105: Honourable Artillery & Infantry Company (1537)

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Honourable Artillery Company

The Honourable Artillery Company (HAC) was incorporated by Royal Charter in 1537 by King Henry VIII and is the second oldest military organisation in the world (behind the Vatican’s Pontifical Swiss Guard).  Today, there is additionally a registered HAC charity whose purpose is to attend to the “better defence of the realm”. This purpose is primarily achieved by the support of the HAC Regiment and a detachment of Special Constabulary to the City of London Police.

Regiments, battalions and batteries of the Company have fought with distinction in both world wars and its current Regiment, which forms part of the British Army Reserve (formerly the Territorial Army), is the oldest surviving regiment in the British Army, and the second most seniorin the Army Reserve  Members of the Regiment and Specials are drawn, for the most part, from young men and women working in and around the City and Greater London. Those leaving the active units may become Veteran Members and remain within the fraternity of the Company, which they then serve in a variety of ways.


The HAC can trace its history back as far as 1087,  but it received a Royal Charter from Henry VIII on 25 August 1537, when Letters Patent were received by the Overseers of the Fraternity or Guild of St George authorising them to establish a perpetual corporation for the defence of the realm to be known as the Fraternity or Guild of Artillery of Longbows, Crossbows and Handgonnes. This body was known by a variety of names until 1656, when it was first referred to as the Artillery Company. It was first referred to as the Honourable Artillery Company in 1685 and officially received the name from Queen Victoria in 1860. However, the Archers’ Company of the Honourable Artillery Company was retained into the late 19th century, though as a private club. Founded in 1781 by Sir Ashton Lever, it met at Archers’ Hall, Inner Circle, Regent’s Park, London. The Archers’ Company remained a part of the regiment operated from 1784 to the late 1790s, along with Matross, Grenadier (established on 11 August 1686 and Light Infantry companies/divisions, with a Rifle or Jaeger Company introduced around 1803.

The regiment has the rare distinction of having fought on the side of both Parliament and the Royalists during the English Civil War 1642 to 1649.

From its formation, the company trained at a site it had occupied at the Old Artillery Ground in Spitalfields and at The Merchant Taylors’ Company Hall. In 1622, the company built its first Armoury House at the site of the Old Artillery Gardens.

In 1638, Sir Maurice Abbot granted the company use of lands at its current site south of Bunhill Fields Burial Ground on City Road, which in 1649 consisted of twelve acres enclosed by a brick wall and pale. In 1657, it sold its old Armoury House in Spitalfield to Master Gunner Richard Woolaston for £300. It was in this New Artillery Gardens that, on 28 October 1664, the body of men that would become The Royal Marines was first formed. James (later James II), the Duke of York and Albany, Lord High Admiral and brother of King Charles II, was Captain-General of Honourable Artillery Company at the time.

Until 1780, captains of the HAC trained the officers of the London Trained Bands.

The Company served in Broadgate during the Gordon Riots of 1780, and in gratitude for its role in restoring order to the City, the Corporation of London presented “two brass field-pieces”, which led to the creation of an HAC Artillery Division. (These guns are on display in the entrance hall of Armoury House.)

In 1860, control of the Company moved from the Home Office to the War Office and, in 1889, a Royal Warrant gave the Secretary of State for War control of the Company’s military affairs. In 1883, Queen Victoria decreed that the HAC took precedence next after the Regular Forces and therefore before the Militia and Yeomanry in consideration of its antiquity.

South Africa 1900–02

Members of the Company first served as a formed unit overseas in the South African War (1899–1902). Almost two hundred members served; the majority in the City Imperial Volunteers (CIV) as infantry, mounted infantry and in a Field Battery that was officered, and for the most part manned, by members of the Company.

Territorial and Reserve Forces Act 1907

In 1907, the Company became part of the newly formed Territorial Force with the passing of the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act. The HAC Infantry was due to become part of the newly formed London Regiment as the “26th (County of London) Battalion”,but instead managed to retain its own identity as the Honourable Artillery Company Infantry Battalion. The HAC also had its property and privileges protected by the Honourable Artillery Company Act 1908.

