From the interim positions between ‘A’ and ‘D’ Company in the front line, Gibbs could not see anything of the men out in front. His own Company (‘B’ Company), had left the jumping off trenches shortly after ‘C’ Company had gone over. They were now forced to ground in a series of shell holes and culverts around half way between the leading Company’s out in front, and the jumping off trenches behind. Gibbs recalled; “I got my men digging like fury to consolidate the position. Just where were we? I didn’t go back to the jumping off trench in case a few yards retreat meant more and I failed to hold them.” A runner appeared with a message for Gibbs from Battalion HQ to state that he must dig in and consolidate. He scrawled over it “have been doing so for some time” and sent it back with the runner!
By around 4.00pm, narrow scrapes had joined the shell holes into a captured German communication trench. From here Gibbs and his surviving men, could get up to the new front line to find out the situation. After crawling, barging and pushing himself forward, he came upon men of the Battalion. Asking for his fellow officers, he was confronted by senior NCOs, who were now in charge, who informed him that they had all fallen.
In a period of eerie silence at the height of the battle, the Stretcher Bearers crawled out and were able to collect some of the wounded. Gibbs went out across no-mans land to assist in the collection. One stretcher bearer he remembered, had ventured further afield “crawling about with bandages, iodine and a water bottle.”
As German bombers pushed back yard-by-yard from the north and south, a great many casualties occurred in the front lines. As the Suffolk frontage of trench was gradually squeezed, there was now no hope of reinforcement until dark. Two Lewis guns were brought forward and did much to stem the attack for an hour or so, but as dusk descended, with Gibbs, the only officer in the front line, the decision was made to retire. In the darkness, via the route of shell holes and half-dug intersecting trenches, the remnants of the Battalion retreated back to ‘Seaforth’ trench where there were safe.
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.