At La Quinque Rue on 22nd December, Captain (Temporary Major) W.O. Cautley of the 3rd Battalion, The Suffolk Regiment, was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) for conspicuous gallantry. It was one of the first in a series of awards for gallantry to be awarded to the Regiment over the forthcoming four years of conflict.
William Oxenden Cautley originally joined the 3rd Volunteer Battalion, The Suffolk Regiment (Cambs-Suffolk) in 1894. He received in 1897, a commission with the 3rd (King's Own) Hussars, serving briefly with them until the outbreak of the Boer War.
Requesting a transfer back to his old unit in 1900, thinking that they would be sent to South Africa, frustratingly, they were sent instead to the Channel Islands and to Alderney, to be placed on Garrison Duties for the duration of the fighting. Cautley remained with 3rd Suffolk though the Haldane reforms of 1908-09 being on the reserve list in August of 1914 when War was declared.
Rejoining the Colours, he was granted the honourary rank of Major and for a short while, he was in charge of the fort at Landguard near Felixstowe. Volunteering for service overseas, he left the Battalion in October for France, being first attached to the Royal Sussex Regiment, and then later to the 1st Battalion, the Northamptonshire Regiment; who had lost many of their officers during the fierce early battles of 1914.
Throughout the rest of 1914, Major Cautley saw a great deal of severe fighting. His Company of the Northampton's distinguished themselves greatly during the furious German attack on the night of 22 Dec., around their section of front line trench near Givenchy.
Following the action, a Special Brigade Order was issued by General C. B. Westmacott. It read as follows: "The Brigadier-General desires to take this opportunity of congratulating D Coy., 1st Battn. Northamptonshire Regt., on its gallant and steady behaviour during the action of 22 Dec. The manner in which, under the command of Major Cautley, of the 3rd Battn. Suffolk Regt., it resisted the counter German attack, and the steadiness with which it finally withdrew in face of superior numbers and eventually occupied a position in the rear to cover the gap made in the line was worthy of all praise."
A keen amateur cricketer, Cautley was mentioned in Wisden that he was as "A very fair fast-medium bowler of his day; a very unsafe, though at times a brilliant, field; has no idea of batting; handicapped much by ill-health.”
Cautley would see out 1914, but would his luck hold 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.