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Remembered Today:

A/58 Mobile Field Battery RFA


ianjonesncl

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The 58th Brigade RFA was one of Kitchener's New Army's first artillery units forming part of the 11th (Northern) Divisional Artillery.

They deployed to Gallipoli 1st July 1915 landing on the  peninsular at the beginning of August. Following the evacuation of Gallipoli, the 11th (Northern) Division deployed to the Western Front arriving in France 2nd July 1916. The Division with the 58th Brigade RFA in support were active till the Armistice in  1918.

 

A website commemorating the men of 58 Brigade RFA by @David26 records the History of 58th Brigade Royal Field Artillery

 

A First Army order for 26th August 1918 [1] details that "in order to support offensive action by the Cavalry Corps" a force would be organised and placed under command of GOC Cavalry Coprs. The force would consist of:

  • Infantry Brigade (including Trench Mortar Battery) provided with lorries - the Brigade would be provided by I Corps 11 Division and would have a Field Ambulance attached
  • Mixed Battery consisting of 4 x 18 pounders and 2 x 4.5in Howitzers which would be towed by lorries  - the Battery would be provided by I Corps and would be under the command of GOC Infantry Brigade
  • Composite Brigade under the command of Colonel G.Lindsay DSO - DIMGU First Army consisting of
    • No 1 (1st Life Guards) Battalion Guards Machine Gun Regiment
    • No 3 (Royal Horse Guards) Battalion Guards Machine Gun Regiment
    • XVIII Corps Cyclist Battalion

 

The force was to be complete by 27th August 1918 in the Penin sub-area (20km north west of Arras).

 

The Infantry Brigade allocated was 34 Infantry Brigade of the 11th (Northern) Division. [2] The 34th  Infantry Brigade's assignment would be short, and they saw no offensive action with the Cavalry Corps, returning to the 11th (Northern) Division on the 20th September. [3]

 

The Motor Field Battery was established [4] for 4 officers and 80 other ranks, with the guns, ammunition and stores being transported 16 x 3-ton  lorries, plus a water lorry. A car was provided for the Battery Commander (as well as 2 x bicycles), and 3 x motor cycles for signals.

 

image.png.63a0b04945b534a9c7a1caccb8eb7f6f.png

 

The establishment indicates 3 sections of two guns, each commanded by an officer. Each gun detachment, consisting of 10 men, would travel in the gun tower = 60 men, the balance of the personnel were allocated to another lorry. The Quartermaster General First Army was tasked with providing the transport [5], and it would be interesting to know if the lorries came with motor drivers as the Gunners may not have had the requisite skills.

 

large.919143949_RALorries(3).jpg.f2520b530d9f625429f3c26d35e481f8.jpg

 

Each gun tower carried ammunition, 76 rounds for the 18 pounders and 80 rounds for the 4.5 inch howitzers. An additional 2 x lorries each carried 400 x 18 pounder rounds = 800 rounds providing an immediate resupply of 200 rounds per gun. Another 3 x lorries were each allocated to carry 284 x 4.5in rounds = 852 rounds, an immediate supply of 426 round per gun. Two other lorries were held at allocated to carry ammunition and looks to be in the 2nd echelon. With the lorries carrying that scale of ammunition there may not be a requirement for limbers.

 

The unit from the 11th Divisional Artillery tasked with providing the Mobile Field Battery was 58 Brigade Royal Field Artillery. The 58 Brigade's war diary records they would "form a mobile battery with motor machines"  [6].

 

The establishment from First Army detailed the Mobile Field Battery would be found from 4 officers and 80 OR's. The war diary records that 58 Brigade formed the Battery with 8 officers and 83 OR's, plus 12 horses,[7] it would seem that their was still a need to utilise the mounts from the Battery.

 

PERSREP  

A/58 -> 5 +56 plus 8 horses

D/58 -> 3 +27 plus 4 horses

 

The composite battery was commanded by Major Skey, the Battery officers were Capt Lowther, Capt Rowbotham, Lt Castle, Lt Window, Lt Humphris, Lt Griffiths, and Lt Hothersall. [8]

 

One wonders what the original appreciation by First Army of how the Mobile Field Battery would operate was based on. The three officers travelling with

 the guns would have needed to act as observers as well as section commanders. A record of a conference at Cavalry Corps HQ on 4th September [9] detailed that horses were required for the Battery Commander and Forward Observation Officers (FOO). This may indicate that the additional officers  would be dedicated FOO's. A more modern ORBAT would seem appropriate, BC and three observers,  with a 2 IC and 3 section commanders at the gun end. An alternative, is with the experimental nature of the Battery, an officer was used to control the ammunition lorries in what would be termed in modern times a Battery Ammuntion Control Point. (I have seen this done).

