Military Units with a Beccles Connection

Before the Great War local men had volunteered for the Territorial Army (TA) where they would parade regularly during the year and in addition attend occasional training events and camps. There tended to be an association between the members of the TA and a local Regiment. In the Beccles and neighbouring area members of the TA at the start of the war would have generally enlisted with either: The 5th Battalion, Suffolk Regiment, The 3rd East Anglian (Howitzers) Royal Field Artillery, or the 6th Suffolk Cyclists. As the war developed it quickly became clear that a lot more men would be needed and so civilians with no previous military experience were encouraged to enlist. Lord Kitchener was given the job of encouraging people to come forward and his “Your Army Needs You” poster is still a widely known recruiting advertisement. As a consequence these new soldiers were often recorded as being members of Kitchener's Army, until they had been assigned to a specific regiment.

As the war progressed men from the local area would have joined any number of different regiments, either at the time of enlistment, or perhaps when completing a period of sick leave, or following a battle when their regiment had lost a large number of men and it was though better to re-assign the survivors to another regiment rather than have to make up their regiments numbers. It was also the case that as Beccles is relatively close to the sea that some men would have had useful seafaring experience and so many joined the Navy. The newly formed Royal Flying Corps, later to become the Royal Air Force, also needed people with useful skills and records show that some men, particularly those with relevant experience, such as carpentry and mechanics, joined this new service.

While men were leaving the town, a large number of soldiers were being posted here, to camp, train and await posting to the Front. In fact a similar number to those who left the town were posted here, and some 1500 soldiers would have been in the town and surrounding area at any one time. The troops were largely based on the Common or at Worlingham, living in tents and temporary buildings, although in the early days of the war it looked like a Battalion of the Shropshire Royal Field Artillery were to be based at the newly built Sir John Leman School in London Road, Beccles. The Shropshires had a large number of horses and needed the buildings and grounds to house them, and while they made use of the school facilities the buildings continued to provide schooling for many of the local children. Pressure to find suitable accommodation also meant that Troops were billeted in the homes of Beccles people

A number of the visiting Regiments feature in the newspaper reports of the East Suffolk Gazette, and largely they integrated well with the local population, although at times you can find evidence of problems cropping up or concerns being expressed. The following Regiments were based in the town for quite long lengths of time:

Shropshire Royal Horse Artillery

Denbighshire Yeomanry Regiment

Lovat Scouts

Glamorgans

and there are also references to the Essex Regiment and the Army Service Corps having a presence in the town. Other locally based troops from the Royal Army Medical Corps, the Cheshires, the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, London Cyclist Corps, West Somerset Yeomanry and the Queens West Yorkshire Regiment appear in newspaper reports and so were obviously based locally, visiting the town and using its facilities

The townspeople largely welcomed the incomers and various locations were used to provide facilities for the men, particularly the Public Hall which was used in a variety of ways to help provide support, comfort and entertainment. The Public Hall provided a source of food and drink which were available on a regular basis, baths were installed in the basement, newspapers and games were donated to provide something for the soldiers to do. This was particularly useful on Sundays when most other establishments were closed. The Public Hall continued to have its pre war function as a venue for shows, concerts and other such events and at least to start with were used by military and civilians alike. In November1917 the YMCA asked for, and were granted, sole use of the Public Hall so they could support the troops. This caused some controversy at the time, as not only would the YMCA not be charged for the use of the hall, costs continuing to fall on the Borough Council, but that no other suitable venue would be available for civilian events. With no civilian access to the Public Hall it was feared that it would lead to resentment and a reduction in the donations of money and newspapers etc. that were being given by the town, but this does not appear to be the case and donations and good will to the troops appears to have continued. The YMCA also had two large huts, one on the Common and the other in Worlingham, where food and drink, newspapers, stamps, envelopes, postcards and notepaper were being provided to the soldiers. The Worlingham hut was paid for and equipped by local public donations.

