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Jeremy Churchill

284 and 255 Siege Batteries, RGA

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Jeremy Churchill

Hi there,

I'm researching my great-uncle, 2nd Lieutenant Harold Arthur Hickling Churchill, who served in 284 Siege Battery between March 1917 (may have been as early as late 1915 or 1916 - his file in the National Archives is very patchy, and the London Gazette entries don't make sense, sometimes!) until gassed (mustard gas shell) 16th March 1918 at Arras.

I have read that 284 Siege Battery RGA joined 84th Heavy Artillery Group 5 September 1917, left 31 October 1917. 1 September 1917, HAG HQ at Dickebusch. Batteries moved to positions east of Zillebeke by 1 October 1917. In action throughout September-November actions of battle of Passchendaele. By March 1918, 284 Siege Battery was in the 83rd Brigade RGA, XIII Corps.

On his return to the front in what I assume must have been early May 1918, he seems to have gone to 255 Siege Battery, 51st Brigade Royal Garrison Artillery, attached to 4th Army. By Nov. 1918 51st Brigade consisted of 137, 138, 161, 169, 255 & 283 Batts. He served with 255 Siege Battery until demobilized 25/3/19.

For much of his time at the front, he was an acting Captain while serving as 2iC 284 and 255 Siege Batteries. He managed to get trench foot in March 1917 which was evidently bad enough for him to be sent back to England until late September 1917.

If anyone can fill in any blanks - particularly telling me what sort of guns these batteries used and where they were stationed, I would be most grateful. I'm aware that there is a War Diary for 284 Siege Battery between March 1917 and Feb. 1918 under reference WO 95/478 at the National Archives, but haven't had a chance to read it yet. Nothing for any other dates, and I haven't been able to find anything on 255 Batt.

N.B. I know "The Long, Long Trail" doesn't list 284 Siege Battery, but I've checked the number. The other thing I want to read when I next get to Kew is the list of Royal Artillery units under reference WO95/5494 . . .

His medal card is quite spectacularly uninformative and inaccurate. If anyone has any other ideas/sources, all suggestions would be welcome.

Regards

Jeremy Churchill

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ororkep

Jeremy,

284 Sge Bty were originally armed with 4 x 8 in Hows which they handed over to 214 sge Bty on the 5-5-1917. They were rearmed with 4 x 6 in Hows (26 cwt) on the 8-5-1917 and were made upto 6 guns in October, the personnel having already joined in August from 399 Sge Bty.

Joining 83 HAG 8-11-1917, March 1918 finds them positioned near ECURIE on counter battery work. Destructive shoots and neutralising during the day, and harassing fire at night. On the 16th during the early hours of the morning around 400 rounds of Mustard Gas were fired on 284 Sge Bty, H position, resulting in numerous casualties, some 4 Officers and 45 ORs’. The following day three guns of 284 fired 40 rounds with aeroplane observation on suspected gas projectiles behind enemy lines. This drew further enemy retaliation with 5.9s inflicting damage but no casualties, but left 284 seriously under strength to support allied troops when the main bombardment occurred on the 21st further South. All the guns of the brigade apart from 9.2s were instructed to be pulled out of their pits and fire from auxiliary platforms already prepared and facing in that direction.

255 Sge Bty as you correctly mentioned were under 51 HAG from the 22-12-1917, another 6 in How (26 cwt) battery that were made upto 6 guns in Feb 1918 although the personnel joined in Sep 1917 from 430 Sge Bty. Unfortunately there is no surviving official war diary for 255 but the 51 Brigade does cover the period you require under NA ref WO95/473.

Rgds Paul

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Jeremy Churchill

Dear Paul,

Thank you so much for all that. It really helps to know a bit more about what he was doing and explain what happened. What you've said explains how he was gassed, but I'm still curious to know how an RGA officer managed to contract serious trench foot in March 1917 - I realise battery position and gun pits were just as likely to be wet and muddy in winter as the trenches themselves, but surely an RGA officer would have the opportunity to change his socks every day - wouldn't he?

