The Friends were honoured today to be asked to attend the inaugural meeting of the new “Leiston Branch of the Friends of The Suffolk Regiment.” The Leiston Branch of the Old Comrades Association, has recently made the decision to form a new branch under the main ‘umbrella’ of the Friends organisation and we are deeply humbled that they have chosen to do so. It was great therefore to see six former Suffolk soldiers, their wives, partners and a couple of ex-servicemen from the town, meet today at the Leiston Community Centre to have a cup of tea and chat about past service with the Suffolk Regiment. The new branch is strictly informal - no committees or long-winded agenda's - but instead, plenty of tea and cake! Anyone is welcome to join them at their forthcoming meetings and we shall support them in their new endeavour through this page. We'll keep you up to date with their news and activities and if anyone here is interested in joining them (or has a relative who may be interested) they can contact us here and we’ll put you in touch with them. Spread the word far and wide across East Suffolk - it would be great to see a few more former Suffolk soldiers at their future meetings. The Suffolk Regiment flag is still flying in Leiston and it looks set to continue to do so for a few more years yet!
The Suffolk Regiment Represented At The Cyprus Memorial
Today, we received a couple of photographs and nice letter from 'Pop' Whitwell, formerly of the Corps of Drums of 1/Suffolk in Germany and Cyprus (1955-57). Pop recently attended a service of remembrance at the Cyprus Memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. Pop, who travelled from Cambridgeshire, explained in his letter that he was the only Suffolk in attendance. The stone from which the memorial is made, was brought from Cyprus and bears the regimental badges of all those units of the British Army that were involved in the emergency between 1955 and 1959. It was originally dedicated ten years ago. Also in attendance, was the Standard of the Kyrenia Branch of the Royal British Legion; its bearer having brought it over specially for the occasion. A fuller piece on the service will be published in the next edition of the Gazette.
The Closure Of Kneller Hall
A chance mention in a conversation with a colleague today, revealed that in 2020 the Government proposes to close Kneller Hall; home to the Royal Military School of Music, since 1857. The recent defence reviews have drastically reduced the number of active military bands in the British Army to the extent that now there are less than five, and recently it has been disclosed that as a further effort to save money, Kneller Hall will close in 2020 and the building will be sold off into private ownership. The school will however continue and will relocate to another location. The Royal Military School of Music has always had a deep spiritual heart within the British Army. Since the middle of the 19th century, soldiers were sent here from all Regiments of the British Army to spend a year there training to become professional musicians. Conductors who had already passed through the school, could also return to train as Bandmasters. Notable Regimental members to pass through its doors have been Bandmaster George Holborn and Bandmaster George Stunnell (above), the latter being responsible for fusing the march of the Royal Norfolk Regiment and the Suffolk Regiment into the March of the 1st East Anglian Regiment, maintained still, by the Royal Anglian Regiment. Music has always played a key role in the history of the British Army and one hopes that this will still be so in the future. It took much skill to perform our Regimental March 'Speed the Plough', and even more to march to it whilst playing it as well! It was always said that it was the hardest march to play in the British Army and was often used as a 'examination' piece to test new musicians at Kneller Hall.
The Mess Dress Saga
This week we were fortunate enough to obtain a tropical mess dress jacket as supplied by the native contractors to the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the Suffolk Regiment whilst they were on Foreign Service. The jacket is in appearance, virtually identical to the standard pattern worn at home, except that it features no buttons to the front and is made of a finer grade of cloth. It featured too, a much reduced amount of padding inside the coat to cope with the searing tropical heat, but it still retained heavy yellow melton cloth for its facings and cuffs. Consulting the small guide book given to officers before joining the Regiment from Sandhurst, it was noted that for Foreign Service only one jacket was required, to be manufactured in "Thin red material." It also stipulated that "For Mess Kit etc., measurements will be sent well in advance to the Adjutant, Foreign Service Battalion who will arrange for the native Tailor to make enough clothes for the voyage and send home." So now the challenge is to obtain a pair of brass badges for it. Embroidered ones were worn only at home. It could take a while...
Twenty Years Ago...
