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Royal Garrison Artillery

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21 March

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Battery Commander - 138th Heavy Battery, RGA, (The Hampstead Heavies)

March 21st, 1918

The battery was in position as follows: forward section 2 guns at the cross roads on the south of Remigny, remainder of battery in reserve position in Bois Hallot east of Failloce. Both sections commenced firing about 5 a.m. on S.O.S. lines. The fog was so thick that laying was difficult even in the paralleloscopes close up to the guns.

Taking the forward section first, these guns were in action pretty well continuously all day till 5 p.m.. From 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. shells were continually dropping all round the guns, but were apparently intended for the cross roads. About 9 a.m. the section was effectively neutralised for nearly one hour with a rapid burst of 42 howitzer. Direct hits were obtained on entrance to B.C. first and round both gun pits, but no damage was done and only one casualty was caused.

All telephone lines, however, were cut. No definite news could be obtained of the situation and though touch was kept with the Observation Post till nearly 9 a.m., the fog was too thick for the Forward Observation Officer's party to actually see anything and could merely report information gleaned from wounded, etc.. About 10.30 a.m. Sgt. Goodwin, who had been one of the Forward Observation Officer's party, came in to the battery and reported having left the Observation Post (Fort Vendeuil) about an hour previously and having come through a fairly heavy barrage on the road down.

He brought a note from Lieut. Annesley, the Forward Observation Officer, asking for more wire to renew communication with. This was the last heard of the Forward Observation Officer's party till 3 p.m. when Lieutenant Annesley arrived at the position in a somewhat dishevelled condition and without any equipment or even puttees. He reported as :

About 10 a.m. finding all communication had gone beyond hope of repair and that the enemy were reported to be in the village of Vendeuil, he determined to get out of the fort and find out what he could and rejoin the battery. No sooner had he got outside the fort with the two telephonists, than he found a party of 200 to 300 Germans all round him and was forced to be taken prisoner.

His captors appeared to belong to a Brandenberg regiment. They removed all his equipment and took him along with them as they advanced towards Fort Liez. They were eventually held up by machine gun fire and a firing line was formed for attack. The prisoners (about 16 in number) were left behind in a dug-out of a captured battery position with a guard of a sergeant and two men. The Sergeant was eventually shot and after 2 other Germans had joined the guard, the whole party started moving to the rear by means of one of our communication trenches.

3 Germans and 12 prisoners were hit by rifle fire leaving one Hun and 4 prisoners. What was the exact fate of the Hun is not known but the four prisoners, it is believed, all got back to our own lines. Lieut. Annesley, who was one of the four, had a particular unpleasant time, running back towards our lines being sniped at by both sides. However, by crawling along trenches and making dashes from front to front, he managed to get back to a field battery and from there back to his own battery. The two telephonists, Gunner Crossley and Gunner Hembling, were both wounded and unable to escape, but Lieut. Annesley speaks highly of the way they were treated by the German N.C.O.'s and men. (Gunner Hembling has since been heard of from a hospital in Bavaria).

About midday, the fog had lifted sufficiently for the ridge of Fort Vendeuil to be seen and the Battery Commander went to a temporary observation post in the ruins of Remigny village and was able to turn the guns on to bodies of the enemy as they came over the ridge. This observation post was eventually destroyed by a burst of 4.2 fire and one of the telephonists severely wounded. Communication was kept, however, by runners and the telephone line was got through again, but about the same time orders were received for the two guns to pull out and retire to join the remainder of the battery at Bois Hallot. The section eventually moved off at 6.30 p.m.

Considering that the detachments had been firing almost continually from 5 a.m., and that many of the switches were over 80 degrees, the way which the guns were pulled out and ammunition loaded up was exceedingly creditable. While moving out, hostile aeroplanes frequently fired bursts of machine gun fire round the position.

The remainder of battery had been active all day but had not had much retaliation. The 2 guns from Remigny reached there about 10 p.m. and pulled in to position. They had no sooner got the trails down than orders were received to move this section off to a position to be reconnoitred at once near Villequier Aumont. The reconnaissance was difficult owing to a fog and a pitch dark night, and the fact that everybody else was trying to occupy all the side roads. By 6 a.m. the two guns were in position ready to be fired and the gunners were able to get something to eat and a few hours sleep after a very strenuous 24 hours.

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