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498 Siege Battery


eamann
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Hello!

Can anyone help me find out whereabouts the 498 Siege Battery of the RGA would have been posted in France in April 1918? Would "RGA B6, F" be a clue?

My grandfather Patrick ORourke (he spelt it mostly without an apostrophe) was sent to France in, I reckon, March 1918 and in early April he wrote as follows:

"... I must apologise for not writing sooner, but up till now I have been frightfully busy. As you will have read by now, things are very hot out here. My address is Pt. P. ORourke M346233. H.A.M.T. attached to 498 Siege Battery, R.G.A.B6, F. France. I am not allowed to say where I am situated but as long as I'm here I'll do my best to give all that is wanted of me. ..."

Shortly after that, presumably in the context of the German Spring Offensive ("things are very hot out here"), the lorry in which he was travelling was hit by a shell, the driver was killed and he was wounded and taken prisoner.

I know already that HAMT stands for "Heavy Artillery Mechanical Transport".

I would be grateful for any help in trying to understand better the context in which he fought and was made a prisoner.

Best wishes,

Eamann

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Emann,

498 Sge Bty went out to the Western Front on 19-3-1918, a battery of 4 x 6 in guns. They joined first army 25-3-1918 and subsequently became army troops with no further changes. The brigade you require for this period is 7 Brigade, and in April the HQ was I believe positioned at Noeux-les-Mines.

Rgds namesake

Paul

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Thank you very much Paul! I was not expecting to get such precise information. I'll do some Google searches now to see if I can find out more.

My grandfather's family came originally from the Sligo / Leitrim border area. Any connection with yours? Spelling is no indication as Irish names were anglicised in various ways.

Once again, thank you very much!

Eamann

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Eamann

498 Siege went out to France as Paul has indicated to 1st Army and were allotted to XIII Corps Heavy Artillery as an unbrigaded battery, as were all 6" Gun batteries.

7 Brigade RGA were not one of the Brigades that administered the unbrigaded batteries so this attachment may have been temporary. In May they were attached to the 70th Brigade RGA which I suspect was only for tactical purposes.

I have an order from the 1st May'18 with regard to them and two pages of a hand written letter by the Captain of 498 Siege who was commanding the left section of the battery, or 498 LX as written.

This may come after the period your interested in. However, the letter, dated the 2nd May, indicates they were in an orchard some 17,500 yards from Lestrem Station which was their objective. The left section only was in action, the rest of the battery being unable to take up position.

Stuart

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It is always so difficult establishing facts for those batteries that have no surviving official war diaries, as in the case of 498 Sge Bty, and especially difficult around the period of the March German offensive when batteries often changed HAGs’ at a moments notice.

To be honest I did not know at first where they went from DOE, and my research does not cover Corps level, but establishing those Brigades listed as Army Troops on the NA catalogue is where I looked first. Eventually reaching 7 Brigade and starting from their March DOE. This month of their diary ends abruptly on March 20th, which is hardly surprising. However on the 1-4-18 I found the following entry, in relation to 481 Sge Bty, another 6 in Gun battery and also then Army Troops.

“481 SB. This bty passes into GMQ reserve at Gomehem (cannot decipher) but remains under administration of 7 Bde RGA. The Guns and stores being taken over by 498 SB (Major Theobold).”

Their position was given as Nouex Les Mines but it is not clear what 498 did with their own 4 guns, or if those of 481 were their first weapons.

Further entries occur on the 4th and 5th and confirm their participation under 7 Bde, when it mentions twice “Brigade Commander visited battery positions of Alpha, and 498 SB”. Alpha was the code for 27 Sge Bty and the BC was Lt Col Gee. A few other mentions occur in relation to their ‘neutralizing enemy battery positions’.

We pick 498 SB up again on the 26-4-18 “one section of 498 siege Battery attached to 70 Bde position found at V.15.(France sheet 36B).” This ties in nicely with the letter that Essdee mentions from the Captain of 498.

