As the Somme campaign rolled on another Battalion, as yet involved in its battles, stepped to the fore.
9th Suffolk were moved into the “Sandpit Area” in the small village of Guinchy. This village was in the southern sector of the Somme battlefield, to the south of Delville Wood. The Battalion had arrived form the Ypres Salient the month before, but had been at rest behind the lines, engaged in a comprehensive course of training at Louvencourt. Their training had however been interspersed with periods in the front line.
Later on the evening of the 12th September, they received their orders for an attack the following day. The objective was to be the German second line, but they must first cross a great expanse of open ground to reach it. This ground was aspied by numerous, well concealed, enemy machine gun nests. It would not be easy.
Unlike some of their counterparts, the attack the following day went in at the traditional time of dawn; 6.20 am, and not after lunch as units in the northern sector of the line had become accustomed to. 'B' and 'C' Company’s went over first, gaining within minutes not only the first, but the second line of enemy trenches. Their zeal and fighting spirit – the same spirit that had been seen almost a year before at Loos, which had resulted in the award of the Regiment's first Victoria Cross, was evident again as they advanced. However within minutes, that spirit was shattered with searing hot bullets from a carefully constructed and virtually impregnable fortification of linked machine-gun nests encompassed in several belts of barbed wire. This strongpoint was christened the “Quadrilateral.”
“The situation could not be cleared up” wrote the War Diary, in fact it dragged on all day, taking a steady toll on the Battalion. In desperation, the CO, Lieutenant-Colonel A.P. Mack asked Brigade to withdraw what men he still had out in front to prevent further needless casualties. Instead came fresh orders that at 7.30 pm, a new attack was to be mounted against the Quadrilaterial by 'A' Company who had been held in reserve that morning. Though spirited, their attack was a complete failure. The machine-guns once more cut the men to ribbons as they tried to advance.
Using what they could of the German lines they had captured that morning, the jumbled survivors consolidated and started to dig to the north and south. As darkness enveloped them, contact was made on the left with the 2nd Sherwood Foresters, and on the right, with 8th Bedfords. “During these attacks the Battn behaved splendidly and it is regretted the casualties were heavy” continued the War Diary.
It was something of an understatement. Two officers killed and ten wounded, along with 15 other ranks killed and 185 wounded. Yet, despite this bitter drubbing, within 48 hours, the Battalion would though weak, be forced again to overcome the position. Would they be successful second time around or would the outcome be the same?
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.