On 28th November 1916, 1/5th Suffolk left their entrenched positions around the "Round-Hill" and returned to the Gazelle Heights in Egypt, not far from the Sphinx.
The Battalion had been in static positions for some weeks guarding the banks of the Suez Canal. Daily they mounted guard on its banks, routinely calling out the guard to check the numerous sailing ships that passed by. Here in this bare land, it was infiltration that they were specifically guarding against. Impossible though it was to police ever inch of the banks of the canal, the sand between the waters edge and the first defensive line of trenches (known as the "drag track") was so flat and baron, that though nothing could be seen or heard during the night, yet in the morning it showed the footprints of those who had passed along it in the darkness. Quite often the square toed boots of the Turk, could be seen alongside those of the barefoot native, yet nobody saw them or heard them during the night. It was a spooky and forbidding place during the darkness.
The Battalion had moved from the canal, the 15 miles across the desert to their new base at one of many carefully designed desert forts on the 14th November. Their new home was the "Round-Hill" - an interlocking system of trenches, dug into the sand around 350 yards in width. At its centre was a citadel around a small trench system known as "Middlesex Trench." This was shielded by wire on all sides with a gap at the rear to allow its occupants, if overrun, to retire into a further complex of trenches "New Brighton Trench," "Tranmere Trench" and "Winsford Trench" in an outer perimeter. If these were overrun, then its occupants could fall back to an outer defence position, form where the could bring fire upon the enemy within.
The official history noted that the men found it easier to march the entire journey to the fort from the canal in the searing heat, rather than the continual start-stop of the small narrow-gauge railways that sprawled across the desert, and the 'loop-the-loop' convoy of camels that carried the Battalion's baggage.
After an uneventful few days, they were withdrawn from the position on the 28th November. As they vacated the position, a new Padre came with them. The Rev. E.D. Rennison, replaced that day, the Rev. Charles Pierrepoint Edwards, who had gone home some days previously. Edwards had become a legend within the Battalion, winning an MC at Gallipoli.
Rennison, was an Irishman and arrived "bringing a distinct air of the emerald isle and a cheeriness that never deserted him." In the weeks that were to follow, there would be pleasant days before Christmas, prior to the Battalion being sent to Gaza in the New Year.
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.