Today, whilst trying to find something else, we came across an old auction catalogue from 1998 when the military auctioneers, Bosleys, held a sale that featured a considerable number of 12th Regiment, and Suffolk Regiment artefacts. A large amount of very rare and 'exotic' helmet plates and badges were offered for sale along with several items of uniforms and headdress. There was a quilted officers shako, a khaki wolseley sun helmet with a three-fold puggaree and at least three Home Service helmets. Amongst these, Lot No. 808, was one with blackened furniture that was attributed to Sergeant Jolly of 'D' Company, 1st (Volunteer) Battalion, Suffolk Regiment which had written inside: "This helmet was worn by Sgt. Jolly at the funeral of Queen Victoria London" Despite twenty years passing, the helmet has never reappeared for sale and we have assumed that it has gone into a long established collection, possibly in the US. If you know of its whereabouts, please do let us know. It would make an excellent article in a future Friends magazine. (Posted: 11/08/2018)
Today, Friends drew our attention to a post on Pinterest of a 1/6th scale model of a surrendering Suffolk soldier, being taken prisoner by the Japanese during the fall of Singapore in February 1942. The model is based upon the famous photograph that purports to show men of either the 4th or 5th Battalion surrendering. However, there is no evidence that these are actually men of the Suffolk Regiment and the location of the photograph, taken near the Ford Motor Works, places it much further south than the positions the Battalion occupied just prior to their surrender. All available evidence suggests that these are in fact Australian troops and the fact that the original of the image is in the Australian War Memorial, further supports this theory. However that said, the modeller has go the detail spot on correct with the image. Boots worn with short puttees, voluminous 'Bombay Bloomer' shorts/trousers and aertex pull-over shirt. In some respects it’s very flattering that someone has chosen to immortalise the Suffolk Regiment in this way, but one perhaps feels that they could have chosen a little more gallant episode from our proud regimental history. That said, the two Suffolk Battalion's that fought at Singapore acquitted themselves well in the desperate days that they fought on the Island before the final surrender came. Their exploits are often overshadowed by the hell that they endured in captivity afterwards, and so this is a unique and thoroughly modern form of remembrance to them. (Posted: 10/08/2018)
The Gardham Archive
Recently at auction in Canterbury, the medals and uniforms of the late Brigadier H.P. Gardham were sold. The various lots which included his Home Service helmet, his sword, blue patrol uniform in a trunk and his medals, together with an incomplete snare drum of the 1st Battalion. Brigadier Harold Phelps Gardham was commissioned into the Suffolk Regiment in 1914 and joined the 2nd Battalion in Belgium the following year, where he greatly distinguished himself in numerous bombing raids around Hooge in September and October. Wounded in 1916, he served latterly with the 9th Battalion until their disbandment, whereupon, he rejoined 2nd Suffolk in mid 1918, during the Battle of the Selle. After the war, he spent some time with the 2nd Battalion in India, and the 1st Battalion in England where he commanded the Corps of Drums at Blackdown in 1933. He later went on to a Staff position and became a Deputy Adjutant and Quartermaster in 12th Corps in the Middle East, where he earned a C.B.E., and later in North West Europe, where he was Mentioned in Dispatches. He retired in 1949 to the small Sussex town of Rye where he was an active member of his local parish council. He died in 1980. We hope that his uniform and medals have all found good homes.
Happy 10th Birthday To The Friends........And A Very Happy Minden Day Too!
Many of you here are aware that our most famous living Suffolk Regiment soldier is the former Member of Parliament and noted War Correspondant, Martin Bell. Recently, at talk he gave in his home town of Beccles, it was noted by a shrewd eyed member of the crowd (my mother), that he was not wearing his trademark Suffolk Regiment tie! Shocked, she confronted him and asked why not. Martin explained that he had misplaced it and was unable to obtain another. Quickly, word reached us and immediately by the next post, a replacement Suffolk Regiment tie was duly sent to Martin. In due course, a loverly letter was received from him thanking us for his new tie and at Minden Day it was most pleasing to see Martin once more wearing the tie of the Old Dozen. The situation has been returned to normal and our tie remains in the public eye once more!
Minden Day has come and gone for another year. Gibraltar Barracks was windswept and wet, as a greatly reduced number of former Suffolk soldiers and their families gathered for the Suffolk Regiment Old Comrades Association annual reunion. The trees which were to have been cut back, had not been so that there was a complete re-shuffle to the plan of the site. In our new spot overlooking the parade ground, we had many visitors both old and new, but there was no denying that that living face of the Regiment was greatly reduced in number. Faced with this and the inclement weather, after the Church Service and the March Past, it was decided to not have the afternoon displays or a Sunset Parade as the Band of the 3rd Battalion Royal Anglian Regiment has already departed. Throughout the afternoon however we received a steady stream of members popping in to say hello and have a cup of tea with us and we managed to see some interesting Cyprus-era photos. The rousing musical accompaniment of City of Ely band did much to keep spirits high and lets hope that next years parade will be graced by better weather, and that many more people will attend.
Handed Into Their Safekeeping
Today, in a day of Cambridegshire Regiment-themed events, the restored Colour of the 11th (Service) Battalion, the Suffolk Regiment (Cambridgeshire), was brought home from the safekeeping of the Suffolk Regiment Museum, to the Isle of Ely, to be handed over to the Mayor of Ely on behalf of the City's Museum for their future safekeeping. The Colour, was found in rags on the floor of the Cathedral in late 2015 and has over the past years, been restored and framed thanks to Andrew Spooner of Skylark Battlefield Tours and the team behind the Cambridgeshire Regiment 1914-18 website. Now it will hopefully be placed on display in the Museum for future generations to enjoy. Whilst we are joyous that such a profound effort has been placed on the restoration of this Colour and indeed we commend the efforts of all those involved in this sterling work, the Suffolk Regiment however, currently has three other Service Battalion Colours in a much deteriorated condition, far worse than the condition of the 11th Battalion. Perhaps, it is hoped that one day, that such enthusiasm might be turned to their eventual preservation before it is too late, especially since the men of two of these Battalions (7th and 9th) were transferred to both the 11th Battalion, and to the Cambridgeshire Regiment upon their disbandments in 1918. Let us be proud today however, of such passionate endeavours by people who care about the history of the Suffolk and Cambridgeshire Regiments.
