Suffolk Regiment

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The Suffolk regiment shown in Historical Regimental Art prints, The Suffolk regiment at Neuve Chapel, and regimental uniform prints of the Suffolk regiment by Richard Simkin, Military Victorian Artist.

The Suffolk Regiment-Regimental District No.12-is composed of the two battalions of the old 12th Foot.  In 1661, Windsor Castle was garrisoned by several independent companies, from which was formed the 12th Regiment, which, however, did not receive the numerical distinction till twenty-four years later.  It was with the 12th Regiment that James II. Made the experiment, which was to give him such unwelcome proof of the unwillingness of the army as a whole to assist in his contemplated return to subservience to Rome.  Advancing to their lead he called upon all who would not support the proposed repeal of the Test clauses to lay down their arms.  With a very few exceptions the whole regiment complied with most disconcerting alacrity.  James paused for a few minutes and then bid the soldiers take them up again, moodily observing he would not do them the honour of consulting them again.  The Colonel of the 12th-Lord Lichfield-remained, however, loyal to his misguided sovereign.

           Till after the revolution no particularly important service seems to have fallen to the lot of the 12th; in 1689 Wharlton’s Regiment, as they were then generally called, followed the veteran Schomberg to Ireland, where the following year, they fought in the battle of the Boyne.  After this they were employed on the coast of France and in Flanders, being amongst the regiments, which the cowardice of the Dutch governor compelled to surrender at Dixmude.  Colonel Brewer of the 12th vehemently protested against this shameful action, counselling that the fortress should be defended to the last extremity; he was, however, overruled, but his protest secured his immunity from the disgrace and punishment awarded to the other officers who supported the governor’s view.  Their next service was in the West Indies, on returning from whence they were employed in the Dyke-cutting operations about Ostend, and in Minorca.  They were then ordered to Scotland, where they formed part of General Wade’s expedition, and, twenty years or so later, gained their first distinction at Dettingen Splendid was their courage at Fontenoy, while they were in Ingoldsby’s Brigade, where their loss was more than that of any other regiment.  Three hundred and seventy-one officers and men fell, yet when their colonel and half their number were hors de combat, the splendid English regiment fought on, refusing to believe till the last that the army to which they belonged was beaten.  The 12th subsequently repaired to Germany, where they took part in the Seven Years’ War being one of the six British Infantry Regiments who bear Minden on their colours, and of whose bearing at that battle it was written-“such was the unshaken firmness of these troops that nothing could stop them, and the whole body of French cavalry was routed.”  They fought at Kirch Denkern, Grobenstein, Luterberg, homburg and Cassel, after which their next important service was that from which is derived the badge of the “Castle and Key,” the ever memorable defence of Gibraltar.  Though the adage that “the world knows nothing of its greatest men” holds true, mutates mutandis, with regard to achievements, yet the story of this defence of Gibraltar, the endurance, the heroism, the indomitable British pluck it called forth, is, we are glad to think, familiar to all.  Under Colonel Trigge the regiment, numbering 29 officers and 570 rank and files, rendered sterling service, notably in the famous sortie, and thanks to them and their brave comrades the mountain Tarif still remains a mighty witness to the power of Britain.  During the siege the total loss of the regiment was a hundred and seventy-four of all ranks.  It is noted as a coincidence that on the occasion of the sortie of the night of the 26th of November 1761, the only two complete regiments were the 12th and Hardenberg’s, which had fought side by side at Minden.  Lieutenant Tweedie of the regiment was the only officer wounded in this enormously successful operation, which effected destruction to the value of £2,000,000 sterling.  As indicative of the straits to which, in the earlier part of the siege, the garrison was reduced, the following extract from Major Drinkwater’s history may be of interest: -

           “Provisions of every kind were now becoming very scarce and exorbitantly near: mutton, 3s, and 3s, 6d, per pound; veal, 4s; pork, 2s, and 2s, 6d; a pig’s head, 19s; ducks, from 14s to 18s, a couple; and a goose a guinea.  Fish was equally high, and vegetables were the difficulty to be got for any money; but bread, the great essential of life and health, was the article most wanted.  It was about this period that the Governor made trial what quantity of rice would suffice a single person for twenty-four hours, and actually lived himself eight days on four ounces of rice per day.”

