2017 was a plateau year for the Friends; the first time every that membership has stood still. The year too was a very sad one for as you can see below, the living face of the Regiment disappeared rapidly before our very eyes. In other matters, Minden Day came and went, though was quieter than usual. We took pride in representing the Regiment at the unveiling of a commemorative paving stone in Norwich to Sidney Day, the Regiment's second VC winner, and a few months later, we visited the spot where he won his award during the fourth of our commemorative battlefield tours. 2018 is set to be a great year with much interest in our Normandy tour Read more below to see all the other things that happened in 2017.
Merry Christmas Friends
Wishing all Friends a very Merry Christmas! Regretfully, we don't have any jingle bells to offer you, but as the next best thing, how about an Austrian cow bell; a souvenir from the 1st Battalions stay in the Austrian Alps near Schmeltz in 1953. As 2017 draws to a close, we must take the sombre view that we have seen the living face of the Regiment disappear at an alarming rate over the past 12 months - no more so that the past few weeks, but we must look with hope to the future, safe in the knowledge that the Friends will continue to remember the history and traditions of the old Dozen long after the last men who served within its ranks have passed on. The latest magazine is at the printers, and will be with you all in the New Year (if you are a member of course!). Packed with many varied articles, it also contains an urgent appeal to preserve three items of our Regimental History that are under threat from destruction. More news will follow shortly.
Colonel Pat Hopper
It is unfortunate that once again we have to report the passing of yet another Suffolk soldier and today, news came that Colonel Pat Hopper, formerly of the Suffolk Regiment passed away after a long illness. Born in Surrey, Patrick Desmond Leo Hopper was commissioned into the Suffolk Regiment in 1951. Like all those of his generation, he was posted to join the 1st Battalion in Malaya, arriving there in June that year. Within days he was commanding 2 Platoon at Bukit Darah before, in early 1952, he moved from being a subaltern, to Second-in-Command of the Intelligence Section under Captain E.H. Morgan. For his services in Malaya between July and December 1952, he was Mentioned-in-Dispatches, and when the Battalion left Malaya in January 1953, he was chosen to carry the one of the Colours of the 2nd Battalion on the Farewell Parade through Kuala Lumpur. After Trieste, Pat went away on secondment to the 3rd Battalion, the Parachute Regiment and after earning his Wings, he dropped on El Gamil airfield during the Suez Crisis of 1956. Later that year, he was promoted Captain and was back with the 1st Battalion in Cyprus and in 1959, he married Gemma Brown in Nicosia with his fellow officers providing a full guard of honour. Pat was a fine Regimental athlete, excelling at both Hockey, Rugby and Football and represented the Suffolk Regiment at Cross Country running and pistol shooting. A professional soldier, Pat’s service continued into the 1/1st East Anglian Regiment after amalgamation, where in 1963 he left Harwich for British Guiana, where he was thrown into role of Adjutant. He served later the Royal Anglian Regiment. In 1990 after his retirement for the Army, became a Deputy Lieutenant for Essex, before finally retiring in 1992. Pat was an active member of the Officers Dinner Club and the Old Comrades Association, yet despite may twists of his arm from the late Bill Deller, we never could persuade his to join the Friends! We extend our deepest sympathy to his wife, Gemma, and his family at this difficult time.
22466935, Private Ray Burrell
It is with sadness that we report the passing of No. 22466935, Private Ray Burrell, who served with 1/Suffolk in Malaya between 1951 and 1953. Born in Essex in 1933, Ray was called up for National Service in March 1951 and after reporting to Meanee Barracks in Colchester, he was sent to Blenheim Camp at Bury St. Edmunds to start his basic training with the Suffolk Regiment. His draft which included men from the Northamptonshire and Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiments, was split at the end of its training with half joining the 1st Battalion, Royal Norfolk Regiment in Korea, and the other half joining 1st Suffolk in Malaya. After almost a month at sea, they arrived in August 1951, Joining the Battalion at Wardiburn Camp near Kuala Lumpur. After service with B Company, he spotted a notice for drivers on the Battalion notice board and volunteered being posted to HQ Company, and started his driver training. After periods driving both armoured lorries and scout cars, he became the driver to the CO; Lieutenant-Colonel P.A. Morcombe, taking him out to the various Company's stationed around Kuala Lumpur and beyond. Coming home with the Battalion in January 1953, for the remainder of his National Service he was a Sergeant Mess Waiter before being demob the following month. Ray spent the remainder of his service on the reserve list with the 10th Battalion, the Parachute Regiment (T.A.) based in Charlton in southeast London. After qualifying as a paratrooper at Abingdon, he remained with them until he was finally released in 1956. Ray passed away after a short illness. He was a loyal member of the Hemel Hempstead branch of the Old Comrades Association, and was a regular attendee at both John blench's pig roasts and the Diss luncheons. Our thoughts are with his wife, Monica, and his sons Simon and Richard at this time.
An Elizabethan Officers Torin Cap Badge?
Recently on eBay, this badge appeared for sale. It appears to be an officers wire embroidered cap badge for wear on the field cap or 'Torin' cap, but it features three turrets to the castle and a Queen crown. This style of badge was worn throughout the late Victorian and Edwardian era, but it featured a castle with two turrets; incepting with the style of the cap badge of the day. By 1953 when Queen Elizabeth II ascended the throne, the wearing of the Torin cap had long since passed. At this time, officers of the Regiment wore three different pieces of headdress. The dark blue 'Kangol' beret for wear with battledress, the khaki peaked cap for wear with service dress and a blue peaked cap for wear with the blue patrol uniform. The badge, which measures about 70mm high, is too large to be a collar badge for an officer frock coat (still worn by the Bandmaster on special occasions) and even then, only the castle was embroidered, not the scroll or laurels, so its a real mystery. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
This Ancient Land Of Ritual
As the nation pauses to remember its war dead of two World Wars and other conflicts before and since, the Suffolk Regiment's plots in the Field of Remembrance at Westminster Abbey is as busy as ever. Though the small plot was crammed with memorial crosses, the vast majority were now remember those of the Great War; a direct consequence of the ongoing commemoration of the conflict. Second World War memorial crosses were very few in number, with those of the post-war conflict hardly seen at all. Though in the fullness of time, these conflicts will, with future anniversaries, pass again into the public eye, let us not forget these generations now whilst its members are still with us. Since 1685, men of the Regiment have in many lands, given their lives for their country. Let us of the first generations who have no living living link to the Regiment, never forget their sacrifices.