Also from 70 Brigade diary on the 27-5-1918 “right section 498 Sge Bty attached 70 bde RGA.” And interestingly later on the 27-7-1918 it records “ 3 guns 498 Sge Bty condemned” which is indicative of very heavy wear over a relatively short period of time.

So clearly 498 was in both Bdes, but I am not clear whether for tactical or administration purposes. I would proffer that the hostile attack around the 9-4-18 amid the chaos of the allied retreat is the most likely that fits in with the capture of Patrick although there is no direct mention in the diary of prisoners taken.

Rgds Paul

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Dear Paul and Stuart,

I am very grateful to both of you for all the trouble you have taken to try and help me locate the area where my grandfather was made prisoner.

The letter I quoted from in my initial post was written on a Thursday in early April, either 4th. or 11th., for on 28th. April Paddy wrote a letter home from Friedrichsfeld POW camp. That would indicate that he was captured, as Paul suggests, in the context of the hostile attack around 9 April.

If the 498 RGA had four guns, how many soldiers would there have been in attendance? And how many men from the Mechanical Transport arm of the ASC (where my grandfather served) would have been attached to the battery? Am I right in thinking that the main work of the MT was transporting munition from the rear up to the guns and for hauling the guns around?

I have tried to resume what you have told me as follows. Please correct me if I have got some of it wrong. Some of the detail you give go above my head – HAG, DOE, GMQ... This weekend I'll try and do some homework to understand the relationship between armies, corps and brigades.

"On 19 March 1918 the 498 RGA siege battery, consisting of four 6" guns, went out to the Western Front under the command of Major Theobold.

On 25 March 1918 they joined the First Army and were allotted to XIII Corps Heavy Artillery as an unbrigaded battery (as were all 6" gun batteries). They were assigned to the 7th. Brigade RGA, whose HQ in April was positioned at Noeux-les-Mines, 2 or 3 km south of Béthune. (The 7th. Brigade RGA was not one of the Brigades that administered the unbrigaded batteries so this attachment may have been temporary). Subsequently they became army troops with no further changes.

On 2 May the battery was trying to reach Lestrem Station 16 km to the NE, in the direction of Lille.

On 27 July the 7th. Brigade diary records "3 guns 498 Sge Bty condemned" which is indicative of very heavy wear over a relatively short period of time."

Thank you both once again for your help!

Best wishes,

Eamann

PS The location that Paul had difficulty in deciphering was probably Gonnehem, a village three or four miles NW of Béthune.

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Eamann

I need to correct myself and add a bit more detail, got March and April mixed up and didn't look back far enough.

1st Army order 20th March'18

"" 498 Siege four 6" Guns Mk XIX due to arrive Havre on 20th march will join 1st Army, posted as follows:-

498 Siege (less one section ) to XI Corps Heavy Artillery

one section to I Corps Heavy Artillery. ""

24th April'18.... Section left I Corps HA for XIII Corps HA

2nd May'18.... Lx ( left section ) in orchard as previous post under XIII Corps HA

24th May'18.... 498 Siege left XI Corps HA ... this must be the right section, Rx.

I am a bit puzzled as to the reason for or rather the way in which he may have been captured. The March Offensive was mainly directed at the juncture of the 3rd and 5th Armies, aimed at Amiens, who lost ground at an alrming rate and were forced to abandon guns after spiking them or at least removing sights and breach blocks.

In April the 1st Army, north of the 3rd, were heavily shelled at times but as far as I know didn't loose ground in the same way as the other two. In fact the diaries of I, XI and XIII Corps say nothing of withdrawal of batteries to temporary position, guns lost etc. For most of this period enemy artillery activity is noted as normal.

I wonder whether or not the Left Section's MT, which moved the two guns ( two guns = one section ) from the I Corps Ha to the XIII Corps HA on the 24th April, were some how caught plodding along the road with two great lumps of ordnance in tow. Just a thought.

Stuart

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Dear Stuart,

Thank you very much for your further comments.

