In April 1916, 5th Suffolk were stationed at Geneffe on the banks of the Suez Canal, midway between Ismailia and Suez.
The Battalion were here to continue a defensive line of trenches that stretched along the canal that protected the vital waterway against Turkish attack.
In the day, the men worked to deepen the defences and erect formidable belt of wire defences to keep the enemy out. Such was the heat that the Battalion 'Stood To' at 5.00 am and breakfasted at 5.30am. The they spent from 6.oo until 10.30am in the morning working, before the noonday sun became so intense that it prevented event the hardest of men working. They would then work from 3.00 to 5.00pm and 'Stand To' again at 6.15pm to await a possible attack. One Company would be on duty, whist three others slept.
Despite being able to see over several miles of clear flat, featureless desert, somehow the enemy still managed to infiltrate the Suffolk lines. On one occasion, dressed as natives, the Turks rode through the night upon camels to drop mines into the canal. The incoming barges and lighters what were bringing in supplies of men, and large quantities of stones for both the fortifications and a road into the desert, fell prey to these unseen dangers.
Enemy infiltration was not the only danger the Battalion had to contend with, for as in Gallipoli, disease was beginning to mount again within the Battalion's ranks with many men falling prey to dysentery and enteric fever. The Turk was then not the biggest enemy.
The man that Lieutenant Lummis reported to upon his arrival, was Major G.C. Stubbs.
Stubbs, a professional soldier, had been sucked into the vacuum left by the departing Colonel d'Arch-Smith - who succumbed to injuries received in late March.
At the time, he was a staff officer at 3rd Division HQ and upon receiving the news of the Colonel's wounds, he championed his superiors to be allowed to return to his old Battalion to assume it's command. His wishes were granted.
Born in 1883 and educated at Lancing College, Guy Clifford Stubbs was a first class sportsman. Excelling at football, the school magazine wrote of him in 1902: "Has played consistently well throughout the season; often succeeds in breaking up the combination of the opposing forwards; goes hard, heads excellently, and passes well, though his shooting is faulty. Captain next year."
The following year, it noted: "Has played inside left for the larger part of the season, and was of great service there in keeping the forwards together; his shooting was, at times, effective, and his passing accurate, but his real place is at centre half, where he plays a scientific game, using his head well."
Upon his graduation from Sandhurst in 1902 (where he passed out 76th in the class) he was commissioned into 2nd Suffolk on 10th October 1903. Promoted Lieutenant in 1906, and later Captain in 1914, he became Major in 1916 when on the staff of the 3rd Infantry Division in France.
Stubbs arrived perhaps fortunately, just before the Battalion we to go into reserve behind the lines. From Reninghelst near Ypres, they were removed to 5th Corps rest area at Caestre near Hazebrouck, where they would be sent out daily on working parties in the locality. No sooner had he acclimatised himself to the Battalion and the men, Lieutenant-Colonel d'Arch-Smith, having now recovered from his injuries, returned.
Though his command was short, he would remain with the Battalion, and would return to command it in later days.
In late March 1916, a new young officer arrived to join 2nd Suffolk on the Western Front.
2nd Lieutenant William Murrell Lummis was newly commissioned, but military service was not unbeknown to him. Born in Coddenham near Ipswich in 1886, he enlisted in 1904 in the 11th Hussars; then still a regiment recruited from the eastern counties. By 1911, he had attained the rank of Lance Sergeant and was Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant when war was declared in 1914; the youngest in the British Army.
Upon being commissioned, he chose to serve in his country regiment; The Suffolks, and joined the 2nd Battalion when they were in billets near Ypres on 27th March 1916. He had come straight from England, bringing a draft of 39 men from the 3rd Battalion at Felixstowe.
It was from this moment that Lummis started a long association with The Suffolk Regiment. In his service, he would show gallantry, and in his retirement, he would show compassion - become a devout churchman. He would chronicle not only the history of 'his' regiment's, but many others as well. His service continued with the Regiment, for many years, and his association with it, saw his son serve in the 'Old Dozen' as well, being commissioned into 1/Suffolk in 1939.
Upon his arrival in the billets, he headed toward the Battalion HQ; distinguishable by the Battalion flag flying from a shattered doorframe. It was this flag of pale blue, with a red castle above the numeral 'XII' , that he would later present to the Regimental Museum when he retired in 1936.
On 1st April, the War Diary for the 9th Battalion noted that it had been officially announced that no. 3/10133, Sergeant Arthur Saunders had been awarded the Victoria Cross for his gallantry at Loos.
When this news was received, the Battalion were in rest camp at Calais, but Saunders, wounded in the action that had earned him his Victoria Cross, was in England in a nursing home at Harrogate in Yorkshire.
Still recuperating, one of his nurses included Marie, Grand Duchess of Russia, who had come to Harrogate in 1914 to take the waters. When war prevented her from returning home, she threw herself whole heartidly into caring for wounded soldiers in a nearby hospital that she had created. When one wounded soldier asked who she was, she replied "I am the Grand Duchess of Russia" "Blimey" exclaimed the soldier "I must be amongst the nutts!"
In the photograph above, Arthur, dressed in the hospital blue convalesants uniform, with khaki greatcoat, is pictured with the Duchess. His leg, still not properly healed from six months before, is stretched out before him.
That day too, the diary noted that Lieutenant Harvey Frost, who had recently left the Battalion to transfer to the Royal Flying Corps had been shot down. Frost like Saunders, would however, live to see out the war.
Frost's adversary in the aerial combat that ended his flying career, was the legendary German ace, Max Immelmann. When Immelmann learnt he had landed safely and without too serious an injury, he sent Frost a pipe, as a token of goodwill from a fellow 'knight' of the air. Chivalry in defeat still existed.
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.