The Regimental News in the past few weeks has been decidedly 1/Suffolk in Normandy, and the D-Day anniversary, brought the launch of a new book, Objectif Hillman by French authors Luc Bollinger and Xavier Lepley. This book, which is the first dedicated volume on the action since Lieutenant-Colonel Eric Lummis wrote "1 Suffolk and D-Day " in 1989, goes a long way to fill the void of a detailed account of the action from both sides. Though the Germans accounts of the action contained in this volume are superb, after a thorough translation, there appears regretfully, to be no new Suffolk material in the book which has not been published before. What is impressive however, is the numerous previously unseen photographs of the Battalion. One great portrait is shown of Captain Ken Mayhew in service dress with GS cap. Another one shows elements of 'B' Company in training in 1942, but perhaps the best photograph is of the original memorial cross at the Chateau de la Londe taken just after it was erected after the battle in June 1944. If you can read Fench, then we would thoroughly recommend that you try to obtain a copy, though procuring it from France may be a little difficult (although Amazon is a good try). It is well worth a read.
Today, leafing through a second hand bookshop in Saffron Walden, we came across a copy of Richard Cannon's history of the 12th Regiment. Its a fairly common volume, nothing to shout about really, but on the fly-leafy of this copy the name "E.C. Smith" was written. Again common enough name Smith, but it was the initials that made us think again. Could this be Captain E.C. Smith's copy? Edward Corrigan Smith was killed on 28th September 1915 at Hooge in Belgium. He had been commissioned into 1st Suffolk in 1909 and served with them in the Malta. After a spell in the Colonial Service where he unfortunately contracted sleeping sickness, he was invalided home. Not fit for active service for some time, he rejoined the Regiment in the autumn of 1914 and remained at the Depot until he was fit enough to join 2nd Suffolk in Belgium in June 1915. It would be great to think that this was 'his' copy. The book itself was published in 1848 Cannon was tasked to compile a Regimental History of British Infantry Regiments. It was not until 1913 when Colonel E.H. Webb published the first true volume of Regimental History from 1685-1913, that a truly concise volume was available. So, it is possible that having been commissioned into the Suffolk Regiment, Smith went out and purchased a copy of the then only available book on the Regiment's past, to acquaint himself with the history of his new regiment.
(Posted: 15: 06:2017)
Britain At War Magazine Publishes Article On Hillman
Friend Tony Taylor-Neale drew to our attention on Saturday, an eight page article in this months edition of Britain at War Magazine which records the actions of the 1st Battalion on D-Day. The author, Steve Snelling gives perhaps a somewhat polished view of the days events that led up to the eventual capture of the bunker complex codenamed "Hillman." Drawing on the recently commissioned film for information, the article also tells the story of how Private 'Tich' Hunter was awarded the D.C.M. for his part in subduing the position. He was wounded shortly afterwards. The article is profusely illustrated and is well worth read. It is available from all good newsagents now.
"3d Per Rose"
It has often been a long unanswered question, "just where were our Minden Roses made?" Well today, after a long search, we think we have found the answer. In a file in the Regimental Archives that we photographed some time ago, is the carbon copy reply to a letter written by the Colonel of the Regiment, Brigadier E.H.W. Backhouse, to the War Office in 1950 in respect of a questionnaire they had asked to be completed, concerning emblems worn on regimental anniversaries. The Regiment from around 1940 onwards, began to purchase artificial roses most probably due to supply and demand of real roses during wartime. These were obtained from a charity in London, where they were made by ladies who had "fallen upon hard times". E.H.W.B.s reply only exists, so it is difficult to ascertain what the original question were that he was answering, but his replies give us a pretty good idea. It stated that they were "red and yellow" they cost "3d per rose" and were expected to last two years - "depending on whether they were used at home or abroad". A touching note was found at the bottom of the memo that stated that yearly stocks had to be procured as most soldiers (at that time National Servicemen) wished to buy them and keep them as a souvenir of their service with the Regiment. We'll be writing a fuller article on this in a future edition of our Colour magazine so watch out for it!
Bill Linge MM - Finally Identified!
