Abridged Chronology of the 11th Battalion, The Suffolk Regiment

(The Cambs Suffolks)


On the occasion of a reunion dinner held at the Guildhall, Cambridge in 1920, Colonel G.L.J. Tuck C.M.G., D.S.O. gave a summary of the Camb's Suffolks exploits during the Great War.

This chronology has been supplemented with information obtained from "The Grimsby Chums" by Peter Bryant and also material provided by Cliff Brown (a journalist from March in Cambridgeshire) and Tony Beeton (a retired police officer from St Ives in Cambridgeshire).

 At the instigation of the Lord Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire the War Office was approached with a view to raising a "Kitchener" Battalion of men from Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely. This request was made on 18th September 1914.

Initially formed at the Corn Exchange in Cambridge until capacity problems obliged the Battalion to move to the County School in Cherry Hinton Road, Cambridge and the Melbourn Place, School, Kuing Street, Cambridge which was turned into a barracks.

2nd November 1914. Inspection of Cambs Battalion, Suffolk Regiment, on Parker's Piece, Cambridge by Lt-Gen.C.L.Woolacombe, GOC Eastern Command. 500-600 men present.

November 1914. "The men look very smart in their new blue uniforms."

November 1914. New barrack huts erected on Cherry Hinton Meadows. 30 huts for men, 3 blocks for officers, Sgts mess, Regimental Institute, drying room, cook house, ablution sheds, shower baths, QM stores, guard room and miniature rifle range.

January 1915. Cambs Battalion at full strength - 1,350 other ranks. No more required but 2 months before the Battalion goes oversees, 750 recruits will be required for a Depot Company.

March 1915. Men issued with khaki uniforms.

May 19th 1915. The Battalion left Cambridge for Ripon, Yorkshire.

June 1915. Billeted at High Lindrick Camp, Studley Royal, nr Ripon. To be part of 101st Brigade, 34th Division.

August 25th A & B Co's at Whitburn Musketry Camp at Sunderland.

August 29th - Perham Camp near Andover.

By Christmas at Sutton Verny, near Warminster.

December 13th. The 34th Division was ordered to mobilise for Egypt. Destination changed to France on £1st December 1915.

Left for France on the 7th January 1916. For a time they had a period of instruction with the 8th and 23rd Divisions.

One night in a camp on St Martins Hill, overlooking Boulogne then onto Renescue.

First put into the line at Bois-Grenier, just South of Armentieres. Subsequently moved down to Albert where they were engaged in digging assembly trenches for the coming offensive.

On the 29th January the 101st Brigade suffered its first casualty when its commanding officer, Brigadier, B.General H.E.Fitton was fatally wounded by an enemy sniper.

April 1916 - In Nortbecourt - in reserve.

1st July 1916. Attacked towards La Boiselle. A small party under Captain Brown got through and placed themselves in an old Boche redoubt, where they held on until reinforced by a small party led by Mr Finnian.

Reform and refill at Hennecourt, the rejoin the Somme Battle in front of Bazentin Le Petit with small attack on the Intermediate Trench. Success enjoyed under the leadership of Mr Brown. Relieved by the Grimsby Chums on 5th August. After a move to High Wood they came out of the line on August 15th 1916.

Back to the neighbourhood of Armentieres. CO Colonel Somerset lost to the Battalion who was replaced by Colonel Kendrick who commanded it until early 1918.

Preparation for the Arras offensive. Attacked on the 9th April taking more prisoners than they had casualties. Location of attack - Roclincourt, Southern edge of Vimy Ridge. Cambs Suffolks attacked first on the left flank. During the next few days they pushed on towards Gavrelle and afterwards went to Arras.

April 13th at Le Point Jour. Cambs Suffolks in the front line.

On 28th April they attacked the Chemical Works at Roeux. A very tough nut. Unsuccessful but formed part of the advance to Greenland Hill.

Afterwards moved down further South, to near st Quentin where they experienced a very different type of warfare. There were wide stretches of nomans land and there were tremendous patrol encounters.

At the end of August 1917 they took part in the attack on Cologne Farm Ridge. when they took Malakoff Farm and succeeded in driving off the the first counter attack that they had faced. It was here that Corporal Day got his VC. August 26th 1917 - attack from Sunken Farm in front of Hargicourt. Ruby Farm.

Later on they moved to Peronne, and in October moved up to take part in 3rd Ypres, in the neighbourhood of Langemarck and Poelcapelle. Filling shell holes and levelling under shell fire. Later took part in offensive operations in that area.

Moved down to South Arras, in the neighbourhood of Croiselles, where they took part in trench warfare to the end of 1917 and the beginning of 1918.

Kendrick transferred to 34th MGC Bn. For a time Col. Wright commanded the Battalion. After that Col. Richardson commanded them for a few days, and then went off to command a Brigade. Colonel Tuck took command.

March 21st 1918 in front line and managed to get some splendid shooting at the Germans attacking the 3rd Division. on their left. Shot down several aeroplanes. On the next day they took part in the famous defense of Henin Hill.

Afterwards moved back to (their old friend) Armientiers and after a few days of trench warfare found themselves in Erquinghem, when the 2nd attack took place on the 9th April.

On that day they formed a defensive flank after the Germans broke through the Portuguese, and remained there until 5pm on the 10th. Twice the Germans got through. Once the gap was stopped by Captain Rodwell and his Company, and once by Captain Canning's Company with the help of Major Wright.

10th April 1918. Holding right flank between Gris Pot and Bois Grenier. Line just behind Hollebecque Farm. 

Afterwards they continued to take the fighting back to and beyond Balleul. Relieved by the French after 13 or 14 days.

Transferred to 61st Division. After a period of trench warfare in the neighbourhood of Merville. Helped push the Boche back through Merville, Estaires and Sailley back to Erquinghem after the ground had been regained.

After this they went down to the Cambrai area in October 1918 and took part in the Battle of the rivers Escaillon and Rhonelle. Then another small attack at Marasches. Corporal Staden worthy of note. He led with dash his platoon up to the Rhonelle, overcoming several parties of the enemy strongly placed in houses. Last seen fighting amid a large party of Germans. Told the rest of his party to go back. Afterwards the Bn discovered, on the other side of the river, a nicely kept grave, with a cross and an inscription in German that read "to a very brave Englishman."

Armistice day found them at Bermarain from which they moved back to Cambrai, and subsequently to Auley-le-Haut-Clocher, near Abbeville.

After a large amount of demobilisation they were put on guard duty at Audreque near Calais. Representing the British Army at the French Peace Review on July 14th 1919.After they went to Arras where some were able to revisit old memories.

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