"He Was A Fine, Big Fellow, Over Six Feet, And Nicknamed By His Comrades 'Long-Un.' He Was Full Of Fun And No End Of Practical Jokes"
Of those initial 15 other ranks killed during the first ill-fated attack on the Quadrilateral, one was Private J.T.B. Woodward.
John Thomas Branston Woodward, was born in London is 1891. His Great War service was remarkable in the history of the Suffolk Regiment, for wounded, he was invalided home, shipwrecked (twice) on the way, recovered and return to the Regiment to fight, and sadly die in action. Movies have been made of less amazing events.
John enlisted into the Regiment on 8th January 1915 at Wisbech, where his family were then living. In the recruiting area for the 11th Battalion, or the Cambridgeshire Regiment, he was however posted to the 9th battalion, then on the south coast near Brighton. He crossed with them to France in later August 1915, and was wounded at Loos in October. As he carried his injured colonel off the battlefield, so the story goes, he had his watch shot from his wrist but escaped all other injury. It was however the dreaded surge of static warfare; trench foot that invalided him home in late 1915, where he expected his military career to end with the amputation of his leg.
It was whilst on board the Hospital Ship "Anglia" bound for the UK, that the ship hit a mine, causing it to sink rapidly. Overboard and in the water, he removed his life vest and it and gave it to a young nurse in the water. His act of simple kindness would ultimately save the young women life. Reduced by an old tramp collier that was close at by named the "Lusitania" he had no sooner been hauled aboard, when she too struck a mine, forcing him back into the water again.
Hours in salt water, had helped his condition so that upon arrival in Englan the doctors decided that amputation was not necessary and let him recover for several months until he requested to be allowed dot return to the front. He volunteered for trench mortar duty and returned to France in the summer of 1916, as the Somme battle was reaching its height. He fell in action in front of the Quadrilateral on 13th September 1916.
In the memorial volume "Rutland and the Great War" fellow comrade George Phillips, wrote of his chum Tom that he was killed during the evening when a German high explosive shell known as a "coal box" burst inside the trench he was then occupying. "He was a fine, big fellow, over six feet, and nicknamed by his comrades 'Long-Un,'" he wrote. "He was full of fun and no end of practical jokes," said another chum "and was beloved by all who knew him."
Tom now lies in Serre Road Number 2 Cemetery; the largest Commonwealth cemetery on the Somme battlefields.
With grateful thanks to the 'Rutland Remembers' website for the above photograph and biography of Tom's extraordinary life.
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.