Friends 2018 Normandy Battlefield Tour
The Friends have just returned from a highly successful battlefield tour to Normandy covering the actions of the 1st Battalion in 1944. An action-packed five-day tour saw us follow the Battalion from its landing on Sword Beach, through to the capture of the village of Colleville and the taking of the positions codenamed 'Morris' and 'Hillman'. We also took in the Chateau de la Londe and the cross roads at Tinchebray, but also visited the lesser know places where the Battalion served and fought, such as Le Mesnil, Flers and Fontaine Henry: where they spent Minden Day in 1944. Such was the success of the tour, that new links have been established in France with our very good friends, Les Amis du Suffolk Regiment, and the possibility of a future tour now seems very likely. A full write-up will appear on the Tours page soon, so please check back to see what a great time we all had. If you are interested in a future tour to Normandy, please do get in contact with us.
An apology to those of you who follow our online mini-blog 'Operation Legacy'.
Our posts have been little 'spartan' of late but with just two of us to run the website, produce the magazines and organise battlefield tours, we have been somewhat swamped with work of late (not including the fact that we both have day jobs as well!!).
We have caught up now with the actions of the Old Dozen a century ago during the final stages of the Great War, and you will now find several new posts on our blog page.
Thanks for your continued support.
Walter "Spud" Taylor
It was with much sadness that we heard yesterday of the passing Walter "Spud" Taylor who served with the 1st Battalion in Malaya between 1951 and 1953. Born in Lowestoft, Spud was a National Serviceman who joined the Suffolk Regiment in 1951. After training, he was posted to the 1st Battalion in Malaya, where he joined 'C' Company, then on operations in Broga. In early 1952, he was promoted Lance Corporal and was posted to the Iban Platoon, then commanded by Lieutenant Bob Godfrey. He was to remain with them until the end of the Battalion's tour in Malaya. The Ibans were a curious race. Most Suffolks feared the headhunting tribe from Sarawak and their long bladed native knives or 'parang's' which often had a tassel of human hair hanging from the handle, yet despite these fears, they were expert jungle trackers and immensely useful to the Battalion when tracking terrorists. Spud together with Bob Godfrey, earned their trust and respect and they even taught them to drill in English; a feat that was much admired and praised by General Sir Gerald Templer; the High Commissioner of Malaya who commented on their achievement when he visited the Battalion. Spud was a regular member of the Beccles Branch of the Old Comrades Association since its birth and when a new branch was opened in his home town of Lowestoft, he also became a regular member of the this branch as well. When Beccles Branch Chairman Mac Read died in 2016, it was feared that the Branch would have to disband, but Spud stepped up to volunteer as Chairman and the Branch and its functions have continued for the last two years. Spud had been a regular at the Diss Malayan veterans dinners, but his health deteriorated rapidly in the last few months due to emphysema. He was a quiet, yet highly intelligent and quick witted man - never one to be caught out. He was immensely proud of his time in the Regiment and of his country, though as the years wore on, he chose to spend his winter months in Thailand, only coming home in the spring when as he put it "the chill had gone!" A loyal and generous Friends member since our birth, our thoughts are with his widow and his family at this difficult time.
A Right Mess (Dress)!
The recent purchase of a yellow Suffolk Regiment officers Mess Dress waistcoat, brought more questions than answers. When we spotted it for sale on Cambridge Market on Wednesday, we were sure it was a Suffolk waistcoat and the buttons proved it, but the more we started thinking about it, we couldn’t remember any photographic evidence that a yellow waistcoat was ever worn. Most photographs showed no waistcoat and only a cummerbund being worn instead. Ah, we thought, the ‘Standing Orders’ will confirm whether it was yellow or not, but they were nondescript stating only that for tropical mess dress “White Morello pattern waistcoat” was worn. It said nothing about yellow! In desperation, late last night, we dug out the tailors notes from Messes’ Hawkes and Co. of Saville Row, London, in the hope that a colour would be mentioned. Sadly we found nothing except a ‘snotty’ letter for the Commanding Officer of the 2nd Battalion, Lieutenant-Colonel Cutbill, complaining that Lieutenant D’Arch-Smith's mess waistcoat was supplied with incorrect buttons and that the Mess Dress supplied to Second Lieutenant Bevan, was the wrong shade of yellow, being more ‘French Mustard’ rather than ‘Canary’ yellow. We are 99% confident that it is a Suffolk waistcoat and the small Queens Crown buttons confirm its use with the Regiment in the late 1950s, but if anyone has a good descent photograph of a Suffolk officer in full Mess Dress, we’d be pleased to see it.
Major H.S. Bullock, MBE - "Stan the Man"
It was with sadness that we heard today from Regimental Headquarters of the passing of Major Stan Bullock, M.B.E., formerly of 1 Suffolk, who passed away after a short illness. “Stan the Man” as he was affectionately known to all, joined the Suffolk Regiment in 1954 as a regular soldier. As No.23081655, Private Horace Stanley Bullock was soon promoted to Lance Corporal and in 1955, he joined the 1st Battalion in Germany at Wuppertal as part of the British Army Of The Rhine (BAOR). Returning to Britain with the Battalion, after a short time, he was again on the move to Cyprus, where he served with D Company and where he was promoted to Corporal. Stan had a varied career spanning no fewer than five Battalion’s of the Royal Anglian Regiment. After service with 1st East Anglian Regiment in Germany, where he was promoted to Sergeant in D Company, he served with 4th Royal Norfolk Regiment (TA) prior to their disbandment. He then returned to the 1st Battalion, then in Radfan, before becoming Regimental Sergeant Major of 3rd Battalion. In April 1975, as W.O.I., Stan was granted a commission as Second Lieutenant in the Royal Anglian Regiment, and two years later, he was promoted Captain. In 1983 he was promoted to Major and Quartermaster of the 1st Battalion.. Stan was the last member of the Suffolk Regiment to still be on the "active" list. He finally retired in May 1996 as Quartermaster of the 6th Battalion, though he was still an active member of the Suffolk Army cadet Force until 1999, when he finally resigned his commission. In retirement, Stan was Parade Marshal for the annual Minden Day Parade for almost fifteen years. His smooth running of affairs, organising the numerous massed ranks both onto and off, parade, did much to make the day run smoothly. It was only in recent years that his health made him stand aside, though he still attended every parade. He was also a regular member of the Bury St. Edmunds Branch of the Old Comrades Association and attended most of their functions. Stan is to be remembered like all RSMs with a stern face, dry sense of humour, but with an immensely caring personality. Without him, Minden Day would not have been so successful. Our thoughts are with Stan’s family at this difficult time.
