In December 1915, the 9th (Service) Battalion were holding positions in the village of St. Jean, north-east of the town of Ypres.
On the morning of the 19th, at 5.30am, the Germans launched a gas attack against the Battalion, inflicting upon them for the first time, phosgene gas.
A and B Company's bore the brunt of the initial gas casualties, causing C and half of D Company to be brought up immediately from the positions in reserve, to reinforce the front line. The gas attack which lasted for half an hour, was followed immediately by a heavy bombardment on the front line trenches (which ran through the village). It continued for the remainder of the day.
One young officer in C Company who emerged from the Company HQ that morning was Second Lieutenant Harvey P. Frost. Wearing his macintosh against the cold and his gas helmet as protection against the acrid yellow gas - which rolled through the village, he stepped out to join the fight.
Frost was a prolific collector. Starting from a young age, he'd collected medieval coins, but he also kept all the souvenirs from his First World War service and when he gave them to the Regimental Museum in the 1960s, he annotated each and every item. Today, his pock-marked raincoat is still displayed along with his 'P' type gas helmet that he wore that day.
His caption reads; “My Burberry overcoat, holed by a whiff of shrapnel on emerging from “C” Coy HQ Dugout in the baker’s kiln at St Jean at the commencement of the Gas Attack on December 19th 1915" and “Gas Helmet worn by me during the Gas Attack at St Jean on December 19th 1915”.
But as he exited the dugout, a shell blast threw him to the floor. The next souvenir to his collection lay at his feet...
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.