While stationed in the town the soldiers often joined in with the local clubs such as Whist drives at the Conservative Club, or musical entertainments at various locations around the town. The various regimental bands often appeared in newspaper articles as being part of or providing all the music at events. Football and sports events also took place on a frequent basis and were reported by the newspaper, along with lists of names of those taking part. They could be solely military events but also often taking place with civilian involvement.

The men who were sent to Beccles Hospital, in Fair Close or the Red Cross Hospital, in Fredericks Road, were often entertained by civilians and when their recovery had reached the stage that they could take exercise they would walk around the town or rest on benches that the town provided specifically for injured soldiers. Troops were stationed in and around the town right up to the end of the war but within a few days or weeks of the war ending all appeared to have left and returned to locations closer to their homes.

Below is more detailed information about specific regiments

The Suffolk Regiment - A Brief History

The Regiment was raised in 1685 by Henry, Duke of Norfolk. In 1751 regiments were given numbers and it became the 12th Regiment of Foot. This changed in 1781 when it became the 12th or East Suffolk Regiment. In 1881 it changed again and became the Suffolk Regiment. The Regiment consisted of one Battalion until 1842 when a second, a Reserve Battalion was added. This became a Regular Battalion, the 2nd Battalion in 1858. In 1908 two Territorial Battalions were added, the 4th which existed until 1961 and the 5th which lasted until 1921 but was recreated during 1939-1945. Additional Service Battalions were created during the two World Wars.

The 2nd Battalion was disbanded in 1947 and in 1959 the 1st was amalgamated with the Royal Norfolk Regiment to form the 1st Anglian Regiment. In 1964 following further changes this became the Royal Anglian Regiment.

Bury St Edmunds Record Office holds extensive archive material about the Regiment and there is now a Suffolk Regimental Museum also in Bury St Edmunds

Record of the Suffolk Regiment actions during 1914-1918

East Suffolk Gazette 5 December 1921. The Suffolk Regiment

The official roll of the names of the soldiers of the Suffolk regiment who fell in the Great War is now available to the general public, and can be obtained from His Majesty's Stationery Office through any bookseller for 5s. The list shows that the Regiment lost 6494 men, the losses of the individual battalions being as follows:-

1st Bn. 507; 2nd Bn. 1536; 3rd Bn. 53; 4th Bn. 695; 5th Bn. 263; 6th Bn. 27; 7th Bn. 1014; 8th Bn. 399; 9th Bn. 461; 10th Bn. 24; 11th Bn. 922; 12th Bn. 399; 13th Bn. 5; 14th Bn, 14; 15 Bn. 132; 1st Reserve Garrison Bn. 26; 2nd Reserve Garrison Bn. 7; Cambs and Suffolk Reserve Bn. 10.

The following is a brief record of the services of the various battalions in the different theatres of war will serve to indicate where those losses were mainly incurred. The 1st battalion of the Suffolk Regiment experienced tragic losses with the 84th Brigade in the Ypres battles of April and May 1915, notably on April 24th, when they fought under the gallant Colonel Wallace, south of St Julien, in conjunction with the Canadians. The survivors fought again on May 7th and 8th due east of Ypres, and were cut off and destroyed, Colonel Wallace and over 100 other ranks being taken prisoners. Notwithstanding these losses a few, remnants of the battalion were on the 84th Brigades advance on Hooge on May 24th to restore a difficult situation, and on this occasion most of them were lost. After being re-formed, the battalion was once again in action on 1st October near the Hohenzollern Redoubt. Later they joined the Mediterranean Force, at Salonica, in 1916, and took part in the operations at Struma Valley (October 1916), sustaining losses on 4th October in the action of the Karajakois above Lak Takhinos, and again in the affair of Barakli Jumas (October 31) in the same region. Later they took part in the Macedonian offensive, sustaining some casualties in the Battle of Doiran (September 1918).

