Sydney Fuller, 8th Suffolk, noted in his diary on 21st May 1917; "We passed through the ruins of Boyelles, and halted on the open ground near the Arras-Albert railway. Here we made bivouacs, with our groundsheets. the men who had been on "detail" were there - as brown as berries. they were a strange contrast to the men who had been in the line, who were sallow and tired-looking. rainy night. We got a bit wet, as our "waterproof" roof leaked in places.
Sydney and his chums would have been issued back in England, though most probably worn out and replaced since, a single 6ft by 2ft waterproof panel of rubberised canvas. You could choose to sleep on it, to keep the damp from coming up from below, or sleep with it over you, to keep the rain from coming down on you. Along all four sides, it had a series of eyelets, which could be joined to a fellow chums groundsheet with a spare bootlace. With the aid of a piece of twine, it could be strung between two trees, or with two stout twigs, it could be guyed into a simple tent. Ineffective, crude and impracticable, the Army took much time to realise that something better was desperately needed and in mid-1917, a version of the groundsheet was modified to include an extra panel and a collar so that it could be properly worn as a waterproof cape. Buttons and buttonholes replaced eyelets to that a better seal could be made with a chums cape when making a rain tight shelter.
The hot conditions that had erupted on the Somme earlier that month led to men acquiring the most unusual suntans. In days without any protection from the sun's glare, the standard "Somme-tan" as it was known was to have bronzed arms up to about three inches above the elbow - where the shirt sleeves were to be ruled to in shirtsleeve order. Sometimes it went a little higher when the sleeves were hacked off the shirt, but both were accompanied by a tanned 'v' shape under the collar where the bib-front of the regulation grey flannel shirt was rolled in.
It was quite unique to the Western Front with its scorching hot days and damp, drizzly nights. Mens faces to took on a bronzed appearance, so much so that on occasion's chums joked to one another "Hello Johnny Turk!"
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.