Over the last few years we have looked at a number of items of cutlery with a military connection, whilst it is normally easy to identify a unit dating can prove trickier. Most military units were long lasting and this makes it difficult to pin down a date. Tonight however we have a marked spoon that is a little easier to date:The back of the spoon indicates it is made of electro-plated nickel-silver (EPNS):Most importantly though, this spoon is marked ‘4th W.Y.A.V.’ on the handle:This stands for the 4th West Yorkshire Artillery Volunteers. This dates the spoon to before 1907, when units stopped being referred to as ‘volunteers’ and became part of the territorials. The various volunteer artillery units in Yorkshire have a convoluted history:
In 1860, as the British government feared invasion from the continent, the Secretary at War recommended the formation of Volunteer Artillery Corps to bolster Britain’s coastal defences. The following Corps were raised prior to 1880:
- 1st Yorkshire (West Riding) Artillery Volunteer Corps raised at Leeds on 2 August 1860
- 2nd Yorkshire (West Riding) Artillery Volunteer Corps formed at Bradford on 10 October 1860
- 3rd Yorkshire (West Riding) Artillery Volunteer Corps formed at York on 9 February 1861 4th Corps formed at Sheffield on 6 February 1861
- 5th Corps formed by 1864, but disappeared from the Army List in November 1874
- 6th Corps formed at Heckmondwike by June 1867 (from members of the 2nd Corps)
- 7th Corps formed at Batley on 2 October 1866 (disbanded in August 1877)
- 8th Corps formed at Halifax on 19 May 1871
They began as Coastal Artillery with 32 pounder guns. In 1868 the 5th Corps won the Queen’s Prize at the annual National Artillery Association competition held at Shoeburyness. The following year the 7th Corps won the competition, with the 4th Corps winning it in 1872. By 1871, the 1st had grown to eight batteries and the 2nd had become the 1st Admin Brigade, Yorkshire (West Riding) Artillery Volunteers, containing five Yorkshire (West Riding) Artillery Volunteer Corps, numbered the 2nd, 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th. By 1880, a number of these Corps had been disbanded or absorbed and the batteries were distributed as follows:
- Numbers 1 to 4 at Bradford
- Numbers 5 and 6 at Heckmondwike
- Numbers 7 and 8 at Halifax
Various reforms from 1889 resulted all the corps being classed as ‘Position Artillery’ and armed with 40 pounder RBL guns. In 1892 the Corps were organised as part of the Western Division Royal Artillery and were titled 1st, 2nd and 4th West Riding of Yorkshire Volunteer Artillery, with headquarters at Leeds, Bradford and Sheffield respectively.
After 1902, they became the 1st, 2nd and 4th West Riding of Yorkshire Royal Garrison Artillery (Volunteers) and were re-equipped with 4.7-inch QF Guns drawn by steam tractors.
In 1903 the 4th West Yorkshire Artillery Volunteers were the subject of questions in the House of Commons about their ability to work with cavalry as well as infantry formations:
- SAMUEL ROBERTS (Sheffield, Ecclesall)
To ask the Secretary of State for War under what circumstances orders have recently been issued by the Adjutant General to the 4th West Yorkshire Artillery (Volunteers) that no greater mobility than that of infantry shall be required of them, and that not more than two horses per gun shall be employed during their annual training; and whether, in view of the fact that this corps consists of four batteries equipped with field guns, and has been efficiently trained for many years past as field artillery, he will have the orders in question rescinded and give the necessary financial assistance to enable the corps to be properly horsed during its annual training.
(Answered by Mr. Secretary Brodrick.) The Commander-in-Chief holds that all Artillery Volunteers, whatever armament they may now be in possession of, are not to be trained to manœuvre with cavalry, but that it will be sufficient for them to move at the same pace as infantry. As regards the allusion to the employment of two horses per gun, no such instruction has been issued.