The 2nd Battalion went out with the original British Expeditionary Force, being part of the 14th Brigade (5th Division) and sustaining heavy losses in the Battle of Le Cateau (August 26th). At the beginning of October it was replaced by 1st Devons, becoming GHQ troops. When the 2nd Royal Irish Regiment was cut up at Le Pilly on October 20th in the Ypres fighting, the Suffolk replaced that battalion in the 8th Infantry Brigade and saw fighting in the Ypres salient in November and December. In the early fighting of 1916 the battalion led a gallant attack on the 2Bluff” in the Ypres area, carrying the position on March 2nd in a brilliant final rush. In the Somme battles the battalion took an extensive part in the attack delivered in mid-July by the 3rd and 18th Divisions on Delville Wood and Longueval. A high proportion of the battalion which worked its way into the village being unable to withdraw. At the Battle of the Ancre, November 11-14, they lost heavily during the general advance. In the Arras Battles (April 1917) more casualties were sustained in the hard fighting south of the road between Arras and Cambrai, and again in June when they took part in a fine surprise attack upon Infantry Hill, and held out against repeated attempts to eject them from the captured positions. In the German offensive of March 1918, the battalion fought on the Croisillos-Arras front, putting up a fine resistance with such other veteran battalion as the 2nd Royal Scots and 1st Northumberland Fusiliers (3rd Division), all suffering hevay losses from shell fire and machine gun fire. In the final advance they took part in the advance on Courcelles (August 21st), and the attack on Gomiecourt by Byng's 3rd Army, being first to enter this village. Later they suffered casualties in the operations for the capture of the Hiindenburg Defences and on the Selle River, notably at La Targatte (October 5th).

The 4th Battalion brigaded, with the 1st Manchesters and some French Territorials under General Carnegy, were ordered on December 20th 1914, to launch a vigorous counter attack from Pont Fixe through Givenchy, with the object of retaking by a flank movement the trenches lost by the Sirhind Brigade. In the late afternoon of that day one company of the 4th Suffolks and the Manchester Battalion had captured Givenchy by a gallant attack and cleared the enemy out of the two lines of trenches to the North East of the village. In the Somme battles of 1916 the battalion was in support of the 98th Brigade in the attack on the Switch Line near Bazentin (July 16). In the Ypres Battles of 1917 they sustained losses in the 33rd Division's difficult operations North of the Menin Road (September 26th).

The 5th (Territorial) Battalion fought in Gallipoli, Egypt and Palestine. In the Gallipoli Campaign it formed part of the 161st Norfolk and Suffolk Brigade of the 54th East Anglian Division. They suffered heavy losses in the Sulva Battles, notably on August 21st in the offensive operation which had for its special objective the capture of Ismail Oglu Tepe. The main attack was assigned to the 29th and 11th Divisions, but the 54th and 53rd Divisions had the formidable task of holding the front from Sulajik to Kiritch Tepe Sirt. (This battle is officially known as the Battle of Scimitar Hill, August 21st 1915). Their losses in Egypt and Palestine were for the most part sustained in the latter part of 1917, particularly in the third battle of Gaza (November) during the invasion of Palestine, and later in the Jerusalem operations.

The 7th Battalion in the Somme Battles of 1916 took part in the attack launched by the 12th Division North of La Boiselle (July 7). In 1917 they lost men in the First Battle of Cambrai, notably in the attack on La Vacquerie (November 20). In the closing stages of this battle they sustained very heavy casualties when the German counter attack developed against the 12th Division, on November 30th. At the Battle of the Somme in March 1918, the battalion took part, with the 7th Norfolks, 10th Bedfords, and 10th West Yorks, in the desperate fighting around Albert after that city had fallen (March 26-28), inflicting great losses on the enemy.

The 8th (Service) Battalion was involved in the very severe fighting for Longueval in the Somme Battle of 1916, suffering heavy casualties. In the following September the battalion took a leading part in the successful attacks on Thiepval and the notorious Schwaben Redoubt, their fighting in these affairs gaining for the battalion a very high reputation. They added to their laurels in October 1917, in the Poelcapelle region, where they joined in the brilliant successful assault on Meunier Hill (October 22).

