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Honorable Artillery Company of London

In 1537 Henry VIII formed the company by Letters Patent from an already existing Guild of St. George charging it to attend to the Better Defense of the Realm and encouraging it to exercise in handling bows and handguns. The Company trained in the fields of Finsbury and built the centre part of Armoury House in 1735, adding the wings in 1828. From the 16th to the 18th Century the Company trained all the officers of the Trained Bands of the City and the Company's other principal-was maintaining law and order on the streets on behalf of the Corporation, before the formation of a police force.

The word "Artillery" in its title is misleading since in the early days the word meant no more than a projectile weapon and the Company was solely infantry for its first 250 years. After distinguished service in the Gordon Riots in 1780 the Corporation presented the Company with two brass cannons, the barrels of which still stand on the stairs in Armoury House, as a reward for their good service. From this time until 1973 the Company had the unique distinction of providing Infantry and Artillery units wearing the same cap badge.

Although members of the Company fought in various wars as individuals, and indeed one, Robert Keayne, an early emigrant to the United States, founded the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts in 1638, the HAC's first formed body deployed on operations was in 1900 in the South African War as part of the City Imperial Volunteers. When the Territorial Army was formed at the beginning of this Century, the HAC's Military Unit became part of it but the HAC's traditional rights and privileges were preserved by an Act of Parliament in 1908 guaranteeing its independence.

In both World Wars the HAC provided not only its own Infantry and Artillery Units in the frontline but also on each occasion 4,000 officers for other units of the British Army. Today, the Company has 2,400 members of whom 400 are serving in the Military Unit. All the rest have military experience as an essential qualification for membership. The Military Unit has a challenging role as part of NATO's Rapid Reaction Corps with the task of providing small patrols in the forward battle area to acquire intelligence and control long range weapons.

The Military Unit also provides Guards of Honour in the City and fires the Salutes at the Tower of London. The Company of Pikemen and Musketeers, who provide the Lord Mayor's Bodyguard, contribute greatly to the ceremonial life of the City and the HAC also has a Light Cavalry Unit which keeps alive the skills of military equitation and takes part in ceremonial functions.

The old tradition of policing the streets of London is maintained by the HAC's own Detachment of Special Constables in the Metropolitan Police. With its historic House and unique area of playing fields, the HAC plays a special part in the life of the City and sponsors many unusual and diverse activities. Cricket has been played here since 1725 and the first ever balloon flight in the United Kingdom was that of Mr. Vincent Lunardi who took off from our Grounds in 1784. convening of the new government on March 4, 1789.

The HAC is the second oldest chartered military organization in the world. The Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts is the third oldest!



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