First World War

The HAC raised three infantry battalions and seven artillery batteries  during the First World War. Second Lieutenants Reginald Leonard Haine and Alfred Oliver Pollard, of the 1st Battalion HAC, were awarded Victoria Crosses for their actions at Gavrelle in 1917. In total 1,600 men from the HAC were killed during the war.

In September 1914 the 1st Battalion followed the British Expeditionary Force to France and fought in the 1st Battle of Ypres. After the fighting at Ancre (1916) and the Arras (1917), it became an officer training battalion and provided demonstration platoons. Elements of the battalion were used to help quell the Étaples Mutiny. The 2nd Battalion HAC was raised in August 1914; it was in France by October 1916 and in action on 25 February 1917 at Bucquoy. They also fought at the Battle of Arras in May and the 3rd Battle of Ypres in October. In November 1917, the battalion moved to the Italian Front under the command of the then Lt Col Richard O’Connor. In the Battle of Vittorio Veneto, in October 1918, they led a force of Italians, Americans and British that compelled the garrison of the strategic island of Papadopoli (in the main channel of the River Piave) to surrender. For this remarkable feat of arms, the HAC was awarded two Distinguished Service Orders, five Military Crosses, three Distinguished Conduct Medals and 29 Military Medals.


Both A Battery and B Battery went to Suez in April 1915. In July, B Battery fought in the recapture of Sheikh Othman (key to the water supply to Aden) from the Turks as part of the Aden campaign.  In February 1917, both batteries took part in the Palestine Campaign, were in action at the First and Second Battle of Gaza and entered Jerusalem in December 1917. In the German counterattack during the Second action of Es Salt on 1 May 1918, A Battery was forced to make a rapid withdrawal under heavy fire, which resulted in the loss of all its guns. Both A and B Batteries took part in the Battle of Megiddo in September. 

The 2nd Line batteries – 2/A Battery and 2/B Battery – were formed in 1914 and served on the Western Front in 1917 and 1918 as part of an Army Field Artillery Brigade; the 3rd Line batteries – A (Reserve) Battery and B (Reserve) Battery – were formed in 1915 to provide trained replacements for the 1st and 2nd Line batteries.

A seventh battery, the 309th (HAC) Siege Battery RGA, went to France in April 1917 and saw action at the Battle of Messines and the Battle of Amiens. 

In 1919 Lt-Col Edward Lisle Strutt commanded a detachment of HAC soldiers that escorted the family of Charles I, the last Austro-Hungarian Emperor-King, to safety in Switzerland in 1919, after having served as the family’s protector at Eckartsau on the personal initiative of King George V.Strutt was also involved in a Hungarian Habsburg restoration bid in February 1921 and as a communication link between the Habsburg Imperial and Royal couple aboard the HMS Cardiff, on their way to exile in Madeira, and their children in Switzerland in November 1921.

Second World War

In 1939, the Infantry Battalion became 162 (HAC) Officer Cadet Training Unit, this was the Officer Training Unit of the Reconnaissance Corps. In 1942 101 RAC OCTU amalgamated with 162 Reconnaissance Corps OCTU to form 100 RAC OCTU based at The Royal Military College, Sandhurst. In addition, the company provided four regiments of artillery.

Over seven hundred members of the Company lost their lives during the Second World War.


In 1947, the Company was reorganised into:

  • an Infantry Battalion
  • a Royal Horse Artillery Regiment of self-propelled Artillery
  • a regiment of mobile heavy Anti-Aircraft Artillery (disbanded 1955)
  • a Locating Battery (disbanded 1961)

In 1973, the Regiment was again reorganised; it was given the role of providing ‘Stay Behind’ Observation Posts (OPs) for the British Army of the Rhine as one of the three Territorial Army units making up the Corps Patrol Unit (with 21 and 23 SAS).The new structure was:

  • Three patrol squadrons (1, 2 & 3) – a fourth patrol squadron was formed for a short period in the 1980s
  • HQ Squadron, including Training Wing and Medical Wing
  • The Gun Troop (a battery of six 25 pounder guns and not part of the OP role)
  • Band
  • Corps of Drums

In 1992, the signals troops that had been integrated into the patrol squadrons were brought together to form the Signal Squadron; they were subsequently re-integrated with the patrol squadrons in 2010.