For many years now, we have been searching for a photograph of Robert "Bill" Linge who won the Military Medal on 18th October 1944 at Venray whilst serving with 1/Suffolk. Bill showed great courage in directing the fire of n Allied tank onto German positions, which resulted in the saving of many lives. His actions were immortalised in an edition of the "Victor" comic in 1971. However, despite our best efforts, we have never been able to find a photograph of him. It is quite unusual for on the same day the Bill was presented with the ribbon of his DCM, all the other recipients who received awards that day, were photographed, yet Bill seems to have never been captured. Photographs survive of CSMs Leatherland and Hawley being awarded the ribbons of the DCM, and Private Clarke being awarded the MM. Lieutenant Colonel Dick Goodwin was also presented that day with the ribbon of the DSO. Though these photographs survive in the archives, no photo of Bill ever seems to have been taken. However, the other day, a friend of the Friends in Holland came up with this photo here showing a certain "Private Everest." He was intrigued because there is no evidence that an private called Everest ever won a gallantry award in NW Europe. There was therefore two options as to who it could be; either Corporal Bligh-Bingham or Private Bill Linge, both of whom were awarded the ribbons of the MM that day. As the man standing above CSM Leatherland has no Corporals stripes, it couldn't be Corporal Bligh-Bingham, and must therefore be Private Bill Linge. We made a few enquiries and managed to contact Bill Linge's son and he confirms that the mystery Private Everest, is indeed his father; Bill Linge. Another piece of the great jigsaw slots into place.
New 11th Suffolk Memorial Erected At Roeux
This weekend, a new memorial was erected in the small French village of Roeux; scene of an unsuccessful attack by the 7th and 11th Battalion's of the Suffolk Regiment in late April 1917. The memorial, which had been erected by the local French village, pays tribute specifically to the 103 men of 11th Suffolk; the "Cambs-Suffolks" to died trying to take the land beyond the chemical works to the south of the railway line in an unsuccessful attack on 28th April 1917. Wreaths were laid on behalf of the local Mairie, the Friends of the Suffolk Regiment and the Royal Anglian Regiment, and by family members who had travelled from England especially to attend the ceremony. Afterwards a small exhibition was held, to commemorate those who fell during the attack, in particular, Lance Serjeant Charles Stevens of 'A' Company whose remains were found by a local farmer a few years ago. His badges and the number stamped upon his spoon, identified him as most probably Stevens, but the lack of an identity disc, which has subsequently perished, could not positively prove his identity. He is however not forgotten and is commemorated now on this memorial.
With thanks to Taff Gillingham, via Twitter for the above photograph.
In 1927, the Captain and officers of HMS Suffolk, presented to the Officers and Men on the 2nd Battalion, a handsome silver table centrepiece in the form of a Chinese Junk in honour of the two units of His majesty's Forces serving together in China; HMS Suffolk as part of the Royal Navy's China Squadron, and the 2nd Battalion as part of the International Settlement Defence Forces in Shanghai. The Junk was a treasured centrepiece of the Officers Mess dining table with 2nd Suffolk, and later 1st Suffolk - when the 2nd Battalion was placed in suspended animation in 1947. However with subsequent amalgamations, the whereabouts of the Junk were unknown. It had been spotted a few years ago in a display of Regimental silver in the Royal Anglian Regiment Museum at Duxford, but since then it disappeared from view. However, news came recently of the closure of many Army Messes and last year at Duxford, the Junk made an appearance in the Officers tea tent on Regimental Day. This week we were sent some photographs of the event including this one of the Suffolk's Junk. Good to see that it still in existence and maybe one day, it will return to the Suffolk Regiment.
Happy Easter Friends!
A very happy Easter to all Friends!
Easter, the traditional celebration of the resurrection of Christ, could not often be celebrated in war by those devoutly religious men of the Suffolk Regiment. In calmer, warmer, more-peaceful times, the Battalion would march complete to the garrison church or hold an open air drumhead service in their foreign station, but in times of war, it was virtually impossible to undertake such parades. This year is however the centenary of one of the most famous religious events of the Great War; the church service held in the chalk caves at Arras. It was here on the Easter weekend in April 1917, that the 2nd Battalion held a short Easter service before the battle that was to follow the next day. Spare a thought today at Easter, for all those Suffolk men, who 100 years ago, set forth on Easter Monday, to take on the German Armies at the Battle of Arras.
