On Thursday 24th June 1915, Sydney Fuller of 8th Suffolk, wrote in his dairy;
"Marched to Wilsford for an inspection, or review, by the King. This was not far from Stonehenge and the whole of the 18th Division were present. Arrived at our destination about 11.00am and formed up. I was left marker for No. 12 platoon. The King arrived about 2.30pm. We presented arms and then the King inspected us by riding along the front at a respectable distance. We then marched past in double platoons (two companies abreast). The Band of the 10th Essex (The only brass band in 53rd Brigade) supplied the necessary music"
Although Fuller didn't know it, the King's visit was a precursor to the Battalion getting ready to proceed overseas. They had by now received almost all of their uniform and equipment. The last items of civilian kit which the men had held onto such as mackintoshes and boots, were boxed and returned home. They had drilled and trained - most recently in Brigade formations and now, the last of the weekend leaves were being granted. Everyone at Codford knew the great day was getting closer.
On 18th June; the day following the wounding of Lieutenant Trollope, the 2nd Battalion lost another officer; 2nd Lieutenant E.F. Llarena who was killed by a splinter from a shell in 'Y' wood.
Born in Belgium in 1892, Eustace Fernando Llarena was educated at Dulwich College where he rose to Sergeant in the Officer's Training Corps. He joined Guy's Hospital, London in 1910, passing his first examinations in 1912.
When war was declared, he joined the Artists' Rifles in August 1914 and went with them to France in late 1914. Whilst there he obtained a commission in the field and became a Second Lieutenant in 2nd Suffolk.
A keen sportsman, "Larry" excelled at sports, gaining his "rugger blue" in the 1912-1913 season and was following this success a regular in the 1st XV. He also excelled at water polo being a member of the hospital team from 1911 until 1914 when he joined up. He was also a member of the inter-hospital swimming four.
The special memorial number of the Guy's hospital Report carried the following appreciation of Lieutenant Llarena: "By the death of E.F. Llarena the hospital has lost one of her best athletes who answered the call to arms during the first week of war and now must be added to the Roll of Honour of Guy's men, who have met that glorious end on the battlefield."
A fine athlete and promising doctor, he would have risen high in either profession.
On the morning of 17th June 1915, the 2nd Battalion in their newly gained positions in 'Y' wood, came under heavy enemy artillery fire.
The morning before had seen them advance some 300 yards from their start positions alongside "Cambridge Road" and move into 'Y' wood close to the German front line.
The storm of shrapnel caused the wounding of 20 men - more than had been invalided during the major attack the previous day.
One of those injured was Lieutenant H.C.N. Trollope who was wounded by shrapnel in the arm and the foot. The CSM of A Company; CSM Barker - who was standing beside him, was killed.
No. 7722 James Barker joined the Suffolk Regiment in 1908. A native of Rattlesden near Stowmarket, his family owned a sizeable dairy farm in the village. Aged just 22 when he died, he had risen high through the ranks since arriving in France in February as a Corporal.
Hugh Charles Napier Trollope was born in 1895. Educated at Rugby and Sandhurst, he was a professional soldier. He was commissioned into 2nd Suffolk at the outbreak of war, but did not arrive in time to proceed overseas with them. Promoted temporary Lieutenant in September 1915, he was promoted temporary Captain after he returned to the Battalion after recovering from the wounds he received at 'Y' wood (later known as the battle of Bellewarde). He would stay with the Battalion for many more years to come.
On 16th June 1915 to the west of Ypres, the British 3rd Division launched an attack against the German positions in front of “Railway” wood and beyond it to the south, “Y” wood. These two paths of woodland were apply named for an old railway ran through the former and the latter was in the shape of a 'Y.'
The Battalion were at that time, pretty much in the same positions that had been occupied by the 1st Batalion at the end of May. On their front line was the wrecked shell of Witte Port Farm, and close behind, the small cemetery named 'Machine Gun Farm.'
The attack, which began at 4.15am, was behind a creeping barrage. B and D Company’s successfully followed it reaching 'Y' Wood shortly afterwards without casualties. Once through, they continued their advance behind the barrage.
However, a miscalculation of timing, coupled with the advance slowing on the other side of the wood, meant that the allied bombardment was now inflicting casualties in the Suffolk’s ranks. After six hours of fighting the Suffolk attack had ground to a halt.
Around 10.00am sections of the Kings Shropshire Light Infantry and the Kings Royal Rifle Corps (part of 14th Division) arrived in the Suffolk’s start line trenches to push forward through the Battalions frontal positions and launch a new attack south eastwards in the direction of Hooge; which straddled the Menin Road.
However poor intelligence and a lack of guides, only resulted partial elements of these two battalions reaching the front line. They were instead scattered the length and breadth of the roads and trenches from Ypres to the crossroads known as 'Hellfire Corner" some 300 yards in the rear of the Suffolk trenches.
“With the help of all our orderlies and servants to show them the way” wrote the Battalion War Diary, they eventually succeeded in getting the bulk of these Battalions into the front line trenches around 2.00pm, but not before they had seriously exposed themselves to both enemy artillery fire on the journey to the front line – a journey that would have normally been conducted at night, for 'Hellfire Corner' was aptly named being a magnet for German artillery.
The War Diary went onto note that they “suffered immense and unnecessary casualties through exposing themselves to artillery in known bad spots” With half the Battalion in forward positions, and half still in the front line, space was at a premium, but since B and D Company's were holding the line sucessfully in 'Y' wood, the rest of the Battalion moved forward to join them under cover of darkness that night.
It had for a change, been a day of success rather than failure.
Sydney Fuller, 8th Suffolk at Codford wrote in his diary on 12th June 1915; "Shoulder titles issued - one pair per man."
These titles pressed from gilding metal (brass) were way down on the important list when it came to the new recruits of Kitcheners Army.
Brass was desperately needed for more important war commodities such as shell cases and cartridges before the striking of buttons and badges.
The 9th Battalion at Brighton were issued their titles early in 1915, whilst still in their blue uniforms, but there was however a slight problem. The blue serge jackets were of a pattern which had no epaulettes. In desperation to gain an identity, the men took to wearing them unofficially them on the points of their collars. They were however many other units doing exactly the same.
The 8th Battalion had been in khaki serge since they left Colchester in March, but shoulder titles were in desperately short numbers and it appears that they were worn first by NCOs only. It was not till June, when the high point of the 'shell scandal' had passed and large quantities of ammunition were arriving from the US, could brass be released from the war economy for the production of badges and shoulder titles.
The government also authorised that a special set of single material badges be produced as a economy measure. "War Service" badges constructed all in brass, were to become the hallmark of a 'Kitchener Man.'
Sidney Fuller, 8th Suffolk, writing in his diary on June 3rd 1915 at Camp at Codford:
"We were given a day "off duty," it being the King's birthday. The Suffolks wore roses in their caps, this being in account of the Regiment's "Battle Honour" of Minden (a battle which was fought amongst rose gardens). These roses were issued to us for the purpose - one red and one yellow rose per man."
Although Fuller was correct about Minden, the wearing of roses on the sovereigns birthday was in honour of what was known as the 'Dettingen Tradition." It stemmed from the battle of Dettingen in 1743 when King George II placed himself at the head of the old 12th Regiment and lead his armies into battle. No English king had ever done so since. In this conflict to which the 8th Battalion would shortly be joining, no monarch would lead his men into battle, not even the Kaiser.
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.