Wetherby War Memorial - The Great War 1914 - 1918

Corporal John William Harper

Gunter, R B N
Durrant, C M
Weston, C G
Kelly, K G
Armitage, G J
Durrant, H M L
Hargreaves, J P
March, G
Dukes, W
Fowler, R
Westerman, H
Kirk, J C
Wiggins, T A
Telford, G
Harper, J W
Alexander, H W
Mason, T F
Wilkinson, W
Brown, C
Adkin, J
Barton, F
Hobman, A
Webster, A E
March, E A
Miller, G
Hannan, E
Utley, G
Walker, F
Bygrave, E W
Chapman, E
Varley, N W
Bowen, F J
Byrom, F
Backhouse, S
Dalby, M
Crossland, A
Crossley, J S
Dean, R
Frost, A E
Hodgson, F H
Holt, J
Hood, W H
Hill, W
Kitchen, T
Linfoot, E
Metcalfe, J C
Marsden, J
Pawson, W
Precious, G
Scutt, T G
Wiggins, J
Walker, E
Wood, A
Young, T
Pratt, W
Taylor, H
Dawson, G W
Lister, J
Binge, T
Atack, G
Durham, E F
Precious, G R
Wheelhouse Smith, W
Backhouse, H
Swann, J W
Burnsides, G A
Coles, W
Kelly, H W
Miles, J G
Tapsell, K

142nd Siege Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery
Died Monday 9th April 1917, age 24

Cemetery : Aix-Noulette Communal Cemetery Extension, Pas de Calais, France
Grave Reference or Panel Number : I.E.10

Son of John and Jane Harper, of "Ravenscar," Greetham Avenue, Wetherby, Yorkshire.

John William Harper was born at Orton, Westmorland in 1892 to parents John, occupation, Farmer and Grocer, and Jane Harper. Baptized at St. Stephen's Parish Church, Kirkby Stephen, on the 18th September 1892, the 1911 Census details record that at this period the family had relocated to Harrogate, residing in premises located at 49, Dragon Avenue. John William, now aged 18 years, had at this juncture found employment at the London City & Midland Bank as a Bank Clerk, his father now being described as a Retired Farmer.

At some period between 1911-1915, the family relocated this time to the flourishing market town of Wetherby, the family residence being established at "Ravenscar," Greetham Avenue, Wetherby. Transfering to the Tadcaster branch of the London City and Midland Bank, John became active in the local Wesleyan community, his clerical skills no doubt assisting him in performing the duties of Secretary to the Wetherby Wesleyan Sunday School. A member of the Chapel Choir, it is unclear if this was at Harrogate or Wetherby, he was also a notable organ player and spent his Sunday evenings performing for the congregation at Bilton Wesleyan Chapel, Harrogate.

Enlistment & Training

Attesting for service at Tadcaster on the 24th January 1916, John was then placed on the Army Reserve Class "B," the terms of his engagement being one of Short Service Obligation i.e. "For the Duration of the War, with the Colours and in the Army Reserve." Authors Note:- John enlisted under the Derby or Group Scheme, i.e. he enlisted voluntarily before the implementation of the Military Service Act 1916, conscription. Joining the Army from Army Reserve Class "B," in effect he deferred his service to a later date before being mobilised.

On the 13th May 1916, John William Harper was mobilised, his enlistment being confirmed by the Approving Officer at Great Yarmouth on the 17th May. Allocated the serial number 80487 and posted to Number 12 Company, Number 4 Depot, Royal Garrison Artillery, it was at Yarmouth that he conducted his basic training as a Gunner. Upon promotion to this rank, Gunner John William Harper, 80487, was then posted to the ranks of the 142nd Seige Battery R.G.A. on the 10th June 1916, this Battery having been formed at Tynemouth on the 22nd May. This battery were equipped with 4 x 6 inch Howitzers, each gun with a maximum firing range of about 9,500 yards and manned by a crew of ten men.

Progressing through the ranks and promoted to the rank of Acting Bombardier on the 1st August 1916, John, along with his unit departed for the Western Front on the 9th August 1916 sailing from Southampton to Le Havre. With the Somme offensive raging for over one month, John and the men of the 142nd Seige Battery were about to enter the theatre of war at a period of reorganisation of the structure of the artillery and how it fundamentally operated.


