The savage action at Bayonet Trench affected many communities across the county of Suffolk. In neighbouring Cambridgeshire, the small village of Stuntney, near Ely was perhaps, hit the hardest of all. The tiny Fenland village had already seen over ten men volunteer for service in the armed forces, but it was following the action at Bayonet Trench that one family felt the full, tragic effects of war.
Thomas and Sarah McGee gave all four of their sons for the Army. Bert, and his brother James, were both early members of 7th Suffolk, having first enlisted in Ely, to be sent onwards to Bury St. Edmunds in August 1914. Their younger brother, Thomas, also enlisted and found himself in the Cambridgeshire Regiment. Their older brother Edward, would also serve but with the Northumberland Fusiliers
On 12th October, Bert (above left) and James (above centre) were killed in action with 7th Suffolk, but in the confusion of the battle, they were first listed as "missing." That same day, their brother Thomas (above right) died of wounds he had received two days before in a field hospital. Thus, in the days that followed, Mr and Mrs McGee, received three telegrams; one informing them that their son, Thomas was dead, and two others to say that their other sons, Bert and James, were missing.
Thomas and Sarah, distraught at the news, appealed for information through the International Red Cross, and soon news came back from a comrades of Bert's in the Battalion. Private H. Jackson, who had been wounded in the attack and was now in hospital, wrote to Bert's parents: "We made our advance towards evening, and I saw Pte. Bert Parker McGee killed by a high explosive shell in No Man’s Land.” No news was received of James.
After the allotted time, it was concluded that James was regretfully dead and that all three died on the same day; the 12th October. It was a crushing blow, not only for the McGees, but for the community as a whole. The tiny village was plunged into mourning.
The local newspaper at nearby Ely proclaimed in the weeks that followed; “Three In A Day” Letters however, still arrived from Edward. Their only surviving son was for now, safe.
With most grateful thanks to the Stuntney Village website for the above photographs.
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.