The earliest volunteer artillery unit recorded in Napier was the Napier Artillery Volunteers, accepted in 1869. This unit became F Bty of the New Zealand Regiment of Artillery Volunteers on the formation of the Regiment on 7 December 1878. In March 1886, this Regiment was divided into North Island and South Island Brigades, and the Napier Bty became F Bty of the 1st North Island Bde, NZ Regt of Arty Volunteers. F Bty was equipped with 12 pounder Armstrong guns at this time. The Battery continued to serve until 1898, when it was converted to an infantry company.
Concurrent with the "field" artillery of F Bty was the "garrison" artillery of the Napier Naval Artillery Volunteers. Naval Artillery was something of a misnomer. Although the units dressed nautically, operated cutters and took instruction in rowing and signalling, they came under Army command and were trained to operate heavy port defence guns. The Napier Naval Artillery Volunteers were accepted in 1885 and served as a unit until 1897.
With the abolition of the Volunteers and the commencement of the Territorial system in 1911 came the realisation that the Government would become responsible for the provision of horses for the "field" artillery batteries (previously the Volunteers had to provide their own). The Government of the day therefore built "Artillery Barracks" to identical design at each of the proposed Field Artillery (FA) Bty locations. This standard type of Artillery Barracks were erected between 1911-1913 at Devonport, Hamilton, Palmerston North, Napier (Owen Street), Nelson, Christchurch (Addington), Dunedin (Central Battery) and Invercargill. They were designed to house four field guns (normally 18 Pdr) in gun vaults, stables for sixteen horses, provide harness rooms, forage rooms, a battery office, ant to provide sleeping accommodation upstairs. Staff was to consist of a cadre of 4-6 RNZA NCOs and Gunners.
F Bty was reformed at Napier in 1911, the gunners coming mainly from infantry volunteers. The Bty was part of the Wellington FA Bde, and was initially equipped with 18 Pdr guns. In 1921 the Wellington FA Bde became 2 FA Bde with its HQ in Palmerston North, and F Bty became 6 Bty NZA. 6 Bty continued at Napier until 1931, when it was disbanded as part of the depression economy measures.
It is worth noting that following the 1931 Napier earthquake the Owen Street Artillery Barracks were used as a fire station. Engines were housed in the Drill Hall with the firemen quarters and watchroom upstairs. The Stables were used by the Hospital Board as a store, and the Earthquake Relief Committee used the gun park as a bulk store.
2 Fd Regt RNZA was formed in Wellington in 1940, with 4 Fd Bty at Napier. 4 Fd Bty was drawn from the Hawkes Bay and was mobilised from December 1941 to June 1943. During its mobilised period it served mainly in the Woodville, Palmerston North, Linton areas. 4 Fd Bty reverted to TF (territorial) status in July 1943 and basically existed on a care and maintenance basis at Napier until it was reformed on 1 November 1948 as 21 Bty of 2 Fd Regt. 21 Bty continued at Napier until 1956, when it was transferred to New Plymouth/Stratford.
Also during the Second World War, 77 Heavy (Coastal) Bty, consisting of two 6 inch Mk 7 Coastal Guns, was deployed on Bluff Hill. 77 Hvy Bty was formed in 1940 and placed on care and maintenance in 1944.
JG Gilberd and GD Birch