On the 8th April; Easter Sunday, the Reverend G.C. Danvers, Chaplain to 2nd Suffolk, organised a church service in the chalk caves under the French town of Arras where the Battalion were then billeted.
Around pillar 5E, the Rev. Danvers had set up his communion set upon a small wooden trestle table, where his candles left deep soot marks upon the chalk pillar behind. As Hymns were sung and prayers offered for the forthcoming attack, the men stood in quiet contemplation.
Standing back in the shadows was Lieutenant W.J. Allum who took out his notebook to sketch the scene that lay before him.
As the service concluded, the CO spoke of the forthcoming tasks allotted to them and to his confidence in their success. After the service, the men dispersed. They were issued with their necessary supplies of bombs, flares and ammunition and made their last preparations for the attack the following day.
Some men including Lieutenant Allum, found quiet corners and wrote letters home to their families, before posting them in the post box - a ration crate placed in a carved aperture in the chalk. Allum wrote a hurried line to his parents and enclosed the sketch he had just drawn.
Back in England, when Allum’s family received his sketch, they though it so emotive, that they forwarded it to the offices of the Illustrated London News who were most interested in publishing it. After a re-draw by Forestier, the well-known French society artist, it was eventually published in March 1918.
The article made no mention of the Suffolk Regiment and gave no credit to Lieutenant Allum. It was only in 1927, when the second volume of the Regimental History was published, that Allum finally received the credit he deserved for recording such a momentous scene.
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.