A UNIQUE DAY-BY-DAY REMEMBRANCE, 2014 - 2018
follow below, the great war service of the suffolk regiment,
from mobilisation to the armistice
from mobilisation to the armistice
On the night of 20/21st March 1918, 11th Suffolk took over positions alongside the river Sensee to the west of Wancourt, south of Fontaine.
Upon arrival in their new positions, the enemy had been seen and heard working in his positions opposite them, but at 5.00 am on the 21st, a terrific bombardment hit all along the Battalion’s frontage. Enemy Minnenwerfer’s and considerable amounts of gas were used, but as the morning wore on, the shelling decreased and when the all clear was sounded, there was much work to do to repair the damage caused by the German artillery on the front line. trenches.
Just after 8.00 am, under cover of another heavy bombardment, German Storm Troops came on rushing the left hand side of the Battalion’s sector. They succeeded in getting into the trench and after tough hand-to-hand fighting, they were repulsed. Several dead were left behind and one dead German was identified as belonging to No. 8 “Storm” Battalion.
At 3.00 pm, another heavy artillery barrage was brought down along the entire front line. It promptly ceased at 3.30pm and the Battalion ‘Stood To’ to await a further attack. Luckily the Germans were pressing on to the battalion north of them who took the brunt of their attack. But, they were now also pressing south to the left of the line held by ‘C’ Company. To their right, ‘B’ Company occupied the centre of the Battalions frontage between ‘Shaft Avenue’ and ‘Farmers Lane’. As ‘C’ Company now fought desperately against the onslaught, contact with their Company HQ was lost and the C.O., Lieutenant Colonel Tuck, in battalion HQ behind ‘B’ Company’s positions, was anxious to learn what had become of them.
The enemy were coming on again passing the Battalion’s left flank. Firing due north, the men of ‘B’ Company were able to inflict heavy losses on the advancing Germans who were crossing westwards to take on ‘C’ Company’s positions. From his position, Colonel Tuck looked through his binoculars across to the village of Fontaine and to the large wood to the north of it. He could see that despite the Allied artillery, heavy numbers of the enemy were advancing between the village and the wood in artillery formation, heading straight for ‘C’ Company’s positions. With no news, he was now gravely concerned as to how long they could survive before being overrun.
Worried that if ‘C’ Company were overrun, there could be no stopping the enemy taking the entire Battalion frontage, a bombing block was hastily formed in the front line between Bush Trench and Pug Avenue. Sandbags were ripped down and piled over ammunition boxes to form an envelope which the enemy would advance into, then have to fight out of.
Within minutes of its completion at around 6.00pm, a further enemy attack was launched in this area and arriving in this section of trench, they were bombed from both the north and south, from men on either side of the barricade. Grenade after grenade were lobbed in and eventually with heavy losses, the enemy were forced to retire. A second wave came on again minutes later and were met with the same treatment.
At 6.45 pm, an order was received from Brigade Headquarters that the Battalion might be ordered to retire to a defensive line in the rear straddling Henin Hill. The C.O. therefore drew together his Company Commanders to prepare them for the move and at 8.00pm, the order arrived for them to move to a line on the eastern slopes of the
hill between Farmers Lane in the north and Sensee Reserve in the south; a frontage of around 350 yards. ‘D’ Company, who were previously in reserve, were already in the new positions when ‘A’, ‘C’ and ‘B’ Company’s arrived. As ‘C’ Company fell back, the bombing block was attacked again, but by now ‘C’ Company were away and in their new positions.
‘A’ Company in the south, covered its own retirement, whilst ‘B’ Company in the centre, covered the withdraw of Battalion HQ. One Company of ‘B’ Company held on gallantly in the face of mounting enemy fire, to allow the remainder of Company to retire back to safely behind the hill.
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