He Preferred To Sit Leaning Up Against A Broken Bit Of Concrete Looking Like A Sphinx With Shells Falling All Around Him"
The CO of 4th Suffolk, Lieutenant-Colonel Hugh Charles Copeman, watched the chaos and the slaughter from a pill-box in which the Middlesex had made their Battalion HQ.
He knew what was left of his men who hadn’t fled, his were being slaughtered out in front and he didn’t want to be away from them; “The ‘Old Man’” wrote Gibbs, “didn’t like being sociable so he would not even visit them (the Middlesex HQ) let alone take a few minutes refuge. He preferred to sit leaning up against a broken bit of concrete looking like a sphinx with shells falling all around him. There is no doubt that it gave him satisfaction to feel and to show he could stick more than anyone else. Anyhow, it pleased him when I said I was going to spend a few minutes in the Middlesex dug-out to pull myself together ‘I am staying here’ he said. “The suns come out.”
At noon, the Suffolks at the strong-point were on the verge of retiring, when elements of 2nd Royal Welch Fusiliers passed through their positions. Here an orderly arrived from Battalion HQ to request them to remain and hold this position, which they did.
As the day wore on, the CO tried to establish contact with his platoon commanders. Several platoons had not gone forward past ‘Lone House’ and had remained in the numerous shell holes around ‘Verbeek Farm’ Some had under heavy fire, retired close to ‘Glencorse Wood’ where they had remained, not knowing where Battalion HQ was. A tank had run out of petrol near the Middlesex pill-box, and for the want of a few gallons it could have turned the tide of the battle. As the light was failing, Gibbs toured the frontal positions as safely as he could, to see what could be done to further the advance. Every wrecked pill-box he came across was crammed with wounded and no-one could come out to get them.
It was again, not a day of success for the Battalion. The weather and the extreme enemy shelling were certainly contributing factors to their lack of success, but found had been taken. Some sighted that Copeman’s poor leadership was to blame and that there were too many inexperienced officers in the leading platoons; a view that Gibbs later shared; “I do not blame anyone from running away, it was more than many people could have endured” but there is something that can never excuse running away of you leave men behind. Officers did this and they showed how the standard of officer had fallen since the Somme took so many of our best".
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.