The Battery was formed on the 1st of April 1757 as Captain W Martin’s Company at Woolwich. From that time until the turn of the 19th century the Battery’s detachments saw action in Canada, Holland, the Caribbean, Gibraltar, Scandinavia and aboard ships of the Royal Navy. The majority of the Battery’s time however was spent on garrison duty throughout the Empire.
In 1808 the Battery, known as Wilmot’s Company was ordered to join Sir John Moore’s expeditionary force to Denmark. This expeditionary force was recalled and dispatched to Portugal to fight the French Army during the Peninsular War. The Battery accompanied Sir John Moore’s Army as one of two Companies of Artillery during his advance to Spain. On Christmas day 1808, in order to avoid being outflanked by the French, the Army was given orders to withdraw from Sahagun towards the port of Corunna, a distance of 312 miles. In the next three weeks the small British force of some 20,000 withdrew over mountainous terrain in appalling weather conditions. The French Army under Marshall Soult, numbering 40,000, harried the British throughout and forced the rearguard (which included the Battery) to fight delaying actions on three separate occasions. The British reached Corunna on the 14th of January 1809 and commenced embarkation for England. On the 16th of January 1809 the French brought the British to battle at Corunna and the Battery deployed.
Sir John immediately ordered the strengthening of the town's defences so that he could embark his remaining troops without further interference from the French. On 14th January 1809 a fleet of transports embarked elements of Moore’s Army, including 50 guns. This left the 12 guns of Captain Wilmot’s and Captain Truscott’s companies with 2 officers and 92 other ranks. General Moore now had only these guns and 15,000 infantry to defend against a French force estimated at 40 guns plus 20,000 infantry. In reality the French numbered just over 16,000 cavalry and infantry, which were supported by 50 Guns.
On the afternoon of the 16th January 1809 after some hesitation, Marshal Soult gave the order to attack. His plan was to turn the British right flank and roll up the British line. Bentnick’s Brigade supported by 3 guns defended this flank. The remaining guns were deployed further eastwards to defend the centre and left flank of the Army. During bitter fighting the British guns were kept in action, despite the fire of an enemy battery of 12 guns. At one stage the French took a British 8 pounder but not before the No1 had spiked the piece, he received 6 musket balls in his right arm in the process. Bentnicks Brigade recovered the gun in a counter attack. It was near this position that Sir John Moore was mortally wounded. By nightfall the French had withdrawn to their former positions.
During the night the British withdrew from their battle positions and commenced embarkation onto the waiting fleet. The guns were taken but due to heavy swell they could not be loaded and it was decided to spike and dispose of them from nearby cliffs. General Sir John Moore died on the night of the 16th January and was buried in the early hours of the following morning. He expressed his satisfaction that the French had been repulsed. His final words were:
“I hope my country will do me justice”.
In 1854 the Battery saw action in the Crimean war. Known at this time as the “Gray Battery” due to the horses used by the Gun Teams, the Battery sailed from Woolwich in March 1854. Designated B Battery, the guns saw service at the Battles of Alma in September and Inkerman in November.
Moving on to 1899 and the Battery was now titled 14 Field Brigade RFA. Together with 7 and 66 Batteries they formed 4th Field Brigade RFA (now 26th Regiment Royal Artillery) during the Boer War. On the 15th December 1899 the Battery took part in the Battle of Colenso, being slaughtered almost to a man and losing 5 out of the 6 guns.
During the First World War, the Battery, still part of 4th Field Brigade RFA, saw action in France from November 1914 until September 1915, taking part in the Battles of Neuve Chapple and Aubers Ridge. In 1916 the Battery moved to Iraq, taking part in the relief of Kut and Lord Allenby’s conquest of Palestine before returning to Iraq for the final offensive.
In the Second World War the Battery became known as 4/14 Field Battery and served in the Middle East from 1939 until 1943. During this time the Battery saw action at the Battles of Gazala and El Alamein. In June 1942 the Battery, together with the remainder of 4th Field Regiment fought with distinction at the Battle of Knightsbridge Box. Attacked continuously over three days and engaging tanks and infantry at minimum range, casualties were so severe that for some time after the Battle the Regiment could only man a single composite Battery. 1944 brought a move to India and the Battery fought across the breadth of the Imphal Plain. The Battery remained in Asia until the surrender of the Japanese in August 1945.
Leading up to the present day, the Battery was awarded the honour title of Corunna in 1936 and became 17 (Corunna) Field Battery Royal Artillery in 1947. Since the Second World War the Battery has seen operational service in Malaya, Northern Ireland, the Gulf War, Bosnia and most recently in Kosovo. 17 (Corunna) Battery remains the senior Battery within 26th Regiment Royal Artillery and celebrates Corunna Day on the 16th January.
The Retreat to Corunna 1808