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!