"22 Regimental Officers And The MO Went into The Fight And Only The MO And 1 Regimental Officer Returned To Duty. The Others All Killed, Wounded Or Missing"
For 12th Battalion, the situation became worse in the hours that unfolded.
March 23rd saw a day of continual attacks by the enemy and his ferocious artillery. By mid afternoon, the Second-in-Command, seeing that the situation was hopeless, made a calculated decision to retire to the high ground behind them and dig a new defensive line.
The following day, the 24th, was much the same. "Night 23rd-24th comparatively quiet" wrote the 2.I.C., "enemy shelled our positions and sprayed us with MGs all day". The Germans had all the newly dug trenches and roads pretty well taped. All day the shrapnel rained down and at times, touch with the flanks was lost. As the darkness came again, the situation was very precarious and not at all secure.
"S.O.S. sent up on our left flanks and very heavy artillery and MG barrages open ed by both sides. Enemy attacked on wide front on our left - Mory to Ervillers, and drove troops on our left through our position. We faced left and opened LG and rifle fire and held up the advance for some considerable time. He was too strong for us however and we retired on Mory Ervillers road and again held him up. Our casualties were very heavy and the enemy in greatly superior numbers, and under heavy fire we took up position on front of the Ervilliers Bemagnies road which we held during the remainder of the night"
By now the Battalion was becoming exhausted, yet gallantly they were doing all they could to stem the time. The following day was much the same as the Germans still came on and still, caused great casualties, yet there seemed to be no end in their offensive.
"Enemy clearly seen digging MG positions" wrote a report for the 25th March, "and snipers did good execution. Movement of enemy considerable all morning". By 3.00pm, having finished erecting and fortifying their new positions opposite, the enemy attacked again. "Enemy attacked in force on wide front but did not reach our trench. He passed through on our right and 4 Bde (Brigade) Guards retired living our left flank open".
Quickly, what troops that could be spared, rushed to hold the left flank and with half from the remnants of two battalions of the Middlesex and the East Surrey's, the line was held just as another attack looked imminent. By 8.00pm, they were evacuated.
The first four days of the Kaiserschlact had scythed the Battalion of its ranks. The footnote to the battle reports of the action, scribbled on the squared notepaper of the field service pocket book, noted soberly of the loss; "22 Regimental officers and the MO went into the fight and only the MO and 1 Regimental officer returned to duty. The others all killed, wounded or missing".
Welcome to our online 'blog' charting the history of the many Battalions of the Suffolk Regiment and the part they played in the Great War.
Starting back in March 2014, we have recorded the events of 100 years ago on the centenary of their happening.
Keep checking back to see how the Great War is progressing for the men of the Suffolk Regiment.