Len Carrington - Liberator of Weert
Early on 22nd September 1944, advance elements of 1/Suffolk entered the Dutch town of Weert. As they advanced along the canal, all the bridges across it into the town had been blown the previous night by the retreating Germans. One man, Len Carrington, a young private in 'C' Company was at the head of the column moving cautiously along the canal. As the inhabitants of the town saw their liberators, several, including a few monks, scrambled across the wrecked bridges to meet their liberators. Soon, Carrington is lifted on high and carried to the wrecked bridge. He receives the title of the "Liberator of Weert" by its inhabitants. Carrington was treated as a real hero by the townsfolk and in the years that followed he and his wife made several return trips to the town in the 1970s and 1980s where he was given its freedom. He officially opened the street named "Suffolkweg" in 1989. It had always been a mystery to us why such an important moment was never officially recorded. No mentions are made to this historic event in either the Battalion War Diary or the Regimental History and no photographs exist of this momentous event in archives - either here or in Holland. Plenty of photographs survived of Carrington in later years, but none of him could be found from 1944. That is until now. Weert historian and friend of the Friends, Theo Schers has found this photograph showing Carrington, on the left, with Madame Krysen-van Dooren who owned the Cafe de Harmonie in the Molenstraat in Weert. The soldier on the right is unknown. We think it might be Corporal Cox of 14 Platoon, but we cannot confirm it. If you could assist us to Theo in identifying him, please do get in contact with us.
With grateful thanks to Theo Schers for the above photograph. (Posted: 03/05/2018)
Friends Assist In Film For Revamped D-Day Museum At Portsmouth
Back in December, the Friends assisted our good chums at Khaki Devil, in the preparation of six battledress blouses to be used in the production of a short film for the D-Day Museum at Portsmouth telling the story of a section of infantry on D-Day. The Museum down at Southsea, was recently awarded a substantial grant to revamp its displays for the first time since the 1980s, and as part of the revamp, has commissioned a film company to make a series of short films on aspects of the campaign that will be shown to visitors as they tour the Museum. The Suffolk Regiment film is projected into the rear of a landing craft, and shows a section of men as the approach the beach. As to be expected of the great team at Khaki Devil, the detail is spot on (especially the insignia!) with lightweight respirators, Mk. III helmets and properly blanked-up webbing - all properly set-up and fitted right. We’ve not seen the film yet, but a visit to Portsmouth and the newly revamped museum might now be in order!
We heard today from our friends in Normandy, news of the passing of Madame Suzanne Lenauld, the lady who gifted the Hillman Bunker to the Suffolk Regiment in 1989. Suzanne Lenauld was 22 when the invasion came. As C Company held the village of Colleville-sur-Orne, a mortar bomb landed killing and wounding a section of machine gunners from the Middlesex Regiment (who were attached to 1/Suffolk). Madame Lenauld and her fiancée cared for one young soldier, who shortly afterwards died of his wounds, They buried him at the rear of their farm. He remained there for some years until he was reinterred at nearby Hermanville cemetery. They never knew his name and for years always wondered who the unknown Tommy was. In the years that passed, Madame Lenauld was always humbled by the deeds of those who had come to liberate them, especially those of the young man who they had cared for. After meeting with the Suffolk veterans who returned to Colleville in 1984, she decided to give the piece of land upon which the 'Hillman' bunker had stood, to the Suffolk Regiment as a memorial to those who had come to liberate them 40 years before. In 1989, the land and the bunker was presented to the Suffolk Regiment by Madame Lenauld and the Regiment still owns the site today. The photograph left, shoes part of the committee that made this happen. Lieutenant Frank Matthews, Madame Lenauld, Brigadier Bill Deller and Major Hugh Merriam. The last time we saw Madame Lenauld was in 2004 when she came to Minden Day with a party of Les Amis. A great friend of the Friends, her generosity ensured that uniquely the Suffolk Regiment owns the very land they fought so hard to take in 1944.
We send our most sincere condolences to the Lenauld family.