The 9th (Service) Battalion in 1915 took part in the attack of Sir John Ramsay's 24th Division on the German trenches between Hulluch and Loos on September 26th, Sergeant AF Saunders being awarded the VC. The following winter was spent in the Ypres salient in a bad part of the line. In the Somme Battles of 1916 the battalion was heavily engaged at Guillemont. From November 1916 to October 1917, the battalion was in the La Bassee-Lens area, beating off many attacks and carrying out numerous raids. It then moved South for the attack South West of Cambrai, and on the 20th November joined in the successful attack delivered in the direction of Ribecourt. It was again in action near Macoing, where tanks co-operated, but sustained heavy casualties in the ensuing enemy counter attacks.

The 11th Battalion, during the German offensive of March 1918, offered a gallant resistance to prevent the enemy from seizing Honin Hill in the course of this furious assault on the 6th and 17th British Corps. As part of the 101st Brigade they fought in the Somme Battles of 1916, joining the advance of the 34th Division on the Albert Bapaume Road – Becourt front, their casualties around the La Boiselle village being very severe (July 2-3).

The 12th Battalion co-operated with the Highland Light Infantry in attacking Bourlon Village (Battle of Cambrai, 25th November 1917), losing men in such severe house to house fighting, and during the German offensive of 1918, suffering losses in the Vraumont sector of the Somme Battle area (March 22nd).

5th Suffolk Regiment

The local men were heading off on a training exercises in July 1914

East Suffolk Gazette 14 July 1914, page 5. Infantry Camp.

The members of B Company, 5th Suffolks, left Beccles on Sunday morning for the annual encampment, which is being held this year at Holkham, on the Norfolk coast. Most the members have given in their names for the full period of 14 days, which will entitle them to a bonus of £1 over and above the usual allowance.

East Suffolk Gazette 28 July 1914, page 5. 5th Suffolks.

The camp at Holkham broke up on Sunday, and the members of B Company arrived home about 6 o'clock in the evening, well pleased with their fortnight's training.

The Suffolks while part of the Indian Expeditionary Force were deployed to fight the Turks and were heavily involved in the Dardanelles fighting.

East Suffolk Gazette, 19 January 1915. Beccles Men fighting the Turks

Mr WJ Money, of Beccles, has received a letter from several of the men of Beccles who form part of the Indian Expeditionary Force, with an enclosure in which they say “Having heard in various ways that you would like to receive letters from men of Beccles who are in the army, we the undersigned are sending this letter thinking that our townspeople would like to know where all Beccles men on active service are fighting. There are ten of us serving with the above expeditionary force, and in the same regiment operating somewhere in Asia Minor against the Turks. Having seen in the back numbers of your by us much esteemed paper that several of our old school chums have been wounded and in one case killed in Europe, we would like to offer our sympathies to them and their relations. Although not on service in Europe or against the Germans, we are having almost the same experiences, and so can quite understand what our chums go through who are in Europe. We hope to be there before we have finished, that is those of us who pull through this campaign. We have all, I am thankful to say, come safely through three engagements, although most of us have had narrow escapes, and at night before getting under our waterproof sheets we gather together and talk over old times at Beccles, and wonder how many of our old school fellows have joined Kitcheners Army, and how those are getting on who we know are in the Regular Forces. We would like to offer our congratulations to those of our town who have volunteered for service, and we would like to hear hundreds more have resolved to do the same. Most of us have several years experience in the Army, mostly abroad, and we can safely say it is a life that cannot be bettered. And what more can men want but to fight for King and Country against a common foe. Wishing you and your paper every success, we remain: there then follow the names of Pioneer Sergeant Harmer, Staff Sergeant P Ingate, Lance Sergeant Hembling, Lance Corporal Woolnough, Lance Corporal H Hembling, Lance Corporal J Bates, Private S Felmingham, Private E Payne and Private W Youngs

3rd East Anglian Howitzers

The Howitzers summer camp started two weeks after the 5th Suffolks one, and was curtailed by the declaration of war on the 4th August.

