The use of artillery itself predates Roman times when slings, catapults and ballistas were used to project missiles. Later, longbows propelled arrows both as direct and indirect fire. The English first used guns in battle alongside longbows at Crécy in 1346. Since then the Army has used them in almost every war and campaign it has fought throughout the world, but it was almost four hundred years before a permanent force of artillery was formed. In peacetime, guns were kept in castles and were looked after by Master Gunners, skilled in their manufacture and so most knowledgeable in their use.
Until the 18th century, artillery 'traynes' were raised by Royal Warrant for specific campaigns and disbanded when the campaign was over. On 26 May 1716, by Royal Warrant of George I, two regular companies of field artillery were raised at Woolwich. Each was 100 men strong. In 1722 these companies were grouped with independent artillery companies at Gibraltar and Minorca to form the Royal Regiment of Artillery. The regiment expanded rapidly and by 1757 had 24 companies divided into two battalions. By 1771 there were 32 companies in four battalions, as well as two Invalid Companies comprising older and unfit men employed in garrison duties. In 1793, four troops of Royal Horse Artillery were raised to provide fire support for the cavalry. The Royal Irish Artillery was absorbed in 1801.
In 1861 the regiment absorbed the artillery of the British East India Company - 21 horse batteries and 48 field batteries - which brought its strength up to 29 horse batteries, 73 field batteries and 88 heavy batteries. On 1 July 1899, the Royal Artillery was divided into two groups: the Royal Horse Artillery and Royal Field Artillery comprised one group, while the coastal defence, mountain, siege and heavy batteries were split off into another group named the Royal Garrison Artillery. The three sections effectively functioned as separate corps. This arrangement lasted until 1924, when the three amalgamated once more. The Royal Horse Artillery, which has always had separate traditions, uniforms and insignia, still retains a separate identity within the regiment.
The Royal Artillery Museum was first opened to the public at the Royal Arsenal on 4 May 1820. It contains the collection founded in 1778 by Captain (later Lieutenant General Sir) William Congreve. The Royal Arsenal was one of the most important centres in the world for munitions manufacture and until recently was a well kept secret from the public. Many of the guns and carriages on display were made in the Arsenal, making it a significant part of the local heritage. Together with uniforms, drawings, diaries and medals bring together some 700 years of world artillery history.