A Record of the Naval, Military, Social, Commercial and Industrial activities of the
citizens of Liverpool, Birkenhead, Bootle and Wallasey.

Reproduced from the 'Liverpool Courier' - a special report in 76 parts

 

LIVERPOOL'S TERRITORIAL ARTILLERY CORPS

17 June 1919 Part XXI (21)

   Proud as Liverpool may be of the record of its Territorial Infantry, it has equal reason to glory in the achievements of their branches of the Royal Regiment of Artillery during a war which has exalted the value of their great arm beyond all conception. During the six years prior to the war the West Lancashire Territorial Association had been successful in developing the organisation of the Artillery to a considerable extent, and it was still being pushed forward with determination when the day of mobilisation came.

THE 1st WEST LANCASHIRE BRIGADE, ROYAL FIELD ARTILLERY,

had been in camp at Larkhill, Salisbury Plain, during the fortnight before Bank Holiday, 1914, under Lieut.-Colonel L.J. Osborne, V.D., who has since won the D.S.O. It consisted of three batteries. The 1st Battery was commanded by Major A.N. Walker, an eminent Liverpool eye specialist, who, when the extraordinary demand came for officers, transferred to the R.A.M.C., and was killed in France whilst in command of a Field Ambulance. The 2nd Battery was commanded by Major G.L. Walker, who is now a lieut.-colonel; whilst the 3rd Battery was under the command of Major R.R. Heap, one of Liverpool’s most hearty and genial citizens, who, we regret to say passed away after retiring from the service, his death at a comparatively early age being probably due to his gallant determination to take a full share in this great war.

   Receiving warning of impending events the Brigade began its return to Liverpool on Saturday, August 1st. Whilst en route for the station with his battery, one of its officers met with a fatal accident. This was Second-Lieut. E.M. Cohan, an exceptionally keen and able officer. Thrown by his horse – a high-spirited animal which had been excited by the tremendous bustle which animated the scene – he sustained a fracture of the skull, and although removed to a London hospital for operation died without regaining consciousness. He was almost certainly the first Briton to render his life for the Motherland in this war.

   When the Brigade arrived at its headquarters, they were addressed by Lieut.-Colonel Osborne who warned them of the inevitability of mobilisation. Within 48 hours after, this had been effected; the 1st Battery had taken up its war station at Crosby, the 2nd Battery occupied a similar position at Bidston, and the 3rd Battery were under orders to proceed to Ireland, but these were countermanded. Held in reserve instead, they proceeded to Allerton, but after a week’s stay there they were transferred to Knowsley Park, together with the Brigade Ammunition Column, in training with other Brigades of the Divisional Artillery, under the command of Brig.-General Gay, D.S.O., an exceptionally competent General, whose transference to a higher command at a later date was deeply regretted. The 1st and 2nd Batteries were also actively engaged in training and in the preparation of coast defences on their war stations.

   November 1st saw the entire Brigade entraining for the South of England. They were allocated to the force for the defence of London, and were billeted in Brasted and Sundridge, in Kent. Officers and men alike speak in the terms of the highest praise concerning the kindness and hospitality shown by the people on whom they were billeted. At Christmas, 1914, the Brigade was entertained to dinner by Robert Mond, Esq., J.P. (of Brunner, Mond and Co.), at his residence, “Coomb Bank,” Sundridge. On June 3rd, 1915, they began a four hours’ route march to the Isle of Thanet, being stationed at Ash and Estrey, near Sandwich, and whilst in this district took an active part in anti-aircraft work. Those of our readers who have any friends among the troops who represented Liverpool in Kent will know that there were probably hundreds of occasions when German aircraft were over Kent of which we were kept in entire ignorance.

   During the last week in August, 1915, orders were received to prepare for service overseas. Concentrating at Canterbury, the Brigade received a complete new outfit of guns of the modern 18-pounder type, some of the finest horses a brigade could wish to have, and equipment of the latest pattern. Embarkation orders were received about the middle of September, and the Brigade left Southampton on a Monday morning. The Brigade was in action on Kemmel Hill, near Ypres, the following Sunday morning, i.e., six days after leaving England. They were behind the 2nd Canadian Division, who had just arrived in France and who had no artillery of their own. They remained on that sector until the 21st December, when they came back into rest billets. They were then sent to the St. Omer area, where they spent Christmas. Here the Brigade was re-equipped and shortly afterwards received orders to move to Allery, near Amiens. This was the concentration place for the troops who were to form the 55th Division, into which the Brigade was incorporated.