Gunner Collis; The 'Third' Suffolk VC
We were recently informed that a replica Victoria Cross to James Collis, had recently been sold by an auctioneers in Norfolk. Gunner Collis, who won his VC for actions in Second Afghan War with the Royal Horse Artillery, was one of the few men who having received the nations highest honour, subsequently had it repealed for acts of misdemeanour and poor conduct. Collis, who was found guilty of bigamy in 1895, was stripped of his award. Later, during the Great War, Collis re-enlisted even though he was well over age and served in the Reserve Garrison Battalion of the Suffolk Regiment, helping to train new recruits for service with the other Battalions of the Regiment. Collis, died in 1917 having been invalided out of the Army due to poor health. He was buried in an unmarked, paupers grave in London, where he remained until 1998, when after campaigning by his descendants, he finally received an official Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstone, it having been proved that he was still serving his country when he died. His headstone, in keeping with all others who received the award, bears the image of the VC. The VC that was offered for sale, was a very good and very old replica or what is commonly known as a "jewellers copy" (the original medal is in the Lord Ashcroft collection). It was probably purchased by Collis after his was repealed, so that he could still wear his medals in public. It had previously had a name engraved upon its reverse, but this had been ground off and "GNR COLLIS, R.H.A." has been re-engraved on the hanger. Though the Regiment won just two VCs (Saunders and Day, during the Great War), Collis has in recent years been considered the unofficial "third VC" of the Regiment.
Regimental Museum Launch D-Day Film
On Tuesday a short film was officially premièred at the Army Reserve Centre at Bury St. Edmunds. The film, commissioned by the trustees of the Suffolk Regiment Museum, records for the first time, the story of the 1st Battalion on D-Day. It tells the story of the day’s events through the memories and testimonies of those who were there. Accompanied by original film shot at the time by the Army Film and Photographic Unit (A.F.P.U.), the documentary also features interviews with our few surviving veterans. Captain Ron Rogers, who was Second-in-Command of ‘A’ Company, was interviewed along with Captain Ken Mayhew, who was in command of the Carrier Platoon on D-Day. Private Vic Mayhew also told of the part he and ‘C’ Company played on the day. The film it is planned, will be shown in both the Suffolk Regiment Museum and at the HILLMAN bunker in Normandy (with suitable subtitles!). Copies on DVD will soon be available to purchase from the Regimental Museum.
Suffolk Regiment Museum - Now Open EVERY Wednesday!
Yes. After 25 or so years, the Trustees of the Suffolk Regiment Museum have finally agreed to open the museum doors every Wednesday so now even more people can view its treasures. Not since the 1990s has the museum been open so frequently, and not since the 1970s has the museum been open daily. So with immediate effect, the museum will be open every Wednesday from 9.30 am until 3.30 pm. You have have absolutely no excuse not to go and visit!
Remembering Singapore: 75 Years On
Remember today, the men of the 4th and 5th (Territorial) Battalions of The Suffolk Regiment who, 75 years ago, on 15th September 1942, were ordered to surrender to the Japanese on the island of Singapore. The 18th (East Anglian) Division of which the two Battalions were part, had only landed on the island just seventeen days before. It had spent two and a half years training to fight with the latest weapons and equipment, yet its time in battle was to be just two and a half weeks. The Regimental History wrote in 1947 of the 18th Division that it was; “a Division presumably landed as a forlorn hope; untrammelled by an exhaustive retreat; fresh, inspired, ready to match itself against a victorious but by no means superior, or invincible enemy.” However, if the battle for Singapore was to be short and sharp, the three and a half years of captivity that was to follow at the hands of the Japanese, would be a prolonged agony. Of those who died between February 1942 and July 1945, a staggering 86% occurred not in battle, but in captivity. Spare a thought today for all those who endured this torture, and survived. Spare a thought for those in captivity whose loved ones at home, heard no news of them for almost a year, but most importantly, spare a thought for all those who never made it home. As the memorial at Kranji states “They Died For All Free men.”
Suffolk Yeomanry Gunners In Holland 1944
From our friends in Holland today, came the photograph left, of men of 55th (Suffolk Yeomanry) Anti-Tank Regiment, Royal Artillery, taken in the Nijmegan area of Holland in September 1944. The two troopers are unnamed but their Loyal Suffolk Hussars cap badges can be clearly seen on their GS Caps. The man on the left, wears denim overalls over his battledress and jumper, indicating he's most probably involved in a heavy, dirty job (gun layer, loader etc.), whereas the man on the right, looks a little clear indicating he could possibly be a driver. Its a very long shot we know, but if their faces do look familiar, please let us know.
