The Diary of Major H G Paris
Royal Garrison Artillery
22 - 24 March
26 - 29 March
Battery Commander - 138th Heavy Battery, RGA, (The Hampstead Heavies)
March 26th, 1918
At 1 a.m., after a very hard struggle up the steepest of hills on which two teams and all the men had to get on to each gun in turn to get it up the hill, the guns and wagons arrived, only to be met by orders to return again to Vandelicourt. Vandelicourt was reached again at 5.30 a.m. and men and horses fell asleep from sheer exhaustion practically where they halted.
Since they had left Suzoy there they had had at the most 5 hours rest, the men and horses of these three guns and wagons had been on the go (except for 2 hours at Marqueglise) for nearly 30 hours, during which time they had pulled in to three different positions and out again and marched some 24 miles. Meals had necessarily been very scratch affairs and the horses had had to do with short water ration.
Although not under shell fire, I look on this march as the most trying part of the whole retirement, coming as it did on the top of three unusually strenuous days of active fighting. It is only known to those who had the honour to actually command and be in close touch with the men, with what splendid spirit they worked through it all. The Battery Commander was not the least tired of the whole lot - in the few short halts there had been, his time had been spent in reconnoitering the new positions or riding off to receive orders. There were scarcely any maps available which meant that the Battery Commander could not delegate much of the reconnaissance to anyone else. Except for the morning at Suzoy, the Battery Commander had hardly slept for more than an hour at a time since 5 a.m. on 21st and it was therefore not surprising to find that on arriving in a billet at midnight after riding a motor bike to make sure of the battery returning from L'Ecouvillon, he fell asleep at the table in the middle of a sentence and without touching the meal that had just been put before him.
As regards the men, I should like to put in a word on behalf of the sixty pounder gunner in case that this account being read in conjunction with those of seige batteries, that it might be overlooked. Whereas in action the work done on the guns is not much harder than that of 6 in. howitzers, though the ":hows" have (on paper) double detachments, yet the march to the sixty pounder gunner does not only mean mere foot slogging along the road in the thick dust of the column, but also a good deal of heaving on drag ropes helping guns and wagons out of ditches etc. -where even the best of drivers will sometimes put themselves and their vehicles when dead tired on dead tired horses- and more than likely they have to turn on the buckets to help water the horses when they do get in.
On this occasion, the physical fatigue was of course added to by the mental strain and depression of continually going back and back and doing so without any knowledge at all of the situation. One thing always cheered the men up, however tired they were, and that was when ever we did stop and come into action. The spirit with which the officers and men got their guns up the hill at L'Ecouvillon was a true test of their endurance and they came through it without a single complaining word.
March 27th and 28th, 1918
March 29th, 1918
30th Arsy to Erquinvillers, 10 miles
31st Erquinvillers to Reuil, 11 miles
1st Reuil to Cormeilles, 13 miles
2nd Cormeilles to Famechon, 12 miles
3rd Famechon to Brocourt (Poix area), 16 miles
June 1st, 1918.
138 H. B. R. G. A.
A sketch map drawn by Major Paris showing the Battery's retreat from 21st to 26th March 1918
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