East Suffolk Gazette 28 July 1914. The Howitzers

The advance party of the 3rd EA (How) Brigade, RFA left head-quarters on Monday morning to prepare the camp equipment and erect tents for sleeping accommodation at the rendezvous of Trawsfynydd, Merionethshire North Wales. At the local depot the NCOs and men showed much keenness for the camp, and carried out the work of packing harness, baggage, and general fatigues during the week in a very encouraging style. The guns and waggons were entrained by the men under QMSF Thurling on Wednesday evening, with Lieut R W Brooks in attendance. Another party of NCO's and men conveyed all baggage, harness etc, to the railway station. On Friday evening the Beccles Section fell in at 9.30pm with Lieut Brooks in command. Lieut MacIntyre, AVC, was also in attendance. The roll having been called it was ascertained that about 78 men will be in camp the first week, the full strength of the Beccles Section being 84. Before marching to the station a bag of refreshments was served out to the men and at Wolverhampton a pint of coffee to each was given. The Section marched to the station headed by the local band, and were met there by the Lowestoft section of the Battery

East Suffolk Gazette, 11 August 1914. page 8. Excitement at Beccles. Mobilising the Territorials:

The excitement of the war and the movements of the local Territorials who were embodied by Royal Proclamation on Wednesday, gave to Beccles somewhat the appearance of a garrison town for the rest of the week. Indeed a military aspect was assumed early on Tuesday evening, when the members of B Company of the 5th Suffolks assembled to arrange about their kits in expectation of immediate mobilisation. At a late hour the same night the town was even more lively, for the Howitzer section returned from Trawfynydd about 11.30 pm, and there was a big crowd at the railway station to welcome them and watch the detraining of the heavy guns etc. It was a merry joyous crowd, albeit the news that the war with Germany had already been declared by the British Government was not generally known till Wednesday’s newspapers came to hand. There was a prompt response to the call to arms, and very few of the members of any branch of the service at Beccles were held back as the result of medical inspection which all had to undergo. The infantry corps were the first to get away. They left Beccles for an unknown destination on Wednesday afternoon, under the command of Captain HH Johnson, and received a hearty send off from the crowds of people who watched the departing train with mixed emotions, for amongst the crowd were the mothers and fathers of many of “the boys” who were leaving home and friends at the call of duty. They left in the highest spirits, and one might almost say apparently without a thought of the serious nature of their undertaking. D Troop of Suffolk Yeomanry were the next in order of departure; a lot of hard work had to be put in by the officers before they were ready to go. The provision of suitable horses presented considerable difficulty and Major Barne, assisted by Captain Grissell and others, spent two long days in looking after these and other matters incident to rapid mobilization. A parade of men and inspection of horses on Thursday evening, near Alexandra road, attracted interested crowds of people; but it was not until Friday that the full complement of horses came to hand. Some good useful animals were secured, at prices which should have satisfied the dealers. The Troop – a fine body of hardy men, looking very fit – entrained on Friday afternoon and evening in two lots, and the disposal of the horses in trucks and boxes at the railway station was watched with eager interest, and officers and men took their departure amid resounding cheers. The Howitzers were up and busy at an early hour on Sunday morning and left about 6.30 am for a station it was understood, near London. The entrainment of their heavy guns and some 70 or more horses was effected without mishap under the supervision of Lieut RW Brooks, Stationmaster Clark and other railway officials, but it was rather a wearisome business, some of the horses being difficult to handle. Several lads belonging to the Beccles Cadet Corps have gone off a messengers in different parts of the country, in response to a call for their services. Commandeering for horses for both Yeomanry and Howitzers had to be resorted to, but in only instance, so far as known, was any active resistance displayed when horses were “claimed” by the Territorials in the King’s name. In this particular case some “fight” was shown, and the man in charge of the animal was rather severely handled as he would not yield procession, but the intervention of an officer soon settled matters, a question of price being the main factor apparently at issue.

The TA soldiers primarily for use in national defence and when enlisting signed contracts which limited how they could be deployed, so in order to send these trained men to France it was necessary for them to volunteer for foreign service.

