When the 4th Battalion arrived in France, it’s Adjutant, Captain Cockburn was shocked to see that it has brought with it a fair number of younger soldiers.
In 1914, for the Regular British Army, and it’s Territorial Force counterparts, you had to be a minimum of 19 years old to serve overseas. For many younger members of the Battalion who had joined the Territorial Force at its creation in 1908 as young drummer boys and musicians, they now faced a dilemma. They were not of an age to go overseas, but they didn't want to miss the big show.
Thus, in the evening before the Battalion was due to sail from Southampton, as the Adjutant and the individual Company Commanders completed the last of their embarkation paperwork, many young members of the Battalion ‘celebrated’ their 19th birthday's. In the morning, they would wake, aged 19 and ready to serve overseas with the Battalion.
In those patriotic days of 1914, and with the thought that they must get some action in before it might be too late, many a Company Clerk turned a blind eye to such falsifications on the men’s forms. The Battalion was like many in the Territorial Force one of friends, family and work colleagues, and nothing would stop them not serving together in the forthcoming fight. Later on, such things would be strictly enforced and administered.
However, in France, these youthful men were an asset to the Battalion. With training underway to learn the new tactics and equipment of a modern war, these eager young men learnt quickly. They carried none of the traits of an old soldier and threw themselves wholeheartedly into all they were asked to do. As December came and the first of the cold weather descended, not even this could dampen their spirits. For the ‘old sweats’ who'd seen it all before, there was much grumbling but it was nothing new - old soldiers always groused about something!
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.