171 (The Broken Wheel) Battery
171 ( The Broken Wheel) Battery became part of 37th Field Regiment in April 1947,
in June 1955 the Regiment amalgamated with 63rd HAA Regiment as 37th HAA Regiment.
The Battery remained with the Regiment whilst the Regiment served in Malta. When the Regiment returned to
the UK in September 1959 it was re-titled as 37th Guided Weapon Regiment (Anti-Aircraft) in November 1959.
The Battery was placed into Suspended Animation in October 1959.
Here is the story of how this Battery received its Honour Title "The Broken Wheel".
This battery was raised as the 2nd Battery Reserve Battalion of the Bombay Artillery in the year of
the Indian Mutiny of 1857, and was shortly afterwards plunged into service which tested it as no
peace-time soldiering could have done.
The rebel held City of Delhi had been recaptured and the siege of Lucknow was about to be
completed when General Sir Hugh Rose was given the task of clearing a vast area in Central India which
was still infested with large forces of mutinous sepoys, disaffected irregular troops, and evilly disposed
persons seeking plunder whereever they could find it. They were inspired, and to a great extent physically
led, by a most re-doubtable Indian princess the Rani of Jhansi, and an equally formidable rebel leader,
one Tantia Topi. The Rani's implacable hatred of British rule was accompanied by fiendish cruelty
towards any Europeans who fell into her hands, but she was at the same time a lady of dauntless
courage and great resource.
These two leaders used the great fortresses which dominated Central India as the pivots on which
they manoeuvred and brought into the field forces which far outnumbered those with which Sir Hugh
could counter them. The short campaign in which he cleared the whole area and signally defeated the rebel
armies is a model of bold offensive action. Armed primarily only with light guns and howitzers Sir Hugh's
2nd Brigade, supported by 2/Res Bn., Bombay Artillery, was first flung against the hill fortress of Rahatgarh
which it took after beating off a relieving force. Joined by Sir Hugh's 1st Brigade, the whole force
on to the fortress of Jhansi which was held by 10,000 Native levies and 1,500 rebel sepoys under
command of the Rani.
The City's fortified perimeter was 4 and a half miles in circumference with granite walls 20-30 feet
and 6-12 feet thick, and with the usual bastions covering the approaches. In one corner was the Citadel,
towering high above the city on a huge rock with inner defences of daunting strength. To stand today
the plain south of the city, alongside the fine memorial to the Rani, and to look up at this great fortress
dominating the surrounding country makes it seem incredible that it could have been taken by a force
of a total strength of less than 2,000 men.
There were two small hills a few hundred yards from the city walls and on them the breaching batteries
were established, one of them manned by 2/Res Bn. By nightfall of the first day of action practicable
breaches had been made, but, before the assault could be made, news came of the approach of a relieving
force, 22,000 strong with 25 guns, under Tantia Topi. Without the slightest hesitation Sir Hugh recalled
the columns that were poised for the storm, brought his guns out of action, and, with no more than
1,500 men, launched that tiny force in a head on action attack on the rebel army. The audacity of this
move, and the excellent support provided by his guns, utterly routed Tantia Topi's army which was
dispersed to the winds. Sir Hugh then returned to his siege, the storming columns flung themselves through
the breaches and the fortress was captured. The Rani however, who had often been seen with her ladies
in royal apparel on the ramparts during the siege, was let down a precipice below the walls and
escaped with her adopted son.
And so the campaign continued. The fortresses of Kunch and Kalpi were taken, and finally Gwalior -
another gigantic hill fort which had been the Capital of the Mahratta prince Sindhia - fell to this
invincible army and peace was restored to Central
India. Having started its life in this stirring way,
under a commander to whom nothing was impossible, 2/3 Bombay Artillery (as the unit became in 1859)
was absorbed, with the other European units of the Indian Artilleries, into the Royal Artillery after
the Mutiny. It then led a quiet life until it went to war again to win its Honour Title in the
Egyptian campaign of 1882.
This war followed an armed rising in which Europeans in Alexandria were massacred and to counter which
an expedition was launced underSir Garnet Wolseley's command. With it went N/2 RA armed with 16
pounder RML guns, and, throughout the operations the loose sand of the desert was to prove a serious
obstruction to the movement of all wheeled vehicles and often prevented the ammunition wagons from
keeping up with the guns.
Landing at Ismailia the British force advanced towards the Nile delta, met and defeated the Egyptian army
at Kassassin, and finally confronted it in a well prepared and entrenched position at Tel-el-Kebir. It
essential if the war was to be won quickly not merly to manoeuvre the enemy out of that position but
actually to crush him there for good.
It was decided to attack at dawn after an approach march by night. The latter difficult operation was
be carried out by the two infantry and one cavalry divisions moving in line, in an echelon from the left
all the seven field batteries, also in line, in an interval between the two infantry divisions.
The left hand infantry division arrived first at the enemy's entrenchments in the half light and was
a blaze of fire. Their attack was not at first completely successful but with the aid of their supports
and the other division forced their way into the entrenchments where hand to hand fighting continued.
Meanwhile the guns had been halted until there was enough light to see what was going on; but, as dawn
broke, they were ordered forward to come into action inside the entrenchments in positions from which
they could engage the defences in enfilade. N/2 galloped forward with the rest and, in the words of an
officer of the battery writing just after the battle, "All of a sudden the smoke lifted like a curtain
we found ourselves close to a long line of entrenchments....We at once went on and Major Branker found
an angle in the line just in front where the ditch was not so deep, so the right gun galloped straight
It went with a bump into the ditch, and stuck fast on the face of the parapet, with most of the horses
but a lot of 42nd rushed to our help, and we lifted and shoved the gun over; but found one of the
wheels smashed to pieces".
Though one of its guns had thus come to grief, since a gun with a broken wheel is a gun out of
action for the
time being, N/2 brought its remaining guns into action inside the entrenchments and engaged the rearward
parts of the defences with effective shrapnel fire in enfilade at 1,000 yeard range. The enemy, flaided
from the front and in flank, were broken up, the victory was complete, and N/2 obtained its
Honour Title of The Broken Wheel.
(Info. from 36 Regt RA website)