For 2nd Suffolk, the 22nd August was spent in rest and refitting, before at 9.30 pm they were ordered back into the line to the positions they had vacated the previous day. Now they were to assemble along the railway for a forthcoming attack towards the village of Gomiecourt.
In the darkness of that night, the C.O., the Adjutant; Captain Burman and the Intelligence Officer, went out to reconnoitre the enemy positions. The Germans had counter-attacked that day, and the positions were slightly altered from those they had left earlier, so Colonel Stubbs decided to remain and to direct the battle from the front.
At 4.00 am on the 23rd, the Battalion advanced once more. Advancing on the right flank with 8th K.O.R.L. (King’s Own Royal Lancaster) on the left. 1st Gordons were behind the Battalion in support. For the advance to Gomiecourt, eight tanks had been brought up half an hour prior to Zero Hour (4.00am) and were just about in position when the Battalion moved off.
“‘X’ Company advanced on the right, ‘Z’ Company on the left, with ‘W’ Company behind ‘X’ and ‘Y’ behind ‘Z’.” Almost immediately after they had advanced, the C.O., Lieutenant-Colonel Stubbs, still out in front, received word from the tanks that they could not proceed due to heavy fire from the Germans opposite the village.
Stubbs was therefore forced to move further northwards and attack the village from the northwest, rather than directly from the west as planned. He therefore swung a half-left, and crossed the railway below Courcelles, before regaining his original direction. The Battalion was now having to move fast over their new route as the barrage was creeping forward at 100 yards every four minutes, which was heavy going fully laden troops.
“The barrage was excellent” wrote Stubbs “and after a certain amount of MG fire from right rear in the initial stages, the advance was made unchecked and village taken and line ordered consolidated”. By 11.00 am as the Battalion dug-in to the southeast of Gomiecourt, other units were passing through the Battalion’s positions, pressing onwards towards to the east. The advance towards Bapaume was off to a good start.
Shell fire was intermittent and not particularly that heavy during the advance, but it was the machine guns and snipers along the railway line and in the ruins of Gomiecourt itself that caused the majority of the casualties that the Battalion suffered that day. 25 men were killed, 149 wounded and 5 missing.
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.
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