A Very Old Forgery?
About two years ago, we received a call from an antiques dealer in the Cotswolds who said he had a Suffolk Regiment Drum for sale and would we be interested. Yes, of course was the answer and one Saturday we ventured to Oxfordshire to see it. Upon closer inspection it indeed at the time looked like a pre-World War Two 1st Battalion example. Though it was virtually identical to the famous 'Roubaix' Drum, there were subtle differences that caused us to be suspicious. The painting was of general inferior quality, yet it did bear the Potters name upon its side. Inside too, the original Potters of Aldershot label, so we assumed at the time that it was a genuine drum, perhaps painted at Battalion level during the War by a member of the Corps of Drums, possibly overpainting an old design. However, with the rarity of such things, we purchased it, determined to do some more research upon it. Then on New Years Day, we ventured to the Regimental Museum to leaf through the first generation Britannia and Castle newsletters from the 1960s and 1970s, and in the July 1970 edition we came across a damning indication that the Drum may be a forgery. A small piece ran as follows: "We have heard, recently, of several cases of drums purporting to be those of the 1st battalion, being on sale in antique shops: we have tried to trace their origin and, on investigation, have found them to be forgeries. other regiments have had a similar experience" So perhaps that's it then. A not too accurate 45 year old forgery. It's a shame, as we had high hopes for it being an original example, but it is most probably one of the fake drums mentioned in the newsletter. Still, it'll still go out on the table when we attend Minden Day and Family History fairs as it s a great talking point!
Happy 100th Birthday Ken!
Today the Friends were honoured to attend the 100th Birthday Party of Major Ken Mayhew, our oldest Friend and a truly amazing and very modest man. Ken was commissioned into the Suffolk Regiment in May 1940 and landed with 1/Suffolk on D-Day as commander of the Carrier Platoon. He was at the head of the advance that liberated the French town of Flers in August 1944, earning him the 'official' title by its inhabitants as the "Liberator of Flers". In September 1944, he assumed command of D Company following the wounding of Major Claxton on the advance to Weert. He was wounded in action at Venray by a shard of shrapnel to the face just a few weeks later in the same action that invalided the Battalion Commander. After just a few days in hospital, he discharged himself and returned to the Battalion. He was wounded again in the advance to Goch in February 1945 when D Company were cutting the Uedem-Weeze road. His second wound, though luckily not too serious, did mean that he never returned to 1/Suffolk in Europe. Awarded the Militaire Willems-Orde for his actions in Holland in 1944, he has recently been awarded the Legion d'Honneur for his part in the Normandy campaign. As a token of our appreciation to this special centenarian, the Friends presented Ken with a model of a Suffolk Bren gun carrier, bearing the Honour "Cambrai" - an Honour won 100 years ago in the year of Ken's birth. Everyone, please raise a glass today to celebrate the birthday of this truly special Suffolk soldier.
Amazing Cambs Colour Film Released By The BFI
The British Film Institute have recently uploaded an number of films onto their website in co-operation with the East Anglian Film Archive. You could already watch a short film entitled "Suffolk Territorials" shot in Christchurch Park, Ipswich in 1937, and introduced by the Colonel Cockburn (who lost an arm at Neuve Chapelle in 1915), but in the last few weeks, they have uploaded a superb six-minute collection of home made films of a Cambridgeshire Regiment TA camp at Bury St. Edmunds in 1937. The first four minutes of the film are shot in black and white and show troops on the march and on manoeuvres, but the final two minutes are shot in glorious Kodachrome. It's a great snapshot into the past at a time when the Battalion were being issued with brand new (still creased) battledress uniform, yet still had old Great War vintage web equipment. Here are a few screenshots, but check out the entire film here: http://player.bfi.org.uk/f…/watch-bury-st-edmunds-camp-1937/
Happy New Year
A very happy New Year to all Friends!
2017 is set to be yet again, another great year for us. With more tours planned, our magazines going from strength to strength, and our continued support of some really worthwhile Great War centenary projects, its looks like our 9th year will be our best yet. Though were in a healthy position, we always need more members to keep alive the association. So, please do encourage anyone you know with an interest in the Suffolk Regiment to join our ranks.
Keep warm in this cold snap and let's make 2017 our best year yet!