75 years ago today, 1/Suffolk was fighting its first major battle on German soil. In the woods before Goch, an attack through the dense woodland was commenced on 27th February 1945 to attempt to sever the Udem-Weeze Road. 'D' Company met with heavy resistance at a small forest hamlet known as Sophienhof, whilst 'C' Company battled dense undergrowth to reach important road junctions in the wood. Though the going was tough they secured their objectives. Their counterparts in the Brigade; 2nd East Yorks and 1st South Lancs, had a much tougher time and sustained heavy casualties. Both failed to take all their objectives, but the East Yorks fought off a four-hour enemy counterattack around their positions at Schaddenhof Farm, that left their positions precarious. The following morning, 1/Suffolk advanced to take their untaken objectives. The action was bitter, against a tenacious enemy, that now fought for every inch of his homeland. Despite this, it covered by less than a paragraph in the Regimental History. It cost 'D' Company its commanding officer, Major Mayhew, who was badly wounded by shrapnel, together with the wounding of over twenty men. Captain 'Ike' Morris, the Battalion Medical Officer, was to later receive a Military Cross for his skilful positioning of the Regimental Aid Post, that enabled the wounded of the Battalion and those of the East Yorks, to be got away swiftly to the Advanced Dressing Station. Spare a thought today for all those who took part in 1/Suffolk's 'forgotten' battle in NW Europe.
Bon Anniversaire Les Amis du Suffolk Regiment!
We saw recently on Facebook that our French counterparts, Les Amis du Suffolk Regiment have just celebrated their 30th Birthday. Born out of the gift to the Regiment of the Hillman bunker in 1989, Les Amis have since 1990, maintained the bunker complex to allow it to be opened for the public to visit. From an overgrown dumping ground for the villages rubbish, by 1990, they had cleared the site and has over the past twenty years, excavated the site further and have recreated several missing features of the site such as gun positions and the cupolas that were removed just after the war. Over the twenty years of official pilgrimages between 1989 and 2004, Les Amis have been most excellent and generous hosts, treating the veterans of the 1st Battalion as royalty on the visit we made to Normandy. Now the site is a major tourist attraction, the bunker is in virtually every guide book on the Normandy campaign. Through the tireless efforts of Les Amis, the Suffolk Regiment remains firmly on the map in Normandy. We send our most hearty congratulations to Les Amis and wish them every success to the next 30 years.
Where It All Began
Exactly 130 years ago today, the first edition of the 2nd Suffolk Gazette was printed by the 2nd Battalion in Alexandria. Baring a few years of the Great War, it was published continuously until amalgamation in 1959. Originally only intended for the news of the 2nd Battalion, in 1897, the 1st Battalion started to send in news and its name was changed to the Suffolk Gazette and then a few years later, the Suffolk Regimental Gazette. By 1914, all Battalions of the Regiment were covered. In 1925, the 1st Battalion took over responsibility for printing it and later, it was published at the Free Press works in Bury St. Edmunds. Originally it was published monthly, but some years were bi-monthly and some quarterly. Later it was reduced to three issues per year. In 1960, the Britannia & Castle was published which contained news expressly for 1/1st East Anglian Regiment (Royal Norfolk and Suffolk), which was continued as a copied newsiest in 1965, after the Royal Anglian Regiment was formed. Britannia & Castle ceased publication in 2013, but by then the Friends magazines; the Castle & Key and the Gazette were already in existence. Thus since 1890, news of the Suffolk Regiment and its history has always been in print somewhere and we've got many more years of articles yet.
Here's to the next 130 years!!!
Shortly after hearing the sad news of Tony Coote's passing, we heard today of the loss of another Suffolk Regiment stalwart, Richard 'Dick' May, who passed away after a brave battle with cancer. Dick was another National Serviceman who completed his time with the 1st Battalion in Malaya between 1950 and 1952 serving with 1 Platoon, A Company. Prior to his call-up, Dick had worked for British Railways, and after his service had ended, he returned to work with them. Working as an fireman in the Ipswich shunting yards, he later worked on the east coast main line where he had the privilege of firing the Sandringham Class locomotive named 'The Suffolk Regiment'. Its original driver and fireman were both former Suffolk Regiment soldiers, and Dick may have been the only other member of the 'Old Dozen' to crew her in her 26 years of service. In retirement, Dick and his wife Jackie, threw themselves wholeheartedly behind the activities of the Old Comrades Association. They were staunch supporters the Ipswich, Felixstowe and Leiston Branches of the OCA and Dick was often a Standard Bearer to all these branches, helping out where needed. When the Friends were formed, Dick and Jackie were early members and huge supporters, even giving over the garden of their home for two barbecues help to promote the Friends and raise money for the OCA. In 2010 their garden became a Parade Ground and the scene for a Drum Head service as the Ipswich Branch Standard was rededicated for the 60th anniversary of its original presentation in 1950. Dick was always a most willing and helpful man, always ready to assist the Friends. A man of unflappable character, he will be greatly missed. Both he and Jackie were great patrons of the Suffolk Regiment, and did much to ensure the survival of the OCA in Ipswich and in East Suffolk. Our thoughts are with Jackie and her family at this time.