Also in 1992, on Salisbury Plain, the HAC was the last British Army unit to fire the twenty-five pounder in the field, as the Gun Troop retrained onto the 105mm Light Gun. The 25 pounder continued to be fired ceremonially until replaced by the Light Gun.

In 1996, the first formed unit of the Regiment to be mobilised for active service since the second world war was called up for Operation Resolute with the NATO IFOR in Bosnia.Since this time, the Regiment has always had soldiers on operational service overseas.

The Regiment participated in the celebration of HM The Queen’s Golden Jubilee on 4 June 2002 by firing a 62 gun salute at the Tower of London, and by providing a Guard of Honour (including the Regimental Band and the Massed Corps of Drums of the 1st Bn Grenadier Guards and the HAC) at St Paul’s Cathedral. In December of that year, the Captain General visited and dined with the company to commemorate her Golden Jubilee as Captain General.

In 2005, the guns were withdrawn from Gun Troop and the Troop was renamed Liaison Troop (L Tp) with the role of providing liaison officer parties. The majority of L Tp deployed to Iraq over winter 2006/7. The ceremonial Light Guns were retained by the Regiment to fire salutes at the Tower of London.

In 2006, the HAC was the first major unit of the Territorial Army to convert to the Bowman communications system. When Bowman was withdrawn from the Territorial Army in 2008/9, it was one of the few units to retain the equipment.

From 2007 to 2012, one of the patrol squadrons (3 Sqn) was redesignated as the Training Squadron and took on the role of Regiment’s Training Wing.

In 2014 the Regiment was re-roled and re-organised into a single STA Patrol Squadron ( 1 (Special OP) Sqn – paired with 4/73 (Special OP) Bty) and two STA Squadrons equipped with the Lightweight Counter Mortar Radar for weapon locating (2 & 3 Sqns, paired with P and 93 Btys in 5 Regt RA).Follow this link to the 4/73 Bty page on the Army website, which includes a video of STA Patrol training.

Current role and organisation

Current Role  

The HAC Regiment is a unit of the Army Reserve based just north of the City of London, providing a squadron of STA patrols and two squadrons of Light ISTAR detachments. An STA Patrol comprises a team of four/six specialist soldiers, the role of STA Patrols is to conduct high risk static covert surveillance at long range and in close proximity to the enemy. The patrols are trained and equipped both to collect highly granular information and intelligence and to deliver joint effects at range; be they kinetic (all patrols contain personnel trained in the delivery of precision and indirect fires) or non-kinetic. A pre-requisite of service in the Patrols is successful completion of the STA Patrol Course and qualification as a Special Observer. Training emphasises mental and physical resilience and a high premium is placed on well developed self-reliance and self-discipline. Patrols are trained with a variety of skills to mitigate the dangers of operating in a high risk environment and/or isolated circumstances. Unlike most Army Reserve units, who are only required to train at up to sub-unit (company or squadron) level, the HAC is required to train as a regiment.

The HAC has a ceremonial role in providing guards of honour at the Guildhall in the City of London during state visits and, since 1924 (when the Royal Artillery ceased to be stationed at the Tower), has provided the saluting battery at the Tower of London for state occasions. Due to the demanding requirements of their role, the HAC is privileged to be one of only a small number of Army Reserve units with responsibility for the carrying out portions of Phase 1 (recruits) and 2 training of its own soldiers ‘in house’. The recruits course comprises six HAC-only weekends, followed by a two week camp with other reserve soldiers at an Army Training Unit (usually Pirbright).

Command Structure

The HAC is not part of the Royal Regiment of Artillery, being a separate regiment with its own uniform, insignia and colours. Its Permanent Staff Instructors are drawn from across the British Armed Forces. The regiment forms part of 1st Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance Brigade.


