After weeks of training with the newfangled tanks, on 24th November, the 7th Battalion stepped forward to play their part in the battle of Cambrai.
The Battalion, as part of the 12th (Eastern) Division, would be the rear battalion in their Brigade's attack. Two battalions would make the initial advance to the Hindenburg Line; 5th Royal Berks on the left, 9th Essex on the right. When they has breached the outer defences with the assistance of tanks, 7th Suffolk would then ‘Leapfrog’ over the 5th R. Berks and continue onwards to the main defensive line. 7th Suffolk were to advance from behind four sections of tanks.
Their task was initially to mop-up the enemy’s machine gun emplacements which may have been missed by in the wake of the advancing tanks, before starting their allotted advance. The terrain was sunken roads and fields, over which and along the tanks would have to travel. The infantry were not to follow them but to proceed ahead and await their arrival at the main line of defences. Machine guns from the 235th Company, M.G.C., would give covering fire from the south along the ‘Banteau Spur’ and would fire along the axis of advance; the straight road towards the farmhouse at ‘Bleak House’
Special signalling devices of coloured discs were to be used by the infantry to signal to the tanks for help and assistance. A green disc indicated “wire cut” (or trampled) and red disc, meant “wire uncut” and both together meant “objective reached”. For the infantry, hand signals using rifles were also to be employed. A helmet placed aloft on the end of a rifle meant “tank wanted” its seems a little ludicrous gesture in the heat of battle. No 7. Company, Tank Corps were to work closely with 7th Suffolk. All their tanks names began with a ‘C’ and were named “Curmudgeon”, “China”, “Cape Colony II”, Ceylon”, Caithness”, Culloden II”, “Clyde II” and “Canada”
At 6.20am the attack commenced. An eye witnesses noted “Suddenly from everywhere behind us blazed forth our artillery fire. Such a sight can never be forgotten. There was not a part of the line that seemed untouched. How anyone could live under such tornado of fire passed comprehension”.
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.