Recently, the news has been rather glum. The living face of the Regiment disappearing at an alarming rate and not much great news to shout about, so a bit of cheery news to brighten up your halloween. Today, we received an email from our chum Jack in Weert, Holland, who informs us that a new and slightly surreal piece of remembrance has just been completed in the town. A sub-station close to the site of the canal bridge where the famous colour photographs were taken of Suffolk soldiers on the day of liberation, had been 'officially' graffitied to commemorate the Regiment's part in their liberation in 1944. As graffiti goes, it' not too bad. Traditional Orange background and the union Flag, but it's no banksy. Maybe we could commission him for a commemorative 2018 piece along the entire length of the old Barrack wall in Bury St. Edmunds?....mmm, perhaps not!
'Mick' Rinder, B.E.M.
The month of October has seen the passing of several Suffolk soldiers and today, we heard of the loss of C.S.M. Mick Rinder B.E.M., who served with the Suffolk Regiment in Malaya, Trieste, Germany and Cyprus. Francis Roy "Mick" Rinder was a regular soldier joining the Suffolk Regiment in early 1950. Soon he was posted to Malaya where he arrived in June. Mick proved himself a most able commander and he was rapidly promoted to Corporal by early 1951, and Sergeant in 1952. On more than one occasion as platoon Sergeant, he led patrols deep into the jungle and once when he was acting platoon commander, he himself accounted for one terrorist killed and another wounded. For the majority of his service in 1952, he was Platoon Sergeant in No. 5 Platoon, 'B' Company. He was present on the fateful patrol on 5th July 1952 when his platoon commander, Second Lieutenant Ray Hands, won the Military Cross for the elimination of the notorious communist terrorist Lieu Kon Kim. The coming and going of young National Service officers meant that for some weeks in late in 1952, Mick was acting platoon commander. It was for his actions over the two-and-a-half years he served with the Battalion in Malaya, that he was awarded the British Empire Medal in 1953. His citation concluded that "Sergeant Rinder has at all times set a very high standard of keenness, loyalist and devotion to duty. Normally leading half a platoon in independent operations, he has proved himself completely reliable, and an NCO who can be entrusted to carry out the most difficult operation with success". Mick left the army in the 1960s. Though he lived in Ipswich and was at one time a member of the Ipswich Branch of the Old Comrades Association, he was very seldom seen at its meetings. His younger brother, Charlie, also served with the East Anglian Regiment and later the Royal Anglian Regiment. The passing of Mick, now leaves just one other known survivor of the famous Lieu Kon Kim patrol of 1952. Our thoughts are with his widow and his family at this time.
It is with great sadness that we record the passing of Ray Saxby, who served with the 4th Battalion, the Suffolk Regiment throughout the 1950s and 1960s. Ray's military career began in late 1945 when he was called up to serve in the Royal Army Service Corps, being posted a motor pool in Italy. After he had completing his service, he returned home to Suffolk and continued to serve on the Reserve with the Territorial Army, joining 4th Suffolk at Leiston. After his time was up, he continued to serve with the TA and rose to become Sergeant in 1958. In this year also, he helped with the training of the squad of men chosen to complete the gruelling 100km 'Nijmegen March' completed annually in Holland. All the team successfully completed the march. Ray continued to serve in the TA and when the 4th Battalion ceased to exist in 1961, he transferred to the new Suffolk and Cambridgeshire Regiment where he remained until he retired in 1965. Ray was a stalwart member of the Leiston Branch of the Old Comrades Association, helping along with his wife, to organise the twice yearly dances at the towns football club. Here, he was always to be found on the raffle table doing a roaring trade. Both he and his wife had organised the Branch's raffles for over twenty years. Ray had been unwell recently and had spent a short time in Ipswich hospital, but he was well enough to return home to Leiston to celebrate his 90th Birthday earlier this year. An early Friends member and huge supporter of all Regimental events, Ray was a man of unfailing cheerfulness with a wry, typically 'Suffolk' sense of humour. He will be greatly missed. Our thoughts are with his widow and his family at this difficult time.
Mark Forsdike 13th October 2017.
Friends 2017 Centenary Tour
Yesterday, the Friends returned from the fourth our our centennial commemorative battlefield tours to the Western Front. Along with our good Friends in the Suffok Branch of the Western Front Association, we organised a trip to visit both the battlefields of Ypres and Cambrai. Starting with the actions of 8th Suffolk on 31st July 1917, we followed them to Poelcapelle for their battle on 12th October. Then the following day, we followed the actions of the 4th Battalion at Fitzclarence Farm on 26th September, then the 2nd Battalion's actions at Zonnebeke which resulted in the capture of the village the same day. Onwards the following day to Cambrai, to visit the actions the 7th Battalion at Lateau Wood and the 9th Battalion at Ribecourt; actions that saw the breaking of the Hindenburg Line. Then on the final day, a whistle-stop route to Malakoff Farm, where Sidney Day of 11th Suffolk won the VC, then onto Roux to visit their new memorial, before exploring Boom Ravine on the Somme. After a pleasant walk here, we ventured back to Arras to visit the memorial to Lieutenant Isaac's of 7th Suffolk, killed at Arras. A splendid time was had by all and plans are already in place for the final tour of the centenary period, which is planned for March 2018 to cover the German offensive of 1918. For a fuller write-up, please go to the tour page.
We have regretfully, received the news that Roland 'Rolly' Barker, a Far East Prisoner of War, who served wit the 5th Battalion had passed away. Rolly was born in Stowupland near Stowmarket in 1921 and went to school in Mendlesham. In 1935, he left to start worn on a local farm, before in 1939, being called up for service in the Army. At this time, the regular Battalions were full with reservists and Militia Men being recalled to the Colours, so Rolly found himself after basic training, being posted to the 5th (Territorial) Battalion. Along with the 4th Battalion and the 1st and 2nd Cambridgeshires, they formed part of the ill fated 18th Division that was eventually captured at Singapore in February 1942. After captivity and release after the dropping of the Atomic Bomb, he returned home weighting just five stone. He was eleven stone when he left England in 1941. He became a lorry driver and married his wife, Kathleen in 1953. His funeral will be held at 2.30pm, on Tuesday 17th October at St Mary the Virgin church at Mendlesham. All are welcome to attend. Rolly passing closes another chapter in our Regimental History for he was believed to be one of the last three known 5th Battalion veterans who served during the last war.
