Like a bad penny turning up again, the 1st Battalion returned to Egypt.
After five intolerable days at sea, the troopship Ivernia docked at Alexandria on the 31st October allowing the seasick men of the 1st battalion to depart.
It was less than 12 months since the old 1st Battalion had departed from the very same docks that they now returned to on their war to join the fight in the 'Great European War.' However in this time, they had evolved beyond all recognition. The old Battalion was dead. In its place a new Battalion had been born, only to be cut down in their youth. In final desperation, this youthful reborn Battalion was pitched into battle with a determined enemy with none too favourable results. As a result, their Brigade was despatched to a far flung corner of the war.
Their time in Egypt was one of re-aclimitsation to the tropics. There were very few of the old 1st Battalion that had gone out with the Battalion. Its old commander, had been wounded and captured, and the cream of its pre-war officers and NCOs either killed or wounded. Yet in their wake, a new generation emerged that would go onto greater things and long service with the Battalion in the years to come.
In this brief period of calm and tranquility, the quiet and the peace of Egypt was much appreciated following the claustrophobic and testing conditions they had endured on the Western Front. The men bathed and swam and enjoyed their brief respite, despite the serge uniforms they still wore, being unsuitable to their new abode.
Their stay in Egypt was however to be short-lived. Soon they would be moving on.
After two days travelling by train, the men of the 1st Battalion embarked at Marseilles on October 25th to a change of command.
Lieutenant-Colonel Sinclair Thompson, who had took over command of the battalion following Lieutenant Colonel White's invaliding home following a wound received during the attack on the Hohenzollern Redoubt, was himself invalided home.
In his place came Major, the Honourable, Hugh Edward Joicey, 3rd Baron Joicey. He had served previously in the 14th Hussars and would take the Battalion to Macedonia, and remain with it until 1918.
As the Battalion embarked, one of the men leaned out of the train window to buy a local paper to read. Return, he received a battered and out of date copy of The War Budget from the previous July.
Inside the front cover, was an artists impression of fellow 1st Battalion soldier, Harry Quantrill who had recently been awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his actions at the battle of Bellewaarde Wood. The soldier, so the story goes, let out an exclamation followed by "Christ!, they've painted a bloody picture of him!"
No. 6738, Segeant Harry Quantrill was a regular soldier joining the 1st Battalion in March 1904. He'd volunteered to take a message back from forward positions to Battalion HQ when all the runners had been wounded. On the way back, he was caught in the wood as the Germans opened up for a gigantic shrapnel barrage which lasted for over an hour. Quantill was wounded in the leg, but as he crawled on through the falling shards of steel, he was hit again in almost exactly the same place. Weak from loss of blood, he crawled on and managed to successfully get back to Battalion HQ to deliver his message. As he lay on the stretcher, the Adjutant listened to his story making notes on the action, notes that were eventually to lead to the award of the DCM.
As he convalesced from his wounds in early July, his award was announced in the London Gazette, a reporter turned up at his bedside, eager to get his story. Quantrill recalled to him hs tale which was to form the basis for the illustration above: "I was sent back to battalion headquarters from the trenches with a message from my company officer. As I was entering a wood, O got hit in the thigh, and the Germans started to shell the wood. I could see large balls of fire bursting over my head, and I though every minute my time had come. They kept up the fire for about an hour and a half, when i started on my gourmet again after having remained hidden in a hollow. I managed to reach headquarters, and thankful I was to do so."
The less than satisfactory performance of the 1st Battalion at the Hohenzollern Redoubt earlier in the month, along with the failure of the regular 28th Division (of which they were part) in taking the position, gave the Commander in Chief, Sir John French, cause for concern.
It was clear that their fighting efficiency had been greatly impaired. Across all Brigades, they had suffered a great loss of men in the lead-up to their being sent to the Loos Sector, and these losses robbed the Division of expertise and experience that were greatly needed in the day of their attacks at Loos.
The losses that 1st Suffolk had suffered in the months before, had been multiplied over the entire Division. Massive attacks such as those at Frezenberg and later Bellewaarde had decimated almost all of the Battalions in the Division, of its older, regular, experienced troops. There were no more reservists left at home to fill its ranks, just the last of the Special Reserve and the first of the New Army men. The Division had held the line, but it would the Battalions of the New Armies that would carry on the offensive from here. Thus it was planned by the power that be, that the Division would be transferred away from the Western Front to one of the war's great backwaters; Macedonia.
Thus on the 21st October, the Battalion received it marching orders to leave the French Army billets they had occupied in Bethune and proceed to the nearest rail head at Fouquereuil, where they would entrain for the journey to Marseilles.
They wound not return to the Western Front.
Though the fate and the celebrity of the officer casualties of the 7th Battalion is well known, there is not much written about the 50 other ranks who died during the attack or later, as a result of wounds received that day. One young soldier killed that day, was Private Arnold Garwood.
