Flag The Diary of Major H G Paris
Royal Garrison Artillery


1918 entries

21 March

22 - 24 March

25 March

26 - 29 March

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

March 22nd, 1918

The 3 guns in Bois Hallot were in action all the morning and the enemy soon began to drop shells all round the wood. About 2 p.m. orders were given for these three guns to clear out owing to the progress of the enemy. The gun teams and wagons were assembled at Frieres Faillouel, near Brigade headquarters, and the teams were sent up as required, the guns being pulled out as far as possible by hand to save the horses being exposed to fire longer than necessary.

The pulling out of the guns was done under the supervision of Lieut. Coomber, who has since been awarded the Military Cross, and the senior No. 1, Sgt. Austin, has been awarded the Military Medal. The first was being pulled out of the situation but was spotted by the Hun aeroplanes, who continued to circle over at a low height and fire heavily with their machine guns. The shelling was also heavy at times, but the men were extremely lucky and kept free of casualties.

The 2nd gun was got away from the actual position with some difficulty, the horses being frightened and refusing to work, and horses from wagon teams having to be used to assist. This gun got about 200 yards from the position and then stuck in a shell hide, effectively blocking the way out for the 3rd gun. A fresh team was sent up to try to move it. Meanwhile, all the wagons had come up and headed up with as much ammunition and stores as possible, these wagons being able to get away by a track unfit for the guns. The fresh team were unable to move the gun and heavy burst of shrapnel was put over, wounding one of the drivers and horses and forcing the remainder to take cover.

This happened every time an attempt was made to get near the guns, the enemy being able by this time to see direct on to the position. Under orders of the Battery Commander, all the remaining personnel were withdrawn from the position with as much kit as they could carry. A heavy burst of high explosive was put right into the position and the last wagon was upset and the driver and horses wounded and wagon broken.

By this time, the actual situation as regards the position of the enemy was obscure and the Battery Commander thought it advisable to disable the guns in case they could not be got away by night. Having sent the remainder of the battery back to Villequier Aumont, he himself went back to the position with Sgt. King during a lull in the firing and removed the brake mechanisms from both guns and hid then by throwing them into a deep muddy pool in a stream close by, each mechanism having a cord attached to it, which was buried in the bank of the stream so that they could be pulled out again if possible. All gun sights etc. were removed by limber gunners.

About midnight Sgt. Austin, with a fresh team of horses, went back to try and draw the two guns out. He was successful in removing the one that was stuck in the roadway and brought back, but was unable to approach the gun in position owing to heavy fire. He showed considerable pluck and resource in the whole of his work and the drivers with him are deserving of all credit for work done under difficult and anxious conditions.

At 2 p.m. 22nd, the section that had withdrawn to Villequier Aumont the night before were in action again.

March 23rd, 1918

By the early morning 23rd, the four guns (one was out of action at the Wagon Lines for repair before 21st) left to the battery were all in action at Villequier Aumont. Two ammunition wagons bringing up ammunition were shelled in the village and casualties caused to horses and drivers. At midday, orders were received for the whole battery (complete with wagon lines) to withdraw to take up a position near Guivry.

By 2 p.m. the whole battery had passed clear of Guivry village. The guns came into action in a position just behind the village and the wagon lines bivouacked about 1 mile further on. Moving warfare conditions now started, the guns coming into action with ammunition wagons alongside them. The guns were firing all night making use of what long range ammunition was available.

March 24th, 1918

At 10.30 a.m. an urgent message was received from 51st Brigade for battery to clear out as the Hun cavalry now reported in Commenche. The battery marched via Beaugies and Maucourt to Grandru, the horses having a very stiff and heavy pull up through the Bois de la Cave. 6 wagons had been sent off early in the morning to try and obtain some ammunition from Guiscard and consequently there were extra heavy loads for the remaining wagons. The weather had also turned much warmer and the horses began to feel the heat considerably.

At 2 p.m. the guns came into action just off the road between Grandru and Baboeuf. Ammunition was dumped beside the guns and only gun teams were left behind. The rest of the battery moving out and found lines further back. The guns were quickly registered by means of air bursts over Bois de Onumont, which was visible from the battery position. An observation post was established about 400 feet in front of the guns and a telephone line laid and communication established with the Brigade. Harassing fire was directed on the villages of Bethancourt and Neuflieux. A sixty pounder gun was found in a workshop at Baboeuf ready for firing except for a sight and the I. O. M. was only too pleased to find somebody with a barn to take it off his hands. A sight was taken off one of the other guns which had gone out of action through a cracked cradle.

The remainder of the battery had meanwhile moved first to near Salency and then had moved on again to pass through Noyon. This order was again cancelled about 9 p.m. and a despatch rider sent to bring them back to Salency, where they arrived about 11 p.m.

Meanwhile, at 6 p.m. the guns had been withdrawn from their positions and after much difficulty owing to the congestion of traffic on the roads, had succeeded in getting back to Salency and took up a position on the east side of the village at 10.30 p.m.

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