At 3.00am on the 20th July 1916, elements of 2nd Suffolk assembled in "Pont Street" in the westernmost cross-roads of the village of Longueval. From here, they would shortly attack towards the imposing natural fortress of Delville Wood.
The planned artillery bombardment; the precursor to the main attack, lifted at 3.35am after some 15 minutes of continuous fire. In the darkness, 2nd Suffolk mounted the parapet and set off into the village of Longueval.
In the darkness and with a thick mist, the men had difficulty in spreading out to attain their required formation. In the confusion, caused by struggling over the rocky ground of the bombed out village, the left hand arm of the attack began to veer off course to the north and soon came the sound of the dreaded deadly Maxim machine-guns from positions just inside the wood. Those in the the reserve and support Company's could only imagine what was unfolding in the darkness ahead of them, and no-one knew that the advance was gradually slowing down.
As reports came in from the wounded, they created the impression that all was going to plan. Prisoners, now arriving steadily, spoke of the first waves being in the wood. Might there just be some success here?
Out in front however, it was a different story. Heavy concealed machine guns in the village were wreaking a terrible toll on the Battalion and such were the mounting casualties, that news had ceased to be received back at Battalion HQ. No news, was definitely not good news.
At around 4.00am, 2/Lieutenant Johnson, went out on the left flank to see what the situation was. Desperate not to get caught in the open as the dawn was breaking, he spotted that there was a heavy enemy machine-gun nest at a wrecked road junction between "Duke Street" that ran east to west, and "Piccadilly" that ran north to south. The majority of the men in the opening waves had fallen to this gun which caught them in the rubble between the wood and the main junction un the village. As dawn broke, any movement in the open was impossible without unnecessary casualties being inflicted. Those who could went to ground in the rubble and started to dig a consolidation trench along "Duke Street" with what remained of Z and W Company's.
Using rifle bombers available to them, 2/Lieutenant Johnson, and his fellow subaltern, 2/Lieutenant Platts, tried in vain to silence the machine gun and in their final attempt, but men were killed in the open yards from it. As the day unfolded, the Germans continuously shelled the Suffolks in the open. "Whizz Bangs" rained down all day, inflicting more casualties on those in the ruins. Unbeknown to the Battalion, the Brigade Major; Major Congreve, had gone forward with the leading Company's of the Battalion that morning and was now in a shell hole in the village. Shortly after lunch, he exposed himself in an attempt to get forward to reconnoitre the situation. A German sniper, near to the machine gun nest killed him in the open.
As the day wore on, the sun got hotter and those in the exposed positions no-mans-land, desperately needed a drink. At 7.00pm, the sniper claimed Lieutenant Kemble. He had been in charge of Z Company that day, and its command was taken over by 2/Lieutenant Wright. Such was the situation that a junior rank had had to assume command for the lack of any other unwounded senior officers.
As darkness descended, the D.C.L.I. (Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry) arrived to relieve them and under cover of a pitch black night, the Battalion was withdrawn. The following morning, the CO; Major G.C. Stubbs, stood aghast at the losses. Four officers killed, three wounded and six missing, amongst whom was Lieutenant Arthur Leslie Evans of X Company (above). Losses amongst the other ranks numbered over 120.
It was another black day for 2nd Suffolk.
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.