With thanks to Brian Wright of the Stowmarket Branch of the Suffolk Regiment Old Comrades Association for the above photograph.
Get Some In!
In preparation for a forthcoming follow-up article on the Regimental Depot at Gibraltar Barracks, we discovered this photograph on Facebook which claimed to show members of Tower Ramparts School, Ipswich, taken around 1950. However, we'd stake our reputation that this is no school photograph, but a PT squad of new recruits at the Depot. Khaki plimsoles, blue PT shorts and v-neck khaki jumpers, point to a new squad of National Servicemen going through their basic training before joining the 1st Battalion in Malaya. The instructors in their burgundy and black striped jerseys are a real giveaway. The building in the background, appears to be the Sergeants Mess, which was at the top right hand corner of the Barrack Square at the end of the two recruits barrack blocks. If anyone can help us here and even put a name to a face to accurately date it, we'd be very interested in hearing from you.
In The Presence Of Heroes..
Yesterday, the Friends were honoured to be asked to attend the presentation of the Legion d'Honneur to Eric Skelding, formerly of 1/Suffolk who served with them in NW Europe. Eric, a veteran of Dunkirk campaign, started his military service with the Royal Corps of Signals before being commissioned into the South Staffordshire Regiment. When the Division of which he was part, was broken up at the end of the Normandy campaign, Eric along with several other South Staffs officers found their way to the 3rd (British) Infantry Division, and Eric joined 1/Suffolk in early October 1944. The following month, a reshuffle within the Battalion saw Captain Hugh Merriam promoted to command 'A' Company from being the Adjutant, and in his place, the Signals Officer, Captain Alan Sperling, was promoted. Eric, with his previous signals experience, was promptly promoted to become the Battalion Signals Officer; a role he retained until the end of the war. Of a theatrical leaning, Eric arranged for a front line concert to be held for the men of the Battalion in Holland in January 1945. The event, which was compared by Eric, received much praise and coverage in the press at home, and later, Eric continued to act with several amateur and professional companies. After the war, he married a Belgian girl whom he has met in 1945 and they returned to Leicestershire where they lived for many happy years. Eric son's and his family were all there to see a grateful nation paying thanks to one of their liberators, 73 years after the end of the war in Europe. A modest, truly down-to-earth man, and a perfect gentleman, it was an honour to meet him. We send Eric our most sincere congratulations on such an amazing achievement in this, his centenary year.
This morning, courtesy of Friend Martin Knowles, the Summer 2017 edition of the Banardo Guild Messenger arrived. The quarterly magazine of the Guild featured an article written by Martin on Lance Corporal Thomas Mallows who was killed on patrol in Malaya in November 1952 and was the last Suffolk Regiment soldier to be killed on active service. Tom was a Barnado's boy, being put into care when he was just ten years old. When he was called up for National Service in 1950, he liked the Army so much that he signed on as a regular after his two years were up, but was killed on a patrol just two months before the Battalion returned home from Malaya. Martin Knowles, his then platoon commander, never quite forgave himself for Tom's death and the tragic events of one of the last active patrols the Battalion undertook. More so, the inability to be able to write to his family to inform them of his death, haunted Martin for many years. In 2012, he secured the Elizabeth Cross for Tom's original family, which by then, he had been able to trace and he has kept in regular contact with them since. For Martin and the other surviving members of that fateful patrol, Tom is not, and will not be forgotten.
Remembrance Of Minden Day's Past
Today we were sent this old newspaper clipping from the Bury Free Press of Minden Day 2000, which was then one hundredth anniversary the 1st Battalion's participation in the Boer War (1899-1902). On that day seventeen years ago, the Standards of the Old Comrades Association, were led out by the Ipswich Branch, whose bearer and escort were dressed in Boer War uniform to commemorate the anniversary. How things have changed, in such a comparatively short space of time. Then, we still had a large proportion of Second World War veterans and the National Servicemen who served in Malaya, were only just coming onto the scene in great numbers. The Cyprus veterans were still at work and would not come for some time. There were too pre-war men who had served in India and Malta and there were Dunkirk veterans too. Sadly, all too many of them have now gone. I suppose it's easy to wax lyrical about the past, and view it through rose-tinted spectacles, yet the OCA is still in remarkably good shape. Unlike most other regimental institutions, they are still functioning efficiently and with over half a dozen active branches still in existence, they look set to continue for some years to come.
Sidney Day VC - Finally Remembered
Today saw the unveiling in Norwich of two commemorative paving stones to men of the borough who were awarded the Victoria Cross for their actions during the Great War. One man Sidney Day, who was born in Norwich, won his Victoria Cross whilst serving with 11th Suffolk at Hargicourt on 26th August 1917, and today, 100 years on from the when he won his award, a commemorative stone was unveiled in his honour in front of the City's War Memorial. During the short service of commemoration, an overview of Sidney's actions that day were read by local historian Neil Storey, before the stone was officially unveiled by Sidney's son, Michael, and the former Chief of the General Staff, General, Lord Dannatt, GCB, CBE, MC, DL. It was always the dream of local historian, Ron Mace, to have a permanent memorial to Sid Day erected in his hometown. Ron along with Richard Wilson and John Taylor worked tireless to achieve this. Sadly Ron died a few years ago, and Richard last year, but their dream has now finally come to fruition. (Posted: 26/08/2017)
Colin Pettingale - A Man Of Many Instruments
Sadly, we heard all too late of the passing of Colin Pettingale, formerly of 4th Suffolk, the Suffolk and Cambridgeshire Regiment (T.A.) and later the Suffolk Concert Band. Colin was one of the last men to join the 4th Battalion, the Suffok Regiment, before it was fused in 1961, with the Cambridgeshire Regiment to become the "Suffolk and Cambridgeshire Regiment." A keen musician, he formed the nucleus of a new band created from it's newer members and from former members of the 4th Battalion Band, which had been reduced to all but a handful of musicians after its amalgamation. When the Suffolk and Cambridgeshire Regiment was reduced in size in 1967, Colin, along with a few other musicians such as Ray "Hookey" Walker and Dave Arthur, decided to continue playing and formed a new Band; the Suffolk Military Band, continuing to use the instruments of the still possessed. The new band was very much Suffolk Regiment-orientated and its patron was until his death in 1986, Lieutenant-Genral Sir Richard Goodwin. It was not until the 1970s, when more members joined, that new uniforms and instruments could be purchased, that it changed its name to the 'Suffolk Concert Band'. Colin was a man of many instruments and a stalwart member of its ranks for many years. The Band regularly played at Minden Day every year and Colin was always in attendance. He was a supporter of the Ipswich Branch of the Old Comrades and a man of many amusing stories. One of our very last surviving Suffolk Regiment Bandsmen, he will be greatly missed.
