“The advance continued to the final objective in perfect formation the light now being good; positions in diamond formation were easily maintained” wrote the report in the War Diary, “the final objective was taken in a rush under the barrage except on the extreme left by Zonnebeke church where the morass coming out of the lake crossed the village and formed a serious obstacle.”
As the barrage passed the church, an enemy machine-gun barked into life. With covering fire given by Lieutenant Davall and a party of Lewis gunners, Lieutenant Harrison and a section of ‘X’ Company rushed the position and with skilful use of rifle-fired Hales Grenades; two of which were fired directly though the positions loophole, the position was silenced.
Consolidation began shortly after 8.30am. ‘Y’ Company on the right, along the ‘Blue’ line by the lake. ‘W’ Company on the right in support around the brick kiln. ‘X’ Company on the left around the church and along the lake near the ‘Blue’ line. ‘Z’ Company were in reserve along the ‘Red line. On the right, ‘Y’ Company were in contact with the Australians.
Close to ‘Anzac’ a position on the right flank, Battalion HQ was established. The Adjutant, Captain ‘Val’ Russell, got the Battalion Flag fixed up outside the remains of the dug-out so that the Signallers and the Runners could see where it had been established. “A number of the enemy feigned death” wrote the after-action report, “but on no occasion did they have an opportunity of doing damage. Mopping up was complete and good.”
That evening, the Germans launched a counter-attack, but the Battalions new positions were such that “the Support companies were able to deliver murderous fire into it from L.G. (Lewis guns) and rifles while it was forming up, and during the counter attack.” The German attack was mostly confused with a large proportion of their first wave, veering off course and ending up in the lake. The day was one of success” as the War Diary modestly stated: “The Battalion took part in an attack east of Ypres, gaining all its objectives, complete success.”
Valuable lessons were learnt after the attack. It was established that the 170 rounds of ammunition that the men carried (120 in their pouches, 50 in an additional bandolier) was sufficient for such a size of attack, however it was estimated that almost 16000 rounds were fired during the enemy’s counterattack that evening (even though that approx., 16-20 rounds per man). Bomb supplies were insufficient, although rifle-firing Hales grenades were more effective than Mills Bombs and it was recommend to increase the supply of sandbags from two per man to four.
The training of the new form of movement certainly paid off. “Well worth the time spent and would continue to use it in all similar operations” wrote the CO, adding that “the leading sections should be extended so as to completely cover the front with a view to aiding direction.”
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.