In early September 1917, Company Sergeant Major J.J. French of 1/5th Suffolk was promoted to acting Regimental Sergeant Major of the Battalion.
His promotion had been in recognition of the gallant leadership he had displayed at the Second Battle of Gaza, earlier that year, when he had been Mentioned-in-Dispatches. When the R.S.M. fell ill, French assumed the position.
Though John James French was not a regular soldier, his entire adult life had been connected with the volunteer movement. Born in 1871 in Hackney, East London, he had by 1901, moved to Sudbury in Suffolk where he and his wife Rose, were living at the Freemasons Hall. Soon after coming to Suffolk, he joined his local company of rifle volunteers; 'D' Company of 2nd (Volunteer) Battalion of the Suffolk Regiment, but was just too late to join the draft the Town sent to South Africa for service in the Boer War. French was however, most active in weekend parades and shooting days, when he could afford the time away from his job as a stationary manager for a large printing works in the town.
French was a crack shot and his skilful use with a rifle was recognised in October 1910, when he was presented with a handsome silver cigarette case from the 'Sudbury Territorial Shooting Committee'. The case would be carried by him throughout the Great War and can be seen today, somewhat battered and scratched, in the Suffolk Regiment Museum.
Being of such seniority, when the 5th (Territorial Force) Battalion was created in 1908, as a result of the Haldane Reforms, he was allotted an early service number of '108'. French went with the Battalion to Gallipoli, landing there with them in August 1915.
He would continue to show much gallantry being awarded further awards before the end of the war.
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.