The losses of the counterattack on the 30th caused many men of 7th Suffolk to become prisoners of war.
One man, Percy Watts of ‘A’ Company, was shot through the chest and subsequently captured. However, the boredom of his captivity, sparked an interest in cookery that was to land him an important job in the post-war years.
Percy enlisted into the 3rd Battalion at Felixstowe in May 1915 and was soon transferred to the 7th Battalion who were heading off to France. Upon his release from captivity in 1918, he decided to re-enlist and joined 2nd Suffolk at Colchester, shortly before they were to be posted to Ireland. By 1921, he was promoted Lance Corporal and remained with the Battalion as it went to Shanghai in 1927.
In the time in between, he had entered numerous Army cooking competitions and was part of a team from the Battalion that came third in the 'Army Cookery Shield' in 1925. In 1928, he left the Army having been demobbed at the Depot at Bury St. Edmunds. He was discharged on medical grounds as a result of the wound he suffered at Lateau Wood.
Almost immediately though, he became the Officers Mess Steward, a civilian role but one that kept him with his Regiment. For 35 years until the Depot was closed in 1963, Percy was the “Mess Superintendent” and along with his wife whom he married in 1929, the pair cooked, cleaned and ran the Officers Mess until it closed.
Percy was a man of remarkable memory like the doorman of a London club. He knew virtually every officer and his wife by sight and even when retired officers visited, he could remember virtually every one of them. When the Second World War came and the supply of lemons became difficult (Gin and Tonic appears to have been a popular tipple in the Mess), Percy grew from seeds, a lemon tree on the Mess kitchen windowsill.
Later, when it was strong enough, the sapling was transferred to the Depot Greenhouse behind the Officers Mess, which was tendered to by German Prisoners of War. Percy had great affinity with them having been a prisoner himself, and often made them up sandwiches from the leftovers to take back to their camp when their work at the Depot ended each day.
Percy retired and was later awarded the Imperial Service Medal for his long and honourable service to the Suffolk Regiment.
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.