22579406, Private Peter Todd
It is with much sadness that we report the passing of Peter Todd, who served with the 1st Battalion in Malaya and Trieste between 1952 and 1953. Peter was called up for his National Service in 1952 and after his basic training at Blenheim Camp, Bury St. Edmunds, he joined the 1st Battalion in Malaya being posted to 6 Platoon, 'B' Company, then known as the "Kangaroo’s” - in honour of the Australian heritage of the Battalion’s Commanding Officer. Shortly before the Battalion returned home in January 1953, Peter transferred to HQ Company and remained with them when the Battalion went to Trieste later that year. In the time in between, he participated the Freedom Parades given in honour of the Regiment in Bury, Sudbury and Ipswich. At the latter, men of town such as Peter, were placed in the front rank when inspected by the Mayor. Peter was a loyal and long-serving member of the Felixstowe Branch of the Old Comrades Association and was a regular attendee at its meetings and numerous functions. He also kept in regular contact with his former comrades in 6 Platoon; Ron Norton, Ron Newlands, John Blench and Sid Brace and they returned several times to Malaya to revisit the places where they had served. An early Friends member, he was a loyal supporter. He was also a great Friend of Dick and Jackie May and both he and his family always supported the functions that they held in aid of the Suffolk Regiment. A quiet, modest family man, he will be greatly missed by all who knew him.
Regimental Dress Regulations.....Michael Jackson Style!
For those of you who follow us on Facebook, you will have seen a recent post about a rather famous musical figure who had a liking for the Suffolk Regiment, well.. it's badge at least. Friend Tim Davies sent us a photograph of singer Michael Jackson's jacket worn during his 1984 'Victory' tour, which is currently on display in a Museum in Washington DC. In typical Jackson style, the jacket is adorned with thousands of sequins but behold, on the left breast was a Suffolk Regiment wire-embroidered blazer badge! Nah, we thought, that's not real, but after a quick bit of googling, it is indeed the real deal worn by Jackson. As there is no tangible link between Jackson and the Old Twelfth, we can only assume that his designer thought our Regimental badge was a nice bit of 'bling' to accompany his costume. We don't think this style of blazer will catch on in the ranks of the Old Comrades Association and we can't really see many Suffolk veterans marching at Minden Day next year wearing a sequinned blazer, but there may one or two who may wish to jazz up their old blazers in this 'hip' new style!
Yesterday evening, we heard from sources close to RHQ, that the original hand-painted Suffolk Regiment sign that has for over forty years, been hung above the Regimental Shop on Minden Day, has been destroyed. The sign, which dated back to the early 1950s, was used by the Regiment when they put on public displays - such as the Suffolk Show at Cavenham in 1954 (seen below). We have been informed that it was left out after Minden Day with the intention of returning it to the stores where the rest of the other items for the Parade are stored (marker flags, sign posts etc.) but that it was removed and promptly skipped by the powers that be. Seldom do I get really angered, but this sort of wilful destruction of historical artefacts really gets my back up, especially when there was absolutely no need for it. Over 65 years of important Regimental history and tradition is now reduced to landfill. I only hope that some kind-thinking "skip-diver" has saved it.
The Man Who Taught Mussolini To Play Table Tennis
A rather interesting group of medals and ephemera has just been sold by our good friends at A2Z Military Collectables belonging to the man who taught Mussolini to play table tennis who was once an officer in the Duke of Yorks Own, Loyal Suffolk Hussars. The medals belonging to Major J.T.B. Leader, who served later as a liaison Officer and then went to India with a unit preparing for the invasion of Japan, which was cancelled when the atomic bomb was dropped. Born in Vancouver, Canada in 1913, Lieutenant-Colonel John Temple Bouverie Leader was from a young age, a fine sportsman excelling at tennis. Whilst his family lived in France in the early 1930s, he played tennis to a fine professional standard along the Riveria, where he was spotted by a then unelected El Duce; Benito Mussolini. Mussolini spotted Leader's talents and asked him to come to Italy to play Tennis. It was whist here, as a guest of the Mussolini, that Leader taught him to play table tennis; the great dictator being a regular at the Leader's villa for some weeks as his skill at the sport improved. He married in 1934, an American girl, Amoret Randolph and the couple eventually settled in Norfolk near Diss, where John became an officer in the Territorial Army serving in the Suffolk Yeomanry. When war was declared, he was called up and became part of the Royal Artillery; the arm of service to which the LSH were part of. When the first members of the US 8th Air Force began arriving in England in May 1942, John was chosen to be a liaison officer with this new group of visitors. His American wife too, helped ease diplomatic relations at an awkward time. Posted to India in 1944, he was to be part of a special Field Regiment of the Royal Artillery, designed to restore law and order in the newly invaded Japan, but the atomic bomb put pay to that. In later life, he became a JP, the chairman of his local education committee and also a warden of his local church. Though his medals were pretty commonplace, it is the story behind them that is what is so fascinating. Sold with a trove of paperwork and correspondence, we hope they have found a good home. Perhaps the new owner might want to write a story for us for one of our magazines?
