On the 7th March 1915, the 4th Battalion were in the Front Line opposite the Germans near the French village of Neuve Chapelle.
The Battalion who were at that time, still part of the Julludur Brigade of the Lahore Division, were relived by units of the 58th Vaughan’s Rifles (Frontier Force); a unit of the Indian Army in the same Brigade.
Straddling the “Rue de Bois,” the area they were vacating was known as “Port Arthur” named after the naval port where the first action of the Russo-Japanese war took place exactly ten years before.
Here, was the intersection of the roads from the north, from the village of Neuve Chapelle, from the south, from La Bassee and a road from the west, from the villages of Richebourg and Rue de L’epinette. Being a major road junction, it commanded much attention from the German artillery positions dug in along the southern edge of a large wood below the village of Neuve Chapelle itself, known as the Bois de Biez.
The following day, the 8th March 1915, saw the newly appointed CO of the 4th Battalion, Lieutenant-Colonel Cruddas, summoned away for a meeting at Brigade HQ. Leaving his men in their billets in the village of Lestrem, he returned later that evening with the news that a large-scale attack was planned for the forthcoming days in their sector and that they should be ready to move at one and half hours notice to go up to the Front Line.
The following morning, the 9th, orders were still yet to be received. The men, who had hurriedly packed up their kit that morning, paused and used the free-time to make one last attempt to get the majority of the dreaded French mud off their uniform and weapons.
The preceeding days in the line around Port Arthur were particularly squalid. The trenches opposite the Germans were still unreveted scrapes, made only slightly better by four or five courses of sandbags as a parapet. Some sections of the line did not even interlock and in places, men had to run the gauntlet between sandbagged emplacements. These gaps in the line were magnets for the German artillery and snipers and movement was kept to an absolute minimum during the hours of daylight.
At 4.00pm orders were finally received to move, but at the last minute they were rescinded. The Battalion therefore spent another relatively comfortable night in their billets at Lestrem. The next day would be one of not much comfort. It would bring the Battalion honour but not without tragedy.
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.