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Right of the Line

The right of the line on parade has always been considered a post of honour allotted to the regiment or corps taking precedence over all others present.

Throughout the 18th century the guns came into action on the right of the infantry battalions they were to support. Probably for this reason - and also because the prestige of the artillery had grown enormously from the beginning of the century - the Gunners claimed the right of the line on parades.

Their claim went unchallenged until on a parade in 1756 a dispute arose between the Officer Commanding the artillery and Commanding Officer The Queen's Dragoon Guards over who should take the right. As neither officer would yield the matter was referred to the Commander-in-Chief, the Duke of Cumberland, who confirmed that the artillery '...take the right of all foot on all parades, and likewise of dragoons when dismounted.' The Royal Artillery still take the same position.

The Royal Horse Artillery was regarded as an extension of the cavalry and given precedence accordingly. In the first edition of King's Regulations following its formation in 1793, the RHA was placed between the Household Cavalry and the cavalry of the line, with a note that '... on parades the Horse Artillery whether mounted or dismounted take the right of all other cavalry.' However, in 1857 the Commander-in-Chief submitted that '... as in the year 1756 precedence was given to the Royal Artillery before all infantry, including the regiments of the foot guards and dismounted cavalry, it would be consistent that the RHA should take precedence over all cavalry, including the Household Cavalry.' Her Majesty Queen Victoria approved, and in Queen's Regulations for that year the RHA was moved to the top of the precedence table. But ten years later another dispute occurred, this time between the RHA and the Household Cavalry, over their relative positions on a church parade at Windsor. As a result, the Commander-in-Chief recommended that, as was formerly the case, the Household Cavalry, as part of the bodyguard of the Sovereign, take precedence over all other corps, '... but that the Royal Horse Artillery when on parade with their guns take the right and march past at the head of the Household Cavalry...' The Queen approved, and ever since the RHA have taken post in their original position between the Household Cavalry and the cavalry of the line, but take the right of the Household Cavalry when on parade with their guns.

In the New Zealand Regular Forces the artillery took precedence until superseded by the NZ Staff Corps and the NZ Permanent Staff upon their formation in 1911. When the NZSC and the NZPS were disbanded in the post-World War 2 reorganisation, the RNZA regained its rightful place at the right of the line. In the Territorial Force cavalry regiments took precedence until the reorganisation, with the artillery in second place. At the integration of the Regular and Territorial Forces in 1947 the RNZA again took precedence over all others.

Recently the writer saw circulated in Land Force Command WOs and Sergeants' Mess a precedence table showing the Waiouru Officer Cadet Training Unit at the top(!).

December 1988

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