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‘Making Woolwich: The Royal Regiment of Artillery in Woolwich’ Exhibition

  • The King’s Troop, RHA Trumpeters
  • The King’s Troop, RHA Mounted Gun
  • The King’s Troop, RHA taking the salute
  • Countess of Wessex’s String Orchestra
  • Mrs Holmes and Mrs Haste opening the exhibition
  • Cllr Denise Scott-McDonald, Ken Timbers and Barry Winfield
  • Tracy Stringfellow, Brigadier Ken Timbers and Mark Tindle

We are delighted to announce the opening of our new permanent exhibition for Greenwich Heritage Centre, about the history of the Royal Regiment of Artillery and its long-association with Woolwich.

Royal Greenwich Heritage Trust (RGHT) is delighted to say that our new permanent exhibition, ‘Making Woolwich: The Royal Regiment of Artillery in Woolwich’ is now open to the public!

This exhibition, which tells the fascinating story of the Royal Regiment of Artillery (RA) in Woolwich has been created as part of the 300th Anniversary celebrations for the Regiment. Formed in Woolwich in 1716, the Gunners have had a long association with this area, which has seen town, garrison and the Royal Arsenal all grow up together. Woolwich would not have become the borough that it now is without the RA, and this exhibition records those deep and still ongoing connections.

The exhibition was launched on Thursday 1st December, with great success. Members of the public, contributors to the exhibition, trustees and members of the military, including the project’s supporters, were all in attendance. The King’s Troop, Royal Horse Artillery put on a magnificent demonstration in Artillery Square, which saw a full mounted section parade and receive the salute from Major General Nick Eeles CBE, the Chair of Royal Artillery Museums Ltd. Seeing the men and women of King’s Troop, mounted and in their dress uniforms, with the 13-Pounder guns was a spectacular reminder of what the appearance of members of the Regiment must have been like in Woolwich in the past.

Together with The King’s Troop, we are also lucky enough to have a representative from another of our Woolwich-based military units. A string section from The Countess of Wessex’s String Orchestra (mostly consisting of former Gunners) played for the entertainment of our guests in the Upper Gallery. Their combination of marches and traditional and modern classics was very well-received by everyone.

On behalf of RGHT, we’d like to extend a huge thank you to both units for coming and putting on such a marvellous show. It was a pleasure to host you both.

Opening the exhibition for RGHT was the Trust’s Chair Len Duval OBE. He was followed by Maj General Eeles and Denise Hyland, the Leader of the Royal Borough of Greenwich. A series of presentations were made, in particular to Brigadier Ken Timbers, the senior adviser on this exhibition and a long-time champion of the heritage of the Royal Artillery in Woolwich. It is no exaggeration to say this this exhibition would not have happened as it did without him.

These were not our only special guests. To cut the ribbon on the exhibition itself, we were honoured to have Mrs Patricia Holmes and Mrs Rita Haste. These two local ladies are the daughters of men who served with the Royal Artillery in the First World War, and who were decorated for their bravery.

Mrs Homes’ father John Murray Rymer-Jones was trained at the Royal Military on Shooters Hill and, after being commissioned as an officer, was twice awarded the Military Cross for his bravery. After the war, he joined the police force and eventually became Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.

Mrs Haste’s father Robert Venables received a Military Medal for his bravery on the Western Front. After the First World War, he continued to serve with the British Army, putting his leather-working skills to good use as a Saddler in Woolwich. In the Second World War, despite having retired from the Army, he continued to serve to defend his country, working as a fire warden in Plumstead.

Both Mrs Holmes and Mrs Haste were met through the consultation process which we had undertaken by the project team and volunteers throughout 2016. In this, we went out to a series of events, meeting with members of the public and found out from them what they wished to see in ‘Making Woolwich’ (the information from which we used to design the exhibition). As well as this, we also encouraged people to share their and their family’s local Gunner stories with us. Some of these we included in the exhibition, making it all the more personal and Woolwich-focused as a result.

The project is still ongoing, so we are continuing to collect people’s memories of their lives in Woolwich and the Royal Artillery. If you have a story that you want to share, please contact Mark Tindle, the Exhibition Project Officer at mark@rght.org.uk.

This exhibition would not have been possible without the financial support generously given by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Royal Artillery Museums Ltd, The Friends of the Royal Artillery Collections and the Royal Artillery Historical Trust. RGHT is extremely grateful to them.

‘Making Woolwich: The Royal Regiment of Artillery in Woolwich’ is now open and is part of the free offer at Greenwich Heritage Centre. It is open from 9am-5pm on Tuesday-Saturday. For more information, visit our exhibitions page.

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