           After Gibraltar the 12th served for some time as Marines, while the flank companies were engaged at Martinique and Guadaloupe, where they were almost annihilated.  They fought again in Flanders and shared in the disastrous retreat of Bremen, after which, in 1796, they proceeded to the Cape, and thence to India.  Here they were the senior King’s regiment, and were required by General Order to be always ready to turn out, night or day.  At Seringapatam, under Lieutenant-Colonel Shaw, they were the leading regiment in Baird’s column, and on one occasion were ordered forward to occupy an important position midway between our camp and the fortress.  Scarcely had they approached the required posts when the enemy sent off showers of rockets and blue lights, which illuminated the surrounding country and showed the movements of our men with alarming distinctness.  Twenty thousand of the enemy are said to have been showering these missiles, at one time “no hail could be thicker; with every blue light came a shower of bullets, and several rockets passed through the column from head to rear, causing death and dreadful lacerations.  The cries of the wounded were awful.”  Yet the 12th still pressed on, firing not a shot, in obedience to the order of “brave old Colonel Shaw”-“All must be done with the bayonet.”  At last, when a fresh attack was commenced on his flank, the Colonel ordered his men to lie flat down, with the result that the enemy, supposing their withering fire had destroyed the column, “ventured forward to make sure with the bayonet, to be greeted with the words, ‘Up 12th and charge,’” and to be driven back to their position.  At the final assault the 12th formed part of the storming party, and by their adroit rear attack on Tippoo’s desperate band undoubtedly saved much loss to our force.  In the attempted sortie made by the fierce tyrant, a volley from the light company of the 12th gave him his mortal wound.  “Covered with blood and dying now, the fallen Sultan was raised by a faithful few and placed in his palanquin, where he lay faint and exhausted, till some of the 12th, climbing over the dead and dying, reached him.  A servant who survived the carnage related that one of the soldiers seized Tippoo’s sword belt, which was exceedingly rich, and attempted to drag it off, and that the Sultan, who still grasped his sword, made a lust cut with it, wounding in the knee the soldier, who short him through the temple and killed him on the spot.”

           The career of the regiment after the fall of Seringpatam may be shortly epitomised by stating that they were actively employed in “Wynaad, in the carnatic, against the Polygars, in Cichin and Travancore-services commemorated by the word ‘India; on their colours.”  The mention of these places recalls the prowess displayed by the 12th at Quilon in 1808, under circumstances, which read like a romance.  When the hostile attitude of the Rajah of Travancore threatened Quilon, the 12th, who were stationed at Cannamore in Malabar, were ordered to the support of the garrison, and under colonel Picton, brother of the peninsular hero, they embarked.  On the way more than half of the regiment were belated, and on arriving off Quilon with the rest, Colon Picton was received with the intelligence that the whole country was in arms, and that to land would be to court absolute annihilation.  “In defiance of this the 12th landed in small boats would only convey three or four men at a time,” and proceeded to make good their position.  The next morning-utterly regardless that they numbered units as against the hundreds of the enemy-the gallant Suffolk proceeded to storm the palace of the Rajah’s prime minister, after accomplishing which they returned to their camp.  This, however, they were compelled to evacuate, as a force of some forty thousand of the enemy, led by European officers, were advancing against them, and they accordingly took possession of an old fort.  By this time the 12th were reduced to two hundred and fifty men; there were about twelve hundred Sepoys and some ten thousand followers; and to add to their discomfort a terrible tropical storm came on directly they got into the dismantled fort, “rusting the fire-arms, and rendering much of the ammunition unfit for service.”  Despite this it was determined to regain the camp at the bayonet’s point, and at that critical juncture the missing six companies were hailed approaching with some native troops they had picked up en route.  They brought with them tidings that stimulated to fever point the already furious rage of the 12th against the barbarous foe.  Some thirty men of the regiment under Sergeant-Major Tilsby had been in a small vessel and so escaped the hurricane, which had delayed the others.  They had landed near Alepe, and mistaking it for Quilon had marched in.  They were beguiled with falsehoods, induced to pile their arms in what they were told was the English barracks, and invited to drink and fraternise with their foes.  The arrack was drugged “They soon became intoxicated and Stupefield, and while in this state were easily secured by the Travancorians, one of whom, with a heavy iron bar, broke the two wrists of each soldier, smashing the bones hopelessly to atoms; then, tightly their hands behind them, and binding their knees and necks together, they precipitated them into a loathsome dungeon.”  They were left like this four days and nights, without food or drink, the savages around them derisively mimicking their groans; then they taken out, and dragged to a deep pool, into which-with heavy stones tied to the neck of each-they were flung into frown “amid shouts, laughter, and the clasping of hands.”  No wonder that when they day of battle came the avenging fury of the 12th was irresistible.  They carried a strong batter of guns, a hurled aside a force of at least ten thousand of the enemy who strove to retake them.  “The 12th were inspired by a degree of fury beyond description, and never ceased to shout, ‘Remember Alepe!  Remember Alepe!’  One thrust his bayonet with such force into his adversary’s body as to fix it in the backbone so firmly that he had perforce to leave it.  “Lieutenant Thomsoon of the 12th charged five thousand of the enemy, with only fifty men, three times, and fell to rise no more, covered with wounds.”