Prior to the launch of the Somme offensive in July 1916, a major reorganisation of heavy artillery and how it actually operated had taken place. The ability of these 'heavies' to influence any offensive action had proved to be difficult in previous battles due to command structure. As a consequence, Heavy Artillery Groups (H.A.G.'s) were formed under the specific control of Armies, each group allocated by these Armies to Corps level. Each group consisting of various calibres of artillery pieces were allocated specific tasks such as counter-battery work, the bombardment of known strong points and the enemy rear areas interdicting supplies and men to the front line. As the 142nd Siege Battery arrived on the Somme, the unit began a complex series of movements to different Corps of the British Army.

Due to the absence of a surviving War Diary, tracing the movement of personnel and guns would have proved to have been an impossible task if it had not been for the valued assistance and expertise of members of the Great War Forum. The Author would like to express his appreciation to the "Pals" for the following information.

The first of these movements commenced on the 15th August when the battery were posted to Fourteenth Corps of the British Fourth Army. (Authors note:- Having previously been posted to the Thirteenth Corps Headquarters). The Thirteenth Corps had been heavily engaged in the battle for Delville Wood and were consequently withdrawn at night on the following day. Replaced by Fourteenth Corps under the command of Lieutenant-General Earl of Cavan, the 142nd were now attached to this Corps with the men during both transfers effectively acting as a "Pool Unit" to be distributed to other units within their respective allocated Corps. With the Corps establishing their Headquarters at a position referred to as 'Toad In The Hole' above Bray-sur-Somme, the Corps now set about reorganising batteries that were taken over from the Headquarters of the Thirteenth Corps Heavy Artillery.

156th S.B., R.G.A., Longueval, September 1916
IWM Q 1374. Courtesy Of I.W.M.

This reorganisation would witness the regrouping of the following units into their respective Heavy Artillery Groups as follows:-

H.Q. Batteries   92nd Siege Battery (9.2 inch Gun)

                       26th Siege Battery (6 inch Mk.VII Gun)

33rd Heavy Artillery Group (Right Group)

                      6th Siege Battery (6 inch Howitzer)

                      9th Siege Battery (6 inch Howitzer)

28th Heavy Artillery Group (Centre Group)

                     49th Siege Battery (6 inch Howitzer)

                     85th Siege Battery (12 inch Howitzer)

                     95th Siege Battery (9.2 inch Howitzer)

                    114th Siege Battery (6 inch Howitzer)

                    3rd Royal Marine Artillery (15 inch Howitzer)

                    28th Siege Battery (6 inch Howitzer)

                    66th Siege Battery (9.2 inch Howitzer)

                    220 mm French

31st Heavy Artillery Group (Left Group)

                   12th Siege Battery (9.2 inch Howitzer)

                   15th Siege Battery (6 inch Howitzer)

                   25th Siege Battery (8 inch Howitzer)

                   113th Siege Battery (6 inch Howitzer)

                   116th Siege Battery (6inch Howitzer)

29th Heavy Artillery Group (Counter-Battery Group)

                   12th Heavy Battery (60 pounder)

                   31st Heavy Battery (60 pounder)

                  115th Heavy Battery (60 pounder)

                  124th Heavy Battery (60 pounder)

                 1/1st Lancashire Heavy Battery (60 pounder)

                 75 mm French

Note:- The 9.2 inch Howitzers of 136th Siege Battery were to be utilised "to make good" the deficiencies of both 12th and 66th Siege Batteries respectively. The personnel of 105th, 110th, 136th and the 142nd were to be divided up amongst other units as ammunition detail, the officers and Staff, including the Headquarters of 57th Heavy Artillery Group remaining in Reserve at Vaux. (Source:- XIV Corps Heavy Artillery War Diary, WO95/916/2).

The Men Of The 142nd Siege Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery

