A UNIQUE DAY-BY-DAY REMEMBRANCE, 2014 - 2018
follow below, the great war service of the suffolk regiment,
from mobilisation to the armistice
from mobilisation to the armistice
Suffolk 'Death' Trap
In billets at La Clytte, the 2nd Battalion were resting after a period in the trenches at Vierstraat.
On the 28th February 1915, the Corps Commander, General Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien, visited the Battalion accompanied by Major-General Haldane and Brigadier-General Bowes, to view a new barbed wire entanglement which had been developed by Private Death in the previous weeks when they had been in the front line.
The “Suffolk Death Trap” as the War Diary coined it, proved very popular with the visiting top brass and they all “expressed their highest approval of it.”
Private Death joined the Suffolk Regiment in late August 1914, although he was most likely a Reservist called back to the Colours and possibly given his old number upon re-enlistment. He may very well have been at Le Cateau, and survived the battle or he may have come out afterwards as a replacement. He would be Mentioned-in-Dispatches in June 1915, for his part in the 2nd Battalion's attack on the German positions in front of the village of Hooge. His Platoon Commander, Lieutenant H.C.N. Trollope was wounded by shrapnel in the arm and leg during the same attack.
As to what Death's or De'Ath's exact design was is unsure, but it was clear that the ethos had changed from one of offensive, to one of defensive.
"Came Out In Spots"
On 22nd February 1915, Private Sydney Fuller noted in his diary that he had to report 'sick.'
"I had been feeling queer for some days, but had managed to keep going. This morning however, I came out in spots so thought it wisest to find out just what was wrong."
After an examination by the MO (Medical Officer) he was found to have German Measles, and was promptly isolated in a separate ward facing Abbey Field from where Sydney and his other incapacitated colleagues, could watch the Battalion drilling, and getting stronger and more soldierly, by the day.
Sydney was to remain there for almost three weeks until his illness had passed. His contracting of measles was not uncommon to the 8th Battalion that winter. With a vast influx of men being pulled in from all corners of the country to form the 8th Battalion, coughs, colds and flu were becoming more frequent in the ranks.
In the time he was laid-up, his colleagues were issued with their khaki uniforms and new leather equipment. Sydney would get his soon, and be back training with them in early March.
Goodbye To Colonel Garrett
The month of February saw much change for the 4th Battalion.
The Battalion had since its acclimatisation to trench warfare, been serving in the front line trenches south of Armentiers between Richeborg and Neuve Chapelle.
February 17th saw the Battalion distraught as it's Commanding Officer, Colonel Frank Garrett, was invalided to hospital suffering from complete exhaustion.
His personal care for the men of 'his' Battalion, had taken a toll upon his own health and it was decreed that he must be sent home for complete rest.
Distraught at having to leave the Battalion on the battlefield, Frank's health never did fully recover. In his place, Major Turner took over command of the Battalion.
On 22nd February, Lieutenant-Colonel Cruddas, who had until then commanded the 41st Dogras; an Indian Army Regiment within the 3rd (Lahore) Division, took over command of 4th Suffolk.
Cruddas was to command the Battalion through the following difficult days that were to follow, earning them their most famous Battle Honour of the Great War.
"Do Not Worry"
Since they first set foot in France in late January, the 1st Battalion had been pretty much constantly in the line around the Belgian town of Ypres.
For men who had seen a life of routine in Egypt, the unknown, ever-changing life of trench warfare was something of a culture shock.
The constantly changing situation in the front line, meant that finding a little quiet time to write a letter home, was virtually impossible.
For No. 7777, Private Frederick A. Fensom (left), who had joined the Regiment in 1908, and went with the Battalion to France on the 18th January, he had not had the chance to write home to his mother since the arrived. His first letter home to his mother, who lived at Dry Drayton near Cambridge, ran as follows: "Dear Mother, I am sorry I have not been able to write before. I hope you are well at home. I am well and cheerful. When you write please write to the following address: 1st Batt Suffolk Regt, 84 Brigade, 28 Div. Expeditionary Force, France. We are not allowed to write much so please excuse and do not worry. I remain your loving son, Fred."
After nearly four weeks without news of her son, on 17th February 1915, Mrs Fensom received his letter above. It must have been a great relief to read his words, even if they were few in number.
The "Must Get Here's"
In January 1915, news came to The Cambridgeshire Regiment stationed at Bury St. Edmunds, that they would shortly be sent for active service on the continent.
In a flurry of excitement, leave was stepped up to all ranks and the Adjutant and Quartermaster set about converting the rag-tag appearance of the Battalion into an efficient fighting unit. The plethora of carts, bicycles and handcarts, that had served them well in the early months of the war, were replaced by officially issued limbers and GS wagons. Old antiquated leather equipment; of a pattern unique to the Regiment, was ditched and the 1908 pattern webbing, became universal for all, though men like Sergeant Pall (above), kept the waist belt for wear when 'walking out.'
Like their counterparts in 4th Suffolk, many younger members of the Battalion who were not 19 years old, signed the Imperial Service Obligation, gave their age as 19 and went with the Battalion to war. Blind eyes were turned in the name of patriotism.
Thus early on the morning of 14th February, the Battalion left Bury St. Edmunds in three trains bound for Southampton. Their Colours, which had already been placed in St. Mary's Church in Cambridge for safekeeping, carried just one Battle Honour; "South Africa 1900-01" - a testament to a past campaign before they were even formed. By the time they would be retrieved, the Battalion would be eligible to carry many more.
The Cambridgeshire Regiment was off to war.
Hard To Stomach
Sydney Fuller, an early recruit into Kitcheners Army, noted in his diary of the ration situation on Sunday February 7th, 1915 for the 8th Battalion, then billeted at Colchester;
"The same amounts of bread and other things were 'drawn' and the same amount of rations issued to the Companies, that at such times about half the men were on weekend leave. The result was that much of Saturday's bread, etc. was untouched...I have myself taken as many as seven quite untouched loaves and dumped them in the offal bins, being the only alternative to the bread going mouldy in the food cupboard."
In a time when wastage was frowned upon and when Fuller himself was still not fully equipped, this waste was hard to stomach. However no food was to leave the Barracks and the men were forbidden to take excess foodstuffs from the Garrison into town to sell. The only food to leave the Garrison, was the crusts of the loafs which were chucked out of the kitchen windows, through the railings into the street. Sydney noted that the poor kids from the town waited eagerly each day for the scraps to be thrown away.
For the Battalion Quartermaster of The 1st Cambridgeshire Regiment, the distribution of rations to his men was a major problem.
In February 1915, the Battalion were stationed at Bury St. Edmunds, taking over defence duties from the Hertfordshire Regiment who departed for France in November 1914.
For Captain Clayton, whose men were stretched along the railway line from Rougham to Risby, the logistical problem of distributing their daily rations was a logistical nightmare. Issued with a 14lb pot of plum and apple jam to distribute to over 100 men strung out in every culvert and bridge over a 14 mile period was an impossible target to achieve. Nether the less, with a borrowed horse and cart, and some help from the local Boy Scouts, his men received their rations each day.
However, for the newly created 8th Battalion, still stationed at Colchester, the situation was quite the opposite....
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.