As the 2nd Battalion rested after their successful advance, the 11th Battalion, just to the north of them, were preparing for their last major attack of the Great War.
On 24th October, they were to advance to take the ground east of the village of Vendegies. The Battalion’s frontage was no wider that they had been used to in the three years of war they had known, but once they had crossed the river, they were to spread out to a frontage of 400 yards and advance to their objective.
On the right ‘A’ Company would advance over the high ground. On the left, ‘B’ Company, would advance into a downhill dip running towards the Cambrai road on the other side of the village. ‘C’ Company would advance behind these forward Companys and would where necessary fill in the gaps if the advance faltered. In reserve, were ‘D’ Company.
The advance was swift, Where the enemy were seen, within minutes they were either surrendering or running away. It was clear that their morale was now all but broken. Zero hour was fixed for 4.00 am and by 5.45 am, all objectives had been taken. The advance of ‘A’ Company had been relatively easy as they didn’t enter the village itself, and soon they were digging-in along a tributary of the river Escallion that was their objective.
To the south, ‘B’ Company had advanced to the village of St. Martin, but then met a carefully concealed enemy machine gun on the banks of the river. Captain Baguley distracted its fire with some skilful bombing from a flank, allowing the remainder of his platoon to advance and silence it.
Advancing further, ‘B’ Company had been temporarily held up clearing a small orchard on the right of the main road but they overcame it swiftly routing the enemy. At the crest of the hill where of the stream ran across the Battalion’s frontage, more concealed machine gunners were encountered. Captain Baguley once more ‘cheered’ his men forward, and they took the guns shortly afterwards. For his actions that day, he was to receive a well-earned Bar to his Military Cross.
By 5.45 am, the stream was breached. Prisoners taken during the advance, were two officers and 98 other ranks, yet as men consolidated their positions, the enemy counter-attacked. ‘B’ Company, who advanced past the edge of the village, took the brunt of the enemy’s assault. The Brigade on their flank was held up advancing through the village and were some yards in the rear. ‘B’ Company’s were 'holding the fort' out in front but the counter-attack was too strong and they were forced back some 200 yards.
With the flank Battalion not making any progress in the village and with ‘B’ Company forced back, the enemy were poised to breakthrough and split the Battalion in two. “The left rear of the leading coy (B)” wrote the Battalion War Diary “who were forced to form defensive flank as left Bde completely hung up and unable to enter Vendegies”. ‘C’ Company (the Reserve Company) under Captain S.W. Turner, pushed through and strengthened the front line between ‘B’ Company and ‘A’ Company on the right. The enemy attacked several more times during the day, but each attack was successfully repulsed.
By early evening, the village had been cleared. As the light started to fade, one final effort, pushed the enemy back beyond the stream so that by the end of the day, they now reoccupied their original positions from that morning.
From its creation in 1914, through to its baptism on the first day of the Battle of Somme, onto the great victories at Arras in 1917, and now in the final successful advance of the Hundred Days, they had come through. The end was surely now but days away...
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.