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138th Heavy Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery


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War Diary
(04/16 - 01/18)


Walter Wright
(Narrative, 1926)


Hampstead and
Highgate Express
(1915 - 1954)




The Hampstead & Highgate Express, 7 August 1915


Hampstead Howitzer Brigade - Successful Recruiting Appeals

Recruiting for the 183rd (Hampstead) Howitzer Brigade, R.F.A., proceeds apace, nearly 300 men of the total of 800 required to form the Brigade being enrolled within the first fortnight.

Another enthusiastic and successful meeting was held yesterday (Friday) week at the Fleet-road L.C.C. Schools, where a crowded gathering listened with intense interest to stirring speeches by prominent citizens and officers, a number of recruits responding at the close.

Previous to the meeting a great parade of the locality took place. Led by a detachment of the Boy Scouts, two batteries of Royal Horse Artillery with guns, a contingent of the Hampstead Volunteer Reserve, and a band, the new recruits of the Brigade made a fine appeal with their banners inviting all eligible men to join, the recruiting sergeants being exceedingly busy all along the route. Outside the schools the drums and fifes of the Cadet Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers played stirring marches and attracted a big crowd.

The meeting was of an intensely patriotic character, and Mr. Ben Davies, the well known vocalist, who made one of his few public appearances in recent years, created great enthusiasm with his fine rendering of "The Death of Nelson" and the popular song, "Keep the home fires burning, till the boys come home," the chorus of which was repeated with vigour by all present, tremendous applause greeted his efforts.

The Mayor (Alderman E.A. O'Bryen, J.P.) presided, and was supported by Mr. J.S. Fletcher, M.P., Mr Charles Duncan (Labour M.P. for Barrow), Mr. Walter Reynolds, L.C.C., Mr. Andrew T. Taylor, L.C.C., Capt. E. Gibbs Kimber, D.S.O., Lieut. Kirby, and prominent residents forming the committee.

The Mayor, who was welcomed with cheers, said that he desired to remove one or two misconceptions that had arisen in connection with the brigade. First, he would explain that they were not associated with the Volunteers, but would form an integral part of Lord Kitchener's Armies. They were enlisted for active service, and after their period of training would assist in the war abroad, and a keener lot of men than those already enrolled could not be desired. (Applause.) There were some, too, who were anxious to know what a howitzer was. Some people thought it was of German origin, but if so it was good enough to give the Germans shocks. Howitzer guns were used for high angle fire, and a howitzer brigade was attached to every division of the British Army. He was delighted with the fine progress they were making; they were getting men very fast indeed, and he advised all those who desired a place in their brigade to hurry up. The recruits indeed were coming in so fast that he hoped the War Office would ask them to form either an Ammunition Column or another Brigade. When it was fully organised and equipped, he was confident the Brigade would form a great source of pride and attraction to the locality. Their headquarters were fixed temporarily at the Central Library, Finchley-road, but he was pleased to say that the Parks Committee of the L.C.C. had kindly placed at their disposal a large piece of the Heath, close to the bottom of East-heath-road, and they hoped in the course of a fortnight to have two or more batteries encamped there. There were Shakespearean quotations, he said, which fit almost every circumstance of our national life, and one of singular significance in the present situation was, "Come the three corners of the world in arms and we shall shock them; naught shall make us rue if England to itself do rest but true." (Applause.)

Mr. Charles Duncan, M.P., who lives in Agincourt-road, in the course of a powerful address, said that, although it was always well to be an optimist, it was never well to be too optimistic, and, unfortunately, there were many young men who seemed to think circumstances warranted their remaining here when their real place was in the ranks. Reviewing the earlier events of the war, he said that Germany's crime in violating her sacred treaties by marching through Belgium and Luxembourg had aroused the abhorrence of the whole world, and a nation which would sell its soul for a petty advantage is a nation that nobody could honour. (Applause.) There had been a good deal of talk at the beginning of the war about our "contemptible little army," but the whole nation, and, indeed, the whole civilized world, had been stirred by the daring deeds of the British Tommy in that wonderful rearguard action from Mons to the Marne, deeds that had never been equalled or surpassed in the history of this country, and which placed the name of the British soldier higher in the history of the world than it had ever been before. (Applause.) Again, some people thought the strength of the German Navy might interfere very seriously indeed with the bringing of food to this country, but so far our efforts had brought about a result that had been a matter of astonishment to the whole universe. The German Navy was safe in the Kiel Canal, he believed growing mushrooms; some day he hoped they would have a little Irish stew for them and they would put the mushrooms in it. (Laughter and applause.) The effort they were now making to raise a Brigade of men from their own locality, men who would be associated together in their efforts in the war with comrades they knew and understood and could trust, and who would stand by them in the hour of trial, was an effort of an exceptionally praiseworthy character and a great asset to the district, and there were still plenty of young men who could respond. They must remember that, although to-day we have a great, powerful, and magnificent Army, the greater the Army the greater the necessity for still larger reserves in order to back them up, and whatever Army we had we must have a constant and ready supply of well drilled and well trained men to assist them when the great hour of trial comes, when the British and French Armies put forth their effort, as undoubtedly they will, to drive the enemy back into his own country. (Applause). He believed most thoroughly that so far as the German Army in France and in Flanders was concerned, it could only move one way, and that was backwards - (Applause) - and, that as soon as we began our great effort, they would see a rapid movement driving the Germans back. He believed that after all it was only a question of men and implements and that, however powerful and able the Germans might be, and as they should be in view of their great and lengthy preparations, we had the means and ability to beat them in the point of numbers and strength alone. The sooner the whole world realized that this was a fight for decency and a fight for honour, for freedom, and for civilisation, the better, and he was confident the young men of Hampstead would respond to their Mayor's appeal, and rally round him in the formation of the forces he had been asked to raise. By so doing the name of Hampstead would loom large in the future and would occupy an honourable place in the town names of men who had joined the British forces, so bringing honour, credit, and pleasure to the people living in their borough, which would be remembered to the end of their days. (Loud and prolonged cheers.)