Via a roundabout circuitous route, we received today, news that the Royal Anglian Club at the TA Centre in Bury St. Edmunds has closed and at present, it’s future is unknown. The club is in Suffolk Regiment eyes, unique, for it is the last remaining wooden hut for the old West Lines Camp that was build during the Second World War just up the Newmarket Road from the Depot. In 1945 when the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment moved there as part of No.3 Infantry Training Centre (ITC) they renamed it “Blenheim Camp” after their proudest Battle Honour. The name stuck with it until the camp closed in the late 1960s. Gradually the huts were dismantled leaving just two. One, we believe was taken to a Bury Football Club to be used as a dressing room - and may still be there. The other remained as the Royal Anglian Club in pretty much in its current location. The news has come as something of a shock to all concerned. The regular bingo, darts matches and snooker league have all had to be cancelled and the Bury Branch of the Old Comrades Association has now, in desperation, had to urgently find somewhere else to meet. If anyone is worried about attending OCA events at the club, please do get in contact with us and we’ll put you in touch with the Branch Chairman. Lets hope it's all sorted soon and they're back 'in the club!'
Yesterday, we heard of the passing of Suffolk Regiment D-Day veteran, Victor Mayhew. Vic started his career by volunteering for service in February 1943 with the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (R.E.M.E.) before later that year, he was transferred to 1/Suffolk, joining 'A' Company. Vic landed on D-Day with the Battalion and was part of the platoon that made the final attack on the ‘Hillman’ bunker. Vic continued to serve with 'A' Company throughout the Normandy campaign and into Holland where he was wounded on 16th October during the battle of Venray. He recovered, spending months in a hospital in Rouen, before rejoining the 1st Battalion in Palestine in 1945. He was later transferred to the Royal Army Service Corps (R.A.S.C.) and was demobbed in 1947. Vic was a member of the Stowmarket Branch of the Old Comrades Association, since its rebirth in the early 1990s. He attended one pilgrimage to Normandy in 1994 and received in 2016, the Legion d’Honneur for the part he played in the liberation of France. Vic was a devoted family man, and was never too keen to be interviewed about his service with the Regiment. More recently though, he appeared in a short film commissioned by the Suffolk Regiment Museum, to tell the story of the battle at Hillman. He lived in later years in Elmswell with his daughter, with whom are thoughts are with at this most difficult time.
The Holy Grail
For many years, the 'holy grail' of Suffolk Regiment badge collecting has been the elusive anodised aluminium ‘stay-brite’ cap badge. The badges are seldom seen on the market, yet recently no fewer than eight examples have appeared for sale both at auction and on eBay, confirming suspicions amongst the senior ranks of the military badge collecting world, that they are fakes. Right up until the issue of the East Anglian Brigade badge in Cyprus in 1958, the 'standard' design of a King's Crown white metal and brass badge was still being worn and there is no known photographic evidence to support the wearing of a Queen's Crown badge by the Regiment. The most likely and realistic reason for the existence of these aluminium badges that they have most probably been been produced from the so-called ‘Birmingham Mint’ dies that are known to still exist. These tools were manufactured in the late 1960s to produce a commemorative set of cap badges and medallions of the Regiments of the British Army. In the set, the Suffolk badge had a Queen's crown. If anyone can provide us with some evidence to support the wearing of such a badge by the Regiment, please do get in contact with us. We've searched for almost twenty years and not found any yet!
Sidney Day's Victoria Cross Sells At Auction For £160,000.00
After weeks of speculation, today in London, the Victoria Cross belonging to Lance Corporal Sidney James Day of the Suffolk Regiment was sold at auction for £160,000.00. Surpassing the estimate of £120,000 to £140,000, the medals were purchased by Lord Ashcroft for his own medal collection which contains the largest number of Victoria Crosses in the world. For weeks, rumours had abounded as to whether the medals would enter the Ashcroft Collection, or whether the Regimental Museum would place a bid to procure them, or whether a private bidder would come forward to bid for them. The Regimental Museum already has on public display the only other Victoria Cross to be awarded to the Regiment, that won by Sergeant Arthur Saunders at Loos in 1915. Brigadier Calder, President of the Suffolk Regiment Association, contacted the chairmen of the active branches of the Old Comrades Association to ask for their opinions, but with the future of many military museums in the balance, it was decided, quite wisely, that the funds would be better placed to secure the long term future of the museum, rather than the procurement of the medals. With the medals entering the Ashcroft collection, they will hopefully soon be on public display for a new generation of Regimental Historians to enjoy. It may even be possible we hope, to bring the two Victoria Crosses of the Regiment together for the first time on display together.
