The Hampstead Heavies
138th Heavy Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery
(04/16 - 01/18)
(1915 - 1954)
The Hampstead & Highgate Express, Summer 1966
Heathman's Diary records the reunion organised by "Dickie" Finch just over 50 years after the Battery arrived in France
Veterans of the 138th (Hampstead) Heavy Artillery Battery, trained on the slopes of the Heath and sent to fight their way through Belgium just over 50 years ago, paid a sentimental return journey to Hampstead last week for a reunion and a civic welcome.
The Battery fought at Loos, Vimy Ridge and took part in the attack on Hill 60 at Ypres. By the end of World War I only 30 of the original 250 men in the battery were still alive.
One of the survivors, Gunner DICKIE FINCH, spent 6 months trying to trace his old comrades and arrange for them to meet again. And last Friday 18 of the veterans gathered in the Mayor's Parlour at Camden Town Hall to be welcomed by the Deputy Mayor, COUNCILLOR TIM SKINNER, himself a Hampstead man.
With them was MRS HELEN PARIS, widow of MAJOR HAROLD PARIS, MC, commanding officer of the Battery, who was killed in action just before the armistice.
The old soldiers presented her with a bouquet. Then they boarded a coach for a trip round Hampstead. And as it travelled along Finchley Road they began to recognise landmarks from their past.
There was the old Finchley Road baths ("That was the recruiting station," one of them recalled; Frognal Parade ("Where we mustered every morning for training," said another); and the Hampstead Cricket Club ground in Lymington Road ("That was where we drilled,", they explained).
The coach stopped at the club and the veterans were greeted there by club secretary, Lieut-Col. MICHAEL SCOTT.
"This was our parade ground," said 68-year-old Mr. Finch, pictured above with veterans ALLAN YOUNG, 76, GEORGE ELLIOTT, 68, and 69-year-old TOM KIBBLE, who lives in Messina Avenue, West Hampstead.
"The horses were kept on the other side of Lymington Road and we did rifle drill in Rosemont Road. We also went up to the Heath with dummy guns and pretended to fire them over London."
Then the party boarded the coach again to return to St Pancras for a celebration dinner.
"Most of the surviving members of the Battery now live far away from Hampstead," said Mr. Finch, who has himself moved to Worthing, Sussex. "Tracing them was a difficult job.
"In the end I found 22, but four of them were unable to make the journey to London. Just the same, you can't imagine what meeting some of them again has meant to me. I'm the happiest man alive."
In a subsequent letter Dickie Finch wrote:
The portrait of the Major had a place of honour on a table in the centre of the Parlour and as I had been able to get Mrs Paris (his widow) to be present, there was a sense of dignity about the occasion which made it all worth while. As Lt Walker was the only officer I had been able to trace, I got him to express our thanks to the Deputy Mayor, the Mayor responded. Then we called on Mrs Paris to say a few words and it was obvious that she got a real thrill from meeting us and to hear from the various fellows how highly we had all esteemed the Major during those years of hardship and danger. We also presented her with a very handsome bouquet of flowers.
Top of page