As regards the circumstances in which my grandfather was captured, all I know for certain is what he himself says in a card posted on 28 April, "I have had the bad luck to be badly wounded in the left hip, and also captured at the beginning of this month". His brother told me that the vehicle in which my grandfather was travelling was hit by a shell.

In the light of his capture having taken place at the beginning of April, would I be right in saying that my grandfather was attached to the XI Corps rather than to XIII?

Can you tell me please what HA, GMQ, Mk XIX and DOE mean?

Where can the diaries of the Armies, Corps and Divisions be consulted?

Once again, thank you very much for all your help!

Best wishes,

Eamann

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Eamann

In the light of his capture having taken place at the beginning of April, would I be right in saying that my grandfather was attached to the XI Corps rather than to XIII?

I was wondering about XI Corps, who were at the time the centre Corps of 1st Army. It would be fairly easy using Beckes Order of Battle to identify the Divisions XI Corps HA were covering and see what was happening on their fronts.

Can you tell me please what HA, GMQ, Mk XIX and DOE mean?

HA.. Heavy Artillery, QMG... Quarter Master General, Mk XIX.... Mark 19, the later version of the 6" Gun, DOE... Date of Entry, this relates to entry into theatre

Where can the diaries of the Armies, Corps and Divisions be consulted?

You can view all of the above Artillery diaries at either The National Archives, Kew or The Royal Arsenal Woolwich. If i were you I'd go to Kew only because you can take a camera and photograph the pages that cover the period your interested in.

You would need to look through the Commander Royal Artillery XI Corps, Commander Heavy Artillery XI Corps and the Brigade Artillery Commanders, yet to be identified. There is a problem with tracking batteries such as 498 Siege, especially in 1918.

Most of the Siege and Heavy batteries were re-brigaded in Dec'17 from the practice adopted in Mar'16 of grouping guns as and where required. This temporary grouping of guns along with its equally temporary command structure was abandoned by the middle of Dec'17.

The Brigade system was reintroduced with the formation of four Brigade types producing a permanent Brigade command structure each having a set number of guns of different natures. This covered the 6", 8", 9.2" Howitzers of the Siege batteries and the 60 Pounders of the heavy batteries. All of the other guns including the 6" Guns of 498 were un-Brigaded and were grouped in a similar manner to that of 1916/17. There were ten spare Group/Brigade HQ's assigned to administer these guns and the moving around of these batteries happened in the same way as before but to a lesser degree.

There were batteries which fall into neither catagory and 498 Siege was one. They were sent to the 1st Army and sections allotted to XI and I Corps, they were Corps assets sent where required, sometimes under the control of a Divisional Artillery Commander, sometimes attached to a Brigade RGA ie 7th Brigade RGA on a short lease for tactical purposes.

The Brigades were responsible for maintaining a diary and as these odd batteries didn't have a parent Brigade or Group they often don't get mentioned even when attached.

Stuart

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Stuart,

thank you once again for sharing your expertise with me!

In the meantime Paul has pointed me to a thread on the composition of a SB, including the MT, to which you contributed. Very informative.

I have written to the International Red Cross to enquire if they have a file on my grandfather. If they do, perhaps that will shed some light on the circumstances of his capture.

Best wishes,

Eamann

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Eamann

The following should be of interest, a few extracts from a 42nd Brigade RGA report

…..all wires were cut with the exception to the one to ARK X26c 50.65 ( 498 S.B. )

……….. while ARK’s guns were being pulled out the enemy lengthened onto their position

………….Half an hour after evacuating ARKs position direct hits were obtained on each of the pits and an enemy plane flying very low machine gunned it as well, a few casualties occurring. After turning the corner at ESSARS CHURCH, X25a 60.40, a caterpillar was hit and together with a Mk XIX blown into a ditch, an officer Lt Wilkinson ( since died ) and several OR’s killed and wounded. This gun was successfully pulled out at about 4-0 am on the night of the 9/10th.

I've also added a little map showing where this happened, if you PM me your email I will post the pages over to you which are much more descriptive of the situation as a whole. I'll send a less jazzy map if you want.

Stuart

post-6041-1235513228.jpg

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