I've found Ecurie on the (modern) map - must try to find a period map. The Western Front Association website says that they're about to release a further selection of maps of the Arras area on DVD.

May I ask where all that information came from? I've read some units' war diaries but they rarely mention details like equipment. I will be looking at NA ref WO 95/473 as soon as I get a chance to get up there - thanks for that tip. Are there any RGA books which are worth looking at? I know that there are one or two unit histories available, but I hadn't bought any of those yet without knowing what equipment they used - I wanted something reasonably relevant to my great-uncle's service.

Once again - thank you very much indeed.

Regards

Jeremy Churchill

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Robert Dunlop

In the build-up to the Battle of Pilckem Ridge (July 31st 1917) 284th Siege Battery was attached to 60th Heavy Artillery Group, Right Counter Battery Group, II Corps. There are several references to the battery in 60 HAG's War Diary. I have transcribed material from 284th SB's War Diary:

"284 Siege Battery WO 95/478 Armament 4 6“ 26 cwt BL Howitzers Mark I Right CB Group

Near Voormazeele 1917

July 1 – Gun positions:- RX-I31a95.75 LX – I25c 65.15

2 – Gun no 357 sent to Workshop. Packings of recuperator piston stuffing box to be renewed, Buffer extension joint to be remade and Left hand plunger quick elevating gear to be repaired.

3 – Work on new gun positions I33 d 80.56

4, 5, 6 – ditto

7 – 7.10 pm – 14 rounds on Jy 36. Hostile battery. Aeroplane shoot.

8 – Gun no 357 from Workshop to Siege Park. Other three guns from position to Siege Park.

9 – 11.30pm – Vacated position and proceeded to billets at H16a 4.4 Battery position taken over by 252 (Siege) Battery RGA.

10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 – Work on new position.

17 – 4 am – Two LX guns, Nos 1229 and 351 placed in position at I33d80.56

18 – Work on position and sap

19 – Two RX guns Nos 357 and 1195 placed in position at I 33 d 80 56

20, 21 – Work on position and sap

22 – 4.20 pm 23 rounds on cross roads at J 30 c 0.8 – Zero line registration by aeroplane.

23 – 86 rounds on J.36.d.2.8 – hostile battery. Aeroplane shoot.

24 – 5.45 pm – 24 rounds, Programme “C”; 7.10 pm 40 rounds, programme “C”

25 – 12 noon – 200 rounds on area JZ36, JZ57 and J 29a20.70; 32 rounds on area J 35b6.7

26 – 5.20 pm – 96 rounds on programme “C”; 6.14 pm 2 rounds J36d28.17; 12 rounds J36d8.9 (NF)

27 – 4.50 pm 20 rounds on JZ42 JY52; 5 pm 32 rounds programme C; 6.11 pm 20 rounds JZ26 & JZ35; 6.50 pm 32 rounds JZ 59

28 – 5.21 am 40 rounds programme C; 5.54 am 8 rounds JZ 58 (NF); 12 noon 100 rounds copse, center point J35b45.68; 6.30 pm 30 rounds JY 50, JY52 and JZ31; 7.15 pm 40 rounds on programme C; 6.30 pm – 300 rounds JZ 60 –aeroplane shoot

29 – 7 pm – 150 rounds J36a45.10 to J36c45.85

30 – 12 noon – 100 rounds J35.b.92.40; 300 rounds JZ44 (destructive shoot)

31 – 1.30 am 24 rounds J30c0.8; 1 am – 24 rounds operation target; 3.50 am 450 rounds operation target.

Place: I33d80.56

1.8.17 – 2 pm Fired 151 rounds on Operation Targets (JZ45, JZ42, JZ10, J30c30.45); 6pm 10 rounds each on JW19, JX3, JX9; 8 pm – 140 rounds on J30c30.43 to 30.25

2 – 12 noon 100 rounds J23b90.88 to 24a10.90 to 40.55 to 18.18 (concentration); 2.30 pm 30 rounds JZ 39 and JX82 (group order); 3.20 pm 40 rounds on JZ42; 3.45 20 rounds JZ65 and JZ58; 5.20pm 30 rounds JZ50, JZ55, JZ18. Fairly heavy shell fire taking place whilst battery in action.

