About The HAC

The Honourable Artillery Company

The HAC traditionally dates its origins to 1537 when Henry VIII, at the request of an existing guild of St George, granted a charter to the Fraternity or Guild of Artillery of Longbows, Crossbows & Handguns. In 1538, this body leased an area in Bishopsgate for its practice but training in this so- called ‘Artillery Garden’ had probably ceased by the 1560s. Military exercises regularly took place here again between 1586 and 1588 when the ‘London Captains’, senior officers of the City’s ‘trained bands’, used the space during the time of the Armada threat. In 1611, practice was revived by a group of these former ‘Captains of the Artillery Garden’ and other London citizens. This new ‘Society of Arms’ soon faced competition for the use of the ground and leased extra space in Finsbury in 1641. Division and suspension of the Society during the Civil War period followed, but its re-formation as the ‘Artillery Company’ took place in January 1657. A complete move was made to the new ‘Artillery Garden’ in 1658.

From the 1611 revival until 1779, the Company trained the officers of the City Trained Bands and also aided the civil power by maintaining law and order, especially in the later 18th century. When the Company helped to quell the mob during the Gordon Riots in June 1780, a grateful City donated two brass cannon which stand on the stairs at Armoury House. In 1781, the HAC was reorganised into a battalion of four companies, while retaining a ‘Grenadier Company’ and adding a ‘Light Company’. The same year saw the formation of a Matross Division (foot artillery). After further changes in regimental structure, the HAC’s ten companies of infantry were reduced to six in 1869. Horses were introduced to pull artillery guns in 1853 and a field battery was established in 1860, while a horse artillery troop was active from 1860 until 1869. A squadron of Light Cavalry was formed in 1861 and was converted into a horse artillery battery in 1890. An artillery reorganisation in 1899 created A Battery and B Battery and members of the HAC fought in the South African War in 1900 as part of the City Imperial Volunteers.

The Territorial Force was formed in 1908 and the HAC joined this organisation once its traditional rights and privileges had been preserved by an Act of Parliament. The HAC distinguished itself in WWI on the Western Front (winning two VCs in 1917) and in the Middle East, and in WWII in North Africa, Italy and also in northern Europe after D-Day. The Regiment trained some 4,000 officers in each of these conflicts. The Company currently has 2,400 members, 400 of whom serve in the Regiment. As part of today’s Territorial Army, the HAC has a challenging role, being specially tasked with providing patrols which acquire intelligence and control long-range weapons in the forward battle area. With an initial deployment in Bosnia in November 1995, the first since WWII, HAC soldiers have served in the Balkans and Iraq, and a number are presently deployed on operations in Afghanistan. The Regiment also provides Guards of Honour in the City and fires salutes at HM Tower of London. Since 1919, an HAC Detachment of Special Constables has patrolled the City streets and is now part of the City of London Police. The HAC’s Company of Pikemen & Musketeers, formed in 1925, provides the Lord Mayor’s bodyguard and contributes to the ceremonial life of the City. A ceremonial Light Cavalry troop, established in 1979, keeps alive the skills of military equitation.

HM The Queen is the Captain-General of the HAC. George I donated £500 to the Company in 1722 and Armoury House was built in 1735. Cricket has been played in the grounds since 1725 and in 1784 Vincent Lunardi took off from here in the first balloon flight from English soil.