As the autumn days came and the daylight shortened, it was a grey and miserable existence to the men of the 1st (Reserve) Garrison Battalion stationed on the Isle of Grain in Kent.
The 1st Garrison Battalion came into existence in the Spring of 1916 and had already furnished a Company for overseas service - which was still serving in France, but from early 1918, they were transferred into the Reserve Army and were confined to garrison duties at home.
From late August 1917, they were spread all along the Grain Peninsular in Kent occupying several bleak, lonely outposts guarding the gateway to London against enemy air activity, but especially, from enemy naval activity as German U-Boats tried to penetrate the Thames to the north, and the Chatham dockyards to the south.
With platoons at Cliffe Fort, Allhallows, Harty Ferry, Coal House Fort, and a further two platoons over the water at Tilbury and Pitsea in Essex, the Battalion, which was at that time almost 1800 strong, guarded this lonely stretch of land.
As men came and went to furnish drafts for other units of the Suffolk Regiment, many who were either too young, infirm, or not of the required medical grade, remained. One solider who found himself here in late 1918 was a young man of Italian and French parentage, Giovanni Battista Barbirolli, known later as Sir John Barbirolli, conductor of the famous Halle Orchestra.
Already an accomplished musician, the young Barbirolli had been conscripted in February 1918 into the Suffolk Regiment. Enlisting under his christian name, it caused much confusion when the roll was called as he later recalled: "The Sergeant-Major had great difficulty in reading my name on the roll-call. 'Who is this guy Vanni?' he used to ask, so I chose John".
John Barbirolli was to remain at Grain for some months yet and, with the onslaught of the bleak winter, he became part of a small orchestra that was formed from within the ranks of the Battalion. It was here that he was to try his hand at conducting for the very first time...
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.