"A Giant Czeck Whose Notions Of Squad Drill Were Somewhat Bizarre And Whose Practice Of Bayonet Fighting Was Unorthodox And Very Blood-Curdling"
As the good weather of the English summer drew to a close, at Felixstowe another batch of recruits were being moulded into shape by the 3rd Battalion. Once young officer who had been commissioned into the Suffolk Regiment in April 1917, was training his daft for overseas service which it had been highlighted would be imminent.
"On 26th April 1917" wrote Victor Farmer "I became a temporary gentleman and a Second Lieutenant in the 3rd Reserve Battalion of the Suffolk Regiment, in Felixstowe, Suffolk. As newly gazetted subalterns" he continues "we were put under the direct command of the Adjutant, but, apart fromm one or two swsultory Adjutants Parades, we were soon given routine duties. I was attached to 'C' Company under Captain Ellis, and later, Captain Campbell who had successfully escaped from a prisoner of War Camp in Germany. My duties were mainly those of recruit training. During my first few months at Felixstowe the Battalion increased in numbers to about 3,ooo men, most conscripted soldiers but containing men who had been on an active front, had been wounded or otherwise made unfit and were sent to us for re-training."
Joining straight from school, Victor Farmer has been a member of the Artist's Rifles before he was given "leave pending commission" in early 1917. He had been posted first to an officer Cadet Battalion at Gidea Park in London, before receiving his commission in the Suffolks. His rag-tag bag of recruits came form all walks of life.
The 'Military Service Act' of March 1916, saw the drafting into the forces of all able-bodied, unmarried men between 18 and 41 years old. Included in this were former refugees who had become nationalised citizens as Victor found; "Amongst the recruits in my Company was a giant Czeck with white hair and whiskers whose notions of squad drill were somewhat bizarre and whose practice of bayonet fighting was unorthodox and very blood-curdling. He professed to a great hatred of the Germans, and a desire to get into the fighting line as soon as possible" However such enthusiasm came with some shaky consequences, as Farmer soon discovered. "One day my sergeant, who shared a billet with this man, told me that in the evenings he talked to the soldiers, and suggested strongly to them that they should disobey their officers and take things into their own hands. I passed this news onto the Major who was Second in Command to the Battalion and shortly afterwards he was taken from the billet and I never hear of him again"
For Victor, he would remain at Felixstowe until early October, seeing numerous German air raids on the nearby air station and just over the estuary at Harwich, the naval dockyard where a light cruiser squadron was based. On countless occasions in September, they would be turned out of their barracks on the cliffs and sent to positions of safety along the railway line but one bomb did fall close as he later recalled; "We experienced other air raids, but the nearest I got to a German bomb was when one fell into the sea about fifty yards off shore and fifty yards from the pier."
The training continued.
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.