For Valour...For Sale
The most important Suffolk Regiment news for many years (if you hadn’t already heard!) is the forthcoming sale by auction, of Lance Corporal Sidney Day’s Victoria Cross. Upon direct instruction from the family, the medal together with a host of photographs and assorted ephemera, is to be sold by Dix Noonan Webb later on this month. Though the estimate of £120,000 to £140,000 seems a little low for a VC, rumours in the medal world are that it could possibly fetch double that figure when it goes under the hammer in London on the 28th February. Born in Norwich, Day won his VC for his actions at Malakhoff Farm, near Hargicourt on 26th August 1917, when he cleared an enemy trench and established an advanced position under heavy fire. He was presented with the award in January 1918 by His Majesty King George V at Buckingham Palace, but just weeks after returning to the front, he was taken prisoner in the German March Offensive. The rumours also suggests that Lord Ashcroft is interested in purchasing Day's medals for his own collection, part of which is on permanent display at the Imperial War Museum in London. If true and he does become the successful owner of this group, then this would we hope, lead to their being on permanent display; an action that would once more put the 'Old Dozen' back in the public eye once more. The Suffolk Regiment only won two Victoria Crosses - the other one, won by Sergeant Arthur Saunders at Loos in 1915, is on permanent display at the Suffolk Regiment Museum at Bury St. Edmunds. Further details can be found here: https://www.dnw.co.uk
R.S.M. H.J. "Jack" Gingell
It is with great sadness that we report the passing of R.S.M. H.J. Gingell; the last known surviving Regimental Sergeant Major of the Suffolk Regiment. Herbert ‘Jack’ Gingell started his military career began as a private soldier in the Wiltshire Regiment. His time as a ‘Moonraker’ was however to be relatively short for in 1943, he was transferred to the 5th Battalion, Dorsetshire Regiment and served with them in North-West Europe, from late June 1944, until October 1946. In 1947, Jack was posted to the 8th Battalion, The Suffolk Regiment when they were then stationed at Shrublands Park near Ipswich. The Battalion was being posted for a tour of duty in Jamaica and as a senior sergeant with overseas service, Jack along with two other drafted sergeants, was tasked with getting them ready for foreign service. Not destined to accompany them, he was instead posted to 1 Suffolk, then stationed in Egypt. In May 1948, with the termination of the British Mandate in Palestine, the British withdrew their forces. As Lieutenant W.C. Deller of 'A' Company, handed back the keys to the great city of Jerusalem, it fell to C.S.M. Gingell to lower the Union Flag above the police station for the last time; it had flown there since General Allenby arrived in 1917. With no one left to hand it to, he folded it and retained it. It was the last Union Flag to be flown over Jerusalem. Promotion to W.O.II. came in 1948 with a Mention-in-Dispatches for his actions in Palestine. After service in Malaya, in 1951 he returned to the UK, where he was promoted to R.S.M. of the Regimental Depot at Bury St. Edmunds. Three years later, when the Battalion was in Trieste, Jack swapped roles with R.S.M. Kevin Duffy, who had completed four years as R.S.M. of the 1st Battalion, and was returning home to take up the position of R.S.M. at the Depot; the position that Jack had just vacated. With the 1st Battalion, Jack went to Germany where in 1955, the Colonel-in-Chief presented new Colours to the Battalion. Following the presentation at Wuppertal in May 1955, there was a post-parade party. In the revelry, Lieutenant Bob Godfrey pushed R.S.M. Gingell into the emergency water tank, and was then promptly pushed in himself. Exiting the tank, a completely soaked, but dignified R.S.M., proudly stood up and pointed to Lieutenant Godfrey remarking “You shouldn’t have done that, Sir!” In August 1958, when the Battalion was in Cyprus, Jack came to the end of his term as R.S.M. and was posted home to become once more R.S.M. of the Depot. His posting was an important one for with the impending amalgamation of the Regiment with the Royal Norfolk Regiment, the Depot was to become the home of the East Anglian Brigade, and Jack was to be its RSM. In a tradition of flag lowering, Jack lowered the last Suffolk Regiment flag to fly at the Depot, and watched as Captain North raised the new flag of the newly-created East Anglian Regiment. It was during this time that the Regiment was changing from the old bolt action No. 4 Rifle, to the new self-loading rifle. With no senior staff who were fluent with the new drill, Jack was despatched to Caterham to learn it from the Grenadier Guards. On the first parade with the new rifle in January 1959, the recruits and Jack got through the parade with ease, unlike the rest of the Permanent Staff, who ‘sloped’ arms instead of ‘shouldering’ them! Jack was a fine upstanding man, typifying all the virtues of the Suffolk soldier. He was immensely proud of the Suffolk Regiment and was rarely far from it. A loyal member of the Bury St. Edmunds Branch of the Old Comrades Association, he was still highly respected, by the men whom he served with sixty years before. Old soldiers who he had been bawled at fifty years before, always sought him out on Minden Day to buy him a drink and relive old campaigns; a true mark of the respect and admiration they had for him. A widower, Jack was an early Friends member, sadly having to resign his membership when his eyesight became so bad that he could no longer read our magazines. The last of his generation of senior Warrant Officers, he will be greatly missed. Our thoughts are with his son and his family at this difficult time.
(Originally Posted: 01/02/2018)
Just The Thing For The Grille Of Your Austin Allegro!
Todays post brought a recent eBay purchase in the form of a Suffolk Regiment car badge. This one differed from the normally encountered example manufactured in the 1950s by J.R. Gaunt, in that it was square as opposed to round and that it was of a much cruder design. Upon opening the package, it was much worse than we had imagined. At first we thought it was a home made example, perhaps made by some former Suffolk soldier to adorn the grille of his Morris Traveller or Austin Ambassador, but upon closer inspection, it appeared to be semi-professionally made. What we thought may have been coloured electrical insulation tape, was in fact very fine grade coloured perspex, and of the correct sizing of the stripe on the Regimental Tie. The badge appears to be an all-brass example, spray painted silver but it showed no sign of ever having a lug or slider on the back of it so it may have been cast from an original. The definition was very crisp so that 'Gibraltar' could be clearly seen even though its letters were less than 2mm high. So is it a newly discovered commercial variant from the 1960s or 1970s? Or is it a well made amateur piece? If anyone here with knowledge of car badges or emblems had anything to add, we'd be very interested in hearing from you.
