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)
(08/18 - 11/18)
The German Offensive, 21 - 29 March 1918
Following the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in December 1917, the Germans were able to strengthen their position in the West through transfers of troops released from action in the East. In the first three months of 1918 German troop strength in the West increased by 30%, providing the opportunity for Hindenburg and Ludendorf to achieve a much needed German victory on the Western front.
The expected German offensive began on 21 March 1918, at which time the Heavies were deployed around Remigny, about 30 kms north west of Laon. Because of the strength of the German advance, the Battery was quickly forced to withdraw and in the next 8 days was in constant retreat down the valley of the river Oise, mostly keeping a few kilometres north of the river.
Mobile warfare with 60-pounder field guns imposed very arduous conditions upon both men and horses. By 25 March 1918 the Battery had retreated through Noyon and was already suffering from the effects of rapid movements made in difficult terrain. Yet the worst was still to come as the Battery retreated south west in the direction of Compiegne. In a thirty hour period on 26/27 March 1918 the men and horses of three of the Battery's guns marched some 40 kms and pulled in and out of three different positions with only five hours rest. In the early hours of 27 March a very steep hill required all three teams of horses to pull each gun to the summit only to be ordered back down again as soon as the summit was reached. During all this effort the men received only scratch meals and the horses short water rations.