The Hampstead Heavies
138th Heavy Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery
Bully les Mines
(04/16 - 05/17)
(05/17 - 06/17)
(06/17 - 12/17)
N France and
(12/17 - 02/18)
(04/18 - 07/18)
The Allied Counter-Offensive, August - November 1918
The Armistice, 11 November 1918,
Demobilisation, January 1919
The expected Allied counter-offensive began on the morning of 8 August 1918, Ludendorf's "Black Day for the German Army" which clearly revealed the decline in German morale and fighting power. From then onwards mass German surrenders became more common, often to individual Allied soldiers or tanks.
As the offensive began the Heavies were positioned at Vaux-sur-Somme, some 30 kms east of Amiens, where, as the day progressed, the Battery saw hundreds of German prisoners. By evening the Heavies had advanced about 3 kms with few casualties, despite the heavy fighting. For the next four weeks the Battery continued to advance up the Somme valley, spending 12 days at Chipilly (11-23 August) and four days at Bray-sur-Somme (24-28 August), fierce fighting being experienced for the whole of this period.
By 2 September 1918 the Battery had reached Clery (4 kms north west of Peronne) and it was clear that the German position was weakening throughout the West. Since the start of the counter-offensive the Allies had taken around 350,000 German prisoners and captured some 7,000 guns. In addition, Allied forces had been strengthened by the arrival of American troops which by Autumn 1918 had reached around a million in number. However, it was the Heavies' experience that as the German position weakened their resistance became more desperate causing a steep rise in the number of casualties sustained by the Battery.
On 6 September the Battery left the Somme valley, moving north west from Peronne to Courcelles where a few days rest were enjoyed after a month of heavy fighting. By 12 September the Heavies were in action again experiencing heavy fighting at Hamelot and later, on 18 September, at Hesbecourt, 20 kms north west of Peronne.
Heavy fighting continued throughout the second half of September 1918 as the Battery advanced towards the Hindenburg Line, which was overcome on 29-30 September. On 1 October the Heavies moved forward to the Bellicourt tunnel on the Nord Canal which they found had been used by the Germans to house billets and a dressing station as well as an ammunition dump.
By 6 October the Battery had advanced as far as Estrées, a frequently shelled position about 15 kms due north of St Quentin. On the afternoon of 6 October the Heavies suffered a very heavy loss when the Battery Commander, Major H G Paris, was killed by enemy shellfire while attending to a wounded man. Major, then Captain, Paris had raised the Battery at Hampstead in July 1915 and had been its Commander since March 1917.
Major Paris and Sergeant Taylor, who was killed at the same time, were buried the following day at Hargicourt Military Cemetery.
The field at Estrées where it is believed that
Major Paris was killed
The graves of Major H G Paris and Sergeant R V P Taylor
For the remainder of October and in early November 1918 the Heavies continued to advance in a north easterly direction until on Armistice Day, 11 November 1918, they had reached St Soupel, 3 kms south of Le Cateau and 25 kms north east of St Quentin.
By a final irony of fate an influenza epidemic seized the Battery's billets during mid November 1918 and about forty men were sent to hospital, several of whom died, including three who had been with the battery since its inception.
Demobilisation began in mid January 1919 and finally only a few men, my father among them, were left to hand over guns, horses and equipment.
Pay Day for the Drivers of 138 HB RGA