Friends Website Gets Record Number Of Visitors
We have been very fortunate this week to have been mentioned twice in the nation's media. I know it doesn't sound very much in this age of instant news, but believe me, it's quite an achievement! The Bury Free Press ran a piece yesterday on this year's Minden Day celebrations which mentioned the Friends. Since then, we've had a record number of visits to this website - 608 in fact!!! Normally the Friends website averages around 500 visitors a week, most visiting our news page and our ongoing Great War commemoration blog 'Operation Legacy' but this is great news for us and proof that the Old Dozen is still not forgotten. We do some pretty heavy 'plugging' of the Friends to try and make people more aware of who we are and what we do, yet seldom do we get a mention in the press. That's why this is really great to see. If only there was a way of these visitors to join us....
Another Great Minden Day!
Regimental tradition was in full splendour yesterday at Gibraltar Barracks, when former members of the Suffolk Regiment gathered at their old Depot to meet one another and relive campaigns past. After a Drumhead Service, the massed ranks of the Old Comrades Association marched onto their former parade ground at noon led by the Band of the Royal Anglian Regiment. Sadly "Speed the Plough" - the Regimental March was not in the Band's repertoire but nethertheless, almost one hundred Suffolk veterans marched past the Dias where the the Mayor of Bury St. Edmunds, Councillor Terry Clements, took the salute accompanied by Brigadier Anthony Calder, President of the Suffolk Regiment Association. In the afternoon various displays were seen on the old parade square; now the car park for West Suffolk College. Military vehicles including jeeps and an amphibious DUKW or “Duck” put on a show, whilst the City of Ely Band provided a rousing display of military music. The weather was fine and held out so that no-one got wet. Numbers in attendance seemed to be up on last year, with a large number of wives, children and grandchildren attending to find out what "granddad did in the Suffolk Regiment." Roses could be seen everywhere along with the Regiment's traditional colours of red and yellow. The spirit of our beloved old county regiment happily still lives on today. The Suffolk Regiment's unofficial motto of “Stabilis” meaning “Steady” - borne upon its Colours at the time of Minden, seemed now steadier than ever.
Long live the Suffolk Regiment!
Variations On A Theme
We are always studying old photographs we get sent for details as to the service of the sitter, or their military careers. Small details such as badges, buttons, styles of uniform, help us to date photographs, but every so often, we get sent a photograph that is out of the usual. One such photograph is that here which shows, former Far East Prisoner of War, Jack Fowler, who served in 4th Suffolk and with the aid of 'Heroes Return' - a Big Lottery Fund project, returned to Singapore with his family to visit where he was captured in February 1942. The photo left, is to our knowledge, unique for it shows Jack just after the War had ended in a new suit of uniform just prior to his demob. What is highly unusual is that he wears an American Army 'Ike' jacket with Suffolk insignia. To our knowledge, the first clothing the liberator prisoners received, was indeed, American, but not smart uniforms, but herringbone twill cotton fatigues. After their recovery to health, most prisoners were given a suit Indian Army Khaki drill uniforms to return home in or suit of British battledress. Jack appears to have printed white-on-scarlet Suffolk shoulder titles on his arms, but no other insignia. His medal ribbons, are of typical US narrow style, but certainly the last ribbon looks like a Territorial Efficiency Medal, so the other two could be a Pacific Star and 1935-45 Star Medal? We're always pleased to see any out-of-the-ordinary Suffolk Regiment-related pictures. Please do contact us if you have anything as unusual as this!
Major R.A.B. "Ron" Rogers, 1917 - 2017
It is with much sadness that we report the passing of Major Ron Rogers, formerly of the 1st Battalion, Suffolk Regiment, who served in North West Europe. Ron landed as Second-in-Command of ‘A’ Company on D-Day, bringing ashore the Company Reinforcements (all 2IC's were forbidden to land in the first wave). He was wounded by mortar fire at Tinchebray on 13th August 1944, whilst he and his Sergeant were checking German prisoners. His wounds caused him to be evacuated to England where he had to have several shards of shrapnel removed from his back. One piece still remained and it always amused him into his 90s, how this still triggered off airport security! After recuperation, and a desk job at a Depot in Northern Ireland, Ron returned to the 1st Battalion and to ‘A’ Company again, joining them in January 1945 when they were then in positions along the River Maas in Holland. At Hallen-Seckenhausen (Brinkum) in April 1945, Ron along with the rest of 'A' Company, was involved in a bitter, high pitched battle. It was here that he and his men were trapped in a house, surrounded by the enemy. Everybody lay low until a German came up and rang the front door bell! In panic, a young solider dropped his rifle and as Ron later recalled: “all hell was let loose”. Fierce hand-to-hand combat ensued in the darkness, but Ron managed to extricate his section without loss and get back to the Suffolk lines. That day too, ‘A’ Company's Commander; Major Hugh Merriam, was wounded and Ron assumed command of the Company. Following the Allied victory, he was promoted to Major and after an administration job in Germany, he was released from the service in August 1945. Born in 1917, Ronald Arthur Breary Rogers, known as "Rab", gained a scholarship to Bedford School; the same school as his close comrade Trevor Tooley, who was killed on D-Day. During his time there, he played for the 1st XV of Bedford Rugby Club and continued to play for them after the war despite his wounds. A pre-war Territorial since 1938, when war came, Ron was commissioned into 1 Suffolk in May 1940. Ron had a varied career after the war running several smallholdings and farms, but he never lost his links with the Regiment. Ron went on the first Suffolk Regiment pilgrimage to Normandy in 1984 and seldom over the next twenty years, did he miss another tour to Europe. It was only in the past couple of years, when walking became more tiring, that he finally stopped attending. Ron was an incredibly modest man, typically understating his wartime service. When we interviewed him in 2014; shortly after he had been awarded the Legion d’Honneur, he still remembered with much humour, of many of his wartime adventures including losing (and finding!) his pipe in the rubble of Sannerville with the help of his Signaller, Frank Varley, and how he rescued a soaked, and not too pleased, Battalion Commander; Lieutenant-Colonel R.E. Goodwin, after he'd slipped into an icy stream in 1945. Ron would have celebrated his 100th Birthday later this year and we were very much looking forward to celebrating this great occasion with him. A great supporter of the Friends, he was a true gentleman.
