At the beginning of June 1916, as the expected "push" was drawing near, the commander of the 4th Battalion; Lieutenant-Colonel F.W. Turner, departed for home to assume command of a training battalion.
Lieutenant-Colonel Frederick William Turner had been with the 4th Battalion since its creation by the Haldane reforms. He had previously been a member of the 1st Volunteer Battalion which pre-dated the Battalion's creation in April 1908. He had also been an early driving force in the Boys Brigade movement in Suffolk.
Turner was however, seen as something of an un-dynamic commander by his superiors. Although his personal diary - written throughout 1914 and 1915, showed much of his own higher opinion of himself, it was seldom shared by his seniors.
Although pre-war he had never commanded the Battalion, in the wake of the loss of Colonel Frank Garrett in early 1915, he had assumed its command. However, after just getting to grips with the position, he was within days, demoted again, as a new Battalion Commander; Lieutenant-Colonel H.W. Cruddas, arrived to command the Battalion.
When Cruddas was himself killed in early 1916, Turner was once again denied the command of the Battalion. He was recovering from a slight wound at the time and command reverted to Lieutenant-Colonel Archie Gilson-Taylor. When Taylor was wounded in March 1916, command of the Battalion finally arrived with Lieutenant-Colonel Turner. His time as the Battalion commander was however to last just eight weeks.
However, for all Turner's failings as a decisive commander, he was in fact, a visionary. He realised that the war would go on for some time yet and with the great push coming imminently, there would be many dead and severely wounded members of the Battalion who would be leaving widows and dependents at home with no assistance from the either the state or the Old Comrades Association; an association whose membership and benevolence was only eligible to men of the Regiment's regular Battalion's.
In a moment of inspiration whilst travelling back to Great Britain, Turner had the momentous idea to create a separate Old Comrades Association just for the men of the 4th Territorial Battalion. Turner wrote on 16th June 1916, to all serving officers of the 1/4th Battalion stationed France asking for their support in obtaining a figure in excess of £1000 by charitable contributions. He proposed a monthly subscription to be deducted direct from officers pay, suggesting a contribution of £1 per month from Lieutenant-Colonels and 5/- per month from Second Lieutenants.
His proposal was taken up with great support and by the end of the war, the fund had over £4000 in the bank; the equivalent of £185,000 today. It would remain active until 1995 supporting former members of the Battalion.
Turner's benevolence of his former soldiers extended past their military service. As the director of a large Ipswich engineering firm and foundry; E.R. & F. Turner Limited, if ever a former member of the Battalion found himself down on his luck and in need of a job, Turner always found him a position. He was a much respected director of the company and a pillar of the Ipswich community in the post-war years.
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.