           The 12th served in the Mauritius, and the years that elapsed between the warfare signalised by “India” and 1851 were passed in various places, no fighting of any magnitude coming in their way.  In 1851 they were ordered to South Africa to take part in the Kaffir War, in which they’re greatly distinguished themselves.  For some time they were employed in Australia, and took part in the Maori War in New Zealand.              Passing over the following few years we come to the Afghan Campaign of 1878-80, the last in which the gallant Suffolk have been engaged, and in which they acquitted themselves in such manner as to win the final distinction for their colours, and to give evidence of the fact one of Her Majesty’s oldest most efficient regiments has deteriorated no whit from the heroes of Minden and Gibraltar

 excerpt from Her Majesty’s Army By Walter Richards

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The Suffolks at Neuve Chapel by Frank Dadd.


The Suffolks at Neuve Chapel by Frank Dadd.

Soldiers of the Suffolk Regiments are seen in their trenches during the attacks at Neuve Chappell during the first world war.
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Sergeant A. F. Saunders Directing The Fire Of Two Machine Guns though Severely Wounded In The Thigh.


Sergeant A. F. Saunders Directing The Fire Of Two Machine Guns though Severely Wounded In The Thigh.

When his officer had been wounded in the attack Sergeant Arthur Frederick Saunders, of the 9th (Service) Battalion, the Suffolk Regiment, took charge of two machine guns and a few men, and although severely wounded in the thigh, closely followed the last four charges of another battalion, and rendered every possible support. Later, when the remains of the battalion, which he had been supporting, had been forced to retire he stuck to one of his guns, continued to give clear orders, and by continuous firing did his best to cover the retirement. For his most conspicuous bravery he was awarded the V.C.
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The Suffolk Regiment by Richard Simkin


The Suffolk Regiment by Richard Simkin



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Suffolk Regiment by Harry Payne.


Suffolk Regiment by Harry Payne.



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The 12th (Suffolk Regiment) at the Battle of Minden. 1st August 1759 by Brian Palmer.


The 12th (Suffolk Regiment) at the Battle of Minden. 1st August 1759 by Brian Palmer.

During the Seven Years War (1756 - 63) a large French army of 52,000 men commanded by Marshal Contades moved from the Rhine to take Minden and threaten the Electorate of Hanover, one of Britains allies in the war. Ferdinand of Brunswick commanding an allied army consisting of British, Brunswick, Hanoverians and Hessen - Cassell troops numbering 42,000 stood in their way. The battle began at first light with the allies forming up in 8 columns preparing to advance. Due to a misunderstanding of orders two brigades, which included the 12th, went into the attack before the rest of the line had properly formed. With drums beating and colors flying they launched a frontal attack on French cavalry, and against all odds held firm and threw them back in confusion. By this time the rest of the infantry had arrived in support and the French army was routed. Minden is remarkable for this unique attack by infantry in line against a mass of cavalry.
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A Grenade Exploding Which Temporary Lieutenant Knox Was about To Pick Up And Fling Out Of The Trench.


A Grenade Exploding Which Temporary Lieutenant Knox Was about To Pick Up And Fling Out Of The Trench.

While a West gun was in action in one of the British trenches a German grenade dropped on the parapet in dangerous proximity to two men. Seeing that they could not possibly get under cover, Temporary Lieutenant Robert Uchtred Eyre Knox, of the 6th Battalion The Suffolk Regiment, rushed forward to pick up the grenade and throw it over the parapet. June as he reached it, however, it exploded but by an extraordinary chance he was only slightly wounded. He had previously undertaken tasks requiring coolness and daring, and on this occasion he showed great bravery. He was awarded the D.S.O.
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The History of the Suffolk Regiment 1914 - 1927.  by Lieut Col C C R Murphy (1928)


The History of the Suffolk Regiment 1914 - 1927. by Lieut Col C C R Murphy (1928)

On 1 January 1914, when this volume begins, the Suffolk Regiment consisted of the 1st and 2nd Battalions, the 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion, and the 4th, 5th and 6th (Cyclist) Battalions of the Territorial Force. After the outbreak of war sixteen more battalions were raised and added, and in 1917 the Suffolk Yeomanry converted into the 15th Battalion, making a grand total of twenty-three. Battalions of the Regiment served in France and Flanders, Gallipoli, Macedonia, Egypt and Palestine, and at home. This book tells their stories, based on war diaries, private diaries, letters and interviews. In all 6,650 died, two VCs were won and 73 Battle Honours awarded. The doings of the ten battalions which proceeded overseas are all woven together into the general story contained in these pages, those of the remaining thirteen battalions form the subject matter of separate chapters. Given the scope of this volume and space considerations there is no Roll of Honour and the list of Honours and .........


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Item Code : NMP6263The History of the Suffolk Regiment 1914 - 1927. by Lieut Col C C R Murphy (1928) - Editions Available
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