3 - 3.40pm 10 rounds each JZ34, JZ57, JZ59; 7 pm 32 rounds on operation targets; 7.30 pm 100 rounds on J29d35.50 to 45.60 to 70.20 (concentration); 8.45 pm 10 rounds each JZ64, JZ52. Heavy shelling of canal bank and position with 5.9” 4.2” and HV intermittently throughout the 24 hours.

4 – 3.55 am 24 rounds on Operation Targets

5 – 9.35 pm – 50 rounds on SOS targets on receipt of message “Defend Right Division”; 9.56 pm 43 rounds on Operation Targets (orders received from Group). 1 OR wounded.

6 – 11 am – 100 rounds JZ50 (Concentration shoot); 5.30 pm 16 rounds JZ57, jZ36 ordered by group; 5.50 pm 24 rounds Operation Targets. From 1.30 pm until 5.30 pm battery position very heavily shelled chiefly with 5.9” but some 4.2” and some 8 “, also a few HV. No 3 gun sight bracket and carrier damaged by shell fire; also 25 cartridges and 32 fuzes destroyed. Most of the rounds were plus as regards gun positions

7 – Battery position again heavily shelled from 1.30 pm to 4.30 pm but fire not so intense as yesterday and no damage done. One OR wounded. No 3 gun again in action.

8 – No 1 gun received direct hit on muzzle and front cap. Gun rendered unserviceable. During the night a direct hit in gun pit of No 4 gun but no damage done to piece. Battery position and Canal Back in rear heavily shelled during the night, with all calibres from 4.2” to 9.45”. 5.15 pm – 8 rounds on J23c3.6. NF received by Group and passed to us. 9.45pm – 42 rounds on Operation Targets (SOS ordered by Group) 5 min intense, 5 min moderate.

9 – Battery very heavily shelled with 5.9” and 8” from about 120 degree grid (reported twice to Group). At first about 1 round in 45 secs, later about 8 rounds per minute. 4 casualties. Hostile shelling eased down about 12.15 pm. Ammunition left below the 60 pdr battery (17 HB). Shelling of surrounding area practically all the time.

10 – 4.38 am - Fired 48 rounds on Programme Targets in accordance with Operation Order in conjunction with capture of Black Line. 5.25 am 20 rounds on JZ28 (NF from Wireless); 5.35 am 20 rounds JZ38 (NF from Wireless); 5.45 am 20 rounds JZ50 (NF from Wireless); 10.30 am 20 rounds J29a0.8 (NF from Wireless); 10.35 am 20 rounds JZ55 (NF from Wireless); 1.35 pm 20 rounds JZ58 (MQNF from Wireless but no observations); 2.15 pm 20 rounds JZ58 (NF from Wireless); 8pm 20 rounds J35.b.6.5 (NF from Wireless); 8.30 pm 10 rounds J36.b.6.5; 10 rounds JZ50; 10 rounds J23.d.75.25 (Ordered by Group). Intermittent shelling of battery position throughout the whole 24 hours with shells of varying calibres, mostly 4.2” and 5.9” but some HV and some 8” also used, chiefly with instantaneous fuzes.

11 – Targets JZ2, JZ9 (NF from Wireless); JZ44, JZ48 (Ordered by Group); 6 pm Fired 29 rounds Programme Targets. Heavy shelling throughout, unable to complete task.

12 – Programme targets (OO BM 129/54); JZ45 and Copse. Concentration target interrupted by aeroplane shoot; 300 rounds JZ65 Destructive shoot; JZ58 (NF from Wireless); JZ60, JZ67, K.31.a.20.15 ordered by Group. Shell in gun pit No 2 gun, too dark to see if Gun is badly damaged.

13 – 300 rounds J36a10.50 for destruction with aeroplane observation. Heavy gas shelling during the hours of darkness.

