There were many men who served in the Suffolk Regiment with curious and unusual names. Valentine Russell, Octavius Kettle, Plantagenet White - all these names had meanings to the parents of these men and signified their birth dates, their ranking with their siblings, or their proud family heritage, but recently we found perhaps the most fascinating name of all: Christmas Webb. In receiving the latest edition of the Suffolk Branch of the Western Front Association's newsletter via email, we came across an article written by Friends member, Kelvin Dakin, in which he records the life of No. 15652, Private Christmas Dick Webb of 7th Suffolk who died of wounds on 22 April 1916 and who is buried in St. Sever cemetery, Rouen. As you would imagine, his first name was given to him because of his birthday, being born of Christmas Day 1894, in Witnesham, near Ipswich. He enlisted in Ipswich and served first in the 9th Battalion, before being wounded on 27 February 1916 and after recuperating, he was sent to the 7th Battalion, where he died most probably from wounds received in the front line in March/April 1916. Christmas is seen here in his new khaki uniform in a photograph most probably taken in the Spring of 1915. He carries under his right arm, a walking out stick, the tip of which is just visible. So, we think here that Christmas has by far taken the prize for having the most fantastic name, though one would argue that Captain Minden Francis Badcock of 2/5th Gloucestershire Regiment, killed at Pozieres in 1918 is a close second - did his family have a connection to the Suffolk Regiment, naming him after our principal Battle Honour?
With grateful thanks to Kelvin and Suffolk WFA for this information.
"Those Who Go Down To The Sea In Ships, Who Do Business On Great Waters"
Today, the Nation, the Commonwealth and numerous countries around the world, stood in silence to remember the life of His Royal Highness, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. As his funeral in St. Georges Chapel in Windsor, Her Majesty The Queen, together with her family, mourned the passing of a great man, who had done so much for our Armed Forces and the youth of this country and the Commonwealth. The Duke of Edinburgh himself, had no link with the Suffolk Regiment, but on 1st May 1956, he visited Suffolk and was presented to a Guard of Honour of men from the 4th Battalion, the Suffolk Regiment at Christchurch Park, Ipswich, and the following day, he visited Lowestoft, where a second Guard of Honour of the Battalion was present. Here in the line-up at Ipswich, the Duke can be seen talking to a young soldier of the Battalion who had served his National Service in Korea and who was then completing the remainder of his service with the T.A., but further back down the line, he stopped to talk to Sergeant Stimpson for some little time, having spotted that like himself, Stimpson wore the Burma Star, Stimpson having served in the 2nd Battalion since the mid-1930s in India. As his funeral service drew to a close, the words of Psalm 107:23 were spoken; "Those who go down to the sea in ships, who do business on great waters, they see the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep" - a fitting epitaph for a sailor, statesman, and consort, who devoted his life to the service of his Queen and her Country. May he rest in peace.
A Kitchener Drummer
For those of you who are members of the Friends, you will know that here at Friends HQ, were like Regimental Drums. Photographs of individual Suffolk Regiment Drummers are quite difficult to obtain, but this week we have been sent an image of a man of Kitchener's Army, taken most likely when he received his first set of khaki uniform. This Drummer wears the simplified service dress jacket, as commonly seen being worn by men of the New Armies until supplies of the regular pattern of service dress jacket could be made in sufficient numbers. On his right sleeve can be seen the small brass drummers badge - a similar badge was also worn on the other arm in the same position. His trousers are pressed with no frontal pleats (as sign of late war and post-war drummers) and he wears a leather 1914 Pattern waist belt that went with a set of leather equipment, that was in the majority, issued to New Army men (as their comrades in the regular and territorial battalions had exhausted existing supplies of web equipment). It would have been great to find an emblazon on the Drum, but alas it is blank - of policed brass, with standard red, white and blue painted hoops. We know that the 7th and 8th Battalion's had their own emblazons, but we have as yet, no data for the drums of 9th, 11th and 12th Battalions. If you have any data onto Drums of these battalions the New Armies if the Regiment, please do get in contact with us.
A New Shirt - Palestine Negatives Come To Light
Do any of you recognise these two fine looking soldiers of the Suffolk Regiment taken in Egypt or Palestine in 1945-46? The Friends were sent a couple of negatives this week of Suffolk soldiers take at that time and with the miracles of technology, we have been able to scp them and invert them. These two men here appear to be veterans of the campaign in Europe during the war and the soldier on the right wears a US Army shirt that were issued to men of the Battalion in Belgium when they were training for a proposed moved to the Far East and the invasion of Japan, but before then, the Atom Bomb was dropped and they were never sent - but they all managed to keep their new shirts!!! Any helpful suggestions as to who they are, would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
Quartermaster Laver - Can you help?
