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138th Heavy Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery


War Diary
(04/16 - 01/18)

Walter Wright
(Narrative, 1926)

Hampstead and
Highgate Express
(1915 - 1954)

The Hampstead & Highgate Express, 31 July 1915

Hampstead Howitzer Brigade - Inaugural Meeting

Yesterday (Friday) week a vigorous and gratifying response to Lord Kitchener's appeal to Hampstead to raise a Brigade of Artillery for his new armies was given at the inaugural public meeting held at the West Hampstead Town Hall, Broadhurst-gardens. After stirring speeches by prominent men of the borough, and following an earnest and virile appeal by Mr. Walter Reynolds, L.C.C., a number of splendid recruits boldly ascended the platform amid rounds of cheering and applause and announced their readiness to enlist in the 183rd (Hampstead) Howitzer Brigade (Royal Field Artillery).

Preceding the meeting the drum and fife band of the Cadet Battalion of the City of London Fusiliers paraded the locality, concluding with some stirring marches outside the hall, where, surrounded by a large crowd, the recruits already enlisted, numbering over eighty, were drawn up to form a guard of honour. Inside the hall the buglers of the Cadet Battalion greeted the audience and speakers with a fanfare.

A large, representative, and enthusiastic gathering was presided over by the Mayor (Alderman E.A. O'Bryen, J.P.), who was accompanied on the platform by Mr. J.S. Fletcher, M.P., Mr. I.A.Symmonds, Mr. A.J. David, K.C., Colonel Warrener, Capt. E. Gibbs Kimber, D.S.O., Mr. Andrew T. Taylor, L.C.C., Mr. Walter Reynolds, L.C.C., Mr. H. Bleasby, J.P., Councillors H. Hulls, W.J. Spriggs, C.L. Jupp, H. Cadbury Brown, G. Buckle, R.J.J. Willis, and H.J. Beechey, Mr. T.F. Hobson, L.C.C., Mr. H.L. Hayman, hon. Belgian Consul, and other prominent residents in the locality.

The Mayor, in giving details of the inception of the scheme for raising a brigade in the district, said that, when he was approached by the War Office on the subject, he felt that, as Hampstead had already given so very many men to the service of their country, it would be extremely difficult to raise an infantry brigade in the locality. Fortunately, the authorities were only too pleased to give him the choice of forming a Howitzer Brigade or a brigade of ordinary field guns. He chose the former for the reason that it offered the attraction of being somewhat uncommon, and also permitted the little cheerful alliterative description of the "Happy Hampstead Howitzers," and he was quite confident from what he had already seen that they really were going to be an exceedingly happy body of men. Hampstead had never previously had the honour of being attached to any unit of the Army; that honour was now granted, and he was certain that the district would wake up to its new responsibility and to the privilege which had been given to it, and that wherever their brigade went they would live up to the high reputation and traditions of the borough. An opportunity was afforded to every resident to help, and would first of all appeal to all men of fighting age to come forward and join. He knew Hampstead had been drained of men for the infantry, but they were now offered a different proposition, and a Howitzer Brigade had peculiar attractions of its own which would undoubtedly bring men in. The uniform was undoubtedly attractive, and he had been told that it "fetches the ladies." (Laughter and applause.) Again, the work associated with horses and guns was intensely interesting, the pay was better, and artillery had not to look forward to those long, dreary, and dangerous hours in the trenches. Lord Kitchener had plainly stated to the country that he must have the men, and, if they could not be found voluntarily, then unquestionably some more certain method of securing them would have to be adopted. He wanted all the help that Hampstead could give to make this movement a success, and to those who were unable to enlist an opportunity to assist was furnished in providing the necessary funds for the initiation and incidental expenses connected with the raising of the brigade. While the equipment, maintenance, and general upkeep of the brigade would be borne by the War Office, there were obviously many items of expenditure associated with the inauguration and working of the scheme which could not be charges to them.

Mr. J.S. Fletcher, M.P., moved the following resolution, " That this meeting of ratepayers and residents of Hampstead agrees to support the Mayor in raising the 183rd (Hampstead) Howitzer Brigade in accordance with the request which had been addressed to him by the War Office, and pledges itself to do all in its power to ensure the success of the movement."

This resolution was signed by a large number of prominent local residents, who form the committee, with power to add to their number, for the purpose of taking the necessary steps in connection with raising the brigade. Referring to the great interest taken by the Mayor in connection with the scheme, Mr. Fletcher said they always had most excellent Mayors of Hampstead, and the present Mayor was no exception. (Applause.) He was a man of energy and action, and they knew that the raising of this Hampstead Brigade was very dear to his heart. The least they could do, then, was to support the scheme so as to make certain of success. They asked for money, not a great deal, for much of what was wanted had already been promised; but, first and foremost they wanted men. Camberwell, Fulham, Dulwich, and other London districts had already achieved gratifying success with similar brigades. He knew that the young men of Hampstead had already come forward splendidly to serve their country, but there were still plenty who were now furnished with a splendid opportunity. He did not envy the afterlife of any young man in the district whose conscience told him he ought to go to the Front, but who, from irresolution, diffidence, or timidity, hung back. A glorious chance was now offered, which, if he were a young man, he would quickly grasp. Personally he felt certain that universal service was coming, for various reasons - the Russians, French, Italians, and Belgians, by whose efforts it was almost certain that the cruel Germans were not already invading this country, were all working splendidly under a system of universal service. He appealed to the young men to take this, perhaps the last, chance of coming in as volunteers and not to wait until they were compelled. (Cheers.)