14 – 210 rounds J.30.a.25.20 for destruction with aeroplane observation. 1 fire caused and 1 explosion; J.17.d.95.95 concentration target. All guns then out of action, chiefly due to Buffer trouble. No 4 gun in action again.

15 – 24 rounds Programme Targets. No4 gun out of action again. No 4 in action again 10 rounds J.36.c.75.30 concentration. Battery shelled out. 3 casualties. Very heavy shelling at I33d80.56 and surrounding area and canal bank. Large shell hit canal bank and blew in the Central Tunnel breaking down all communications both with Group and Battery.

16 – Communication re-established by taking line outside tunnel to get past the block in tunnel made by shell."

Robert

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spider

The Order of Battle for the 11/11/1918 shows:

255 Bty as part of the 51st (mixed) Bde RGA 4th Army with 60 pounders.

284 Bty as part of the 83rd (Mixed) Bde RGA 4th Army with 6 inch Howitzers.

23 October 1918 shows the 51 Bde at the break out - Selles, part of the corp Reserve of guns under Brig Gen Humphrey's

From the History of the Royal Regiment of Artillery - Western Front 1914-1918

Have you done any research with the Firepower Museum. Well worth a visit to there archives.

Spider

60 Pounder

Spider

post-2566-1242525173.jpg

post-2566-1242525973.jpg

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essdee

Jeremy

" The other thing I want to read when I next get to Kew is the list of Royal Artillery units under reference WO95/5494 . . ."

If you PM me your email adress I'll send the pages you want on.

284 Siege arrived in France on the 27th March'17 so I was wondering when and where he managed to get trench foot in March'17

Stuart

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Jeremy Churchill

Gentlemen,

Thank you all very much indeed for your replies. I'm sorry this acknowledgement is so late, but work's been getting in the way of the interesting stuff this last week!

Robert - Thank you very much indeed for transcribing all that - must have taken a lot of time! I had no idea that some units' war diaries were so detailed - most of the ones I've looked at so far are very superficial. That'll make it all the more interesting to read when I do get to Kew. Thanks again.

Spider - Thanks to you as well. Up till your message I had begun to think that Siege Batteries used howitzers and Heavy Batteries used guns, so wasn't thinking in terms of 60-pdrs. I've got The History of the Royal Regiment of Artillery - Western Front 1914-1918 on order from the library. I'd seen it before but hadn't bought a copy as I didn't know how detailed it is.

essdee - I'm not sure that he was in 284 Batt when he got trench foot. His file is a real mess - very patchy, and a lot of the stuff is written in badly-faded pen or pencil on low-grade toilet paper (no wonder they called it bumf!). 284 Batt is the first unit I could decipher, but I've learned a lot since then, so I'm going back again for a second look. Might see something I missed first time round. I haven't been to the Royal Artillery Museum yet - have been dividing my time between the IWM and the NAtional Archives. But I'll give them a try as soon as I can.

Thanks again to you all

Jeremy

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ororkep

Jeremy,

Sorry but the 51 Bde orbit #5 is incorrect, it should read:

60 pounders for 137 and 138 Hvy Btys’; 6 in Hows for 255, and 283 Sge Btys’;169 Sge Bty with 8 in Hows and 161 Sge Bty with 9.2 in Hows.

Easily done as the layout of the diagram in that book makes it very hard to interpret correctly.

For a suitable starter book, you might consider ‘The History of 135 Sge Bty RGA’. The paperback version from N&M can easily be purchased for under £15. Though concerning an 8 in Howitzer Battery rather than a 6 in one, they fought along side your interest during their time together in 83 Bde; and 284 is mentioned a couple of times and appears on a positional map within.

...and in answer to your question, my sources are: i) the allocations and ii) the 83 Brigade war diary which you will find in the same NA box file as that of 284 SB.

