,500 yards. Also, he discovered that the range increased in proportion to the rocket's size. This convinced him that there existed, in the principles of projected force, a power capable of being greatly extended both in weight and range. At this point Congreve might have suffered a setback because up until now his experiments had been carried out at his own cost which had amounted to several hundred pounds. This could not continue and so he applied to Lord Chatham for permission to have some large rockets constructed in the Royal Laboratory at Woolwich. This would lighten the burden from his own pocket and also the workmanship would be much better. After putting his case before Chatham, Congreve's request was granted and work began first on the construction of several 6-pounder rockets.

The first rockets were constructed to laboratory specifications and on trial the range barely touched 600 yards. However, the same rocket was then modified by Congreve to his own tested specifications and this had the dramatic effect of increasing the range to a full 2,000 yards.

The rockets grew larger and larger and the cases were made of iron instead of paper. By using iron cases he was able to build rockets weighing 32 pounds capable of a range of 3,000 yards. Congreve also discovered that it was unnecessary to have a stick measuring 25ft. and this was reduced to 15ft. 

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Use of Congreve Rockets During our chosen period

The Rocket Service was primarily an artillery manned system but as it was experimental throughout the period the manning depended on who was available at the time.

The force remained throughout on board their troop carrier and returned to England without seeing action.

On the 8th October 1806 a naval squadron under Commodore Owen was off Boulogne with favourable winds. That evening 18 of the squadron's boats with their frames and rockets on board rowed into the bay. In the first half hour some 200 rockets were fired. "The dismay and astonishment of the enemy were complete," observed Congreve, "not a shot was returned - and in less than 10 minutes after the first discharge the town was discovered to be on fire." The actual extent of the damage cannot be ascertained although the central part of the town appeared to escape, unharmed. Some ships in the harbour were destroyed as were many buildings including a barracks and a storehouse".

The fire lasted from about two o'clock in the morning until the next evening. As well as the considerable damage done to buildings and shipping there was great alarm caused amongst the French people. Shortly after the raid, in fact, Napoleon offered a reward to anyone who could copy Congreve's invention. None could.

The following year, 1807, rockets were again in service this time at Copenhagen under Congreve's direction.

1807 - 1808 (Foot Artillery) Foot Artillerymen used as Rocketeers in Sweden with Sir John Moore's Expedition.

In 1809 at Basque roads (11th April- 25th April) over 1,200 rockets were distributed in different parts of the rigging of fire ships and used against the French fleet and later that year rockets were present on the ill-fated Walcheren expedition, again under Congreve.

By September 1811 Congreve had a detachment of Horse Artillery under his command consisting of one NCO and 30 men who were commanded by Captain Richard Bogue.

May/June 1813 (Horse Artillery) Detachment was inspected, reinforced to 200 men and sent to Germany under the command of Capt. Bogue as 'The Rocket Brigade' where they saw service and acquitted themselves well at Leipzig, Gohrde, Wittenburg, Frederiksfort and Gluckstart.

At Leipzig, 18th October 1813, Captain Brogue advanced his Rocket Troop towards the village of Paunsdorf and fired over 200 Rockets at the 5 Battalions of French troops holding the village. The noise and accuracy of the Rockets caused the French so much painic that they immediately surrendered.

Oct 1813 (Foot Artillery) The 'Rocket Company' Royal Artillery was formed and sent to France to join the Duke of Wellington. They were poorly trained at first having received only 3 days training prior to embarkation; but acquitted themselves well at the crossing of the Bidassoa and the Battle of Toulouse. They were then sent to America and saw action including the Battle of New Orleans (Commanded by Capt Lane with 60 men).

7th June 1813 (Horse Artillery) Orders received designating Capt Brogue's Troop as the 'Rocket Brigade'

Dec 1813 (Foot Artillery) Capt Elliot formed another body of Artillery for the use of Rockets at Woolwich.

1st Jan 1814 (Horse Artillery) Elliot's and Lane's Companies declared to be 1st Rocket Troop Royal Horse Artillery and Bogue's

Detachment now commanded by Lt. Stangeways became 2nd Rocket Troop Royal Horse Artillery.