Mr. A.J. David, K.C., in an inspiring and forceful address, emphasized the responsibility on the citizens of Hampstead to make this brigade a success. Whatever response had been made in the past from Hampstead, he was bold enough to say it had not been what it ought to be, and in this respect Hampstead was by no means singular. This lack of discharge of duty of those to whom he must refer arose rather from ignorance than any other cause, and because they had not yet realized the position we are in today. We might feel very comfortable in our arm-chairs at home reading from day to day reports of events more or less favourable, but he would insist that this war is not over, and the risk to us is as great to-day as it ever has been. This country, he said, is called upon to make a sacrifice, not collectively merely, but with a duty which devolves upon every citizen individually - (Applause) - and the formulation of a strong and healthy public opinion with regard to this individual responsibility was one of those things which every man and woman possessing the intelligence we boast of ought to be able to utilize to bring about a proper sense of this sacred duty. There were hundreds of suitable men with the precincts of Hampstead, and when they had joined and taken part in the war which they would do in connection with this unit, there was no knowing what distinction might come to Hampstead. They were proud of the many advantages of what they termed the finest suburb of London, and with those advantages they had concurrent responsibilities, and they never knew but what it might fall to the lot of this particular unit to achieve one of the greatest glories in the course of the campaign. He appealed to them, with all the emphasis he could command, as one citizen to another with the fullest sense of responsibility, to take their part, not merely for what they had, or for their individual selves, but for the country to which they are so proud to belong and in the interests of posterity who will rise up to judge what they had done with the opportunity they had. (Loud and prolonged cheers.)

Capt. E. Gibbs Kimber, D.S.O., who has been on active service at the Front for the past eight months, said that his experiences there enabled him to say with the greatest sincerity, "Thank God I am an Englishman." He was there to make an appeal to every man who could possibly do it, and before he was pushed, to enlist in the Howitzer Brigade. He had witnessed again and again the value of artillery in this war. At Neuve Chapelle and at Fromelle he had seen the value of this branch of our Army, and he owed his life to-day to one of these batteries, for at one critical period a magnificent Horse Artillery battery threw a curtain of shells across his front and held the enemy long enough to enable him to get back with what was left of his company. That was something which every man of them could do who joined this battery. Now was the time to fill up the ranks and for every able-bodied man to come forward. They were just as good as those who had gone before them. The men who had gone out to the Front with him were clerks, shop assistants, and representatives of almost every walk of life, and he could vouch for it that these men knew no fear. He had seen these men go out with cool courage to certain death. On one occasion he had to send three men out to take down a signal to save the lives of the men under his command; there was no lack of volunteers for the duty, but every man of the three was killed. Every man he was now addressing was of the same stuff, and there were hundreds of them in the country, and he appealed to them to come forward and take their place in the great fight for freedom. (Loud and prolonged cheers.)

Colonel Warrener, who is assisting in the formation of the brigade until a suitable commanding officer can be secured, and whose popularity with the men was evinced by the continuous cheering which greeted him, said that he was convinced the recruits they had already secured were the right stuff and so were the n.c.o.'s. They were young, active, and intelligent, and had knocked themselves into shape in practically two days.

Regimental Quartermaster-Sergt. W. Badger, an old Hampsteadian who has worn the King's uniform for fifty-one years, gave some of his interesting experiences, and a word of encouragement to the recruits, and he expressed his willingness to assist the brigade in any way.

Mr. T.F. Hobson, L.C.C., in endorsing the appeal for men, said that he did not think Hampstead would lag behind; it was simple a case of bringing the facts home to the people. To that end he recommended them to read again and again that short soldierly speech which Lord Kitchener made at the Guildhall, and which showed that he now, at last, definitely makes an appeal to put its last man in the field.

Mr. Walter Reynolds, L.C.C., after moving a vote of thanks to the Mayor for his keen interest in the brigade, aroused great enthusiasm with a stirring appeal for recruits. What a glorious thing it was, he said, for the young men of the district to have such an opportunity of joining their own local unit, and if England was worth fighting for, surely Hampstead, the finest and loveliest suburb in the world, as he could vouch for from his extensive travels, was worth it. In response to his invitation, and amid rounds of applause, a number of recruits filed on to the platform, each in turn being warmly welcomed by the Mayor.

The meeting concluded with the National Anthem, sung with the greatest fervour by all present.

The brigade headquarters and recruiting office are at the Central Library, Finchley-road.

In connection with this effort there will be a recruiting march in the district this (Saturday) afternoon, with halts at Fleet-road, the Flagstaff, and Golders-green. The speakers will include the Mayor and Sir Peter Bam.

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