Mark Forsdike (Originally Posted: 10/07/2017)
This week, we heard from Tim Davies, senior volunteer at the Regimental Museum, that the Vicar of St. Mary's Church, the Reverend Malcolm Rogers, is leaving the parish to accept a new appointment in Moscow. St. Mary's; the home of the Regimental Cenotaph and Chapel, was much in the news in 2014 when, on the eve of the centenary of the commencement of the Great War, the church took the controversal decision to move the Regimental Cenotaph, the Memorials and the Service Battalion Colours from their home of almost 100 years in St. Wolstans Chapel, down the church to a new position outside the gates of the Regimental Chapel. Several private memorials were also moved and repositioned, including that of Lieutenant-Colonel C.A.H. Brett, D.S.O., killed commanding 2nd Suffolk at Le Cateau, which is still three years after the move, obscured by the church's 'temporary' heating system. The move, which remains controversial to this day, was not undertaken with the consultation of the Friends, and many of our members, were in uproar that such an action was carried out with no formal public consultation. Whether you believe that it should have all stayed where it was, or whether you believe that its removal and repositioning is an evolution of the life of the church, we'll let you to decide. We wish Malcolm well in his new appointment in Russia, where somehow, we do not think there will be any altering of war memorial positions in his new church. Удачи!
New Book; Objectif Hillman
The Regimental News in the past few weeks has been decidedly 1/Suffolk in Normandy, and the D-Day anniversary, brought the launch of a new book, Objectif Hillman by French authors Luc Bollinger and Xavier Lepley. This book, which is the first dedicated volume on the action since Lieutenant-Colonel Eric Lummis wrote "1 Suffolk and D-Day " in 1989, goes a long way to fill the void of a detailed account of the action from both sides. Though the Germans accounts of the action contained in this volume are superb, after a thorough translation, there appears regretfully, to be no new Suffolk material in the book which has not been published before. What is impressive however, is the numerous previously unseen photographs of the Battalion. One great portrait is shown of Captain Ken Mayhew in service dress with GS cap. Another one shows elements of 'B' Company in training in 1942, but perhaps the best photograph is of the original memorial cross at the Chateau de la Londe taken just after it was erected after the battle in June 1944. If you can read French, then we would thoroughly recommend that you try to obtain a copy, though procuring it from France may be a little difficult (although Amazon is a good try). It is well worth a read.
Today, leafing through a second hand bookshop in Saffron Walden, we came across a copy of Richard Cannon's history of the 12th Regiment. Its a fairly common volume, nothing to shout about really, but on the fly-leafy of this copy the name "E.C. Smith" was written. Again common enough name Smith, but it was the initials that made us think again. Could this be Captain E.C. Smith's copy? Edward Corrigan Smith was killed on 28th September 1915 at Hooge in Belgium. He had been commissioned into 1st Suffolk in 1909 and served with them in the Malta. After a spell in the Colonial Service where he unfortunately contracted sleeping sickness, he was invalided home. Not fit for active service for some time, he rejoined the Regiment in the autumn of 1914 and remained at the Depot until he was fit enough to join 2nd Suffolk in Belgium in June 1915. It would be great to think that this was 'his' copy. The book itself was published in 1848 Cannon was tasked to compile a Regimental History of British Infantry Regiments. It was not until 1913 when Colonel E.H. Webb published the first true volume of Regimental History from 1685-1913, that a truly concise volume was available. So, it is possible that having been commissioned into the Suffolk Regiment, Smith went out and purchased a copy of the then only available book on the Regiment's past, to acquaint himself with the history of his new regiment.
(Posted: 15: 06:2017)
Britain At War Magazine Publishes Article On Hillman
Friend Tony Taylor-Neale drew to our attention on Saturday, an eight page article in this months edition of Britain at War Magazine which records the actions of the 1st Battalion on D-Day. The author, Steve Snelling gives perhaps a somewhat polished view of the days events that led up to the eventual capture of the bunker complex codenamed "Hillman." Drawing on the recently commissioned film for information, the article also tells the story of how Private 'Tich' Hunter was awarded the D.C.M. for his part in subduing the position. He was wounded shortly afterwards. The article is profusely illustrated and is well worth read. It is available from all good newsagents now.
"3d Per Rose"
It has often been a long unanswered question, "just where were our Minden Roses made?" Well today, after a long search, we think we have found the answer. In a file in the Regimental Archives that we photographed some time ago, is the carbon copy reply to a letter written by the Colonel of the Regiment, Brigadier E.H.W. Backhouse, to the War Office in 1950 in respect of a questionnaire they had asked to be completed, concerning emblems worn on regimental anniversaries. The Regiment from around 1940 onwards, began to purchase artificial roses most probably due to supply and demand of real roses during wartime. These were obtained from a charity in London, where they were made by ladies who had "fallen upon hard times". E.H.W.B.s reply only exists, so it is difficult to ascertain what the original question were that he was answering, but his replies give us a pretty good idea. It stated that they were "red and yellow" they cost "3d per rose" and were expected to last two years - "depending on whether they were used at home or abroad". A touching note was found at the bottom of the memo that stated that yearly stocks had to be procured as most soldiers (at that time National Servicemen) wished to buy them and keep them as a souvenir of their service with the Regiment. We'll be writing a fuller article on this in a future edition of our Colour magazine so watch out for it!
Bill Linge MM - Finally Identified!
For many years now, we have been searching for a photograph of Robert "Bill" Linge who won the Military Medal on 18th October 1944 at Venray whilst serving with 1/Suffolk. Bill showed great courage in directing the fire of n Allied tank onto German positions, which resulted in the saving of many lives. His actions were immortalised in an edition of the "Victor" comic in 1971. However, despite our best efforts, we have never been able to find a photograph of him. It is quite unusual for on the same day the Bill was presented with the ribbon of his DCM, all the other recipients who received awards that day, were photographed, yet Bill seems to have never been captured. Photographs survive of CSMs Leatherland and Hawley being awarded the ribbons of the DCM, and Private Clarke being awarded the MM. Lieutenant Colonel Dick Goodwin was also presented that day with the ribbon of the DSO. Though these photographs survive in the archives, no photo of Bill ever seems to have been taken. However, the other day, a friend of the Friends in Holland came up with this photo here showing a certain "Private Everest." He was intrigued because there is no evidence that an private called Everest ever won a gallantry award in NW Europe. There was therefore two options as to who it could be; either Corporal Bligh-Bingham or Private Bill Linge, both of whom were awarded the ribbons of the MM that day. As the man standing above CSM Leatherland has no Corporals stripes, it couldn't be Corporal Bligh-Bingham, and must therefore be Private Bill Linge. We made a few enquiries and managed to contact Bill Linge's son and he confirms that the mystery Private Everest, is indeed his father; Bill Linge. Another piece of the great jigsaw slots into place.
