"He Had No Illusions. He Hoped, But Hardly Expected, To Return, And Was Content To Die In A Great Cause.
The Kaiserschlacht took the life of the commander of the 12th Battalion, Lieutenant-Colonel Theodore Eardley-Wilmott.
Educated at Tonbridge, Eardley-Wilmot graduated from the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in 1899 and was gazetted into the 1st Battalion, East Surrey Regiment. Two years later he went upon secondment to the 39th Garhwal Rifles, then stationed in Chitral and temporarily joined the India Army.
A student at the School of Musketry at Pachmarhi, in 1908 he was promoted Captain and married Mildred Clare in India. Re-joining the British in 1910, he obtained a position in the 2nd Battalion, York and Lancaster Regiment and joined them at Aldershot in 1911. Transferring to their 3rd Battalion in 1912, he remained at the Depot in Pontefract until 1915 when after much protestation, he was allowed to serve overseas on active service.
Severely wounded at Ypres on 23rd April 1915 when serving with 1st York and Lancs, after convalescence and promotion, he accepted command of the 12th Battalion, the Suffolk Regiment. Awarded a DSO in 1916, he was Mentioned-in-Dispatches for his Battalion’s part in the capture of Bourlon Wood in November 1917.
On 22nd March as the German March Offensive, bore its full force upon the Battalion’s position, Eardley-Willmot went forward as his school magazine reported: “Colonel Eardley-Wilmot left Battalion H.Q. at Morthomme about 6 a.m. on March 22nd to go round the front line, and since the Battalion had been unable during the night to get into touch with the 13th Yorkshires on its left, decided to clear the situation up himself. With this object, he went forward from the front line, bearing to the left, taking an officer, a corporal and three men with him, and giving orders for a Platoon to follow him. There was a heavy mist at the time, and he evidently walked directly on to a party of the enemy who had crept up under cover of darkness. This party opened fire with a machine gun. The other officer was killed at once, the Colonel fell immediately afterwards, and two of the men were wounded. The Corporal and the remaining man dragged the Colonel back to a shallow trench, remaining with him several minutes, and only leaving him to warn the Platoon Commander of the presence and position of the enemy. The enemy advanced, and it was impossible to bring the Colonel back, though several attempts were made and considerable casualties incurred thereby. The Corporal had no doubt that the Colonel was killed, as he was hit in the chest, and never spoke or moved afterwards. With this characteristic act of devotion to duty ended the career of a born soldier. His whole heart was in his profession, and he possessed in a high degree the qualities of courage, coolness and confidence, together with the determination and power of quick decision essential in meeting sudden emergencies. He had been recommended for the command of a brigade, and, had he lived, was doubtless destined to rise high. He had no illusions. He hoped, but hardly expected, to return, and was content to die in a great cause".
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.