1814 Captain Whinyates appointed to the 2nd Rocket Troop

June 1815 2nd Rocket Troop Royal Horse Artillery deployed to Lord Wellington's Army and served at Quatra Bass and Waterloo with 5 x 6 Pounders and 1 x Rocket Cart under the command of Capt Edward Whinyates.

July 1816 (Horse Artillery) 1st and 2nd Rocket Troops amalgamate as 2nd Rocket Troop Royal Horse Artillery. This caused some animosity as the troop was formed on the 1st Rocket Troop who had seen no action but inherited the honours of the 2nd Troop.

1847 (Horse Artillery) Rocket Troop now I Troop RHA abolished. However each of the troops in Great Briton was instructed to form a 'Rocket Section'.

Sir William Congreve.
Captain Richard Brogue

General Sir Edward Charles Whinyates, KCB KH (6 May 1782 – 25 December 1865)

Whinyates was the son of Major Thomas Whinyates of Abbotsleigh, Devon, and his wife Katharine Frankland, and was educated at Newcombe's School in Hackney. In 1796 he entered the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich as a cadet and was commissioned as second lieutenant in the Royal Artillery on 1 March 1798.

He became lieutenant in 1799 and accompanied the expedition in that year to Den Helder in the Netherlands and the expedition to Madeira in 1801. When Madeira was evacuated at the Peace of Amiens, he went with his company to Jamaica and was made adjutant. In 1805 he was promoted second captain and came home. He served as adjutant to the artillery in the attack on Copenhagen in 1807 and the following year was posted to D troop of the Royal Horse Artillery.

In February 1810 he embarked with his unit for the Peninsula, but their transport ship Camilla nearly sank and had to put back. Owing to this, D troop did not take the field as a unit until 1811. However, Whinyates was present at Busaco in 1810, acting as adjutant to the officer commanding the artillery. He was also at the Battle of Albuera on 16 May 1811 with four guns, the cavalry affair at Usagre on 25 May, and in the actions at Fuentes de Guinaldo and Aldea de Ponte on 25 and 27 Sep

In 1812 D troop was with Rowland Hill's corps on the Tagus river. At Ribera, Whinyates made such good use of two guns that the French comm

ander Lallemand inquired his name, and sent him a message: ‘Tell that brave man that if it had not been for him, I should have beaten your cavalry’. When the captain of D troop died at Madrid in October Whinyates took over the command for the next four months, during which time the troop distinguished itself at San Muñoz on 17 November, at the close of the retreat from Burgos, five out of its six guns being injured. General Long, who commanded the cavalry to which it was attached, afterwards wrote of the troop that he had never witnessed 'more exemplary conduct in quarters, nor more distinguished zeal and gallantry in the field.’

In 1813 Whinyates was made captain, and consequently left the Peninsula in March. In 1814 he was appointed to the second rocket troop, and he commanded it at Waterloo. Wellington, who did not believe in rockets, ordered that they should be left behind. When he was told that this would break Whinyates's heart, he replied: ‘Damn his heart; let my orders be obeyed.’ However, Whinyates eventually obtained leave to bring them into the field, together with his six guns. When Ponsonby's brigade charged D'Erlon's corps, he followed it with his rocket sections, and fired several volleys of ground-rockets with good effect against the French cavalry. He then rejoined his guns, which were placed in front of Picton's division. In the course of the day he had three horses shot under him, was struck on the leg, and severely wounded in the left arm. He received a brevet majority and the Waterloo medal, and afterwards the Peninsular silver medal with clasps for Busaco and Albuera.

At the end of 1815, the rocket troop were sent to England to be reduced, and Whinyates remained behind until 1818, appointed to a troop of drivers in the army of occupation. He commanded H troop of horse artillery from 1823 to 22 July 1830, when he became regimental lieutenant-colonel and was made KH in 1823 and CB in 1831. He had command of the horse artillery at Woolwich from November 1834 to May 1840, and of the artillery in the northern district for eleven years afterwards, having become regimental colonel on 23 November 1841.

