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138th Heavy Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery


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Diary of Events: Bully les Mines, April 1916 - May 1917

16 April 1916
After an overnight train journey from Le Havre, the Battery arrives at Bethune about 10am and then marches south to the village of Houchin, guided by an NCO of 112 Heavy Battery, the unit to be relieved.

17 April 1916
A reconnoitring party from the Battery surveys Mazingarbe (Philosophie) and Corons d'Aix, the positions soon to be taken up by the Right and Left Sections respectively.

18 April 1916
The Battery marches into action, each Section taking up its allotted position.

27 April 1916
Heavy German shelling gives the Battery its first real taste of warfare with 2 men from the Right Section slightly wounded during an early morning gas attack. The Battery responds firing 176 rounds of lyddite and shrapnel shells at the German positions.

Early May 1916
A fairly quiet period gives the opportunity to make comfortable dugouts and improvised billets.

20 May 1916
The Right Section moves to a new position just outside Bully. One gun and limber are sent to Bethune to be overhauled.

29 May 1916
Both Sections experience heavy bombardments with continuous German shelling from 8am to 2.30pm. Three men from the Right Section are killed, the first fatal casualties, and are buried at 7pm with Military Honours.

30 May 1916
The Military Medal is awarded to 1833 Corporal J S Phillips, 138HB, RGA.

End-May to Early-July 1916
Occasional German shelling causes no great damage to the Battery.

14 July 1916
Orders are received for the Battery to move northward to the Neuve Chapelle front.

15 July 1916
The Battery marches via Bethune to Pont du Hem to take part in the attack on Aubers Ridge.

19 July 1916
The guns are in action from 11.30am to 8pm.

20 July 1916
The guns are firing continuously; 90 rounds are in support of the ANZACS.

21 July 1916
Orders are received for the Battery to return to Houchin. The return march commences at 10pm.

22 July 1916
The Battery arrives in Houchin at 4am where it remains for 12 hours and then returns to the former positions south of Bethune.

26 July 1916
The Military Medal is awarded to Gunner G A Elliot, 138HB, RGA, for gallantry and devotion to duty in action.

15 August 1916
The post orderly is killed by shell fire on the Noeux les Mines-Arras Road.

End-August 1916
The Battery is made into a Six Gun Battery by the addition of a Section of the 166 Heavy Battery newly arrived from England.

12 September 1916
The Battery is inspected by the Corps Commander and receives a satisfactory report.

9 November 1916
The Battery is inspected by HRH Duke of Connaught and GOC 1st Corps.

October-November 1916
The front is generally quiet with only sporadic shelling causing little damage or casualties. Much ingenuity is used by members of the Battery to make their billets and dugouts more comfortable.

27 December 1916
The Left section is severely bombarded with gas shells, leaving the Bully district reeking of gas for several days and inflicting much suffering on the local population.

Early-January 1917
The Battery experiences heavy snowfalls and hard frosts and suffers from a severe shortage of fuel.

2 January 1917
2nd Lieutenant Arthur Henry Pearce is awarded the Military Cross for distinguished service in the field.

7 January 1917
The Battery is heavily bombarded with gas shells.

8 January 1917
1832 Gunner G R W Hannaford, 138HB RGA, is awarded the Military Medal for devotion to duty and for re-establishing and maintaining communications whilst under heavy fire.

15 January 1917
Major Mitchell assumes temporary command of 67 Heavy Artillery Group and Captain Paris takes command of 138HB.

20 January 1917
Captain Paris is posted to 144 HB RGA and Captain Pearce takes command of the Battery.

8 March 1917
Captain Paris is reposted as Major to take command of the Battery.

17 March 1917
The Left Section is heavily shelled and both guns are put out of action. A considerable amount of stores are damaged but the Battery suffers no casualties. Fine weather allows plenty of hostile aircraft activity.

29 March 1917
Some changes are made to the Battery's position in preparation for the attack on Vimy Ridge. The Left Section moves to a point south of Aix Noulette cemetery and the Centre Section takes up a new position close to the village of Bully.

End-March 1917
Registering is carried out in both new positions. Preparations for the battle ahead also include much moving of ammunition which is carried out in heavy rain and snow.

2 April 1917
The Right and Left Sections are heavily shelled and the A Sub gun is destroyed by a direct hit.

5 April 1917
The weather is fine and the battery experiences much hostile artillery action.

7 April 1917
Bad weather conditions return and hostile artillery action increases.

9 April 1917
Easter Monday sees the commencement of the battle for Vimy Ridge and the Battery carries out a bombardment in conjunction with the attack mounted by the 3rd Canadian Division around Vimy. Every man is on duty, with those not on guns or telephones being employed to carry ammunition. The guns are in action all day but little retaliation is experienced except in the area covered by the Centre Section. One casualty from D Sub proves fatal the following day.

10 April 1917
The Battery experiences a determined enemy counter-attack and the Right and Left Sections are heavily bombarded. Lieutenant Hill is mortally wounded and one other man is killed; there are several other casualties.

11 April 1917
A general neutralisation scheme is carried out on hostile batteries.

12 April 1917
The Battery carries out a bombardment in conjunction with the 24th Division's attack to take and consolidate Bois-en-Hache. Four men are killed during heavy shelling of Aix Noulettes at 4pm.

13 April 1917 onwards
Hostile activity gradually slackens.

16 April 1917
The Battery receives orders to take up new positions at Vermelles.

17 April 1917
The Battery has now been fighting in France for a year.

The Right and Left sections move to Vermelles, about 4 miles north of Aix Noulette, arriving at 7am. Two guns are immediately in action.

20-24 April 1917
The Battery and its billets in a nearby Chateau are persistently shelled, including a gas shell attack on the night of the 21st which causes several casualties. On the 24th a shell penetrates the Chateau cellar where a number of men are billeted causing a number of severe casualties, one of which is later fatal.

26 April 1917
Heavy shelling of the Battery's position and billets results in an order for the Battery to withdraw to Noyelles (1 km to the rear of Vermelles).

Early-May 1917
The Battery is intermittently engaged in artillery duels with a number of hostile batteries.

14 May 1917
All Sections of the Battery are ordered to move the following day to wagon lines at Houchin.

15-17 May 1917
At Houchin being re-equipped. The Battery is inspected by GOC RA 1st Army who congratulated all members of the Battery on a splendid turn out.

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