Arnold, was the 15th and final child of Amos and Ellen Garwood of Great Green, Brockley, near Bury St. Edmunds. An agricultural labourer by trade, Arnold enlisted into D Company, 7th Suffolk in November 1914, walking the seven miles from the village, to the Depot to enlist. He joined the Battalion at Aldershot shortly afterwards, being given the number 15874 upon arrival.
Arnold went with the Battalion to France in May 1915 and was involved in D Company's attack on the southern side of the Hair-Pin. Killed late on the afternoon of the 13th. Shot through the chest, he managed to drag himself into a communication trench from where he was bandaged up and taken by stretcher to the Dressing Station, but he sadly died on the way. He was 19 years old.
Just over 4 weeks later, the first public news of his death was announced in the Bury Free Press under the title of "Brave Brockley Brothers" and told of the death of Arnold, and of his brothers Fred and Robert who were both serving at the front. Whether his family had received official notification of his death at this point, is unknown.
Six months later on the 4th April 1916, again in the Bury Free Press, a letter was published which shed more light on the events surrounding his death. It ran "...he was shot in the abdomen while getting over a German barricade, during a bombing attack on October 13th 1915. He crawled down a communication trench and was then bandaged up and taken on to a dressing station but died on the way. He was buried by some men of another regiment, probably behind their trench but I have been unable to trace his grave. I have replied for Captain Henty as Pvt. Garwood was in the Company that I now command. I knew him....he was an honest lad and a hard worker. He was mortally wounded while very pluckily getting over a barricade under heavy rifle and machine gun fire in spite of many men having been killed and wounded before him. It was due to men like him that the attack was as successful as it was. Yours truly, G.W. Deighton, Capt. OC D Company."
With grateful thanks to Colin Garwood for this family story that was originally published in the October edition of the Suffolk WFA Branch Briefing.
On the morning following the action at the 'Hair-Pin,' the Adjutant had the grim business of writing to the next of kin for all those that had been lost the day before.
For Harry Gadd, he was to make arguably the single most important contribution to English literature of the entire Loos campaign.
As he sat in the dug out that belonged the day before to Captain Sorley; who had been shot through the head during the attack, he started to go through Sorley's kit. Looking for any private papers that should be returned to his family, it was whilst going through the young Captain's equipment and bedding that he discovered a grimy sheath of over thirty hand written poems, including on top, a sonnet with the haunting title “When You See Millions of the Mouthless Dead.”
Educated at Marlborough, Charles Hamilton Sorley was of Scottish descent. Shortly before war was declared in 1914, he had been travelling in Germany before taking up a scholarship to Oxford. Upon the outbreak of war, he returned home and volunteered for military service, joining first the 3rd Battalion at Felixstowe, before hastily being sent to the 7th (Service) Battalion at Aldershot in early 1915.
Crossing with the Battalion to France in 1915 as a Lieutenant, he was promoted Captain in July, when the Battalion were in the Ypres Salient. At the time of his death he just 20 years old. Although witnesses saw the moments of his death, his body was never found. With no known grave, he is commemorated on the Loos Memorial to the Missing at the aptly named 'Dud Corner.'
Sorleys poems were published by his family the following year and were an instant success with six editions being printed by the end of 1916.
Fellow chronicler of the war, Robert Graves - himself having served at Loos as a young subaltern in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, wrote of Sorley that he was "one of the three poets of importance killed during the war." The other two being Wilfred Owen and Isaac Rosenberg; Rosenberg having also served in The Suffolk Regiment.
It is perhaps fortunate that Sorley followed the Battalion orders issued the previous morning and did not carry any personal paperwork into the attack. His leaving behind his papers undoubtedly saved his poems forever and Harry Gadd's compassionate thought to send them home to his family, ultimately made Sorley one of, if not, the greatest, poet of the Great War.
"Am Trying To Consolidate Trench Running North To South Of Quarries....With Mixed Norfolks And Suffolks. No Sign Of Berkshires"
To the southern side of the “Hair-pin” the attack continued, this time with ‘D’ Company. It was held up at German wire and by their bombers who were just yards away.
Captain G.H. Henty pushed forward but was wounded. Captain C.H. Sorley and Lieutenant G.D. Wood went forward to try and open a gap but both were killed. Sorley being shot through the head by a German sniper.
Lieutenant Deighton, now the only officer left in the Company, took command. He succeeded in bombing his way along the southern side of the “Hair-pin” and managed to dislodge the Germans from the apex. With much effort, he consolidated his gains and with pick and shovel and succeeded in linking up with Captain Thomas’ men in the northern trench.
