December saw a change of location and a change of command for 2nd Suffolk. The first Battalion of the Suffolk Regiment to join the fight, they had been 'out since Mons' in 1914 and now they looked set to spend a fourth Christmas in the front line.
After the capture of the village of Zonnebeke in September; an action for which they never received the fullest recognition, the village fell once again by those who relived them. It was later to be retaken by the Anzacs in a blaze of glory eradicating the Battalion from history.
In late November, the Battalion was removed from the Ypres Salient and sent south to the Arras Sector in anticipation of a possible German breakthrough. The success at Cambrai was immense, but shaky. If the Germans continued with their counterattack, that 7th and 9th Suffolk felt the brunt of on 30th November, they could drive a wedge between the Allies and press on for Paris. Thus by early December, the 2nd Battalion were in the line at Bullecourt.
The Battalion was tired but still they soldiered on. They slogging match in the Salient had taken its toll on the men and precious few of the old 'Le Cateau' mob survived. On the 14th, a German Lance Corporal was seen 'wandering' in the Allied wire. Hopelessly lost, he was shot and later after his body was brought in, he was identified as being part of the 14th Bavarian Regiment. Shelling was intense and for an already tired Battalion, the men desperately needed a break.
Every four days throughout December, the Battalion was 'in' and 'out' of the lines changing places with the 1st Gordon Highlanders. The men hated the monotony and slackness in personal discipline led to unnecessary casualties.
However for all the rigmarole of trench warfare, their new positions were probably the safest and most well-constructed they had ever inhabited. The learning curve of the British Expeditionary Force over five years of war, had expounded the need for decent defensive positions with adequate provisions for sleeping, medial aid, stores and sanitation. New materials had been used replacing wood and tin that corroded and rotted under extreme weather conditions and enemy fire. Steel angle iron and expanded metal grille or "expamet" as it was known, now replaced timber in all the heavy duty construction of British trenches. A deep 18 inch well under the grill floor, ensured that water drained away leaving the men as dry as possible and not spending prolonged periods in water.
Advances in signalling and electronic alarms meant that klaxons and buzzers were positioned along all the trenches at intervals. Gas alarms would be triggered in a moment by anyone and special wicket gates, could be pulled down at intervals along the line to seal in the enemy in a specific section of trench if he ever broke in.
On the 19th, the CO, Lieutenant-Colonel Likeman, returned home and in his place, Major Nichols assumed command. Lineman had led the Battalion through the great battles of Third Ypres and now needed a rest. Nichols was an officer of the 3rd Battalion, who had like his brother obtained a commission in the Suffolk Regiment at the outbreak of war. Charles Brian Nichols was to steer the Battalion through the 'quiet period' before Colonel Stubbs returned.
Like all Battalions of the Old Twelfth on the Western from that Christmas, many wondered whether the New Year would bring peace.
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.