The men that formed the Battery came from various parts of the country and from diverse backgrounds. On a local note, two men from East Keswick had both volunteered for military service together in October 1915 at Leeds, Gunner George Bertram Allison, 62371, and Gunner Stephen Barrett, 62372, a Market Gardener and a Warehouseman respectively. Gunner George Gagie, 80503, a Horseman and a resident of Wooler. Gunner Thomas Gillatt Bray, 80509, a Bank Clerk and a resident of Walsall. From Derby there was Gunner George Brown, 80512, a Clerk and a married man with one child. George would be seriously burned in an accident just over one month after his posting overseas. Gunner Shirley Harris, 80528, a Salesman and a married man with one child of Wigston Magna, Leicestershire. Charles Walker, 80536, a Teacher from Hull. Aged 32 years and ten months, Charles had volunteered for military service at Hull in November 1915. Gunner Charles Hargrave, 80539, married with two small children and a Tram Conductor from Laisterdyke, Bradford. From Bingley there was John Lund, a Foreman Carpenter who had enlisted at Catterick in December 1915. Another Teacher from Hull also enlisted, Francis Thomas Watmough, 80549. A religious man with an interest in poetry, Francis would be sadly killed in November 1917 near Arras. A Teacher from York, Robert March, 80561, a married man who had attested for military service at York in November 1915,  Robert would be killed in action in May 1917 aged 39 years.

The Officer Commanding the 142nd Siege Battery was one Major Frank Montresor Montresor M.C. A pre-war Regular Officer, Montresor was the son of Major-General Francis Goring Rideout, late Madras Infantry, and had changed his name by Deed Poll in January 1916. Commissioned in 1904 and a former Cadet of the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, he was an experienced officer who had been awarded the Military Cross in February 1915 for actions whilst serving with the 3rd Siege Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery, at Hooge, Ypres, on the 17th of November 1914. 

Attachment To The 6th & 8th Siege Batteries

With the men being utilised as a 'Pool Unit,' a number of men were posted to the 6th Siege Battery of the 33rd Heavy Artillery Group on or about the 12th of August. The battery, under the command of Captain William Henry Fry M.C., had moved to the Somme battlefield in June 1916. Having taken up forward positions near the Maricourt - Briqueterie Road, the battery had suffered numerous casualties during the month of July and August including the deaths of Gunner Joseph Raine, 12661, a resident of Lydd, Kent, and Gunner Walter Watkin, 58724, a resident of Middlesborough. It was on the 12th of August that 18 Other Ranks arrived as reinforcements and I can only presume that this draft comprised of men from the 142nd Battery. One man was seriously wounded on arrival but as the battery engaged targets at Leuze Wood west of Combles, it was on the 15th that two men of the 142nd Battery who were attached were wounded, one of their number being Gunner Arthur Jefferson, 80521, a married man from Pontefract. Arthur, a Drapers Assistant, had attested for military service at Pontefract in December 1915. Placed on the Army Reserve, he was mobilised in May 1916 and after a period of training was posted overseas on the 9th of August 1916. Wounded in the hand and suffering "Shell Shock," he was then admitted to the 21st Casualty Clearing Station located at Corbie before being sent to the 2nd Convalescent Depot located at Rouen. Returning to the 142nd Battery in the following month, Arthur would thankfully survive the war.

As the battery with 3 guns in action engaged enemy artillery batteries near Falfemont Farm, north of Maurepas on the 18th of August, a Royal Engineers 'Dump' located to the south-east corner of the battery's position was heavily shelled. Enemy artillery rounds also fell in the vicinity of Number 1 Gun and to the rear of the battery itself with the result that 80 cartridges were destroyed by shell fire, fortunately with no casualties. It was on the 20th that the battery registered on targets in the south-west environs of Combles and Falfemont Farm, it was on the following day that 1 officer and 23 Other Ranks attached from the 142nd Siege Battery departed for BRAND. (Authors note:- Batteries were designated as follows as of the 4th of September:- Right Group, SODA, BRAND, PORT, NOBLE. As BRAND is recorded as such in two separate documents with this spelling, I can only presume it was so as to avoid confusion with some other unit/establishment using a similar codename). (Authors note:- BRAND, research reveals, was in fact the designation for the 28th Siege Battery, under the command of Major Ralph Arnott.          

France Edition 4, Sheet 62c N.W.

