And so the Battle of the Somme moved on and another Suffolk Battalion were called forward to play their part.
On the night of the 14/15th July, 4th Suffolk, who were then bivouacked between the villages of Fricourt and Mametz, we hurriedly mobilised at dawn and sent forward to support the 1st Middlesex Regiment in their attack against "Switch Trench" which began early in the morning.
Switch Trench ran north-north east above the imposingly dark "High Wood" but to the right of their advance was the enemy held village of Bazentin-Le-Petit. The village was as jet, untaken and from within its heavily wrecked, but strongly fortified farmhouses, the enemy could sweep the open ground to the north and to the east; the land across which 4th Suffolk were to advance. To reach Switch Trench was a pretty tall order.
The attack was made as had become the norm of the battle, in two waves. The first wave; consisting of 'A' and 'B' Company's went over first at around 6.00am, in support of the Middlesex and advanced straight towards the north of the village. The Germans from their commanding position could see the attacking Middlesex and Suffolks and poured forth fire from every angle upon them. 'A' Company on the left flank, went to ground, 'C' Company on the right; closest to village, caught the brunt of the fire. They were cut down in the open.
The second wave; consisting of 'C' and 'D' Company's were retained at the start line by the Battalion Commander; Lieutenant-Colonel hugh Coleman, who saw it as futile to send them over in the face of such fire.
At 8.30am, an artillery barrage was launched against the village. Lasting 30 minutes, a 9.00am, as the dust had barely settled, the second wave went across no-mans-land towards the north. the barrage had had little effect on the defenders of the village, who in seconds, got their machine-guns back into action. A contemporary account recalled; "The advancing force were almost immediately cut down by enfilade fire, machine gun posts spraying cross fire from the direction of High Wood and from positions north west of Bazentin-le-Petit wood as well as strafing fire from Switch Line emplacements. After gallant but hopeless repeated attempts to reach the German trenches and with losses escalating, all attempts at forward movement were abandoned."
It was the Battalion's first real major action since Neuve Chapelle, but the cost was heavy. Four officers killed and ten wounded. One senior NCO killed and three wounded. Losses amongst other ranks were much higher; 36 men killed in action with almost 50 wounded.
The town of Ipswich suffered heavily that day including Captain Herbert Kersey Turner (above). Turner was, like his uncle, Major Frederick Turner, a member of the great Ipswich engineering family that owned the firm of E.R. & F Turners. Educated at Oundle school, Turner joined the 1/4th Battalion in March 1911 and went with it to France in November 1914.
Wounded at Neuve Chapelle in March 915 by a gunshot wound to the chest, he was unfit to return to front line service for some time and instead, accepted a position on the East Anglian Munitions Committee. The committee that encompassed the local engineering firms of Ransomes, Sims and Jeffries, Ransomes and Rapiers, E.R.& F Turners, Messrs. Coxedge and Co., and Reavells, was a calling for young Turner who threw himself wholeheartedly into the job, but he was keen to get away from it and get back to the fight. When he was fit enough, he joined the training Battalion of 4th Suffolk in Hertfordshire and went with them to France in June 1916.
Though Turner's body was recovered and buried in the nearby "Flat Iron Copse" cemetery, the grave's marker was subsequently lost in a later battle. Today his headstone is marked "Believed To Be Buried In The Cemetery."
Welcome to our online 'blog' charting the history of the many Battalions of the Suffolk Regiment and the part they played in the Great War.
Starting back in March 2014, we have recorded the events of 100 years ago on the centenary of their happening.
Keep checking back to see how the Great War is progressing for the men of the Suffolk Regiment.