On 24th April 1917, 11th Battalion, Suffolk Regiment (Cambs) relieved the 16th Royal Scots in positions opposite the Chemical Works at Roux near Arras.
The Battalion had arrived in the Arras sector earlier that month and had a highly successful first day of the campaign, reaching the German second line close to the village of Maison Blanche, with the loss of only 25 men.
In the days that followed, they went northeast in the direction of the village of Oppy, close to the Canadian sector of the line, and by 15th April, they were back in Arras resting, awaiting what was next required of them.
In these days, generic orders for the advancement of troops had been issued. Though they were designed to be non-specific, they detailed instructions as to how the men should dress and what they were to do when they reached the German lines.
"Faces blackened, officers will wear mens tunics, all ranks will wear a white patch underneath their collar, which must be turned up immediately on entering the German trench. No badges, letter, maps, or any marks are to be carried or worn. Identification discs with mens name only will be worn. Equipment to be carried as in Table "A".
Table "A" in the orders, detailed a curious mix of items to be carried into battle including 30 torches, 36 Dayfield shields (body armour) 70 black helmet covers, 8 French horns, 70 white strips of calico for the tunic collars, 50 phosphorus bombs, 400 3 second bombs (Mills bombs), 4 traversing maps (believed to be 'mats' - for throwing over barbed wire), 4 large wooden handled wire-cutters, 6 poles and canvas for making improvised stretchers and chewing gum.
Chewing gum had come over with the Canadians in the early part of the war, and was a great hunger suppressant when men were caught out in the open with no means of re-supply. It was clear that by April 1917, it was an 'on ticket' item and part of general trench stores. Quite how much was issued and in what quantities, remains unclear.
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.