This week, we were lucky enough to procure this lovely Carte-de-Visite photograph of an officer of the Twelfth Regiment, taken in Preston in the early 1870s. His long straggling mutton-chop side whiskers, were a throw back to service in New Zealand, and a upon comparison with a photograph of the officers of the Twelfth Regiment taken at Devonport between 1867-1870, he can be found marked as just as "QM." However, a look at Colonel Webb's History of the Regiment (1685-1913) identifies the Quartermaster in New Zealand and "Laver" and to confirm the identity, the man appears to be wearing the same watch chain as intros photograph, in the Devonport photograph also. What's puzzling us though, is his medal. What is it? The pattern of stripes looks right for the New Zealand Campaign Medal (1866), but its cross-bar hanger had a distinctive rounded corner, which does not appear to be seen on this example. We've blown the photograph up and were still none the wiser, but if you think you know what it could be, please do get in contact with us.
More Regimental Fakes
Recently, there have been a spate of fake Suffolk Regimental items being offered for sale. A Second World War era Wolseley sun helmet was offered for sale in the US with a red and yellow patch on the side that claimed to be a genuine Suffolk example, and more recently this week on eBay the below medal which purported to be an original Army Temperance Association example, award to an abstaining soldier of the 12th reached a three-figure sum. The example - seen here, is a crude attempt to make sometime appear to be valuable, but is made from a series of different badges and brooches. It contains an early 'sweetheart' badge in brass - with a style of crown and castle associated with the Edwardian era, but on the obverse, are the letters 'ATA' crudely tacked on with pins. 'ATA' the seller noted stood for 'Army Temperance Association' - that noble body of soldiers who took the pledge not to drink, but it had been the Royal Army Temperance Association since 1902, yet the 'R' was missing. For those with a knowledge of military collectibles, you will note a distinct similarity in the style of the letters with that of an Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) shoulder title of the Second World War period, and indeed as if to confirm our suspicions, that second 'A' has been broken away, at the point where the 'S' of an 'ATS' shoulder title would have been. The 'S' had been removed, and another 'A' from a second shoulder title tacked into its place. It's sad to see this sort of thing happening as a new generation of unwitting collectors get fooled by such things. We have all be caught out. I brought a 1st Battalion drum some years ago, only to discover it was a 1960s fake, but sadly as interest in the Regiment grows, this will become an all too common experience to those who are unaware. As the old saying goes - "if in doubt, ask"
By Royal Appointment
Very rarely have members of the Suffolk Regiment been attendees at Royal functions, but here seems to be one of those rare occasions. Today's post brought a number of items relating to a 2nd Suffolk Regiment Burma veteran who has recently passed away. Inside were various bits of paperwork and copies of photographs of men who serviced in the Burma campaign, but included in the lot, was a copy of the Spring 2017 edition of 'Dekho!' - the magazine of the Burma Star Association, which shows a veteran of the campaign being introduced to H.R.H. The Print of Wales, wearing a distinctive Suffolk Regiment tie. Further reading inside, identified this as Private Idris Jones, formerly of 2nd Suffolk, who served in the battles in the Arakan and later at Imphal. We met Idris many years ago at a BBQ held in Ipswich when he produced a battered copy of the article 'Men of the Arakan' where he pointed out to us his face in a photograph of a group of men having tea in the Arakan, just after the battle for the hilltop position known as 'Bamboo.' One can surmise as to what His Royal Highness is asking Mr Jones? Is he making polite conversation? or is he asking the obvious question: "tell me, to what Regiment does that hideous tie belong to?!"
At the end of my garden, the daffodils are already coming into bloom. This can only mean one thing, that the same is probably happening at the Depot. The old parkland at Gibraltar Barracks usually bursts into bloom around mid-late March but with the weather being at present, fine, they are probably bursting forth into riot of yellow across the old grassland around the Officers Mess, the Admin block and the Guard Room, or rather the areas where they used to be - since these were all demolished in the early 1960s. The Keep (seen here) is the only building left of the old barrack site that was built in 1878, but from its opening as a training centre for the recruits of the Regiment, great measures were taken to keep its appearance smart. The site when opened, included several tumuli and a curious area of pathway known as the 'Egg' which remained untouched throughout its lifetime. In the 1930s, great strides were made in the planting of several hundred daffodil bulbs that still to this day, bursts into bloom around this time of year and the annual 'Daffodil Sunday' opening of the Depot was a major event in the town. Sadly this year, we can't celebrate this day with an opening of the Regimental Museum, but the woods are open to the public and if you live close, why not go and see for yourself how great the Regimental Daffodils are!
Robin Farmer OBE
We've just received the sad news that Friend Robin Farmer, who served with 1 Suffolk in Malaya, 1952-53, has passed away. He went into a care home last year but sadly contracted COVID. Robin was commissioned into 1/Suffolk in 1952 and commanded 12 Platoon, D Company - the same platoon his father had commanded in Salonika in 1918. Robin had a rich and colourful life. During the war his parents were interned in China (where his father had been working when the Japanese invaded) but Robin was luckily left at home. He was evacuated to Canada and narrowly avoided being sunk by a German submarine on the way. He returned to the UK in 1944 and stayed with friends in Suffolk, recalling that one night he had to give up his bedroom to the band leader Glenn Miller, who was performing at a local US airbase. After the war, he was reunited with his parents in Hong Kong. Educated at Radley, after National Service he went up to Oxford and later had a long career with ICI travelling the world to numerous exotic locations and far-flung places, heading up various new ventures for them. He later settled in Cheshire and became a director of the Cheshire NHS trust for which he was awarded an OBE. Robin was an enormously generous man and a great supporter of the Friends. He was always interested in anything related with his old Regiment and purchased several items of regimental interest and important medal groups that he donated to the Regimental Museum. Robin was incredibly well read and knew much of regimental history and whenever one visited, he would quiz them over various Regimental battles over a wide variety of malt whiskies. An enormously likeable man. An officer and in every respect of the word, a gentleman. He will be greatly missed. A fuller obituary will be published in the next edition of the Castle & Key.