Deighton scribbled a note in his pocket book and sent it back by runner to the Battalion Adjutant; Captain Harry Gadd, who had the previous August left the Curragh when war was declared, to proceed to the Depot and organise the mobilisation of the Reservists. The message ran: “To Adjt. 7th Suffolks. Am trying to consolidate trench running north to south of quarries. We hold 200 yards of trench north of quarries with mixed Norfolks and Suffolks. No sign of Berkshires. G.W. Deighton, Lt.”
During the night, a German mortar caused much trouble to those in the newly-won positions. Lieutenant Deighton in his forward position had by now managed to get telephone communication with Battalion HQ. He managed, using one of the heavy batteries of artillery behind the British line, to silence the mortar just after 2.00am that morning. Throughout all this, the entire position was strengthened and reinforced by the follow-up platoons who did much of the heavy work with picks and shovels.
At 3.30am, 9th Essex Regiment arrived to take over the position and 7th Suffolk withdrew shortly afterwards. Casualties during the attack were 8 officers killed, 3 wounded. Other ranks killed and wounded numbered 150. Both Captain Chitty-Thomas and Lieutenant Deighton were awarded the Military Cross for their actions that day. Deighton also received the Croix de Chevallier of the Legion of Honour.
As first actions went, it was hard and bloody, but like their counterparts in the 9th (Service) Battalion a fortnight before, these citizen soldiers of the New Armies had proved that they could be every bit as good as their regular counterparts.
In the bitter slogging match that the Battle of Loos was becoming, another Suffolk Battalion was pushed into the assault. For the 7th (Service) Battalion, the attack against the Quarries and the capture of ‘Hair-pin’ trench were the major actions in which they were to fight.
The task of 35th Brigade of the 12th (Eastern) Division, of which 7th Suffolk were part, was to advance eastwards in the direction of Haisnes. The chief objective of the Battalion was to re-link the two abandoned spurs of the front line know as the “Hair-pin” - the name coined from their appearance on maps. At their apex, the two lines touched the German front line. Attempts to push forward and link them together had all failed in the weight of heavy enemy fire. The plan this time was however to use teams of bombers to edge forward foot by foot to take the trenches. Bombing teams, specially formed and trained were to be used and such were the numbers of bombs required for this action that in one platoon in each Company, each man carried one box of bombs (12 bombs in each box), with further boxes of bombs placed at all trench junctions if needed.
On the 13th October 1915, a ferocious bombardment commenced against the German lines at 12.00 noon and lasted for two hours. When it had finished, the Germans retaliated but Suffolk casualties were slight. At 2.00pm the Suffolks advanced, but they started off 15 minutes later than they should have. The attacking order was a party of bombers, followed by a platoon of infantry, followed by a further bombing party, with two platoons of infantry in the rear. Each man in these two rear platoons was to carry either a pick or a shovel, to make good the positions when captured. Each bombing party consisted of eight men, commanded by an officer. It was going to be thirsty work so supplies of drinking water were brought up to the very front line and were to be “used exclusively by troops after the attack.” ‘B’ Company under Major Curry, advanced first under cover of smoke against the southern side of the ‘Hair-pin” and reached its apex. His platoon commanders advancing in lines with their men, used their bombing teams in 50 yard intervals. However at the last minute, the smoke lifted exposing Curry and his Company in the open. German machine guns brought down terrible fire, bringing down many men. Major Curry, along with Lieutenants C.W.L. Hartopp and R. Lee were killed. Lieutenant V.A. Davoren was badly wounded, leaving no commanders left still in command in ‘B’ Company. 75 men were lost during this first assault. Meanwhile, to the north of the “Hair-pin” ‘A’ Company under Captain C.A. Cobbold, advanced southwards towards the upper apex of the “Hair-pin.” His advance was headed by teams of bombers from both 7th Suffolk and 7th Norfolks, who were chucking their bombs, advancing into the smoke they created and so on. Progress along the northern edge seemed painfully slow and when the end seemed in sight, the wind lifted smoke giving the German machine gunners a clear target.
Captain Cobbold was killed on the German parapet and Lieutenant D.C. Smith was wounded at the outset. Lieutenant P. Gedge; who was the machine gun officer, succeeded in getting his guns into the bottom end of the northern edge of the “Hair-pin” but whilst dragging a tripod into the trench, he was killed. Cobbold’s replacement, Captain Chitty-Thomas pushed forward and with much hard work succeeded in reaching the apex of the “Hair-pin.” Now he needed help to consolidate.
13th October 1915 was to be 'D-Day' for the 7th (Service) Battalion, The Suffolk Regiment.
On the previous afternoon (the 12th), the CO, Lieutenant-Colonel Parry Crooke, had been called away to a conference at Brigade HQ and informed that they were to attack two abandoned German trenches in front of the known as the 'Hair-pin" - the name coined by their appearance on trench maps.