The War Diary of the 28th Siege Battery actually records that it was on the 17th of August that 2 officers and 26 Gunners were attached to the battery for instruction, a further officer and another 20 Gunners being attached "later". In the days that followed, the 28th Battery carried out a number of 'shoots' on various targets such as Falfemont Farm, Wedge Wood, and enemy trenches located to the south-east of Guillemont. It was on the 24th that the War Diary of the 26th Battery records that all those attached from the 142nd Battery departed for the 6th Siege Battery. Despite the lack of chronology between the two diaries, we can now ascertain that a number of men at least were still attached to the latter battery, one being Second-Lieutenant Charles Francis Cockfield and Gunner John Lund.
With the 6th Siege Battery engaged in counter-battery work, it was on the evening of the 27th of August between the hours of 8 - 9 p.m. that the battery was shelled by enemy artillery. As rounds began to fall, many of them being of a 4.2 inch calibre, one gun was put out of action and casualties were sustained. Second-Lieutenant Charles Francis Cockfield attached from the 142nd Battery was killed, and Second-Lieutenant Hugh Cameron Guy Ellis wounded.
Charles Francis Cockfield was born in 1889 at Sowerby, near Thirsk. The son of an Iron Moulder, the family would relocate to Blackburn in the mid 1890's and it was here that his mother would die in 1909 aged 46 years. His father and four siblings would emigrate to Canada in the year of 1911, Charles having enlisted into the Royal Garrison Artillery in 1910. Rising through the ranks, Charles would eventually be promoted to the rank of Quartermaster Sergeant and commissioned as a Second-Lieutenant in the R.G.A. on the 21st of May 1916. Mentioned in Despatches in June 1915, Charles would originally be buried close to the position of the battery in Casement Trench Cemetery (Map Reference A.10.c.2.2.). Exhumed in 1920, he is now buried in Peronne Road Cemetery, Maricourt. (Authors note:- A married man with two children, his second son, Francis Arthur Cockfield, born a month after the death of his father, would have a distinguished career in both business and politics. Two of Charles' brothers would also serve in the Great War, Arthur John Cockfield with the Canadian Forces, and Thomas William Cockfield with the R.G.A. Thomas would be awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal in 1918 whilst serving with the 5th Siege Battery).
With the battery still engaging numerous targets, it was on the 28th that their position was shelled for short intervals during the course of the day. Three Other Ranks were wounded, one being man being Gunner John Lund, 80545, a native of Bingley. A Foreman Carpenter, John had enlisted whilst being employed on construction work at Catterick Aerodrome in December 1915. Posted overseas on the 9th of August 1916, John received a shrapnel wound to his thigh and hand and would subsequently be admitted to the 14th Corps Main Dressing Station located at Dive Copse north-east of Sailly-le-Sec. Such was the nature of his wounds, John was then sent along the casualty clearing line to the 6th General Hospital located at Rouen before being evacuated to England on the 21st of September onboard the Hospital Ship Lanfranc. Admitted to the 4th Scottish General Hospital located in Glasgow, he would return to the front in May 1917 and survive the war.
Still, the 6th Siege Battery remained in action performing counter-battery 'shoots'. Now firing with a full complement of four guns, they were still susceptible to the same tactics by enemy artillery. It was on the 30th of August that two men were wounded, one being Gunner Charles Hargrave, the Tram Conductor from Bradford. Evacuated, his wife at home contacted the military authorities as she was unaware of his whereabouts, the only contact she received being a letter and a postcard in early September informing her that "he is quite well". He was in fact in hospital, returning to the 142nd Battery on the 7th of September. Charles would survive the war and be discharged in 1919.
On the 2nd of September, the bombardment by howitzers of Guillemont, the Guillemont - Wedge Wood Line and positions south of Falfemont Farm continued. Slow and 'deliberate' fire was maintained throughout the course of the day, heavy howitzers engaging 42 hostile batteries that resulted in 4 emplacements being destroyed, 1 being damaged and 5 explosions of ammunition being observed. The Counter-Battery Group and the French Group engaged 62 enemy batteries as the fight for Guillemont was about to come to a conclusion. The day would prove to be a bad one for the attached men of the 142nd Battery, the latter suffering three casualties.
Gunner Harold Couser Simms, 80607, aged 25 years and a native of Banbridge, County Down, would succumb to wounds received in action at the 14th Corps Main Dressing Station located at Dive Copse north-east of Sailly-le-Sec. Serving an apprenticeship as a Civil Engineer and Architect prior to the war, Harold now lies in Dive Copse British Cemetery, a personal inscription on his gravestone reading "He Died For Freedom And Honour".
Bombardier Ralph Bedford Appleby, 80563, aged 33 years and a resident of York. A married man with two sons, before the war Ralph had been employed as a School Master by the York Education Committee and was a proficient artist. Enlisting at York in November 1915, he was mobilised in May 1916 and after a period of training was posted overseas in August of that year. Killed in action after serving just twenty-five days at the front, he is now buried in Peronne Road Cemetery, Maricourt.
Gunner Bert Mayhew Chapman, 80611, would also succumb to wounds received in action on the 2nd of September at the 14th Corps Main Dressing Station. A married man with one child and a resident of Loughborough, he was 24 years of age and now also lies in Dive Copse British Cemetery. The circumstances surrounding his wounding were received in a letter sent to his wife by officers of the battery. Published in the Loughborough Echo dated the 15th of September 1916, an extract of this letter is as follows:-
"Our battery was suddenly shelled three days ago, when your husband was badly wounded, but know one thought at the time there was any danger. Things must have been worse than they looked, for we have just word that he died in hospital. I have known your husband since the formation of the battery, and can testify to his continual helpfulness. Since coming here he was invaluable to the officers in always making the very best of things and doing his best for us. He was never late, and, sunshine or rain, always kept us going. Your husband died in the middle of his duty, and I commend you to God for your continual comfort. I am writing on behalf of the whole battery, commanding officer, N.C.O.'s and men. I cannot say more this time, but hope that strong faith will uphold you till the happy time of re-union".
