"Trunks of trees were lying almost obliterated by the heavy fire of our guns. Trunks of trees were lying across them, anyhow, the whole of the ground had been pulverised by our shells. One badly wounded German lay writhing in agony on the ground near where we stopped. He was evidently past help"
By now, the 8th Battalion got as far as the Menin road near its famous spur to the north east called "Clapham Junction". The advance however did not stop here for within minutes, they were over the road and had advanced several yards behind it. "After a short rest to get our "wind" again" wrote Sydney Fuller, "we went on, still through a storm of bullets to "Stirling Castle" which was more shelled from the enemy fire. Another short rest, and we again went on, stopping finally on "our" side of the bank, on top of which was the Menin Road. We then discovered that we were at the limit of our advance - the first division (the 30th) had not captured anything like the amount of ground allowed to them, hence the reason why the enemy shelling and machine gun fore had been so deadly when we advanced"
"The attack practically finished here" wrote the regimental History, "as by this time the enemy were in great strength round Glencorse Wood." All the tanks allowed to assist the battalion had been either destroyed had become bogged down. "Brian" "Bori" "Boomerang" "Bentley" and "Britannia" as were they names, now lay abandoned on the battlefield. Enemy aerial activity now became more frequent and the germans fired white Very lights into the Suffolk positions to signal their location to the aircraft.
Major Fache, the Adjutant (above) crawled for along the Menin road with his runner to try and link up with those out in front. In the midst of the battle with shells landing everywhere, a cock pheasant was suddenly seen to rise into the air around 15 yards in front of them. The runner, quickly rose and fired, bringing the bird down. Crawling forward, he nabbed the bird and tied it to the end of his rifle. Bemused, the Adjutant waited politely until he had finished his task and the pair continued onwards on their journey. It was noted that "It was possibly not the first time he had killed game without a licence".
The fire was now hotter than ever as Fuller recalled; "I saw one “C” Coy man who had been wounded in the hand and had had a hole drilled through the side of his tin hat by one bullet. He said that his tin hat was blown almost off his head by the explosion of a shell, and as he put his hand up to pull the hat straight again, the bullet smashed his fingers and passed through the tin hat, without however, injuring his head"
At around midday, news was received up front that a second barrage was to begin. The Battalion Commander, Major G.V.W. Hill, had by now crawled forward and was with the men in the front line, ready to advance. The objective, wild as it was, was the high ground along the Pilkem Ridge to the north and the site of an old racecourse in Polygon Wood.
The men now awaited the artillery.
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.