Rgds Paul

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Jeremy Churchill

Dear Paul,

Thanks again. I've ordered the ‘The History of 135 Sge Bty RGA’. from N&M and I've got The History of the Royal Regiment of Artillery - Western Front 1914-1918 on order from the library. Looks like it's going to be a quiet summer . . . :>)

Regards

Jeremy

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Guest spagwit

Hi there Jeremy. I'm a new member - first time I have seen this post. I'm afraid I can't fill in many blanks. However, I'm interested to know where your research took you, because my own grandfather, Charles Taylor, served in 284 Siege Battery from January 1918 (also as an acting Captain, at least in the later stages of the war). He was in 230 Siege Battery prior to that. I've seen the war diaries in the PRO at Kew - fills in some of the blanks for me, but not all of them.

I do also have this pic, below, which I only recently discovered inside a copy of 'The War of the Guns' given to me by my grandmother (his wife). I'm not sure if it's of interest but it could well be - and probably is - of either 230 Siege Battery or 284 Siege Battery. My grandfather is, I think, second from the right on the front row.

Regards

Jim

Hi there,

I'm researching my great-uncle, 2nd Lieutenant Harold Arthur Hickling Churchill, who served in 284 Siege Battery between March 1917 (may have been as early as late 1915 or 1916 - his file in the National Archives is very patchy, and the London Gazette entries don't make sense, sometimes!) until gassed (mustard gas shell) 16th March 1918 at Arras.

I have read that 284 Siege Battery RGA joined 84th Heavy Artillery Group 5 September 1917, left 31 October 1917. 1 September 1917, HAG HQ at Dickebusch. Batteries moved to positions east of Zillebeke by 1 October 1917. In action throughout September-November actions of battle of Passchendaele. By March 1918, 284 Siege Battery was in the 83rd Brigade RGA, XIII Corps.

On his return to the front in what I assume must have been early May 1918, he seems to have gone to 255 Siege Battery, 51st Brigade Royal Garrison Artillery, attached to 4th Army. By Nov. 1918 51st Brigade consisted of 137, 138, 161, 169, 255 & 283 Batts. He served with 255 Siege Battery until demobilized 25/3/19.

For much of his time at the front, he was an acting Captain while serving as 2iC 284 and 255 Siege Batteries. He managed to get trench foot in March 1917 which was evidently bad enough for him to be sent back to England until late September 1917.

If anyone can fill in any blanks - particularly telling me what sort of guns these batteries used and where they were stationed, I would be most grateful. I'm aware that there is a War Diary for 284 Siege Battery between March 1917 and Feb. 1918 under reference WO 95/478 at the National Archives, but haven't had a chance to read it yet. Nothing for any other dates, and I haven't been able to find anything on 255 Batt.

N.B. I know "The Long, Long Trail" doesn't list 284 Siege Battery, but I've checked the number. The other thing I want to read when I next get to Kew is the list of Royal Artillery units under reference WO95/5494 . . .

His medal card is quite spectacularly uninformative and inaccurate. If anyone has any other ideas/sources, all suggestions would be welcome.

Regards

Jeremy Churchill

post-85036-0-06574700-1321208045.jpg

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rflory

Jim: Is your Captain Charles Taylor the officer by the same name who joined the Inns of Court Officer Training Corps on 26 Nov 1915 (Regt. No. 7885); went to Officer Cadet School on 15 Sept 1916; and was commissioned a 2nd Lieut, RGA on 3 Dec 1916? His home address is listed as Normanby, The Park, Grimsby.

Regards, Dick Flory

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nigelfe

Mixed Bdes RGA were normally assigned one per corps with the primary task of counter-battery fire.

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Guest spagwit

Hi Dick,

It is indeed. The very same. Is that info available online (I found it all out via his service record at Kew)? If you know anything else...

Regards,

Jim

Jim: Is your Captain Charles Taylor the officer by the same name who joined the Inns of Court Officer Training Corps on 26 Nov 1915 (Regt. No. 7885); went to Officer Cadet School on 15 Sept 1916; and was commissioned a 2nd Lieut, RGA on 3 Dec 1916? His home address is listed as Normanby, The Park, Grimsby.

Regards, Dick Flory

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rflory

Jim: The information came from The Inns of Court O.T.C. during the Great War that was published shortly after the Great War. Regards, Dick Flory

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