At 2.45pm, the Battalion advanced. ‘A’ Company on the left, with ‘D’ Company on the right, moving eastwards towards the wood. To the left flank, 2nd Argyle & Sutherland Highlanders advanced just in front of them and shortly afterwards, they succeeded in getting into the south-west corner of the wood.
With the Argyles clearing positions inside the wood, it allowed 4th Suffolk to press on further unhindered with the extreme left of ‘A’ Company touching the wood itself. To the right of 4th Suffolk, 4th King’s Regiment (Liverpool) had made it to the German lines astride the main road to Longueval. However, this advance was not without loss. No sooner had ‘A’ and ‘D’ Company’s left this forward position, they were caught in vicious enemy artillery and machine gun fire from both the wood, which was not fully cleared, and from the village of Longueval itself.
The men of the Battalion immediately went to ground but continued advancing, partly at the rush, partly at the crawl. The one advantage to the Battalion here, was the total loss of barbed wire. As the positions recently captured were in land that was previously behind the German line, no wire entanglements had been laid.
As the elements of ‘C’ Company arrived at the jumping off line, they could see the first stragglers and wounded coming back in. “A struggling line of men” wote Stormont Gibbs, “running in a sort of staggering run. Some running, some dropping. The first few got level with me and as I looked at them I saw in their eyes that wild look of men mad with fear.”
Despite this, elements of both ‘A’ and ‘D’ Company’s had reached their objective. The War Diary noted “The assault was carved out with determination.” ‘A’ Company’s advance ground to a halt due to resistance from concealed German machinegun positions inside the wood itself. Whilst they were held up, ‘C’ Company moved round to fill their position in the attacking line. ‘D’ and ‘C’ Company’s reached the German front line which ran south from the wood, towards Longueval about 100 yards past the road. Here they started to consolidate their gains and awaited the picks and shovels to start to dig-in. Seeing that the line had been reached, the Battalion Commander sent over ‘B’ Company to assist them in getting the position strengthened.
However, to get this far, the Battalion had paid a high price. Every single officer in the attacking waves was either killed or wounded, with one exception; 2/Lieutenant V.L.S. Bedwell, who was then subsequently killed reaching the German line. Across a frontage of around 150 yards, the Battalion held on, but as the King’s Liverpool's met a strong German counter attack in the south, they fell back leaving ‘D’ Company enfiladed from the right flank. To the north, the Germans brought reserves out to the edge of the wood, and then advanced in rushes across into the Argyles newly won line, forcing them back. 4th Suffolk were now alone in the centre.
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.