On 25th September 1917, 4th Suffolk were in front line positions to the east of ‘Clapham Junction’ along the Menin Road to the east of the Belgian town of Ypres. They occupied a section of the front line that ran between ‘Glencorse Wood’ in the north, and ‘Inverness Copse' in the south.
At around 7.00pm, the CO, Lieutenant-Colonel Copeman was called away to a conference at Brigade HQ where he received orders to attack as soon as possible in co-operation with 5th Scottish Rifles (Cameronians) to relieve 1st Middlesex and 2nd Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders who were holding a section of the front line thought to be between ‘Lone House’ and ‘Verbeek Farm’. He was to move his Battalion into positions near ‘Fitzclarence Farm’ from where they would advance as soon as possible.
Fitzclarence Farm was a name only. It had long since been destroyed by enemy fire. Only an old German concrete dug-out remained. Within its two rooms, the CO found many wounded from previous attacks and the F.O.O. (Forward Officer Observation) who was trying in the failing light to see what was happening out in front. The CO used the F.O.O.'s binoculars to view the area across which he was to travel between ‘Black Watch Corner’ in the north and ‘Carlisle Farm’ in the south and beyond, to ‘Lone House.’
Just before midnight, the CO made contact with 5th Cameronians south of Glencorse Wood. Lieutenant-Colonel Copeman had already been to their positions around an hour before, but had fond their CO not there. On the way back, he met him coming back from near ‘Black Watch Corner’ and they started to plan for the forthcoming attack. Copeman informed him that he would be ready to attack at 2.00am, but in the following minutes, the situation changed.
However, “the situation rapidly became worse” wrote the War Diary “the moon was gone and the shelling more regular, and a thick mist rose (or fell). About 3.30am orders or permission to advance were given if O.C. 4th Suffolks would be responsible for the whole of the 1st Middlesex and 2nd A. & S. Hrs front”
This was a big ask of the Battalion. It would involve them being spread more thinly over the line of advance which fanned out from 250 yards between ‘Verbeek Farm’ and ‘Lone House’ to over 500 yards between ‘Black Watch Corner’ and Carlisle Farm’. Whilst he was deciding, around one and three-quarters Companies of 5th Cameronians arrived from Glencorse Wood and it seemed that now with these additional men, the attack could now proceed along the lines of the original plan.
However more “terrible delays occurred” to push back the start time of the attack. Communications between the Suffolk Companies was difficult due to the terrain and the mist. Start times were fixed, only to be delayed, and in the meantime, the enemy’s shelling became a full barrage.
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Starting back in March 2014, we have recorded the events of 100 years ago on the centenary of their happening.
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