At midnight on the 3rd October 1915, Major Sinclair-Johnson got the men out of the trenches and into two lines. C and D Company’s were to go first, with A and B Company’s following behind. As the whistles blew, A Company got out and charged off ahead into the darkness.
C Company followed behind but could not catch up with them. Though the land over which they were attaching was relatively flat and the moon was full, the smoke from the artillery fire seemed to make the men disappear. D Company on C Company's right could not be found. They had either never gone over the top or had veered massively off course to the south east. In desperation, Sinclair-Johnson called forward B Company to fill in their gap but as they advanced, they too veered to the right. The attack was failing dramatically and spectacularly.
The advance, which has now descended into chaos with the CO unable to see where his men were. No communication existed between the Company's and their was no sense of consolidation to rally the men together and press on. Groups of 2 and 3 men sheltered here and there in shell holes or lying flat in the open, afraid to go on. Remarkably, the section commanders had no real intelligence as to their objective or direction except to "head for a permanently displayed red lamp on the enemy's parapet." When this was promptly extinguished by the Germans, all sense of direction vanished. The moon, which had moved considerably since the attack commenced, caused the attackers to advance wildly off course.
As the German machine guns fired randomly into the darkness, the losses mounted. 7 officers were wounded along 150 other ranks. Many more had been killed, but some had not even taken part in the assault. The remnants of those who remained were ordered to retire by bugle call and made the way back to the British lines at around 1.15am. A second attack was ordered for 4.30am, but it was subsequently cancelled.
It was a day of abysmal failures. Poor communications, clogged trenches, inefficient command and a total lack of artillery support, led to the failure of the attack that night. Intelligence was key to future attacks, but for all these faults, gallantry was displayed that night.
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.