 

large.595114506_RALorries(1).jpg.31abef4d404d4995e8bc3f493bfb32a2.jpg

 

On the evening of the 26th August lorries transported the personnel assigned to the Mobile Field Battery to the 22nd Corps Reception Camp. The 4 guns and 2 howitzers allocated were pulled to workshops by their gun horse teams, the horses returning to the wagon lines that evening. [10] Presumably modifications were carried out to enable the guns to be towed by lorries.

 

The Cavalry Corps were located at Hautecloque,35km west of Arras in the rear area. [11] Their war diary records that on the 2nd September 1918 the Corps and attached units were placed at 4 hours to move. The following day at 21:00 the 34th Infantry Brigade ,  in which A/58 Battery RFA was imbedded, was ordered to move at 05:00 together with Lindsay's Brigade, the other ad hoc formation. At 23:59, all orders were cancelled. There follows orders and counter orders (SNAFU plus) and many phones call between the GOC Cavalry Corps and First Army.

 

The ad hoc formations do not seem to have engaged on operations. On 20th September 1918,  34 infantry Brigade (Less A/58 Mixed Battery) transferred from the Cavalry Corps back to 11th Division. [12] Two days later, A/58 Battery moved to Mesnil Domquer, 60km south west of Arras. [13]. The Cavalry Corps does not seem to have used the Battery over the following month. On the 26th October 1918 A/58 Battery was ordered to march to Ramillies, just north of Cambrai to re-join 11th Division Artillery and ceased to be attached to the Cavalry Corps. [14]

 

The composite Mobile Battery re-joined the 58th Brigade RFA at Eswars (near Ramillies) in their motor lorries. [15] A/58 Battery was reformed with 4 guns and marched to Naves a kilometre away from  Eswars. [16]

 

The Mobile Field Battery had lasted two months and does not appear to have engaged in any active service.  The re-constituted Brigade would push forward as the Allies pressed on with their 100 Days Offensive. On 11th November 1918 when hostilities ended, 58 Brigade RFA were located  in Quévy-le-Grand, in southern Belgium midway between Mons and Maubeuge. [17]

 

[1] First Army G.S. 1376/25 26/8/18 - serial 1

[2] WO 95/575/4 War Diary Headquarters Branches and Services: General Staff Cavalry Corps September-1918 - 3rd September

[3] WO 95/575/4 War Diary Headquarters Branches and Services: General Staff Cavalry Corps September-1918 - 20th September

[4]  First Army G.S. 1376/25 26/8/18 Motor Field Battery War Establishment

[5] First Army G.S. 1376/25 26/8/18 - serial 5

[6] WO-95-1801-3 War Diary 58 Brigade RFA - August 1918 - 26th August

[7] ibid

[8] ibid

[9] WO 95/575/4 Headquarters Branches and Services: General Staff Cavalry Corps  September-1918 - Conference at Cavalry Corps HQ 4-Sep Item 6

[10] WO-95-1801-3 War Diary 58 Brigade RFA - August 1918 - 26th August

[11] WO 95/575/4 Headquarters Branches and Services: General Staff Cavalry Corps  September-1918

[12] WO 95/575/4 War Diary Headquarters Branches and Services: General Staff Cavalry Corps September-1918 - 20th September

[13] WO 95/575/4 War Diary Headquarters Branches and Services: General Staff Cavalry Corps September-1918 - 22nd September

[14] WO 95/575/52 Headquarters Branches and Services: General Staff Cavalry Corps October-1918 - 26th October

[15] WO-95-1801-4 War Diary 58 Brigade RFA - 26th October

[16] WO-95-1801-4 War Diary 58 Brigade RFA - 58th Brigade order no 22

[17] History – 58th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery (58fab.com)

Edited by ianjonesncl

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