Barely had Christmas passed and the sad news flows to us once more. First came new a few days ago that Brian King, formerly of 1 Suffolk, who served in Cyprus during the emergency in 1956, had passed away after a short illness, then a few days later, we were contacted by a Friend in Great Yarmouth who informed us that Friend Jim Carter, formerly of 1 Suffolk in Malaya, had also passed away, after a long battle with Alzheimer's. No. 23024237, Private Brian King joined 1 Suffolk in Germany in 1955 when they we part of the British Army of the Rhine. After a spell in Britain, he went with the Battalion to Cyprus in 1956. In January 1957, acting Lance Corporal King along with seven other men, were on a night patrol in the Troodos mountains searching for EOKA terrorists. In the early hours, a lone figure was seen on the track in front of them and a member of the patrol opened fire. In the morning, a body was found which was later identified as Markos Drakos; the third man in the EOKA hierarchy. King was a regular soldier, unlike most of his counterparts, who were the last generations of the Regiment's National Servicemen, later served with the East Anglian Regiment, and later with the Royal Anglian Regiment attaining the rank if WOII upon his retirement. A keen sportsman, he is remembered by all in those Regiment's, for his footballing greatness, whether on the pitch as a striker, or later, as a coach and manager, shouting from the side-lines.
Jim carter was a National Serviceman who joined the Suffolk Regiment we believe, in late 1950. From the moment that he was drafted to the Regiment, he showed great sporting prowess regularly boxing for the Depot, and then the Battalion (as seen here). Born in 1932, Jim joined 1 Suffolk in Malaya and for a period, he served in 11 Platoon, D Company, where he was engaged on active patrolling into the jungle. Further details of Jim's life are at present unknown, but in later life, he lived in Essex and was a loyal member of the Hemel Hempstead branch of the Old Comrades Association and was a regular contributor to their magazines. Our thoughts are with the families of both Brian and Jim at this time.
Another Piece Of The Jigsaw Slots Into Place...
We are always pleased to see interesting photographs of Suffolk soldiers and here this photograph via facebook is a feast not only for regimental historians but badge collectors as well. Photographic evidence of the 5th Battalion during the Second World War is scarce. Many years ago, back in 2000, we spoke with a former platoon commander in the Battalion on Minden Day. He informed us that unlike the other Battalions of the Suffolk Regiment, that they wore their Minden Flash with the yellow to the front, and not the red as is seen with the other Battalions of the Regiment. When enquiring as to why this was, the answer he gave was simple. When both 4th and 5th Suffolk were placed in the same Brigade (54 Brigade) in the 18th Infantry Division, there needed to be a way of establishing which soldier was in which Battalion of the Regiment. Thus 4th Suffolk, wore their flash red foremost, whilst 5th Suffolk, wore theirs yellow foremost (as seen here). What is really interesting is that both the flash, the coloured arm-of-service strips and the divisional patch are worn on his service dress. It therefore infers that 5th Suffolk were still wearing service dress long after their counterparts in 4th Suffolk stepped into battledress. Brass shoulder titles are still worn by are just plain 'Suffolk' - perhaps the old-fashioned 'T5' that were worn above have been deliberately broken off for security reasons as the new coloured badge combination now told the trained eye which unit he belonged to. We are most grateful to the family of 5827231, Private Reginald Lewin, for posting this image of their family ancestor on facebook, it has certainly filled in a gap in our archives which illustrates the badge combination of 5th Suffolk in World War Two. Thank you.
Named In His Honour
Today the Friends learnt that a road on a new housing estate in Shillington, Beds, is to be named after a Suffolk soldier who was killed in Holland in 1944. "Jepps Close" is name after Private Norman Jepps, who came from the village and who was killed serving with 'D' Company of 1/Suffolk in November 1944. Norman was one of two men who were killed in the first ill-fated attack on the castle at Geijsteren on the river Mass in Holland on 25th November 1944. Five days later with better weather and superior air cover, a second attack by 'C' Company was successful in taking the castle. A practical and fitting memorial to a local man, whose name will not be forgotten in the community from which he heralded.
Ten Years On
Its hard to think that it's over ten years ago, that our friends the Khaki Chums recreated the historic Easter Sunday Church Service in the caves under Arras, just as 2nd Suffolk did, 90 years before. Another highlight of the tour, was a visit to the D.C.L.I. (Duke of Cornwalls Light Infantry) hair cutting salon in the Rue de Temple, where the chums posed for a haircut outside a house which amazingly stills bears the painted sign "Hair Cutting Saloon" on the brickwork. Here Lance Corporal 'Jack' Johnson 'trims' Private Andy Fisk's hair as he sits on an upturned .303 ammunition box, whilst a worried Private Bob Steadman looks on awaiting his turn! A great and memorable tour, that also saw a visit to the chalk caves a Maison Blanche at Neuville-Vitasse, and a chance to get inside the great wood at Oppy. This year sees the fourth and final battlefield tour with our friends in the Suffolk Branch of the Western Front Association, and after this, maybe we should run a dedicated "all fronts" tour to the battlefields of France and Flanders like we did back in 2013.
Mmm, better start planning.....