THE 3rd WEST LANCASHIRE BRIGADE, ROYAL FIELD ARTILLERY,

  known in the old volunteering days as the 6th Lancashire Artillery, consisted of three batteries and an ammunition column, one battery and the latter being stationed at Admiral-street, another at Garston, and the third at Widnes. The Brigade, with its twelve 18-pounder guns, were at Larkhill, Salisbury Plain, for their annual training, under Lieut.-Colonel James P. Reynolds, during the last two weeks in July, 1914. Two days after their return to Liverpool they were mobilised, and after ten days spent in the completion of their equipment and the requisitioning of horses and vehicles, the brigade, with every officer and man accounted for, moved out to Knowsley Park for training. The call to volunteer for active service had met with an enthusiastic response, and several hundreds of would-be recruits had registered for service with the Brigade before it proceeded to Knowsley.

   Lieut.-Colonel Reynolds is too well-known in Liverpool for it to be necessary for us to say very much about him. He had been a zealous Volunteer, having joined the Brigade in 1896, and a year after it became part of the Territorial Force he was promoted to the command in succession to Lieut.-Colonel W.W. Gossage, V.D., who is now the Honorary Colonel of the Brigade. His long association with the Brigade, and his thorough efficiency in all that pertains to its duties, had gained for him the absolute confidence of officers and men alike, whilst the deep interest he had taken in their individual welfare endeared him to one and all.

   It was not until September 26th, 1915, that the Brigade left Canterbury for France. Before long the 3rd Brigade, like the first, was attached to the 2nd Canadian Division, taking up their position on the Wytschaete-Messines Ridge. Here they remained until towards the end of the year, when they were withdrawn to form part of the Divisional Artillery of the West Lancashire Division. Their removal drew a tribute from the General Officer Commanding the Canadians, which appeared in Divisional Orders, as follows: “On the departure of the W.L.D.C. from this Command the G.O.C. wishes to place on record his warm appreciation of the good work they have done during the past three months, and of the cheerful co-operation which they have always accorded to the Infantry. He very much regrets losing their services.”

THE FOURTH WEST LANCASHIRE (HOWITZER) BRIGADE

had only arrived at the training camp at Larkhill on Sunday, August 3rd, when they were ordered by the War Office to return to their Headquarters in Liverpool. It was, of course, impossible for them to move immediately, and before they could get away they received instructions to hand over 104 horses to the Expeditionary Force. Twenty minutes after they had done so, these horse were on route for France. It seems evident that someone in authority was aware of the fact that the West Lancashire Association had established a stable and training school for horses. The Brigade now set out upon a night march of 21 miles across Salisbury Plain to secure better train facilities, and reached Liverpool at 2 p.m. on Bank Holiday Tuesday, when they were quartered for a time at their Headquarters. Soon there came a telegram from the War Office asking the Brigade to volunteer for foreign service. Lieut.-Col. S. Heywood Melly, who had been in command of the Brigade for some years, called a parade, and the majority of the men enthusiastically assented to their services being freely offered.

   From Headquarters they were soon transferred to Allerton Priory for training, where they remained until almost the end of October, 1914, when they joined the rest of the Divisional Artillery in Kent, being stationed at Sevenoaks till May, and then at Canterbury until the end of September, 1915. Their training during the latter period was quite intensive in character, and each Battery had a period of special training at Larkhill.

   Our readers will have noticed that the West Lancashire Artillery were retained in England for a much longer period than the Infantry. The reason for this is to be found in the fact that the drain upon our Infantry had been so great that it was necessary to reinforce the Expeditionary Force more quickly with Infantry than with Artillery. It was only when the thin line had been strengthened by the arrival of the first Kitchener Battalion that it became possible to reorganise the West Lancashire Division, and it was as a step in that direction that we find the West Lancashire Artillery proceeding overseas late in 1915.

