The acute manpower shortage of early 1918, had lead the War Cabinet to explore all options as to where it withdraw its manpower to concentrate on the final offensive of the Great War.
It had been General Haig who had prophetically said in 1915 that the decisive battle to defeat the Germans would be on the Western Front and in his three years as Commander in Chief of the B.E.F., he had seen all the great 'sideshows' of the war amount to no softening of the German Armies on the Western Front.
There had been limited successes in both Palestine and Macedonia, and the Italian campaign was at last, yielding results, but East Africa and Gallipoli had been failures. The March Offensive necessitate a withdrawal of every available man from these theatres, back to France for the final offensive.
To this end, with the capture of the holy city of Jerusalem and their successful part in the Middle Eastern Campaign now over, the last Battalion of the Suffolk Regiment to fight on the Western Front arrived in France.
The 15th (Suffolk Yeomanry) Battalion set foot on the dockside at Marseilles on 7th May 1918. Their journey from Alexandria had been one of great excitement when in the 5th May, a German U-Boat was seen and depth charges were fired. The War Diary noted that this was believed sunk, and indeed records showed that UB 70 was lost that day, east of Gibraltar.
Setting foot on the dockside, the Battalion dressed for an infantry war, must have looked curious with its puttees wound from top to bottom instead of the other way round. The older yeoman in its ranks, proudly hung onto the old traditions. Badges and shoulder titles too, were cherished. Those joining in France were issued with standard titles and cap badges. Those who 'been out east' fiercely hung onto their originals.
Upon arrival, they marched to a transit camp before on the 9th, they travelled by train to Noyelles. Here after a brief halt, they went onwards to a training camp at Lamotte-Buleux near Abbeville. Here they spent days in training and acclimatisation to the style of warfare they would experience on the Western Front. A lecture on the "Importance of the Bayonet" was met with scepticism for they had scarily seen their enemy in the desert and had only on a few occasions, ever come enough to him to fight him hand-to-hand with a bayonet. Most of their fighting had been at distance, with only on a handful of occasions, a tussle with "Johnny Turk".
Of just over 450 men who had set foot ashore at Walkers Pier, Gallipoli on 11th October 1915, there were still at least 20 men in its ranks who had been all the way through from the beginning. The strength of the Battalion was noted on the 15th May as 31 officers and 786 other ranks. In France, they would be bolstered further with new men from England, men who "didn't know one end of a horse from the other!"
Soon they would be in the front line.
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.