The sub units of the HAC are:

  • STA Squadrons, each Squadron is about 80 soldiers strong:
    • 1 (Special OP) Sqn. A Squadron of Surveillance and Target Acquisition patrols.
    • 2 & 3 Sqn. Squadrons which provide the manpower for the Light ISTAR detachments.
  • Headquarters Squadron.
    • The Corps of Drums. Inherited from the infantry battalion and still wearing the grenade beret badge, Foot Guards belt, beret badge backing and tactical recognition flash. As with an infantry battalion corps of drums, the drummers are ‘soldiers first’ and regularly deploy soldiers on operations as well as fulfilling their ceremonial role. The Corps of Drums form part of HQ Squadron and are a separate entity from the Band who are primarily musicians.
    • The Medical Wing, commanded by the Surgeon Major who is a Royal Army Medical Corps officer, provides medical support to the Regiment for peacetime training and on deployment. Combat Medical Technicians within the Medical Wing undergo additional specialist medical training with the Defence Medical Services.
    • Air Assault Gun Troop, a Troop of Light Gun detachments trained to operate the 105mm Light Gun. Will not be the case under Army 2020.
    • CIS Troop, a troop to provide Communications Information Systems capability to the HAC and other units within 1ISR.


The Regiment has had individuals or sub-units on active service at all times since 1996; with the personnel serving in a wide variety of roles in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan. Commitments included the deployment of patrols to Bosnia, Kosovo and Iraq; independent sub-units to Operation Telic 4 and 5 in Iraq and L Troop to Operation Telic 9; as well as individual and group reinforcements to other infantry and artillery units. In recent times, the rate of deployment, generally in groups of 10, has speeded up dramatically. These groups are divided between operating and maintaining anti-mortar systems and other high technology equipment and forming part of the Brigade Reconnaissance Force (BRF).

On Tuesday 4 December 2007, Trooper Jack Sadler who was serving with the BRF was killed when his vehicle was hit by a blast north of Sangin, in Helmand province. Two other soldiers were injured in the attack.In 2008, the Runner-up for the Cobra Trophy for Volunteer Reservist of the year was Trooper Adam Cocks of 2 Squadron HAC, who was severely injured in Afghanistan when his vehicle struck a mine. While recuperating at Headley Court rehabilitation centre, he and a friend came up with the idea of a rugby match at Twickenham to help raise money for the charity Help for Heroes.

Soldier ranks

The non-commissioned ranks of the HAC are as follows

  • Trooper
  • Lance Corporal
  • Lance Sergeant
  • Sergeant
  • Colour Sergeant
  • Warrant Officer Class 2
  • Warrant Officer Class 1 (there are no WO1 posts for reserves in the HAC, however HAC soldiers can achieve this rank on Extra Regimental Employment)


In 1830, King William IV ordered that the uniform of the HAC should be based on that of the Grenad ier Guards, except that where the Grenadiers wear gold, the HAC were to wear silver. This tradition is continued today by the wearing of the silver coloured grenade in the forage cap similar to the brass one of the Grenadiers, and the buttons and lace on HAC dress uniforms being silver coloured instead of gold. The Corps of Drums wear the Household Division’s blue red blue TRF.


The HAC wear the same khaki beret as the Footguards, but with the HAC’s own cap badge (“short arms”) in white metal on a black backing. Officers and Warrant Officers wear an embroidered cloth version of the same badge. The Corps of Drums and Regimental Band wear the HAC infantry grenade on a blue red blue backing, which is superficially identical to that of the Grenadier Guards.

From July 2008, members of 4/73 (Sphinx) Special OP Battery, the HAC’s regular ‘sister’ unit, adopted the khaki beret to mark their close working relationship.

Other headdress

On the forage cap, the HAC infantry grenade (white metal) is worn by junior ranks of all subunits of the regiment. Sergeants and Warrant Officers wear a different version of the grenade, which has the letters HAC in brass on the ball of the grenade.

Officers wear an embroidered silver grenade on their forage caps in No 1 Dress (Infantry) and on the Service Dress forage cap but when in No 1 Dress (Gunner) they wear the HAC Artillery cap badge. The latter is similar to that of the Royal Artillery but with “HAC” and “Arma Pacis Fulcra” replacing “Ubique” and “Quo Fas et Gloria Ducunt”.

In 1906, King Edward VII gave the HAC the distinction of a special ribbon for the Volunteer Decoration and Volunteer Long Service Medal. The ribbon, based on The King’s personal colours (in turn taken from the Royal Standard), is red and blue edged with narrow yellow stripes. This ribbon has been carried forward to subsequent Territorial long service medals awarded to HAC members.

Each year the Captain General awards a prize to the member of the Regiment who is deemed to have made an outstanding contribution to the Regiment. Holders of this prize, known as the King’s or Queen’s Prize wear a badge incorporating the Captain General’s cypher and the year of award on Numbers 1, 2 and 10 (Mess) Dress.

