As the battles of the last hundred days picked up momentum, the month of October opened with another battle for the 2nd Battalion.
Quick to exploit the gains they had made crossing the Canal du Nord and the capture of the village of Flesquieres, on the last day of September, orders were received to person and take the village of Rumilly.
Rumilly was a village a few miles south of Cambrai, midway between the town and the fork in the road at Lateau Wood. The attack was from the west pressing on directly towards the village. The 8th K.O.R.L., who had been comrades in the same Brigade since before the battles at Ypres in 1917, were to take the right hand of the village, 2nd Suffolk were to take the north. The Gordon's were behind in the centre, assisting where necessary.
'X' Company were to take the right flank of the Battalions advance, with 'Z' Company behind. They were to keep in contact with the Lancasters on the right. 'W' Company were on the left with 'Y' behind. There were no reserves. At this late stage of the war, such was the movement that vast distances were being covered, and it was useless to have reserves so far back. The entire Battalion was committed and all went forward together. Zero hour was 6.00am.
"On reaching Rumilly trench" wrote the Battalion Commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Carpenter "it was found to be strongly held any the enemy and severe fighting took place. Rumilly Support trench was found to be full of Germans and over 300 were taken prisoner and many killed. This latter trench was full of machine guns."
The logistics of such vast prisoners was a problem for the advancing troops. They were quickly ushered back under the scantest form of escort - most being eager to surrender. There could be no denying that the end did now seem in sight. However as always a few staunch survivors remained, determined to deny the Battalion their trenches which they were being forced to extricate. As the barrage moved on, the age old task of 'mopping up' had to be continued. "The left Company came undermost intensive machine gun fire from the flanks and front inflicting severe casualties and making further advance impossible. The right Company, however, was shielded by the ground from flanking fir and reached the village, pushed right and through it reached the trench line killing and taking prisoners many of the enemy."
The distance was vast. Almost half a mile covered and the men exhausted. Communication had been lost with the artillery barrage which carried on ahead of them. When consolidation began, pockets of enemy resistance in the village suddenly came to life form the rubble: "Further machine guns were encountered east of the village" continued the C.O. in his report, dictated to the Adjutant, Captain W.F. Burman, that evening under intense shell fire in his dug-out "These retired behind our barrage but eventually trickled back and prevented further advance, as they were working round the flanks of X. Coy. which was separated with from the K.O.R.L. on the right, and 2nd Div. on the left."
By late afternoon, one Company of 2nd Suffolk was to the east of the village, with three in its outskirts and to the south. Orders came up mid-morning to state that a bombardment of the village would begin imminently to dislodge the machine gunners once and for all. At the same time, 2 Companies of the Gordons came up to assist 2 Companies of 2nd Suffolk to the south, to advance into the village and 'mop up'. The barrage, which was to start just before 6.30pm, was to advance at 100 yard leaps every 6 minutes, a long gap for such a short dash, but it allowed a careful and measured advance and allowed those of the flanks to keep up.
"Both attacks were successful and the village was cleared" wrote Carpenter "leaving about 80 prisoners in our hands. The Battalion was then reorganised with one company in trenches astride the road (north-south)".
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.