The 7th Battalion had had a relatively quiet time since New Year.
They had been heavily mauled in the counter-attack following their successful advance to Lateau Wood in November 1917, but were desperately under strength until they were reinforced with two sizeable drafts in early 1918.
January and most of February, had been a time of training in rear areas behind the river Lys near Fleurbaix. However, between the 7th and 14th February, the Battalion were in the front line at Sailly near Fleurbaix. Enemy shellfire caused casualties daily, and enemy aircraft roamed overhead gunning-up the front line adding to the casualty lists. One of the fatal casualties incurred by the Battalion during the period, was No. 19949, Private Charles Luff of ‘A’ Company.
The Luff family from Long Sutton had no fewer than four brothers who all served at the front. Perhaps what is more remarkable is that all four men served in the Suffolk Regiment, and all appear to have served in the 7th Battalion.
Privates Arthur (seated first left above), George (seated second left above) Walter (seated third left above) and Charles Luff, all enlisted at the same time with service numbers all stating with “91”. Walter Luff was wounded on the Somme and after recovering from his wounds was posted to the Labour Corps to recover. Arthur too suffered a similar fate, and George was promoted Corporal in 1917 after the advance to the Hindenburg Line, and came through unscathed.
Charles, not seen on the photograph above, was the families only fatality. Born in Leamington Spa in Warwickshire, by the early 1900s, the Luff family had moved to south Lincolnshire, continuing with their trade as labourers on the land. In 1914, all the brothers enlisted into the Army together, travelling to Cambridge to sign-on.
In 1916, shortly before the battle of the Somme, the Vicar of Long Sutton reported that he had received news from the 'Boys’ at the front and that they were “well and happy and enjoy their lives. Not one of them would come home if they had the chance”.
"Thank You Ever So Much For Sending Me The Battalion Bugle As A Memento Of The “Old 9th”, I Shall Prize It As One Of My Most Cherished Possessions In the Years To Come”
Whilst their counterparts in the 8th Battalion were drowning their sorrows over the news of their disbandment, a similar process was being enacted within the ranks of the 9th Battalion.
Early in the New Year, the C.O. of the 9th Battalion, Lieutenant-Colonel Latham received the similar news that imminently his Battalion was also to be disbanded.
The War Diary noted that on 29th January: “The officers of the Battalion had a farewell dinner as the Battn is to be disbanded in the near future owing to shortages of man power. Letters from Divisional and Brigade Commanders were read out by the Commanding Officer”
Of the 29 officers present, all knew that within days they would be posted away to other units and on the 2nd February 1918, their movement orders were received.
Two drafts were to be sent to other Battalions of the Suffolk Regiment. The first draft of 15 officers and 300 men were to join the 11th Battalion, with the second of 12 officers and 300 men, were to join the 12th Battalion. Like the 8th, they would at least remain under the badge of the Suffolk Regiment.
On the 5th February, these drafts departed by lorries for their respective new units. The Divisional Commander arrived to personally say farewell to them as the Dairy continues; “The Divisional General said good bye to Battn at 9.30am wishing the officers, CO and men the best of luck and thanking the Bn. For the good work they had done since being with the Division. Bugles were presented to the G.O.C. Division, Brigade, Brigade Major and Staff Captain. Captain Scudamore and the oldest members of the Battalion, letters of thanks”.
To Captain Scudamore, the oldest surviving member of the Battalion who had been with it since its formation at Bury St. Edmunds and its subsequent training and embodiment at Shoreham, was presented a bugle purchased by the Battalion before it left England. From his new Battalion, he wrote to Colonel Latham to thank him; “Dear Colonel latham, Thank you ever so much for sending me the Batt’n Bugle as a memento of the “Old 9th” I shall prize it as one of my most cherished possessions. It will serve to remind me – if there should be any need to do so – of the many good friends and happy associations 1 held in the Batt’n. now about to be disbanded. Again thanking you for the kindly thought which prompted so an appropriate parting gift. Yours very sincerely, Scudamore, Capt.”
For a Battalion that had been born of Kitchener’s call to arms, they had achieved greatness. At Loos perhaps it was their finest hour. Though ‘green’ to combat they won the Regiment’s first Victoria Cross, but perhaps it was on the Somme that they were at their zenith. At the costly attack on the Quadrilateral, they had shown true valour, only to be beaten back by withering fire.
In a life so short, it's citizen soldiers had shown themselves to be the equals of their regular counterparts. They had proved their worth in times of need and had won the honours and respect of their superior officers.
The "Old 9th" had done well.
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.