New 11th Suffolk Memorial Erected At Roeux
This weekend, a new memorial was erected in the small French village of Roeux; scene of an unsuccessful attack by the 7th and 11th Battalion's of the Suffolk Regiment in late April 1917. The memorial, which had been erected by the local French village, pays tribute specifically to the 103 men of 11th Suffolk; the "Cambs-Suffolks" to died trying to take the land beyond the chemical works to the south of the railway line in an unsuccessful attack on 28th April 1917. Wreaths were laid on behalf of the local Mairie, the Friends of the Suffolk Regiment and the Royal Anglian Regiment, and by family members who had travelled from England especially to attend the ceremony. Afterwards a small exhibition was held, to commemorate those who fell during the attack, in particular, Lance Serjeant Charles Stevens of 'A' Company whose remains were found by a local farmer a few years ago. His badges and the number stamped upon his spoon, identified him as most probably Stevens, but the lack of an identity disc, which has subsequently perished, could not positively prove his identity. He is however not forgotten and is commemorated now on this memorial.
With thanks to Taff Gillingham, via Twitter for the above photograph.
In 1927, the Captain and officers of HMS Suffolk, presented to the Officers and Men on the 2nd Battalion, a handsome silver table centrepiece in the form of a Chinese Junk in honour of the two units of His majesty's Forces serving together in China; HMS Suffolk as part of the Royal Navy's China Squadron, and the 2nd Battalion as part of the International Settlement Defence Forces in Shanghai. The Junk was a treasured centrepiece of the Officers Mess dining table with 2nd Suffolk, and later 1st Suffolk - when the 2nd Battalion was placed in suspended animation in 1947. However with subsequent amalgamations, the whereabouts of the Junk were unknown. It had been spotted a few years ago in a display of Regimental silver in the Royal Anglian Regiment Museum at Duxford, but since then it disappeared from view. However, news came recently of the closure of many Army Messes and last year at Duxford, the Junk made an appearance in the Officers tea tent on Regimental Day. This week we were sent some photographs of the event including this one of the Suffolk's Junk. Good to see that it still in existence and maybe one day, it will return to the Suffolk Regiment.
Happy Easter Friends!
A very happy Easter to all Friends!
Easter, the traditional celebration of the resurrection of Christ, could not often be celebrated in war by those devoutly religious men of the Suffolk Regiment. In calmer, warmer, more-peaceful times, the Battalion would march complete to the garrison church or hold an open air drumhead service in their foreign station, but in times of war, it was virtually impossible to undertake such parades. This year is however the centenary of one of the most famous religious events of the Great War; the church service held in the chalk caves at Arras. It was here on the Easter weekend in April 1917, that the 2nd Battalion held a short Easter service before the battle that was to follow the next day. Spare a thought today at Easter, for all those Suffolk men, who 100 years ago, set forth on Easter Monday, to take on the German Armies at the Battle of Arras.
Gunner Collis; The 'Third' Suffolk VC
We were recently informed that a replica Victoria Cross to James Collis, had recently been sold by an auctioneers in Norfolk. Gunner Collis, who won his VC for actions in Second Afghan War with the Royal Horse Artillery, was one of the few men who having received the nations highest honour, subsequently had it repealed for acts of misdemeanour and poor conduct. Collis, who was found guilty of bigamy in 1895, was stripped of his award. Later, during the Great War, Collis re-enlisted even though he was well over age and served in the Reserve Garrison Battalion of the Suffolk Regiment, helping to train new recruits for service with the other Battalions of the Regiment. Collis, died in 1917 having been invalided out of the Army due to poor health. He was buried in an unmarked, paupers grave in London, where he remained until 1998, when after campaigning by his descendants, he finally received an official Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstone, it having been proved that he was still serving his country when he died. His headstone, in keeping with all others who received the award, bears the image of the VC. The VC that was offered for sale, was a very good and very old replica or what is commonly known as a "jewellers copy" (the original medal is in the Lord Ashcroft collection). It was probably purchased by Collis after his was repealed, so that he could still wear his medals in public. It had previously had a name engraved upon its reverse, but this had been ground off and "GNR COLLIS, R.H.A." has been re-engraved on the hanger. Though the Regiment won just two VCs (Saunders and Day, during the Great War), Collis has in recent years been considered the unofficial "third VC" of the Regiment.
Regimental Museum Launch D-Day Film
On Tuesday a short film was officially premièred at the Army Reserve Centre at Bury St. Edmunds. The film, commissioned by the trustees of the Suffolk Regiment Museum, records for the first time, the story of the 1st Battalion on D-Day. It tells the story of the day’s events through the memories and testimonies of those who were there. Accompanied by original film shot at the time by the Army Film and Photographic Unit (A.F.P.U.), the documentary also features interviews with our few surviving veterans. Captain Ron Rogers, who was Second-in-Command of ‘A’ Company, was interviewed along with Captain Ken Mayhew, who was in command of the Carrier Platoon on D-Day. Private Vic Mayhew also told of the part he and ‘C’ Company played on the day. The film it is planned, will be shown in both the Suffolk Regiment Museum and at the HILLMAN bunker in Normandy (with suitable subtitles!). Copies on DVD will soon be available to purchase from the Regimental Museum.
Suffolk Regiment Museum - Now Open EVERY Wednesday!
