Late on the 28th January 1918, sad and bitter news came to the Orderly Room of the 8th Battalion, then stationed in a camp at Rousbrugge near Poperinge. The Battalion was to be disbanded.
The battles of the latter part of 1917 had sapped the British Army on the Western Front of virtually all of its strength. After the battles of Third Ypres and Cambrai, the Army suffered a manpower crisis. The losses of these great battles forced the Commander in Chief and the Army Council decided that a complete restructure of the Brigade system was needed and that one Battalion in four would be disbanded and its members redistributed.
“Paraded at 11 am and were addressed by the CO” wrote Signaller Sydeney Fuller in his diary for the 29th January. “The C.O. started "What I have to say is nothing very pleasant, so I might as well tell you straight out. The Army Council has decided that a certain number of battalions are to be disbanded, and, unfortunately, this battalion is one of them” The C.O. went on to say that Brigade and Divisional Staffs had had nothing to do with choosing the Batts. to be disbanded, otherwise, we might be sure our Batt, would not have been chosen. He was very much upset over the business, and so were we all”. For men like Fuller, who had been in since the fall of 1914 and who had been right through, the news was sad.
Saddest most perhaps of all those there, was the Battalion Commander himself. Lieutenant-Colonel G.V.W. Hill, who although himself an officer of the Royal Irish Fusiliers, considered himself, and was considered by the men he commanded, to be a true Suffolk. Though he never changed his badges during all the time he commanded them, they still respected him as being one of their own.
Gerald Victor Willmott Hill much respected the close geographical links, the Battalion had with the county, even though in the latter months of 1917, drafts arrived from many other units that had no connection to it. Prior to disbandment, he was making great personal efforts to ensure that the men who were under his command, were redistributed to other Suffolk units after the break-up. Through his actions, ‘A’ Company transferred to 1/4th Suffolk, ‘C’ Company transferred to 2nd Suffolk and ‘B’ and ‘D’ Company’s to the 7th Suffolk.
The Battalion had shown throughout its existence, great courage and endurance. A spectacular success was seen upon the Somme in September 1916, but their campaigns in Flanders at Third Ypres, were marred by the failure of their counterparts to exploit their gains. They had shown great courage not once, but twice, and their actions had held the tide of the enemy’s advance and checked their advance, yet always they seemed to be denied the true recognition for their actions.
“We gave him three of the best, but he was too much upset to reply properly” concluded Fuller “The C.O. said we were not to get drunk and smash things etc., but were to still be 8th Suffolks while the Batt. was still whole. Also that we were to have a good time while we were here – “We've got some sorrows, but we’d better drown them”
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.