Gunner James Robinson, 80459, was to succumb to wounds on the 5th of September at the 5th Casualty Clearing Station located at Corbie. A resident of Pickering, North Yorkshire, James attested for military service in December 1915 before being mobilised in May 1916. Posted overseas in August 1916, he is now buried in the Corbie Communal Cemetery Extension.
The day previously, the 28th Siege Battery had received orders to proceed to rest at Vaux-sur-Somme, the first period of the rest the battery had received for twelve months. Upon their withdrawal, the personnel of the 142nd Siege Battery now took over the position and the guns. Attached to the 57th Heavy Artillery Group under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel James Arbuthnot Tyler C.M.G., it was on the 20th of September that Second-Lieutenant Harold Bond joined the battery.
There is little information to be gleaned from the 14th Corps War Diary of the actions of the battery however during the early days of the month of October, the Corps Artillery were engaging targets in support of the advance on the le Transloy Ridges and counter-battery work. It was on the 2nd of October that Colonel Tyler was admitted to hospital, Lieutenant-Colonel Lawrence Joseph Chapman replacing him on the 5th. More officers joined the battery when on the 3rd, Temporary Lieutenant Edward Horace Coumbe, a former Cadet with the Officer Training Corps, was transferred from the 9th Siege Battery. Second-Lieutenant John Primrose Hay, attached to the 56th Division from the 142nd Battery, was wounded in the left hand on the 9th. A former student at Glasgow University, he would witness life as a Missionary in China before the war, returning to England in 1915 after receiving the news of the sinking of the Lusitania. Evacuated to the 34th Casualty Clearing Station located at Grovetown, south of Meaulte, he returned to duty on the 12th. Sickness led to the unfortunate death on the 13th of October of Gunner Charles Beale, 82886, a native of Harlow, Essex. He would succumb to pneumonia aged 25 years at the 5th Casualty Clearing station located at Corbie. A Groom at a Livery Stables prior to the war, Charles now lies in Corbie Communal Cemetery Extension.
Second-Lieutenant Cecil William Davies Miller, a Bank Clerk and later to become a Barrister, joined the battery on the 28th. Born in York, he had received his commission on the 28th of September 1916 and this was his first posting overseas. His brother Neville was also serve in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, the Royal Naval Air Service and the Royal Air Force.
A number of H.A.G.'s departed the 14th Corps during the course of the month but in turn were replaced by other Groups from the 1st and 2nd Armies. Sickness amongst the Corps was also quite prevalent but it was on the 31st of October 1916 that the 142nd Battery suffered another man killed, Gunner Thomas George Gaymer, 79104. A married man with one child and a resident of Brixton Hill, London, Thomas attested for military service at Lambeth in December 1915. Mobilised in May 1916, his serial number suggests a posting overseas in mid August later than the original draft to the front. Killed in action and denied a known grave, Thomas is now commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.
Bombardments continued on the main le Transloy Line as the month commenced with wet and misty weather. Night firing was continued according to the programme and on the 3rd of the month, a 9 inch Howitzer was reported firing from Fremicourt, east of Bapaume, and engaged. Aerial observation for the artillery was hampered on one occasion due to high winds and artillery fire was abandoned on both Sleet and Pollux Trenches, south-west of le Transloy, as observers reported that the weather conditions made accurate firing impossible. Enemy artillery remained fairly active and was assisted by both kite balloon and aerial observation, this proving to be deadly to men of the 12th Heavy Battery, R.G.A. in positions near Bazentin-le-Grand. Between the 9th - 10th of November, the battery lost four men killed, and others wounded, the dead now being concentrated into the Guards Cemetery located at Lesboeufs.
Still the bombardments continued as to the north, the Battle of the Ancre commenced on the 13th of November. Aerial activity by enemy aircraft increased during the following days but this soon abated due to worsening weather conditions. The weather also precluded the bombardment of the enemy's line for a number of days as observation from the ground and the air proved to be impossible. Once the weather had cleared, a variety of 'shoots' continued such as counter-battery work, engaging parties of the enemy but towards the end of the month, the weather closed in once again that resulted in the cessation of activities for a short period. It was on the 27th of November that the 142nd Battery had come under enemy artillery fire that resulted in the serious wounding of Gunner George Rose, 80514, a resident of Surrey Street, Derby. Evacuated to the 34th Casualty Clearing Station located at Grove Town near Meaulte, George had in point of fact, had his right leg 'blown off' and would succumb to his wounds on the 29th of November. Employed at the Derby Daily Telegraph in the Machine Department, the newspaper published a short obituary dated the 6th of December 1916:-
"We learn with much regret that Mrs. Rose, of 17, Surrey-street, Derby, has received an official intimation of the death of her son, Gunner George Rose, of the Royal Garrison Artillery. Last week the news came from France that he had been seriously wounded in the thigh, and it now transpires that the wound was of a fatal character. All who know him, and especially his old comrades in the offices of the "Derby Daily Telegraph," where he had been employed from boyhood in the machine department, will feel deeply grieved at his death, and will extend their sympathy to his widowed mother, to whom he had been all that a son should be. A better lad in any sense of the term, whether as regards his mode of life or the discharge of his duties, one could not desire to meet. He joined the Army in the spring, and had been in France since early autumn. Prior to going to France he called at this office to bid everyone what has proved to be a last good-bye. He presented a very smart appearance in uniform - a typical British artilleryman. He had not completed his 20th year".
Also wounded in this incident was Gunner James Willis, 80504, a resident of Chathill, near Alnwick. A Ploughman by trade, James had attested for military service in February 1916 at Alnwick and mobilised in May of that year. Posted overseas in August, he received wounds to the neck and was also evacuated to the 34th C.C.S. and after a few days treatment, returned to the battery. Wounded at Ypres in 1917 and made a Prisoner of War in March 1918, James would survive the war.                                   

