“I shall always remember” wrote Stormont-Gibbs, Adjutant of 4th Suffolk, “waiting for the barrage to start. Not a sound all along the line. Then on the stroke of zero hour one solitary gun. Then in a couple of seconds hells on pandemonium let loose”
The artillery barrage continued right along the line in the Divisions sector and was taken up on the other side of the river by the French. Under the cover of this cacophony of destruction, Bennett moved forward. The barrage that continued for over half an hour was deafening and those who could, found a cubby hole or corner to shelter from the incessant noise and the trembling earth.
On the other side, Bennett and his party were through the German wire and had entered his trenches. Already he had established a headquarters where he entered their trenches and his men fanned out to clear the trench. The first party went right, gathering anything that could be of importance into sandbags. Shoulder straps were ripped off hanging uniforms, letters and documents were snatched cautiously from dug-out tables and cubby holes and stuffed into the sandbags so that Bennet and later the Intelligence Officer could examine them later. The official report mentioned; “Before they had gone far. They discovered a dug-out; they shouted to the occupants to come up and they did so, the first having an overcoat over his head. The party pushed on for at least another 40 yards, meeting little of no opposition, and did not find anything.”
The prisoners taken were escorted back to Bennett who in turn, ordered the two guards to escort them through the wire and across no-mans-land to the British lines for interrogation. However half way back, a mortar dropped right on top of them killing the two escorts and the prisoners. The Commanding Officers report continued callously; “A shell or mortar (believed to be one of our own) fell amongst them and killed them all (Their remains can be seen in the enemy wire this morning).”
By now some 45 minutes had elapsed and the CO sent over the second party, sending them though the same gap in the wire, but this time they fanned out to the left. Their going was quite difficult with the enemy having retired back to a bend in the trench to the north where they had erected a makeshift defence. The second party had quite a task to eject them and a heated exchange was made by both sides using bombs as rifle fire was impossible in the cramped conditions.
As this was happening, the third party under Lieutenant Hare made their way across no-mans-land and into the German line and were pushing northwards behind the second party. “2/Lieut. A.F. Hare, who was leading this party, pushed forward to discover what had happened to the second party. He succeeded in reaching a small latrine, from which he was able to throw bombs. He considers that altogether the second party must have inflicted considerable casualties I the enemy party, but they were only able to make slow progress up the trench, one reason for this being that the leading bayonet man of the second party had become a casualty. The enemy were throwing the majority of their bombs over the heads of the second party, into the third party who were crowded, but the throwing was bad and we sustained few casualties.”
In the confusion, Bennett ordered the third party to ease back so that they were a little less crowed. Shortly afterwards, Bennett himself became a casualty of the raid, being wounded in the thigh. Leaderless, parties one and two were contemplating a retirement when as if on queue, a bugle was sounded form the British lines, ordering them to retire. Dejected, they retired over no-mans-land back to the safety of the British lines carrying their bags of swag. Gibbs wrote; “The raid failed. The General cursed.”
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.