East Suffolk Gazette 8 September 1914, page 5. 3rd EA (Howitzer) Brigade.

The 3rd East Anglian (Howitzer) Brigade, RFA, of which the Earl of Stradbroke is Colonel, has volunteered for foreign service, and recruits are invited, old members of the 2nd Suffolk Battery being especially welcome. We understand that all the officers and men of the Beccles section volunteered for foreign service, excepting nine who are either too old or under age. Lieut RW Brooks came over to Beccles on Saturday for recruiting purposes, and had the satisfaction of receiving upwards of twenty offers. Eighteen passed the doctor and were enrolled. They left for headquarters this (Monday) afternoon.

The local Howitzers head off over seas.

East Suffolk Gazette. 15 December 1914, page 5. Off to India.

It is stated that some of the Beccles section of the 3rd East Anglian Howitzer Brigade have received orders to go out to India.

Shropshire Regiment

The first record of there being Shropshires in the town is in September 1914 and there is a report that they want to take over the newly built Sir John Leman School, in Ringsfield Road.

Shrewsbury Section Shropshire RHA, Beccles, October 1914.

East Suffolk Gazette 06 October 1914, page 5. Shropshires Entertained.

Mrs Leigh Heseltine's invited thirty NCO's and men of the Shropshire Royal Horse Artillery to Ashman's Hall on Sunday afternoon. They were first entertained on the lawn, and afterwards the party sat down to a substantial tea in the Hall. Mrs Heseltine's hospitality was greatly appreciated. Before leaving each visor was presented with a packet of chocolate.

East Suffolk Gazette, 6 October 1914, page 5. Soldiers at Beccles and Melton.

An emergency meeting was held at Ipswich for the East Suffolk Education Committee on Tuesday at the County Hall, Ipswich, Alderman CH Lomax in the chair.

The report of the special meeting of the governors of the Sir John Leman School at Beccles was presented. It was stated that Lieutenant-Colonel A.H.O. Lloyd applied for the use of the whole of the school buildings, except for the caretaker's house and the chemical laboratory, for the housing of the 250 of the Shropshire Royal Horse Artillery for Winter Quarters. He offered the governors £80 per month of four weeks for the building, to include the fair wear and tear, and in addition to pay for the gas and water used and for damage to the premises and furniture.

It was resolved:- That the Education Committee grant the use of the school as requested, subject to the approval of the Board of Education; the school be conducted in the Infants School, Peddar's Lane, Beccles, in the interim; the formal opening on September 30th be not held.

The Chairman said a letter had been received from Mr PA Barnett, who stated that he had had a wire from the Board of Education at follows:- £Sir John Leman School. - War Office have informed the Board that Army Council expect that schools shall not occupied by troops unless there is extraordinary difficulty in billeting in houses or other buildings. Board will expect local educations authorities to press question of providing other accommodation for troops before giving up secondary school. In any case authority should press for provision of huts as soon as possible.” The letter pointed out that the school was to be used only until huts were provided. The Chairman added that the matter was one of urgency and delay in giving permission for occupation would have looked almost like refusal. He had seen the staff official and now pointed out that it was essential that the men should be quartered near their horses so as to be ready to go at short notice, and said he thought the Committee would agree that the military had made out their case.

Capt. Hood, who attended to explain matters, also adverted to the need for the horses and men to be as close as possible. They were putting up huts for the horses, and it was necessary to house the men near them, so that they could turn out if suddenly called upon to do so. As they were placed now he had had to billet the horses in different parts of the town, and the men were scattered about, and it was not a good thing for military reasons.

Mr HF Harwood: Is there not sufficient tent accommodation?

Capt. Hood: It is getting to cold at night for tent accommodation.

The Chairman said it was important that they should look at the matter from an educational, military, and social point of view. To have the men scattered about might have unpleasant consequences. He moved that use of the school be granted.

Alderman Wade seconded, saying he felt strongly that a school should be the last building taken in any town, but in the present instance the authorities had made out their case.