B Battery HAC supported the 10th Hussars during the Second World War and, in 1972, the Captain General approved the Battery wearing a 10th Hussar button as the top button on Numbers 1, 2 and 10 dress. This privilege is carried on by 2 Sqn following the 1973 re-organisation.

The Regiment’s soldiers, with the exception of the Corps of Drums, do not wear TRFs (Tactical recognition flashs), even when its members are attached to other units.

Coat of arms

The coat of arms of the company is a Shield of Arms, helm, mantling and crest with as supporters a Pikeman and a Musketeer and the motto ‘Arma Pacis Fulcra’, Unlike other regiments of the British Army, the HAC is incorporated and is therefore eligible to bear and use a Coat of arms. It is believed to date from circa 1615 and the coat of arms appears on a military manual published in 1629.

Battle honours


Emblazoning on a sidedrum of the HAC showing the regiment’s battle honours and coat of arms

The battle honours listed were awarded for services of both infantry and artillery units of the HAC. Those in bold are borne on the Colours.


The HAC is unique within the British Army in having two types of Colours. The HAC has its ceremonial Guns (which are considered Colours in Artillery regiments), but also carries a stand of traditional Colours of the Infantry. These Colours follow the pattern of line infantry regiments: the Queen’s Colour being a version of the Union Flag, the Regimental Colour being blue with the HAC Coat of Arms in the centre.
The last four occasions that new Colours have been presented to the Regiment were in 1928 by Edward, Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII), and in 1955, 1980 and on 18 May 2007 by HM Queen Elizabeth II, the regiment’s Captain General.

The 1928 Colours are now on display in the Medal Room at Armoury House.

Squadron affiliations

Each of 1, 2 and 3 Squadrons is affiliated to several of the historic sub-units of the HAC and carries on their traditions, hence 2 Squadron wearing the 10th Hussar Button. For example:

  • 1 Squadron is affiliated to A Battery, No 1 Company and the Grenadier Company
  • 2 Squadron is affiliated to B Battery, No 3 Company, No 4 Company and the Yager Company.
  • 3 Squadron is affiliated to 2nd Regiment HAC, C Battery, G Locating Battery, Headquarters, Support and Light Companies.

City of London Police Special Constabulary

In 1919, following a decision to increase the strength of the Metropolitan Police Reserve Force, the Home Secretary approached the HAC to form a Division of Special Constabulary. Some 150 members, mostly Great War veterans, rallied to the call and joined the Division, forming the HAC Detachment. At the outbreak of the Second World War, the Detachment was integrated into G Division of the Metropolitan Police and then later with Islington Division. Following reorganisation, the Detachment is now part of the City of London Police Special Constabulary, its administrative base is Armoury House.

In 2010, the Ferrers Trophy was awarded to Special Constable Patrick Rarden of the detachment for using his banking skills and experience to help train colleagues and provide invaluable assistance to solve fraud cases.The award is given annually to police volunteers for exceptional dedication and innovation.

The detachment retains the Detachment’s unique identity by wearing the HAC Regimental Titles in addition to their Divisional identification. They are considered an ‘Active’ unit of the HAC as is the Regiment and continue the HAC’s tradition of keeping order within the City of London.

“The Company”

As well as the Territorial Army Regiment and Specials (the “Active Units”), the HAC exists as a separate charitable organisation—often colloquially referred to as “The Company” or “The House”. The Company owns Armoury House and the Regiment’s current grounds and, in addition to supporting the Active Unit, provides the basis for a very active social calendar.

There are two distinct classes of member of the Company. The first, Regimental Members, are those who are currently serving or who have previously served in the HAC Regiment or Special Constabulary. The second, Members, must have served at least two years in Regular or three years in Volunteer units of the Crown or in the Police.  Some members are people who have reached senior rank (for example Major General The Duke of Westminster) and they provide some 17% of the overall membership of the Company.

Since 1633, the Company has been governed by a Court of Assistants, like many of the City Livery Companies. The first Annual General Court for which a record can be found was held in 1660. In the early part of the 17th century, the Court of Aldermen of the City of London appointed the chief officers and paid the professional soldiers who trained members of the Company. The Lord Mayor and Aldermen are honorary members of the Court of Assistants.

