The Hampstead Heavies
138th Heavy Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery
Homage to Major Paris,
on Major Paris
Homage to Major Paris, Estrées and Hargicourt Military Cemetery, 6th October 2018
Major Paris was killed by shellfire near Estrées on the afternoon of 6th October 1918.
Exactly a century later, on Saturday 6th October 2018, five of his grandchildren, Alan, Sue, Brian, Jean, and Anne, and other members of the Bristow family, honoured his memory at the site in open fields near Estrées where it is believed he died.
Belief that the actual site has been located is based on two documents from the Battery's history, Walter Wright's Narrative and Gunner Edgecombe's letter of condolence to Mrs Paris. Walter Wright described the location as "a sinister looking place, right in the middle of an open field, with a church spire (in the enemy's country) looming in the distance"
which would have been clearly visible to the Heavies as they advanced from the Bellicourt tunnel of the Canal du Nord.
Gunner Edgecombe's letter to Mrs Paris states that in the aftermath of Major Paris' death "Lts. Greenhough and Annesley came around and cleared us all into the cellars of a ruined farm about 200 yards on the flank. There we took shelter for the night ".
appears to be much the most likely site of the ruined farm in which the Heavies took shelter following the death of Major Paris.
Honouring the memory of Major Paris on the centenary of his death and at the site where he died had long been planned by the Bristow family, particularly his five grandchildren. Over the years efforts to locate the site as closely as possible had been carried out by Alan and Brian and on the day of the centenary there was complete agreement amongst the other fourteen family members present that this was the correct location.
Three generations were represented in the sixteen family members who gathered at the agreed location.
15 of the party are shown in the photograph taken by Anne which also includes the farm site in which the Heavies took refuge
Brian writes:"We walked a little way down a track to get into the fields and were around 200 yards from the nearby farmhouse (another clue from Edgecombe's letter). We stood together and I read Edgecombe's letter to all with the inevitable appropriate emotion"
Alan's photograph on the left shows Estrées and the church spire in the distance
Anne's photograph has the farm building in the background
Extracts from his letter, published in Walter Wright's Narrative, are given HERE
Reprints of Walter Wright's Narrative are available HERE
Jean, Major Paris' granddaughter living in Canada, had brought his belt with her to Estrées.
Jean writes:"The belt belonged to Harold, and it was amongst his possessions which were returned to Granny after his untimely death. When my mother was sorting things out prior to Granny's home being sold she gave the belt to Anne and Robert. A couple of years ago, when I was visiting them at their home in France, they very kindly gave the belt to me, as I did not have any other of his possessions. I was absolutely thrilled to receive it, and I keep it on display in close proximity to one of the few photos I have of Harold and Mimi.
It seemed appropriate to bring his belt with me to Estrées and to wear it proudly during our commemoration of a very wonderful man whom all of us wish we could have known" Following Brian's reading, the family took the same route to Hargicourt Military Cemetery as the lorry which carried Major Paris 100 years earlier. Gathering round the graves of Major Paris and Sgt Taylor (a member of the Heavies killed in the same attack), Alan, Sue, Jean and Anne gave short readings from Major Paris' letters home, memories of other family members killed, and from the book "100 Days"
Finally, in Brian's words:"A small part of my mother's ashes were buried in a simple shallow trench behind HGP's stone as the right place for part of her to be"
Some comments from the grandchildren after the homage
"I think what is so amazing about all this is that not only were there 16 of us present but another 20+ were with us in spirit which means our grandfather's memory will live on over many more years to come - the presence of three great grandchildren already underlines that" Anne
"We had a good remembrance in the countryside by Estrées and then at Hargicourt making understanding so much better" Alan
"It was a truly memorable occasion" Sue and Bob
"It went perfectly and the weather was warm and comfortable" Brian
"Obviously it was sad but we all know how lucky we are to have so much information" Brian
"Whilst perhaps it should have been a sad occasion, it was a happy remembrance" Alan
Carol and Alan Bristow
Sue and Bob Udy
Sarah and Brian Bristow
Arthur Webb (aged 7)
Alfred Webb (aged 4)
Gill and Darren Peake
Danièle and Nicolas Svarovsky