The HAC in the Great War - April 1918

The 1st April 1918 was of course the day on which the Royal Air Force (RAF) was formed. Our photograph shows Alfred Walsham who served with the 1st Battalion during 1914 and 1915 and who trained as a Royal Flying Corps (RFC) pilot in January 1918. He, like a number of other HAC members in the RFC and Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) became members of the RAF in April 1918.

2/A battery moved into positions near Loos at the end of March. This part of the front was, in fact, one of the few not to be moved by the violence of the German Spring offensives. The battery was 3500 yards behind the front line, in protected gun pits, and was issued with machine guns for local protection in the event of a German breakthrough. From 6th to 13th April the battery position was bombarded with gas shells, some containing three kinds of gas, causing blindness, burns and breathing difficulties. Eating and drinking became difficult. Four officers and 80 other ranks were evacuated as gas casualties, and the guns were reinforced by men from batteries outside the contaminated areas, but the battery held its position through the month. 2/B Battery was close by, but had a quieter month. A German attack was expected every day, through April, into May and even June. The Battery was exhorted to “maintain the noble traditions of the British Empire” and was told that their” turn was come” after troops to both flanks had been heavily attacked. But nothing happened.
For the Siege Battery a retreat that had commenced on 22nd March ended on 27th March and, in early April, the battery moved again to Bonnay in the Ancre Valley. There they waited until the 23rd April when a major German attack began with bombing from Gothas. The attack was held, and then pushed back with the help of artillery support from the battery’s ‘heavies’.

In Italy the 2nd Battalion rotated in and out of the line around Cesuna, on the Asiago Plateau. A sharp action against Austrians on 22nd April resulted in the award of an immediate MC and two MMs.

In Palestine A and B Batteries were on the move on 1st April with the Australian Mounted Division. The ground along their route, which took them to Jaffa, thence to Jerusalem and then into the Jordan Valley, was covered with new grass and wild flowers as a result of the winter rain. They went into action on 29th April, crossing the Jordan. Early surprise was complete but by 1st May the Turks had recovered, and were attacking the new positions with a division rushed to the front.