IWM Q 58340 (By Kind Permission)
British Troops Coming Out Of The Trenches Near Gullemont, 27th November 1916


The weather continued to hamper operations on the whole during the course of the month with targets remaining basically the same. There was however to be a fundamental reorganisation of the 14th Corps Heavy Artillery, this taking place between the 1st of December - 15th of December. As a consequence of this restructure, the 142nd Seige Battery would now be contained in the Right Divisional Group, under the command of Temporary Lieutenant-Colonel Hubert de Lancey Walters, Officer Commanding 77th Heavy Artillery Group. The Group comprised of the following units:-

136th Siege Battery, R.G.A. (9.2 inch Howitzer)

142nd Siege Battery R.G.A. (6 inch Howitzer)

147th Siege Battery R.G.A. (6 inch Howitzer)

199th Siege Battery R.G.A. (6 inch Howitzer)

Note:- The Group Headquarters did not join until the 17th of December, interim command therefore devolved on the 49th H.A.G., Lieutenant-Colonel Walton Jennings O.C., and Lieutenant-Colonel George Evans Tyrell D.S.O., O.C. 64th H.A.G. respectively.

As well as reorganisation, there were also departures from the 14th Corps when between the 8th and the 15th of December,110th Siege Battery, 95th Siege Battery, 66th Siege Battery, 116th Siege Battery, 124th Heavy Battery, 85th Siege Battery and the 15th Siege Battery departed for 15th Corps. The 142nd Battery had received one 'new' officer on the 13th, Second-Lieutenant Albert Berliner, commissioned from the ranks of the Honourable Artillery Company.