There are two civilian ceremonial organisations that are part of the HAC as distinct from the ‘Active Units’ of the Regiment and the Specials:

Pikemen and Musketeers

Pikemen escorting John Stuttard, Lord Mayor of the City of London during the 2006 Lord Mayor’s Show

The Pikemen and Musketeers (formed 1925, given a Royal Warrant 1955) are made up of veteran members of the Active Unit. They are the personal bodyguard of the Lord Mayor of the City of London and form his Guard on ceremonial occasions.

Light Cavalry

The Light Cavalry Troop (formed 1979, granted Royal Warrant 2004)is open to both Regimental and Non-Regimental members of the Company. They escort the Lady Mayoress, and particularly provide her ‘Travelling Escort’ at the Lord Mayor’s Show, both mounted and dismounted elements of the Light Cavalry also supply guards at polo matches at Smith’s Lawn Windsor during the summer months.



From 1538 to 1658, the HAC occupied and trained at the Old Artillery Ground in Spitalfields on the site of the outer precinct of the dissolved Priory and Hospital of St Mary Spital. In 1658, following disputes over use of the Ground with the Gunners of the Tower, it moved to its current site south of the Bunhill Fields Burial Ground continuing to the south as far as Chiswell St. This area is described in a map of the area of 1677 as the ‘New Artillery Garden’ and has variously been referred to as the Artillery Ground and the Artillery Garden. This current site now falls in the London Borough of Islington, and is just north of the City of London, the main entrance being in City Road.

During the aftermath of the 7 July 2005 London bombings on the London transport system, the Artillery Garden was used as a temporary mortuary.

Armoury House 

Armoury House stands at the north of these grounds, and is the home of the HAC. It was built to replace a smaller 17th-century armoury; the central portion being completed in 1735 to designs by Thomas Stibbs financed in part by a gift of £500 from King George I. Subscriptions were also received from members of the Company and from the Court of Lieutenancy for the City of London. The building cost £1,690, which included the price of the furniture.

In 1802, a distinctive flag tower was added to the roof. The East and West Wings were built in 1828, replacing much smaller buildings on either side of Armoury House. A cottage, originally for the Sergeant Major, was built against the West Wing in 1850.

1862 saw the completion of a Victorian drill hall attached to the rear. The Albert Room, as it was called, featured an iron trussed roof and was named in honour of the then recently deceased Prince Albert.

In 1990, the hall was bombed by the Provisional IRA whilst a 21st birthday party was in progress.

Finsbury Barracks

Finsbury Barracks

Finsbury Barracks is the Regiment’s Headquarters and is leased by London RFCA from the HAC itself. Completed in 1857, it was designed by the architect Joseph Jennings and built in Kentish Ragstone. An extension, faced in striped stone and granite, linking Finsbury Barracks to Armoury House was designed by Arnold & Boston and added in 1994. Finsbury Barracks was also refurbished in the same year and was re-opened by the Captain General in 1996.

The HAC Shooting Lodge / “Bisley Hut”

Built in 1928 on land leased from the National Rifle Association at Bisley and replacing the original hut on the site. The building was funded by donations, including some in memory of the fallen of the First World War. it is a two-storey building with an oak-panelled dining room on the ground floor and sleeping accommodation on the first. In 2011, the HAC disposed of the Lodge and returned it to the National Rifle Association.

Pencelli Estate

In 1999, the Company acquired the Welsh Pencelli Estate near Brecon as an area that could be used by the Regiment for military and adventure training. The historic estate lies in the heart of the Brecon Beacons National Park and comprises approximately 14,000 acres (57 km²) of hill land.


Schools affiliation

In 1995 six public schools (Eton, Harrow, Marlborough, Radley, Rugby and Wellington) became affiliated to the Company. The rationale behind these affiliations is to facilitate communication with the schools and to inform students of the opportunities available to them within the HAC.

Cadet Force

The HAC established a Cadet Battalion in 1942 during the Second World War which continued until 1958. During the War and until 1948 members of the Cadet Battalion fired salutes and provided guards of honour whilst members of the HAC were away on active service. In 2012 the HAC sponsored and helped establish a cadet unit at the City of London Academy Islington.


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