On the night of the 13th February 1917, a trench raid was carried out by members of 4th Suffolk against the enemy trenches opposite them in the front line at Clery-sur-Somme.
By now, Lieutenant C.C.S. Gibbs; the only officer who had survived unwounded following the attack on High Wood in August 1916, was the Battalion Adjutant. The raid, which was ordered at the express wish of the Divisional Commander, was not viewed with enthusiasm when orders to carry it out were received at Battalion HQ as Gibbs later recalled; “On the following day, the divisional commander woke up with a bright notion that some little feat of daring would enhance the prestige of the division – and perhaps his own. The line was far too quiet for our fiery Major-General. What about a little raid and a prisoner or two for the corps’ cage? So he enquired after breakfast of his DAAG (Deputy Assistant Adjutant General) who was in the front line by the river. ‘4th Suffolk, sir’ ”
The decision was made that B Company would be given the honour of this raid, with Lieutenant L.P. Bennett would command it. Bennett was commissioned form the Inns of Court OTC in December 1915 into the Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment). He had been drafted to 4th Suffolk after the Battle of High Wood on the Somme when all the Reserve Officers from the training Battalion at Halton, had been expended and the Battalion desperately needed officers.
“My first real foul job as Adjutant” wrote Gibbs “was to select the company to make this raid, for it was tantamount to selecting the officer who would lead it. Actually of course, it was the CO orders but the Adjutant keeps the roster and advises and is in fact sort of ‘Secretary of State” as far as responsibility goes in some things”
Gibbs as Adjutant, spent the morning with Bennett going over the maps and intelligence as to what might affront them in the German lines. They were allotted a creeping barrage to cover the initial move and allow them to get into the German line. Though it all seemed ‘watertight’ both men had their reservations; “It was terrible” wrote Gibbs "because he was simply dithering with fright and neither of us thought he had much chance getting through. An officer stood a very poor chance anyway”
With as a he put it his “small part” done, Gibbs retired to Battalion HQ dugout. By 9.15 p.m., Lieutenant Bennett with Lieutenant Hare, and 53 other ranks, lay low in no-mans-land, waiting for the barrage to cover their advance...
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.