Above: The 2010 Drum Head service held in Dick's back garden in Ipswich. Dick can be seen third right, with fellow Suffolk veterans John Bye, Alf Watson, Ron Freeman and the late Ray Saxby. A Colour Party was provided by the 'Khaki Chums' and Mrs Betty Rinder who repaired the Branch Standard in 2000, was also present.
We heard recently of the loss of Suffolk Regiment stalwart and Malaya veteran Tony Coote, who passed away after a short illness. A local Suffolk lad who heralded from Lowestoft, as No. 22477751, Tony completed his National Service with the 1st Battalion, serving in 3 Platoon, 'A' Company in Malaya between 1952 and 1953. He even became an uncredited extra in David Macdonald's 1953 documentary film 'Operation Malaya' where he was seen briefly as a Bren gunner (above), laying down fire on a bandit camp. Tony, together with his wife, Rosie, were staunch Suffolk Regiment supporters and Rosie has managed with Tony's constant support, to organise the running of Lowestoft Branch of the Old Comrades Association for some years, together with the twice-yearly Diss Regimental dinners for Suffolk Regiment veterans. Tony was the very epitome of the Suffolk soldier. Try, loyal, steady and proud. His ever-smiling cheerful face, will be greatly missed at Minden Day which he attended every year without fail, always wearing his original jungle hat. Our thoughts are with Rosie and her family at this time.
Tales Of The Unexpected
This evening whiling away time, we watched an episode of the the long running Anglia TV series 'Tales of the Unexpected'. In one episode from the early 1980s, named "The Colonel's Lady" starring Joss Ackland and Pauline Collins, the opening scene in an English country manor house, the camera flashes through a grand hallway, past a hall table that exhibits two silver-framed photographs of Suffolk Regiment interest. On the left, a photograph of H.R.H. The Princess Margaret visiting the Depot in 1954 to be presented with a handsome regimental brooch. On the right is a photograph of Her Royal Highness presenting new Colours to the 1st Battalion in Germany the following year. Thus the question is, who lives in a house like this? (to quote from 'Through the Keyhole'!) As the series was filmed predominantly in the eastern counties, it is fair to surmise that the house belonged to a former Suffolk officer who loaned it for filming. Does anybody know which officer it could have been? It is a fairly grand house so were surmising that it may have been a superior officer of a great rank. If anything here looks familiar, do please contact us - it would make a great story for the next Friends magazine.
Battledress - The First Known Photograph?
Is this the earliest known image of a Suffolk Regiment soldier in battledress? A discovery this evening in the July-August 1939 edition of the Regimental Gazette showed men of the 1st Battalion, immediately after war was declared. At this time, service dress uniform was still being worn and this was how the Battalion returned from Malta a few weeks earlier. Here in this photograph, one man leans out of the back of a truck wearing a battledress blouse with brass castle collar badges and an FS cap. His contemporaries still wear the traditional service dress and peaked caps and this was how they went to France a few weeks later. We know that the militiamen were issued battledress when they were called up that summer, partially as a way of distinguishing them from new recruits at the Depot, but is this the first use of BD with the regular battalions? Have you an earlier photograph of it being worn? If so please do contact us.
Our recent appeal for Regimental Gazettes, has proved successful with a Friends member contacting us to say that they had a spare copy of No. 405, the only edition we were missing from 1935: the 250th anniversary year. This is great as it now fills another gap in the archive. Were now getting very close to having a complete run from the end of the Great War to Amalgamation. We still need a few more and lots of early editions, but we'll publish a list soon of those editions we need. Please do contact us if you have any unwanted editions or duplicates. We have plenty of spares too, so we can do a swap!
'Fighting Through To Hitler's Germany'
We saw today on Twitter that our very own secretary has released an image of the front cover of his first book, due out in May. The book, entitled ‘Fighting Through to Hitlers Germany’ will tell the story of the 1st Battalion in NW Europe, 1944-45. Based on many previously unpublished accounts, it will be accompanied with many previously unpublished photographs and detailed maps of the major battles the Battalion fought. He has faithfully promised us updates of its journey to print, with the book being launched in early May, so watch this space (as they say) for more details!
Happy New Year!
A very happy New Year to all Friends.
Stick with us as we commemorate the 75 anniversary of VE and VJ Day, the 85th anniversary of the creation of the Regimental Museum, and the 80th anniversary of the Dunkirk Evacuation.
Membership is ever important and anyone can join us. Pop along to the Membership page and download a membership form. Our magazines are packed full of interested Regimental articles - only available if your are a paid-up member!