Upon his return, Parry Crooke and the Adjutant, Captain Gadd, went on a short reconnoitre along the front line to view their field of attack for the following day. Satisfied, they returned to Battalion HQ in their dug-out and Parry Crooke dictated Battalion Order No. 42 for the forthcoming attack.
The infantry attack would commence at 2.00pm, 15 minutes after the bombers had started their attack. The bombers would however continue to bomb throughout the attack, providing covering smoke and support as required. Through their artillery, the infantry would set off at 1.50pm. Simultaneously 'A' and 'B' Companys would mount the parapet and start to bomb their way along each apex of two trenches that formed a point at the enemy wire. 'A' Company, under Captain Cobbold, to the north, 'B' Company, under Captain Curry, to the south. Advance would be made along each trench line by bombing diagonal to the line of advance. Advance would then continue under cover in the trench. They would then bomb again, and then advance and so on. Once at the end of the trench, they were to call up reinforcements to dig through and relink the two trenches, thus reforming the 'hair-pin'.
Extra bombs would be made available in boxes at all trench junctions and drinking water for the exclusive use of the assaulting troops was to be on hand in buckets if required. Walking wounded would make their own way back to the Regimental Aid Post, whilst additional stretcher bearer teams would be on hand, ready to move forward up the captured trenches when the link-up was made.
As supplies were brought up for the morning, the men emptied their pockets of all letters and maps as per the Battalion Order. One young Lieutenant, took a sheath of letters and poems he had written in secret and thrust them into his sleeping kit in his dug-out. He did not wish to loose them in the attack, nor get reprimanded for carrying them contrary to the order. Would he survive the following day to return and reclaim them?
October 11th was a red letter day for the 5th Battalion at Gallipoli.
In recognition of the sterling work the much depleted Battalion had done in the previous fortnight, the Brigade arranged that "all ranks should be spared all fatigue for twenty four hours in recognition of the satisfactory way the Battalion had carried out is arduous duties while garrisoning Norfolk Trench with such a decreased strength"
Norfolk trench was a continuation of the front line to the right of Hill 60. The hill itself stood as a salient in both the British and turkish lines. In an effort to reduce casualties by inflating fire, a trench was continued by the 5th Norfolks, who gave their name to the new earthworks. After a period on Hill 60, during which over 9000 rounds of ammunition were expended, the Battalion were transferred to continue work on Norfolk trench.
The day was the first day since setting foot in the Dardanelles, when there was a total period of rest for the Battalion. Men chatted, cleaned kit and wrote letters home. An officer produced a camera and took a few photographs to finish his reel of film.
Another photograph on the film showed the officer taken in Dixon's Gully some weeks before. It showed the un-uniformity of dress with officer in serge and khaki drill uniforms. Of some wearing other ranks jackets, maybe out of convenience, or as a precaution against the Turkish sniper picking off identifiable officers wearing a shirt and tie.
It is one of just a handful of images of the Battalion at Gallipoli.
On the 26th September; the day that the first Victoria Cross was won by a soldier of The Suffolk Regiment, the 7th Battalion were hastily leaving their front line trenches around Plugstreet in Belgium and were marching southwards to join the major British offensive taking place around the coal mining town of Loos.
Over the next five days, they marched complete with all they possessed, southwards. At times the going was heavy and at night it rained making the men damp in the morning as they marched on. The waterproof sheet they were issued was not big enough to lay on and cover oneself as well. They had to choose between a wet back or a wet stomach. Working on the old adage of the Sergeant Major "one layer below was worth two on top" many slept on them in the damp grass.
At Gonnehem, north west of Bethune, they arrived to find no billets waiting for them. In the failing light, the Billeting Officer went round knocking on doors asking in schoolboy French whether the homeowner had a barn or a shed, or a greenhouse that they could use. With no approved list to consult it was a thankless task.
On the last day of the month, they arrived at Loos. Late in the afternoon, they were pushed straight into the front line trenches. The going was hard for there were no proper roads to take them up to the front. The troops with their hobnailed boots had churned up the paths and underneath, the chalky ground made sure that within minutes, everybody's boots weighed a ton with caked-on white glutenous mud. Many a man slipped and cursed on this new battlefield - it was flanders but with white as opposed to brown mud.
For the next week, it was front line service interspersed with days of fatigues and wiring parties. The men spent time behind the lines on bombing courses. The bomb was to be the weapon of the forthcoming battle and all men had to know how to use them. The continued shelling always appeared close, even though it was sometimes a mile or so away. The flat terrain of this new battlefield, carried noise much further than in flanders. The men were beginning to have foreboding - even the name of the place seemed to be a portent of failure. Was it "Loos" or "loose."
Within days, the Battalion would be called to play its part in the battle, making it the third Suffolk Battalion to be engaged in the offensive. Would they suffer failure like their comrades in the 1st Battalion at the Hohnezollern? or have success like their chums in the 9th Battalion did at Hulluch?
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.