The last week has been ff..fff...fffreezing! Cold weather and snow drifts across Suffolk that have not been seen in my lifetime, have forced many of us to stay inside - though some hardy souls (the Secretary armed with a tank suit and GS shovel) have continued to go to work. However, when we all feel hard done by that we have to stay-in due to this short flutter of snow, remember those men of the Suffolk Regiment that have campaigned on active service in some of the coldest and remotest parts of the world. From 2nd Suffolk over 7156ft up in the snow capped mountain range at Razmak in Northern India in 1939-40, to 1 Suffolk up in the Austrian Alps training in 1954, and more recently, 1 Suffolk again in the Troodos and Kyrenia Mountains of Cyprus, 1957-59. In each of these actions, in addition to battling the elements, they were also battling very different types of enemies. From waring tribesman, to cold war armies, to terrorist freedom fighters. So stop moaning that you're cold - when our forefathers had nothing more that a woollen greatcoat and balaclava to keep them warm! Seriously though, wrap up warm and stay safe.
This week, we have been preparing the next edition of the Castle & Key and we have strayed into some rather wide country - that of the history of the Loyal Suffolk Hussars. To be frank, its an area that we have somewhat neglected in the years we have been in existence, but we made a promise back in 2008 that we would include them as part of the family and with just two articles in thirteen years, we have done them an injustice. So preparing to right that wrong, we've started today on a short history of the 55th (Suffolk Yeomanry) Anti-Tank Regiment Royal Artillery, charting their war service as a gunner unit from D-Day to VE-Day. It's actually been fascinating reading and some great research so far. They had a spectacular and glorious campaign in Normandy, fighting in support of the infantry around the villages of Rauray and Fontenay-le-Pesnel, but it is fair to say that after this, they had something of an inglorious war. Though they were always there, behind the infantry, they were never plunged into battle again experiencing the ferocity they had encountered in Normandy, though they acted as infantry in the cold winter of 1944-45 in Holland to release infantryman who were desperately needed on other areas. As with many units, their war 'fizzled out' in North Holland keeping routes open to allow food to be taken to the starving Dutch. It won't be a long article as space does not permit it, but it may spawn others in our ranks to add to it in the future. A detailed account of their war service definitely deserves to be told (that is if anyone is prepared to write it!)
The Lesser-Spotted Colonel Arthur Campbell
Recently, we stumbled across an old documentary about the British Army's role in post-war peacekeeping operations. Made in 1967, the 'Peace Keepers' was presented by General Sir Brian Horrocks (who commanded XXX Corps in North West Europe during the war) and featured him discussing the numerous post-war campaigns with David Lilley. In the four-part special on the Malayan Emergency, in the third episode, he mentioned the action of 2/Lieutenant Ray Hands and how he eliminated the communist terrorist leader Lieu Kon Kim, but what was truly remarkable (for us that is) is that it was Lieutenant-Colonel Arthur Campbell MC, who told Horrocks how it was done. Campbell in his trademark horn-rimmed glasses, was something of a legend in the post-war history of the Suffolk Regiment. He should have commanded the 1st Battalion, and were it not for the fact that Lieutenant-Colonel W.S. Bevan had six month seniority over him, he would have done so. Many often said that he was such a brilliant leader that he would have ultimately become another 'Monty' He did finally command 1/1st East Anglian Regiment in Berlin and later in British Guiana, before retiring in 1963. He is probably best known for his writing the semi-fictionalised account of campaigning in Malaya 'Jungle Green' which was an instant success when it was first published in 1953. It was great to finally hear Campbell speak, though it was a shame that he didn't wear a Regimental Tie!
A Happy New Year To All Friends!
Welcome to another year of the Friends.
Back in 2008 when we started, little did we think that we'd still be here 13 years later. The last twelve months have been a tough time for us all. We've seen some of our older members pass away, but we have had many new members join us. Hopefully now, with a vaccine for COVID being rolled out, we can all look forward to a brighter 2021. Hopefully this year, we can celebrate Minden Day again at Gibraltar Barracks, and remember the fallen of the Regiment on Remembrance Day. Though last year was a temporary, and emotionally painful setback, our remembrance of the Suffolk Regiment continues every day, so stick with us (or join us if you have never been a part of us!!!) and let's go forward into 2021 in confidence that the Suffolk Regiment is definitely not forgotten yet. Here's to the first twelve years of remembering the 'Old Dozen' and here's to the next twelve!