The 18th June, saw a determined enemy break the British front line at 2nd Suffolk's positions around "Infantry Hill." The position, which has been taken just a few days before with great success, was now abandoned after a blood drubbing, but such was the way of "bite and hold" trench warfare.
That morning at 2.ooam, the Germans attacked in force to retake the hill. Posts held by the Gordon Highlanders were almost immediately overrun. 2nd Suffolk, who held "Long" trench, were ejected after very heavy casualties, falling back into "Tool" and "Hook" trenches.
With elements of the 20th K.R.R., the Battalion succeeded in halting the advance. The Royal Engineers unit to their left, who also valiantly repelled the attack, lost a staggering 50% of their strength.
As daylight came, the enemy were heavily snipped from the Suffolk lines as they tried to move from shell hole to shell hole, but within 24 hours, the Battalion, who had been in the front line for almost six days solid, were relieved into billets in Arras. In the space of a week, they had seen success, congratulations, failure and retreat. The men felt pretty downhearted.
However, despite the setback of having been beaten days after they had triumphantly succeeded, valuable lessons had been learnt, that were distilled for future use with the Battalion. It had become clear that the rules of war were subtly changing. The C.O. noted in a special appendix in the War Diary that there was "value of not keeping to a stereotyped method of attack" and that the men now showed great zeal in wanting to engage with the enemy; "the importance of impressing the infantry soldier on the use of the rifle" it ran "was exemplified by the keen ness with which the men used their rifle over the parapet and shot the Germans."
The young conscripts who now were in the Battalion's ranks, were not swayed by patriotic fervour, nor shameful offers of white feathers, they had a new outlook to fighting. Forced to go, they wanted it over and over as soon as possible. "Fight them hard and fast, to get this lousy war over with" was the new axiom of the day.
Valuable lessons of a materiel and logistical form were also expressed by the C.O.; "A rifle grenade is needed that will not damage the rifle so that it can be used from any rifle" and that "attempts to carry too much Lewis gun ammunition leads to the whole being dumped (by exhausted men). Three magazines in each mans haversack was found to answer well." Finally, "pigeons proved invaluable and were on more than one occasion as quick as a runner."
The old world was changing. Attack patterns were altered weekly and also at Company level so that lessons learnt could be evaluated quickly, and put into operation again as soon as possible. This was an evolving war and the Suffolk Regiment was part of a great operational "learning curve" - a process that was being enacted right across the whole of the British Expeditionary Force.
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.