Before was was declared, the 6th (Cyclist) Battalion were already on Active Service in Suffolk.
On the 2nd August, they were still at annual camp camp at Pakefield near Lowestoft, when when the C.O. went into town for news on the impending situation in Europe. Upon reaching the nearest telephone, he called his superiors who informed him "be prepared for an attack tonight." Immediately, when the C.O. got back to camp he turned his men out and issued them with ball ammunition and sent them to the nearby coastline to await the attack that was feared.
It never came, but the Battalion were proud that they were most probably, the first territorial unit to be on active service during the Great War.
The 6th (cyclist) Battalion was originally raised by prominent Ipswichian, Lieutenant-Colonel W.T. Pretty. Upon mobilisation, they moved to their war station at Saxmundham and erected their tented encampment just outside the town. Men were flocking in from all parts of the county on their bicycles and the ranks were steadily swelling. By the end of the month, they had left Saxmundham for Ipswich to take up guard duties at two of the town's major engineering works. Billeted in the factory of the British Diesel Company, it was recorded that they were “sleeping on the oily floors amongst huge machines, with only two blankets apiece”.
Here they drilled and learnt how to 'form fours' but arms were still not forthcoming. A small stock of wooden rifles were available for drilling but only enough for one Company, and so they had to be passed round each Company in turn so everyone had a chance to drill with them.
Here they would remain until November, when they would head north to Louth in Lincolnshire to continue with their coastal duties.
News of the battle at Le Cateau had come and gone and all at home realised that this business was a lot more brisk than was initially thought.
The new industrial might of the German Army had pushed the B.E.F. back through France and to the banks of the river Aisne, where their rapid advance was halted.
For those men of the 4th (Territorial) Battalion mobilised but guarding a stretch of the Mersey estuary near Peldon in Essex, these were tiresome days. Desperate to get some action in, these men watched events unfold on the continent, convinced that it would be over soon and they'd not play a part in it. For them, their call to active service was drawing near.
The 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion were however, having a slightly different time. Since the day war was declared, the Battalion had furnished many drafts of officers and men to bolster the other Battalions in the Regiment, most notably the 2nd Battalion as they prepared for overseas service. They were aptly described as the 'axle on which the wheel of reinforcement turned' and they did so until the end of the war.
In conjunction with the staff of the Depot, they ensured that the recruits who passed through the Battalion, received the necessary basic training before they joined their respective Battalions. Over the course of the hostilities, no fewer than one thousand officers and a staggering thirty-three thousand men passed through its ranks. It was a mammoth feat of logistics.
By early September, the numbers of men arriving at the Depot to volunteer for service exceeded one thousand.
Thus in early September, a further two tranches of men left Suffolk to journey southwards, to be formed into two more new Battalions of The Suffolk Regiment.
The 8th (Service) Battalion was formed first at Shorncliffe under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel F. Graham, before moving in early October to Colchester to become part of 53rd Brigade, 18th (East Anglian) Division, under the leadership of the soon to be legendary, Sir Ivor Maxse C.V.O, C.B., D.S.O.
In parallel, the 9th (Service) Battalion was being formed at Shoreham camp, Sussex under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Stracey. Such were the numbers of men in this newly created camp that accommodation here was tented in the early days, with the men watching eagerly, the wooden huts being erected to house them. They would move in for just a few days in December before they moved east to Brighton just before Christmas, to carry on their training.
The men would still to arrive at the Depot in the days and weeks that followed and there would be other Battalions' formed soon...
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.