At 4.00 am on the morning of 9th April 1918, 11th Suffolk were in Divisional Reserve behind the British front line south of the river Lys. Two Company’s were positioned in Erquinghem, with the other two Company’s in La Rolanderie Farm.
At 4.00am, a large-scale enemy bombardment came down along the front line. As it intensified, it crept towards the rear areas and the village itself. Sensing that something was happening and preparing to meet a possible enemy attack, the C.O., Lieutenant-Colonel Tuck, moved his men from the village and the farm and into trenches between the railway line and the village.
At 11.15 am, the shelling was still intense and Tuck received orders to move the Battalion to west to the village of Bac St. Maur. The enemy had broken the front line to the south and were fast approaching Erquinghem from the direction of Fleurbaix in the south east. No sooner had he hurried everyone together, when new orders were received to not move to Bac St. Maur but to form a defensive line facing Fleurbaix. Tuck placed three of his four Company’s in frontal positions which stretched from Streaky Bacon Switch Trench on the left, to meet up with 103 Brigade, on the right. Soon it became clear that out in front of them, the fighting was getting heavier and when the 40th Division started to form a defensive line on the Battalion’s left flank, they knew that the enemy was close. 40th Division contained within its ranks, 12th Suffolk and together with 16th Royal Scots, they established a defensive line stretching west to Fort Rompu close to the river. It was noted that “For the remainder of the day enemy attempts to advance were repulsed”.
On 10th April at 7.00 am, the enemy attacked and broke through between right 12th Suffolks and left, 16th Royal Scots. The 12th Suffolks fell back. Upon hearing this, the CO rushed the Reserve Company from La Rolanderie Farm, south to fill the gap. By 8.45 am, the “enemy were driven back and the gap was filled and touch was re-established”.
The front line was now very thin and the men of the Reserve Company were now stemming the advance and supplementing the weakened ranks in the defensive line. This left the C.O. with all but a skeleton staff at Battalion HQ. Tuck requested assistance from 4th Duke of Wellington’s, but they did not arrive until mid afternoon, and as soon as they arrived, they were then ordered to withdraw. “During the morning the enemy pushed forward. The continual harassing caused troops on the right of the battalion to give ground slowly”. The right hand Company of 11th Suffolk, now alone, held their ground and stemmed the tide.
At 2.00 pm, the enemy came on in strength along the whole Battalion’s frontage. The fire was intense, but the line was for the moment, holding. Intense shelling caused the unit on the Battalion’s right, to break and start to fall back in complete retreat at about 2.30 pm. Their rout caused a gap in the front line which the enemy was quick to exploit. The right Company now started to fall back towards the village of Erquinghem and the switch trench which ran in front of the village. “The troops in the centre whose positions had been penetrated were rapidly reformed”.
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.