On 1 April 1852 he was appointed director-general of artillery, and on 19 August commandant at Woolwich, where he remained till 1 June 1856. He had been promoted major-general on 20 June 1854, and became lieutenant-general on 7 June 1856, and general on 10 December 1864. He was elevated to KCB on 18 May 1860. He had become colonel-commandant of a battalion on 1 April 1855, and was transferred to the horse artillery on 22 July 1864.

He died at Cheltenham on 25 December 1865. In 1827 he had married Elizabeth, only daughter of Samuel Compton of Wood End, North Riding, Yorkshire but left no children. He did have five brothers, of whom four served with distinction in the army and navy.

General Sir Edward Charles Whinyates

Gravestone in St Mary’s Churchyard, Prestbury.

  JOIN US TO FIND OUT MORE AND LIVE THE PERIOD

SACRED

TO THE MEMORY OF

GENERAL

SIR EDWARD CHARLES WHINYATES

K.C.B. & K.H.

COLONEL COMMANDANT OF B. BRIGADE

ROYAL HORSE ARTILLERY.

WHO WAS BORN NEAR CALCUTTA 6TH. MAY 1782.

AND DIED AT CHELTENHAM 25TH.DECEMBER 1865

IN HIS 84TH. YEAR.

HE WAS THE THIRD SON OF MAJOR THOMAS WHINYATES

BY CATHERINE SIXTH DAUGHTER OF ADMIRAL SIR THOMAS

FRANKLAND BART. AND ENTERED THE ARMY AS SECOND

LIEUTENANT IN THE ROYAL ARTILLERY AT THE AGE OF

SIXTEEN & SAW MUCH ACTIVE SERVICE. HE SERVED IN THE

EXPEDITION TO THE HELDER, & CAMPAIGN IN NORTH

HOLLAND IN 1799. THE EXPEDITION TO MADEIRA IN 1801.

& AT THE SIEGE & CAPTURE OF COPENHAGEN IN 1807.

THE PENINSULAR CAMPAIGNS FROM FEBY. 10TH. 1810 TO JULY

1813 INCLUDING THE BATTLES OF BUSACO & ALBUERA

AFFAIRS AT USAGRE, ALDEA DE PONTE, & SAN MUNOZ=

ATTACK & DEFEAT OF GENERAL LALLEMAND'S CAVALRY

AT RIBERA, & MANY OTHER AFFAIRS, BEING ALWAYS

ON THE ADVANCE & REAR GUARDS. HE SERVED ALSO THE

CAMPAIGN OF 1815 IN THE NETHERLANDS & FRANCE, & WAS

SEVERELY WOUNDED IN THE LEFT ARM AT WATERLOO

WHERE HE COMMANDED THE ROCKET TROOP ROYAL HORSE

ARTILLERY. HE WAS NOMINATED A KNIGHT OF THE ROYAL

GUELPHIC ORDER FOR DISTINGUISHED MILITARY SERVICES,

IN 1823. A  KNIGHT COMPANION OF THE BATH, 26TH. SEPR. 1831

& COMMANDER OF THE BATH ON 18TH. MAY 1860.

HE ALSO RECEIVED THE SILVER WAR MEDAL WITH TWO

CLASPS FOR BUSACO & ALBUERA & MEDAL FOR THE BATTLE

OF WATERLOO. THUS, AFTER A SERVICE OF NEARLY SIXTY

EIGHT YEARS IN THE ROYAL REGIMENT OF ARTILLERY.

HE CLOSED AT CHELTENHAM, A LONG USEFUL, AND

HONOURABLE CAREER, FULL OF YEARS & FULL OF HONOURS,

MUCH LOVED & RESPECTED BY ALL WHO KNEW HIM.

"I KNOW THAT MY REDEEMER LIVETH." JOB. 19. 25 VERSE.

ALSO OF OCTAVIA, WIDOW OF THE LATE WILLIAM CHRISTMAS,

OF WHITFIELD C. WATERFORD ESQRE. AND SISTER OF THE ABOVE

WHO DIED ON THE 10TH. FEBRY. 1882 AT CHELTENHAM.

AGED 84 YEARS.