The Hampstead Heavies
138th Heavy Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery
Bully les Mines
(04/16 - 05/17)
(05/17 - 06/17)
N France and
(12/17 - 02/18)
(04/18 - 07/18)
(08/18 - 11/18)
The Belgian Coast, June - November 1917
From Ypres the Battery moved to the coast, pitching camp on 18 June 1917 at Malo-les-Bains where men and horses enjoyed the unexpected pleasure of bathing in the sea. After two days of relaxation, the Heavies moved to relieve a French heavy battery positioned in the sand dunes at Nieuport Bains on the Belgian coast. Initially the Battery enjoyed a relative quiet spell in the good dugouts and gun pits left by the French but obtaining fresh water soon became a problem as the wells left by the French were damaged by enemy fire, and on 27 June intense hostile shelling resumed, badly damaging one gun and severely burning several men.
Two weeks later the Battery was again heavily shelled when five of the six guns were put out of action and a number of casualties sustained, including around twenty men affected by mustard gas. Following this attack the wagon lines were moved back to Bray Dunes, some 20 kms behind the lines, while the Battery continued its artillery duel with hostile batteries until, at the end of August 1917, each man received 4 days leave at a camp near Dunkirk, the first leave enjoyed since arriving in France 16 months earlier.
The Heavies returned to their position at Nieuport Bains early in September and almost immediately came under heavy enemy shelling which put one gun out of action. On 4 October 1917 they experienced their heaviest enemy shelling yet when around 1,000 shells fell on the Battery's position between 3pm and 4pm. At the same time the weather was deteriorating and, in November, high winds and sand storms exposed dugouts previously thought to be impregnable.
The Battery's stay at Nieuport Bains ended on 1 December 1917 when the position was taken over by a French heavy battery. By that time the Heavies had been in action on Belgian soil for six and a half months.