A Warning To The Curious
Having been to a military fair today and encountered a fair amount of very clever, reproduction cloth insignia, we felt inspired to offer a gentle note of caution to Suffolk collectors old and new. Let's be honest, genuine, original, untouched, badged battledress is rare. In over twenty five years of collecting, we have only ever seen five original examples of correctly badged Suffolk battledress blouses being offered for sale, but we must have seen at least fifteen with reproduction insignia that were purporting to be 'genuine' examples (such as that seen here). Part of the problem is that original cloth insignia is now fetching astronomic prices on the open market, giving certain unscrupulous dealers a market for providing collectors with very good, highly accurate reproductions of these highly sought-after badges. One combination which has appeared on the market in the past few years, has been the combination worn by the 1st Battalion during World War Two. For those of us who have original examples, the difference is light and dark, but for a younger generation of collectors, who may not have seen an original example for comparison, it is difficult to tell the two apart, especially since the forgeries are now so good as to use period materials which even have age-old moth damage. In order not to get caught out by these forgeries, we would offer two simple questions that you should ask before purchasing such items. First, is it too perfect? and second, is the same thread used in all sections of the badge? Soldiers, even those with the greatest sewing skills, never produce anything as perfect as the examples being offered for sale, and as men moved between units, some elements of the badges remained, when others were replaced, leading to varying degrees of wear. It is also important to note, that some items would have been produced at a regimental level and other would have been divisional issue, so the chance of identical thread being used for all the badges is minimal. Also, with the exception of the 2/East Yorks, there is no documentary evidence that the 1st Battalion ever sewed all their badges onto a patch of serge to be sewn onto the battledress blouse. This custom of sewing patches complete with insignia, may have grown up from the recent re-enactment groups who have adopted such a practice so that insignia can be removed quickly for those portraying multiple units. In conclusion, don't be fooled by these badges and if you are in doubt, please do contact us. With years of experience in this area of collecting, we are always happy to advise about such things.
Ted Philips: ITFC Legend and Suffolk National Serviceman
It is unfortunate to open 2018 with yet more sad news, but this morning we heard of the passing of former Ipswich Town footballer, Ted Philips, who played for the club between 1953 and 1964. Ted’s legendary footballing career with Ipswich Town is already well-known, but what is lesser known is that like most of his generation, Ted completed his National Service with the Suffolk Regiment between 1951 and 1953. Born at Gromford near Snape, Ted completed his basic training at Blenheim Camp, Bury St. Edmunds, before being posted to the 1st Battalion, then on operations in Malaya. In a curious fate of Army life, both Ted, and his younger brother George (known as ‘Lucky’), served at the same time in the Battalion, along with Bernie ‘Phil’ Philips who was also in the same platoon as Ted. Confusingly, mail was always distributed to the wrong Phillips and in desperation, the Regiment took to calling them all by the last two digits of their Army Service Numbers – Ted was therefore known as “Phillips 99” Ted's strength was not only in his legs. He was the only man in B Company who could fire the grenade-firing EY rifle from the shoulder; a weapon that was designed to be fired from a kneeling position on the ground (due to its ferocious recoil). After operations with 4 Platoon, B Company, Ted returned home and went onto the reserve list. After a scout spotted him playing at Leiston Town, he was offered a contract at Ipswich in 1953. He initially refused, as the wages offered were less that he was then earning as a gardener, but after much negotiation, he accepted a higher wage together with travelling expenses from Leiston to Ipswich to train with the team. Ted’s T.A. service - which lasted until 1956, sometimes caused great difficulties when he was playing for the Town. On one occasion, he could not make annual camp as the team were playing away, but he was granted a special dispensation and instead, made his time up instead, by teaching football at the Army School of Physical Training for a fortnight. Ted would go on to achieve greatness playing at Ipswich Town alongside his friend Ray Crawford. Between 1953 and 1964, he made over 250 appearances for the team and scored over 150 goals. The clubs third highest scorer, he retained the record of most goals scored for one club in one season; 46 in the 1956-57 season. He was also internationally known as having the ‘hardest shot in modern football’ with the East Anglian Daily Times noting in 1962 that "It is an undisputed fact that he is the best kicker of a dead ball in the game." After his football career had ended, he played cricket for Suffolk and when he retired to live in Colchester, was a regular attendee at Essex Cricket Club matches at their ground at Chelmsford. In 2013 with the help of the Friends of The Suffolk Regiment, Ted was brought back together with his former 4 Platoon comrades on the BBC daytime programme ‘Real Lives Reunited’ where he met his old chums Fred Mullinder and Ray Burwood. A larger than life character, but very modest man, he entertained us greatly in the two hours we spent with him during the filming of the programme in London. Ted had been in failing health and had suffered greatly with dementia in the last few years. Our thoughts are with his family and his many devoted fans, at this time.
A Very Happy New Year
A very Happy New Year to all Friends.
2017 seems set to be another great year fro the Friends of The Suffolk Regiment. A trip to the Western Front to follow the actions of 1918, a second tour to Normandy in June to cover the actions of the 1st Battalion in 1944 and much more. There will hopefully be a big Regimental event that we'll invite you all to later this year, and we hear that a new Suffolk Regiment book is being written at the moment too. There are projects worthy of support and we'll tell you of these shortly. A New Year and a new start, but we do need more people to join us. The Friends and its praised publications can only survive if new members join us so please, don't put it off any longer. Download a membership form today and hop on board. A years membership is less than a week's newspapers (well, depending on what you read!)
Main Picture: Men of 'C' Company, 1st Suffolk are given free cigarettes when they disembarked at Valetta, November 1937.
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