At 2.45am on 14th December 1914, the 2nd Battalion marched out from their billets in the village of Kemmel, to wait in Brigade Reserve to support a joint Anglo-French attack that was planned for later that morning.
At 8.00 am after a massive British and French artillery bombardment, the 8th Brigade; The Gordon Highlanders to the right, the Royal Scots to the left, attacked the German trenches along the high ground south of a small wood known as 'Petit-Bois' It's commanding position on the battlefield ensured that the Germans had a 'birds eye view' over the British-held section of the line.
The Royals Scots succeeded in capturing a large section of German trench to the west of Petit-Bois and captured almost 40 prisoners including an officer. But the morning's action was not without considerable loss; 6 officers and 160 other ranks. The Gordon Highlanders, faired much worse. They were unable to reach the German trench on the right flank and suffered the loss of 7 officers and 253 other ranks. The French who were supposed to attack on the left, and thus divert attention from the main attack, did not advance, thus escalating the British casualties to the south. As the situation grew worse, and the attackers were running out of steam, late in the afternoon, 2nd Suffolk were called up to support the Royal Scots.
'A' Company, under the command of Captain Temple, went forward to relieve the Royal Scots in the portion of German trench they had recently captured. Around 4.50pm, Captain Temple, moving from one section of the trench to another, was shot in the head. He fell back into the arms of Private Gibons; his batman, who was standing immediately behind him. Gibons would, in tragic quirk of fate, be killed in the exact same spot the following day. It was a sudden wake up call to the dangers of enemy snipers.
Arthur Hilliard Williams Temple was born on 12th January 1875 at Thorpe Morieux, Suffolk. Educated at King's School, Canterbury and later at Ely, he was gazetted into the 1st Battalion in 1898, and joined the Battalion in Malta. He served with them throughout the South African War, latterly commanding the 28th Company, Mounted Infantry. In the years following the Boer War, he served on secondment to the King's African Rifles in Somaliland, and was posted to the 2nd Battalion in India upon his return from Africa in 1904. He was promoted to the rank of Captain in April 1905, and later in 1909, was appointed Adjutant of the newly created 5th (Territorial) Battalion. Retiring in February 1913, he remained on the Reserve List of officers and, in 1914 when war was declared, he was called back to the Colours, and crossed to France with the Expeditionary Force following the Battle of Le Cateau.
A soldier of his Company wrote the following his death to Captain Temple's sister:-
"It was in the trenches that we lost our beloved Captain Temple. He was loved and respected by all, those who served with him in South Africa and in this campaign. The kindness he showed our company when they came from the trenches, sodden wet through, giving us new socks and other articles of clothing which his wife had sent out to him for his company, we shall never forget. I have seen him when meeting refugees put his hand in his pocket and assist them. No one knew what he gave. He did not believe in show.
A shell burst in the trenches in which I was lying, and the Captain came up and enquired if anyone was hurt. His cheery remarks always gave us inspiration, and when word was passed round that he was wounded, and subsequently that he had died, there was grief among all-officers and men. He was fearless, brave and self-sacrificing under all condition, and was never satisfied until he had done his very best for all. He will be missed by all who came in contact with him."
The Regimental Gazette of 1916 noted that Captain Temple's grave lie in a meadow near Kemmel 'marked by a wooden cross, with his name, Regiment and rank' Sadly his grave was subsequently lost to the heavy fighting that the 'Salient' around Ypres was to experience in the years to come. Today, he is remembered on the Memorial to the Missing at the Menin Gate, in the Belgian town of Ypres.
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.