The Hampstead Heavies
138th Heavy Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery
Bully les Mines
(04/16 - 05/17)
(05/17 - 06/17)
(06/17 - 12/17)
(04/18 - 07/18)
(08/18 - 11/18)
Northern France and Belgium, December 1917 - March 1918
Early in December 1917 the Battery rested and re-equipped at Bray Dunes, once more on French soil after more than six months heavy fighting at Ypres and on the Belgian coast. There was much speculation as to the future destination of the Battery which on 5 December was revealed to be Buyscherre, a French village about 5 kms north west of St Omer.
The Battery remained at Buyscherre for most of December 1917 during which time football matches and other sports were encouraged by the officers, along with visits to St Omer. Christmas 1917 was celebrated with a traditional dinner but the following day orders were received for the Battery to leave Buyscherre and join the 1st ANZAC Corps. However, although the Battery made several attempts to move out, snow falls and heavy frosts from 27 December 1917 to 11 January 1918 made travel impossible.
A thaw on 12 January 1918 eventually allowed the Heavies to leave Buyscherre and they reached Morbecque, a large village 3 kms south west of Hazebrouck, on 13 January where the Battery stayed for around a week awaiting orders from Head Quarters as to which Corps the Battery was to be attached. The orders arrived on 22 January and the Battery moved to La Clytte, 6 kms south west of Ypres, which was reached the same day after a march of about 30 kms.
The following day the gunners were marched to dig new gun positions on Wytschaete Ridge, close to the craters made during the battle of Messines in June 1917, but the guns and rest of the Battery remained at La Clytte in what had been No Man's Land in 1917. Work continued in this position until orders were received on 14 February 1918 for the Battery to return to Buyscherre where a week was spent re-equipping.
The Heavies left Buyscherre on 22 February and marched to the railhead at Arques outside St Omer where they entrained and travelled overnight to Flavy-le-Martel, 12 kms south west of St Quentin. Wagon lines were established at Villequier Aumont, 20 kms north west of Noyon, where the Battery adopted a new method of distribution with the Sections positioned roughly in echelon. The rest of February 1918 was a relatively peaceful spell for the Heavies, although in early March the Forward section was very active and heavily shelled in return.
From end February 1918 onwards rumours circulated that the Germans were preparing a major offensive and, in mid March, each man was issued with a rifle and ammunition and the Battery had two machine guns added to its equipment. Finally, on 19 March 1918, the battery received a telegram from Fifth Army HQ advising that a German offensive was expected within two or three days.