The attack against the village of Gomiecourt was successful for the 2nd Battalion, but it came at the cost of every officer, bar two, being either killed or wounded.
The village was at the apex of a deep salient in the German front line. The defensive ring of fortifications that the Germans had placed around the village, showed that they valued its commanding position high up on a cup-shaped valley, from where they could see for a considerable distance back into the Allied lines behind the railway line.
The position was considered by some to be impregnable, but as the Suffolks came close to the fortifications, the Germans, seeing that the situation was hopeless, started to turn and run, but not before some held on to the bitter end; keeping their forward machineguns firing against their attackers.
Of those two unwounded officers, one was Lieutenant Peter Clement Layard. He was tragically killed by a sniper when on his way back to bring more men forward.
In a small privately published memorial volume of his life, his father recorded the details of his tragic end: "Then at the moment of victory, the village captured and five hundred prisoners taken, came the end. Having rounded up his men, he came across a wounded German. Worn out with fighting as he was, he stooped to bind him up. That was the moment chosen by a German sniper to shoot him through the heart. Just four words he spoke: "I can breathe now" - and he was dead."
It was a unfortunate circumstance of war that his final letter home that had been written the day before, arrived with his parents the day after they received the official telegram notifying them of his death. It was a cheerful note explaining that he had lost his sponge bag and razor, and not to worry to send him another as he thought he could get one when next out of the line. The covering letter, sent by a brother officer, told of their son's end and of how they knew that the battle that claimed him, was a "desperate affair" and that "the odds in favour of death were enormous."
The C.O. wrote that: "He was killed after a successful capture of a village in which hw led his men with great gallantry. He was killed instantaneously while binding up a wounded German." The Adjutant wrote also that: "We were attacking Gomiecourt on the 23rd August, and the attack was extremely successful, and we were consolidating the positions won; your son was carrying on with re-organization of his platoon. He went back to see if he could find any more more, and on his way back he came across a wounded Bosche, whom he bound up and was talking to when he was hit through the heart by a sniper."
"Pete" Layard lies now in Douchy-les-Ayette cemetery. The dedication in his memorial volume was to his mother - "For of all people in the world, he loved her best."
Image courtesy: IWM.
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.