Yes. After 25 or so years, the Trustees of the Suffolk Regiment Museum have finally agreed to open the museum doors every Wednesday so now even more people can view its treasures. Not since the 1990s has the museum been open so frequently, and not since the 1970s has the museum been open daily. So with immediate effect, the museum will be open every Wednesday from 9.30 am until 3.30 pm. You have have absolutely no excuse not to go and visit!
Remembering Singapore: 75 Years On
Remember today, the men of the 4th and 5th (Territorial) Battalions of The Suffolk Regiment who, 75 years ago, on 15th September 1942, were ordered to surrender to the Japanese on the island of Singapore. The 18th (East Anglian) Division of which the two Battalions were part, had only landed on the island just seventeen days before. It had spent two and a half years training to fight with the latest weapons and equipment, yet its time in battle was to be just two and a half weeks. The Regimental History wrote in 1947 of the 18th Division that it was; “a Division presumably landed as a forlorn hope; untrammelled by an exhaustive retreat; fresh, inspired, ready to match itself against a victorious but by no means superior, or invincible enemy.” However, if the battle for Singapore was to be short and sharp, the three and a half years of captivity that was to follow at the hands of the Japanese, would be a prolonged agony. Of those who died between February 1942 and July 1945, a staggering 86% occurred not in battle, but in captivity. Spare a thought today for all those who endured this torture, and survived. Spare a thought for those in captivity whose loved ones at home, heard no news of them for almost a year, but most importantly, spare a thought for all those who never made it home. As the memorial at Kranji states “They Died For All Free men.”
Suffolk Yeomanry Gunners In Holland 1944
From our friends in Holland today, came the photograph left, of men of 55th (Suffolk Yeomanry) Anti-Tank Regiment, Royal Artillery, taken in the Nijmegan area of Holland in September 1944. The two troopers are unnamed but their Loyal Suffolk Hussars cap badges can be clearly seen on their GS Caps. The man on the left, wears denim overalls over his battledress and jumper, indicating he's most probably involved in a heavy, dirty job (gun layer, loader etc.), whereas the man on the right, looks a little clear indicating he could possibly be a driver. Its a very long shot we know, but if their faces do look familiar, please let us know.
A Very Old Forgery?
About two years ago, we received a call from an antiques dealer in the Cotswolds who said he had a Suffolk Regiment Drum for sale and would we be interested. Yes, of course was the answer and one Saturday we ventured to Oxfordshire to see it. Upon closer inspection it indeed at the time looked like a pre-World War Two 1st Battalion example. Though it was virtually identical to the famous 'Roubaix' Drum, there were subtle differences that caused us to be suspicious. The painting was of general inferior quality, yet it did bear the Potters name upon its side. Inside too, the original Potters of Aldershot label, so we assumed at the time that it was a genuine drum, perhaps painted at Battalion level during the War by a member of the Corps of Drums, possibly overpainting an old design. However, with the rarity of such things, we purchased it, determined to do some more research upon it. Then on New Years Day, we ventured to the Regimental Museum to leaf through the first generation Britannia and Castle newsletters from the 1960s and 1970s, and in the July 1970 edition we came across a damning indication that the Drum may be a forgery. A small piece ran as follows: "We have heard, recently, of several cases of drums purporting to be those of the 1st battalion, being on sale in antique shops: we have tried to trace their origin and, on investigation, have found them to be forgeries. other regiments have had a similar experience" So perhaps that's it then. A not too accurate 45 year old forgery. It's a shame, as we had high hopes for it being an original example, but it is most probably one of the fake drums mentioned in the newsletter. Still, it'll still go out on the table when we attend Minden Day and Family History fairs as it s a great talking point!
Happy 100th Birthday Ken!
Today the Friends were honoured to attend the 100th Birthday Party of Major Ken Mayhew, our oldest Friend and a truly amazing and very modest man. Ken was commissioned into the Suffolk Regiment in May 1940 and landed with 1/Suffolk on D-Day as commander of the Carrier Platoon. He was at the head of the advance that liberated the French town of Flers in August 1944, earning him the 'official' title by its inhabitants as the "Liberator of Flers". In September 1944, he assumed command of D Company following the wounding of Major Claxton on the advance to Weert. He was wounded in action at Venray by a shard of shrapnel to the face just a few weeks later in the same action that invalided the Battalion Commander. After just a few days in hospital, he discharged himself and returned to the Battalion. He was wounded again in the advance to Goch in February 1945 when D Company were cutting the Uedem-Weeze road. His second wound, though luckily not too serious, did mean that he never returned to 1/Suffolk in Europe. Awarded the Militaire Willems-Orde for his actions in Holland in 1944, he has recently been awarded the Legion d'Honneur for his part in the Normandy campaign. As a token of our appreciation to this special centenarian, the Friends presented Ken with a model of a Suffolk Bren gun carrier, bearing the Honour "Cambrai" - an Honour won 100 years ago in the year of Ken's birth. Everyone, please raise a glass today to celebrate the birthday of this truly special Suffolk soldier.
Amazing Cambs Colour Film Released By The BFI
The British Film Institute have recently uploaded an number of films onto their website in co-operation with the East Anglian Film Archive. You could already watch a short film entitled "Suffolk Territorials" shot in Christchurch Park, Ipswich in 1937, and introduced by the Colonel Cockburn (who lost an arm at Neuve Chapelle in 1915), but in the last few weeks, they have uploaded a superb six-minute collection of home made films of a Cambridgeshire Regiment TA camp at Bury St. Edmunds in 1937. The first four minutes of the film are shot in black and white and show troops on the march and on manoeuvres, but the final two minutes are shot in glorious Kodachrome. It's a great snapshot into the past at a time when the Battalion were being issued with brand new (still creased) battledress uniform, yet still had old Great War vintage web equipment. Here are a few screenshots, but check out the entire film here: http://player.bfi.org.uk/f…/watch-bury-st-edmunds-camp-1937/
Happy New Year
A very happy New Year to all Friends!
2017 is set to be yet again, another great year for us. With more tours planned, our magazines going from strength to strength, and our continued support of some really worthwhile Great War centenary projects, its looks like our 9th year will be our best yet. Though were in a healthy position, we always need more members to keep alive the association. So, please do encourage anyone you know with an interest in the Suffolk Regiment to join our ranks.
Keep warm in this cold snap and let's make 2017 our best year yet!