"Reached the ruins of Zillebeke about 12.30am. A good deal of gas was in the air, smelling something like mustard, but it did not appear to do much harm" Signaller Sydney Fuller of 8th Suffolk wrote in his diary on the morning of the opening day of the Battle of Third Ypres.
Fuller and his fellow signallers had arrived in the village ahead of the Battalion, who were in a very few hours, to take part in the next major Allied offensive in Flanders. The signallers were led wrongly by their guide into a series of trenches south of the village, getting them hopelessly lost. Only minutes before the preceding artillery barrage was to begin before the infantry attack, they stumbled into "Wellington Crescent" where they came across the Battalion HQ.
At. 3.50 am the barrage started just as it was getting light. "The tanks looked very queer as they crawled from their clumps of bushes and other hiding places and went forward. From the top of our trench we could see the country behind our lines for miles, and every bush seemed to be hiding a gun - the flashes were to be seen everywhere."
“C” Company who were advancing up to the front line through the wreckage of the village of Zillebeke, were caught in an enemy artillery barrage. A shell burst amongst them, killing or wounded virtually all those in the vicinity. As the Battalion waited in their front line positions, they awaited news that those in the first wave had been successful in reaching their objectives and that they were good to proceed behind them.
However, as before, chaos had ensued out in front. the 30th Division who had been allowed the initial objectives of the advance had veered wildly off course when they started their attack, tragically mistaking "Chateau Wood" for "Glencorse Wood". This mistake now drove a dangerous wedge in the British front line around "Glencorse Wood" which was still in enemy hands and allowed the Germans to inflict deadly enfilading fire on those in the first wave.
Viewing the carnage from the Suffolk lines, Sydney Fuller saw the pitiful sight as a tank tried to come to the assistance of those in front: "A tank came forward on our right ran right over some of the men in front who were lying on the ground either either dead or wounded. We shouted ourselves hoarse, but it was of no use - the men in the tank could not hear us, and the tank was over the men in a minute".
As fire came down on the Suffolk positions, casualties began to mount. One man complained that he had been stung and upon removing his tunic, it was discovered that a bullet had entered at his shoulder, and passed under the skin and exited out of his chest. Another man wounded was R.S.M. Goody. "He had a bad cut in his upper lip - cut through by a shell splinter apparently. He was wearing an Iron Cross ribbon in his buttonhole".
As Goody's wounds were treated, the Battalion readied itself to advance.
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.