Towards the end of the month, the 142nd Siege Battery were in a rest camp located at Meaulte. It was whilst here that Gunner Walter Longson, 80525, was absent from Roll Call between 8 p.m. and 8.25 p.m. on the 30th of December. Absent for the duration of twenty-five minutes, this failure to present himself for the Roll Call was witnessed by Sergeant Joseph Overton, 49401, and the now Bombardier John William Harper. On the following day, the Officer Commanding Major Montresor passed judgement and awarded Gunner Longson the punishment of 3 days Field Punishment Number 1. It seems rather draconian, but it must be remembered that the battery was at war and discipline had to be maintained. Suffice to say, the Gunner did not transgress military law for the remainder of his service.

January 1917

The New Year was heralded by the bombardment of Wagner Trench, east of Sailly-Saillisel by the H.A.G., the 142nd Siege Battery firing 19 rounds on the 2nd at the Windmill Mound (Map Reference O.31.b.), south-east of Le Transloy. The bombardment of the enemy trench system east and north-east of Lesboeufs also continued as a 'shoot' originally scheduled for the 2nd of the month was eventually carried out on the 5th. By the 13th of January, the Corps Artillery, along with both Divisional and attached artillery, covered three divisions in the line as far south as positions to the east of Fregicourt, these divisions being the Guards, 20th and the 29th Divisions respectively. Bombardments during the early part of the month encompassed the environs of Le Transloy and Saillisel but these were constantly hampered by cold and frosty weather with bad visibility. Concentrations of fire were maintained on the enemy line near Le Transloy in preparation to an attack to be launched by the 29th Division on the 27th. With "Zero" hour set for 5.30 a.m., the division assaulted the enemy front line system south of Le Transloy on a frontage of 1100 yards. The barrage by the artillery was recorded by the C.R.A. 29th Division as being "very good," hostile artillery fire on the other hand being described as "very slow and feeble". It was a testament to the artillery, although some were arranged in the open and on snow covered ground and vulnerable to aerial observation that the infantry attack was a success, but at a cost. The numbers of prisoners taken during this attack vary as to which source is quoted, the 20th Division C.R.A. recording this number for example as 360, that of the 29th C.R.A. reporting the number as 400. In the attacking troops of the 29th Division, the 87th Infantry Brigade who led the assault suffered 5 officers and 55 Other Ranks killed, 10 officers and 256 Other Ranks wounded, 76 Other Ranks 'missing'. (Source WO95/2281/2).


It was at the end of the month of January that the position of the 142nd Siege Battery was recorded as just to the west of Combles, map reference T.27.d.3.3. As weather conditions remained freezing, it was on the 8th of February that the 17th (Northern) Division attacked the enemy trench system at Saillisel at 7.30 a.m. Although the attack was a success, many casualties were sustained by 18 pounders 'short shooting' during the creeping barrage. Once again there were to be changes in the structure of the 14th Corps Heavy Artillery when on the 9th of February the following units were transferred to the 1st Army; 64th H.A.G., 77th H.A.G., 121st Siege Battery (9.2 inch Howitzers), 136th Siege Battery (9.2 inch Howitzers), and the 142nd Siege Battery (6 inch Howitzers).

On the 12th of February, the 142nd Siege Battery arrived in the Canadian Corps area of operations near Arras although the exact location of the battery is not known. Placed under the command of the Canadian Corps Heavy Artillery, First Army, both divided their heavy artillery into specific groups designated for counter-battery work, infantry support, and the bombardment of the enemy's trench systems and strong points. The weather had deterioated with rain and mist however the batteries of the Heavy Artillery continued counter-battery work and fire support for infantry raids on the enemy's trenches despite poor visibility. In the days that followed, the weather began to improve and on the 17th orders were issued by the G.O.C.R.A. Canadian Corps, Temporary Brigadier-General Edward Whipple Bancroft Morrison D.S.O., for the first in a series of night bombardments of roads and tramways by 6 inch Howitzers, 4.7 inch, and 60 pounder guns to interdict the movement of supplies and personnel. Trenches and trench junctions were engaged to the south, west and east of Givenchy on the 17th at intervals during the afternoon in addition to railways and a trench mortar ammunition dump at the request of the infantry. Despite days of bad visibility, the Corps supported numerous raids by the infantry engaging hostile batteries and trench mortar positions in the process as even more artillery units arrived in the area adding to the firepower available.


As raids continued, it was on the 9th of March that the 142nd Siege Battery were transferred to the 63rd H.A.G., Officer Commanding, Lieutenant-Colonel Hopton Eliot Marsh. The positions of the batteries that comprised the Group as of January