   It is a fact of which we may be proud that all ranks were disgusted with the delay, which they could not understand, and anxious to put their knowledge and training into practical effect against the enemy, but it is none the less true that the longer period of training was of the greatest possible service, and enabled the Brigade to achieve greater distinction than if it had been sent overseas in the spring. Colonel Melly is especially proud of the manner in which the Brigade took over an entirely new set of guns requiring an entirely different drill for working, only ten days before proceeding overseas, and that they went almost straight into action in France and were able to “carry on” without the slightest difficulty.

   Arriving in France, they were entrained to Bailleul, and proceeded thence to Berthen, near the famous Mont-des-Cats. The same evening they had taken up their Battery positions, and were ready for the exchange of daily “hate.” Attached to the Second Canadian Division, they remained here until December, when, in view of the formation of the 55th Division, they were withdrawn from the front line.

   Only a week before this they had the misfortune to have to part with Lieut.-Col. Melly, who was invalided home amidst universal regrets from both the officers and men of the Brigade.

THE LANCASHIRE HEAVY BRIGADE, ROYAL GARRISON ARTILLERY

was composed of two batteries, each having an ammunition column attached. It was under the command of Lieut.-Colonel D.C. Pugh, one of Liverpool’s veteran volunteer officers, who took the Volunteer and Territorial Force seriously, and who, although denied by the war organisation of the Brigade from active service with it, as each Battery became an independent command, flung himself wholeheartedly into the fray, and served first as Commandant Royal Artillery under Brigadier-General Edwards on the Mersey Defences, and at a later date organised, at the request of the War Office, a Divisional Ammunition Column, with which he proceeded to Egypt, and after many months of duty on the Suez Canal and in the desert reached Palestine as part of the British Army which was destined to achieve such glorious successes against the Turk. For these services he received the D.S.O., and now rejoices in the fact that despite age and its accompanying physical disabilities he has crowned his career as a civilian soldier by sharing to the fullest possible extent in upholding the honour of British arms in the field.

   The Heavy Brigade may certainly claim that they were among the first of Liverpool’s Territorials to engage in active war service, for on the afternoon of Bank Holiday Sunday, 1914, they were called up, a measure of precaution which proves how great an improvement had been effected in the British war machine since the South African muddle had revealed its inadequacy.

   As we have already shown, mobilisation meant that the two Batteries forming the Brigade became independent units (the First Battery), which, under the command of Major J.C. Stitt, proceeded to their War Station at Bidston, when they transferred to Kent for training. Here they remained until the end of November, 1915, when they proceeded to Woolwich, and after being re-equipped at that great artillery depot, proceeded to France a week before Christmas. Their further operations must be kept for description at another time.

The Second Battery.

   The Second Battery, under Major Winter, received instructions on the following day to proceed to Barrow-in-Furness – one section was allocated to a station on the Ramsden Dock, whilst the other took up a position on Roa Island, at the entrance to the channel. They remained at these posts until June, 1915, meanwhile acting as a training centre for R.G.A. recruits. The bombardment of the East Coast by German warships led to the despatch of Capt. J. Rowland Marsh, with the Left Section to Roker, near Sunderland; whilst the Right Section proceeded to Sussex, where they formed part of the great force retained in this part of the country to repel any attempt at an invasion. In August, 1915, the Battery was re-united by the arrival of the Left Section in Sussex, and vigorous courses of training were undertaken in readiness for the great adventure in France, for which officers and men alike were straining at the leash. With the advent of 1916 came their turn to visit Woolwich, and February, 1916, saw them safely across the Channel. The chronicle of their active service in France is still to be written; suffice it for the present to say that they still form part of the Army of Occupation.

 

Next Tuesday’s article will deal with the Lancashire and Cheshire Royal Garrison Artillery and the Lancashire (Fortress) Engineers.

 
 

READ Part XX (20) LIVERPOOL'S TERRITORIAL INFANTRY: Their Training and Fighting in 1914-1915

READ Part XXII (22) THE LANCASHIRE AND CHESHIRE RGA and the LANCASHIRE (Fortress) ENGINEERS

 
 
 
 

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