On 31st August 1915, the last of the three Service Battalions raised during the early months of the War, landed in France.
The 9th Service Battalion had been at Blackdown Camp near Camberley for some weeks. Its arrival in June from Reigate, placed it one step closer to Southampton for the journey to France and the Western Front.
They had spent the August days in trench digging on the nearby Chobham Common not far from Woking, but when news was received that they were to proceed overseas at the end of the month, leave was hastily organised for all ranks. For those lucky enough to get an early leave, their jubilation upon return was met with a sharp shock. The first 50 men back had to spend the finals days in England filling-in the trenches they'd spent weeks digging on the common.
Three days before departure, the Battalion was 'robbed' of a large amount of senior well-trained ranks to bring up the strength of other Battalions in the Brigade. 15 men departed to 11th Essex, 19 men to 8th Bedfords and 12 men to the newly created 12th (Bantam) Battalion of the Regiment. One man who was very sick, went to the 10th Battalion at Felixstowe. Three days before on the 28th, it was noted in the recently started War Diary, that the first draft of the Battalion had proceeded to Southampton consisting of a Field Officer, the machine-gun officer (Lieutenant R. England), the Transport Officer (Lieutenant J.C. Rowbotham), the Transport Sergeant, The Sergeant Shoemaker, 37 Drivers, 2 Pioneers, 10 Grooms, 34 men of the Machine Gun Section, 5 Cooks, 9 signallers with cycles and 4 Storemen!
Then on 30th, specially chartered trains took the four company's of the Battalion to Southampton. A and B at 5.50pm, and C and D at 6.17pm - that left just over 25 minuted for all 500 or so men in each allotment to get on board, stow their kit, and be counted ready of roll call. However all men were accounted for and embarkation onto the troopship went so smoothly that the C.O., Lieutenant-Colonel Stracey, himself not long arrived from the East Surreys, was personally commended by the General commanding the Division.
After a short crossing, the men arrived in France; the sixth Suffolk Battalion to do so since war was declared. From the port of Boulogne, they marched to Camp 'G' when after blankets were distributed, the men settled down around 2.00am. The remainder of the morning was spent in rest, before at midday, they embarked by train from the Gare Central, to Montreuil. From here a march to Alette, saw them getting step by step, closer to the front. For men like John Kettle (above) they knew their time for battle was getting close.
As the Battalion marched out of Boulogne that afternoon, one man remained. Captain A.P. Mack, who had slipped in Britain whilst boarding the boat, remained at No. 9 General Hospital, where the doctors had confirmed that he had broken a small bone in his foot. It would be a couple of weeks before he would rejoin them.
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.