Lieut. Kirby, who has considerable service at the Front, made a soldierly appeal for recruits, dealing in the most interesting manner with both the serious and the humorous side of warfare. He had seen, he said, in France towns and villages absolutely destroyed, and he asked them to try to picture to themselves what their London would look like in ruins and chaos. He gave many instances of German cruelty and fiendish conduct. At Poperinghe he had seen Belgian women with their eyes gouged out by these German madmen, and many other things he could tell, but which modesty forbade. They were out now for recruits for the new Hampstead Brigade, and the time had come for every man to realize that it was up to him to save his country, and it was not for him to remind them that they had the finest King and country in the world. (Prolonged cheers.) The news lately had not been good; he was not a pessimist, on the contrary, and he was convinced that the ultimate end could only be victory on our side; but he appealed to them in all seriousness to come forward to assist the men who had gone before, the British Tommy, the finest man in the world. (Cheers.) There was a humorous side to warfare, and they had plenty of fun at the Front. Sometimes, early in the morning, the order would come along to give the Germans their breakfast. The message would come over the telephone from the front line to the batteries two or three miles away. Asked what it should be, the answer would come "Mixed grill." A few minutes after they would hear the shrieking of the shells; first a dose of shrapnel which would drive the Germans into their dug-outs in the trenches; then lyddite, the fumes of which would quickly bring them out into the fresh air; then alternate shells of shrapnel and lyddite until they thought the Germans had fared sumptuously. He could tell the man in civilian clothes that he did not know what real happiness was. If they had consciences, then they must absolutely die with envy when they saw the troops go by in the streets. The eligible young men who were not joining the Army were not playing the game, and he appealed to them to come and play the finest game a man could indulge in, to fight for his King and country in the hour of its greatest need. (Loud and prolonged cheers.)

Mr. Andrew T. Taylor, L.C.C., endorsed the appeal for recruits with the following inspiring verses by the well known writer, Fred E. Weatherly, the sentiment expressed therein being loudly applauded:-

BRAVO

Kitchener sat in his London den,
  Silent and grim and grey,
Making his plans with an iron pen,
  Just in Kitchener's way.
And he saw where the clouds rose dark and dun,
  And all that it meant, he knew:
"We shall want every man who can shoulder a gun
  To carry this thing right through!"
Bravo, Kitchener! Say what you want,
  No one shall say you a nay!
And the world shall know, where our bugles blow,
  We've a Man at the head-today!

Jellicoe rides on the grey North Seas
  Watching the enemy's lines,
Where their Lord High Admirals skulk at ease
  Inside their hellish mines.
They have drunk too deep to the boasted fight,
  They have vowed too mad a vow!
What do you think - on the watch - tonight?
  What toast are they drinking now?
Bravo, Jellicoe! Call them again,
  And whenever they take the call,
Show them the way, give them their "Day"!
  And settle it once for all!

And French is facing the enemy's front
  Stubbornly day by day,
Taking the odds and bearing the brunt
  Just in the Britisher's way
And he hears the message, that makes him glad,
  Ring through the smoke and flame:
"Fight on, Tommy! Stick to them lad!
  Jack's at the same old game!"
Bravo, Tommy! Stand as you've stood
  And, whether you win or fall,
Show them you fight as gentlemen should,
  And die like gentlemen all!

So, Kitchener plans in London Town
  French is standing at bay,
Jellicoe's ships ride up and down,
  Holding the seas' highway.
And you that loaf where the skies are blue,
  And play by a petticoat hem,
These are the men who are fighting for you!
  What are you doing for them?
Bravo, then, for the men who fight!
  And down with the men who play!
It's a fight to the end for honour and friend,
  It's a fight for our lives today!

    FRED E. WEATHERLY


Capt. E. Gibbs Kimber, who has been awarded the D.S.O. for his service at the Front, and who was received with warm and prolonged applause, made a stirring appeal, and thrilled the audience with an account of his experiences. They wanted every eligible man, he said, to come and help them in France, because in so doing they were protecting the aged men and women and children in this country from horrors and terrors of which they knew nothing and of which they could not imagine one iota. If ever the Germans got to England those terrors would be perpetuated six-fold, for the motto with which they bolstered up their men in the trenches was "God hate England" The great distinction between the German soldier and the British Tommy was that the German was literally driven to his post and to the attack, whereas, while discipline there must be, the British soldiers loved their officers, and from the officers to the men there was the greatest trust and admiration. (Cheers.) If they were going to wait until England was invaded before joining the Army, then he said renounce your nationality. If there was one thing we were proud of it was our British nationality; it stood for all that was fair, all that was honourable, all that was great in the civilization of the world, and here was the opportunity for every man to show his appreciation of and respect for the privilege. (Prolonged applause.)

Stirring speeches were also made by Mr J.S. Fletcher, M.P. and Mr. Walter Reynolds, L.C. C., who created a furore at the previous meeting with his forceful arguments. An equally successful result accrued on this occasion, a number of splendid recruits responded amid the cheers and applause of the audience.

The meeting concluded with the National Anthem.

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