The diary of James Wood R.A. 1746-1765

EDITED BY Rex Whitworth


Military historians have lately turned their attention to the British Army in the mid eighteenth century, when, but for the dedication of the House of Hanover, a professional standing army might never have developed in a country devoid of home frontiers. In 1716 the Royal Regiment of Artillery was founded. In 1741 Woolwich Academy became the first place of military learning in Britain and in 1744 a cadet company was established. James Wood was one of the first cadets trained at Woolwich and served successively as Volunteer, Mattross, Cadet, Cadet Gunner and Fireworker in France, the Low Countries, Scotland and for nearly ten years in India between 1746-1765. His plain written factual diary now published for the first time describes in professional manner the day to day routine for a junior rank in the field train of the army. Periods of home service at Woolwich are omitted.

During the formative years of the Regiment professional efficiency markedly improved. Although Fortescue made this point strongly in his history of the British Army, little evidence is produced to sustain the judgement. In editing James Wood's diary Rex Whitworth from his knowledge of the period has been able to place Wood's basic story in the contemporary military scene and so fill out the record of the professional British field gunner. This was a period when the army in close co-operation with the Navy fought the most successful war of our history on a worldwide canvas. The hazards of maritime operations in days of sail are fully brought out by Wood, and he sheds new light on the earliest activities of the King's troops in India.

Any reader of Wood's fascinating diary with a modest knowledge of the times will fully agree with Dalryample in his 'Military Essay' of 1761 that "of all the various branches of our profession none has made greater progress in it than the Royal Artillery".

Gunner at Large will come as a surprise to all those who believe that between Marlborough and Wellington the British Army was but a contemptible corps of amateurs.

ISBN 0-85052-884-4


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