Mr Pain said he appreciated the necessity of the men being together, but the committee should look at the War Office to ease the situation as much as possible.

The Chairman: Of course the school will be carried on elsewhere.

The resolution was adopted.

Shortly after this decision clarification came from the War Department and the Suffolk Education Board and while School facilities were used by the Shropshires the primary use continued to be as a school. The Public Hall was in great use by civilians and the army during the early part of the war, but an agreement between the YMCA and the Borough Council in 1917 meant that the hall was used solely by the military. The Hall as well as being used for entertainments was also kitted out to provide food, drink, bathing, and library services.

East Suffolk Gazette. 05 January 1915, page 5. Shropshires Annual Dinner.

On New Year's Day, the NCO's and men of the Shropshire Royal Horse Artillery held their annual dinner in the Public Hall, all being present except those on duty and leave. …................. Following the dinner, the feature of the evening was the smoking concert, to which several friends were invited. The chair was very ably occupied by Battery Sergt. J Blayney. For the visitors, Councillor WJ Money, in the course of his remarks strongly emphasised the very satisfactory and excellent character of all the men of the Battery during the period they had been stationed at Beccles, adding that in consequence, it was a very great pleasure to all the townspeople to do anything they could for them. …..........Sergt. Blayney responded ….......The Shropshires always had a splendid name where ever they had been, and they were determined, to a man, to maintain that reputation. It was a pleasure to express the feelings of all ranks by stating that all members of the battery were exceedingly gratified at the manner in which the Beccles people had received and treated them...........The dinner was served by Mr Money, and the annual passed off very pleasantly, and was much enjoyed.

As to be expected the soldiers made full use of the towns facilities and references appeared in the newspapers of their attending concerts and playing in whist and billiard competitions. The town had a number of sports fields and these were also used with regimental and inter regiment competitions taking place.

East Suffolk Gazette. 29 June 1915, page 5. Sports at Beccles.

The military sports of the Welsh Border Mounted Brigade provided quite a pleasant afternoon's recreation on Wednesday. The sports were held at the Caxton Athletic Club Recreation Ground, and the spectators numbered between three and four thousand. They were organized and carried out under the personal supervision of a Committee comprising Major H Heywood-Lonsdale, Captain C Ashton, Captain RT Jones, Captain Eyton Jones, Lieutenant H Leake (secretary), Second Lieutenant B Hodges, and RSM McLennan. Owing to the very large number of competitors it was necessary to run off the heats in the morning, the finals only being reserved till the afternoon, which witnessed some keen competition. Especially interesting was the fine display made by the Shropshire RHA in their musical ride with guns, each drawn by six horses, to the music of the band of the 2-4th Battalion, Norfolk Regiment, who discoursed an excellent programme of music during the afternoon, reviving several popular Victorian airs in their programme. As regards individuals, a special word may be given to Sergeant Simons for his fine performance in the hurdle race, and to Private Cadwallader for his pace in the quarter mile flat. He also did the best time, though hard pressed by a Denbigh soldier in the relay race, which was one of the best contested events of the day. Mrs Lloyd, wife of Lieut Colonel A Lloyd, MVO, distributed the prizes in place of Brigadier General EA Herbert, MVO, who was an interested spectator of the sports.

There then follows the results of various sports.

The Shropshire's left the town in August 1916.

East Suffolk Gazette, 8 August 1916, page 5. Correspondence The Shropshire RHA

It was with pangs of deepest regret, and we take this early opportunity of endeavouring to express our gratitude to the Mayor, Corporation, and townspeople of Beccles, for the excellent way they have treated us during our long stay amongst them. It is impossible for us to express our feelings in cold type, and there is no phraseology in the language in the universe that would convey to them the depths of our gratitude for all they, individually and collectively, did for us since we came to Beccles in September 1914: and therefore our thanks, when put in black and white, can appear but totally insufficient when, compared with the open hearted treatment and ever ceasing thought for our comfort, happiness and entertainment.

It is the ardent wish of every one of us that Fate will be kind enough one day to bring us back to Beccles, which we have all come to look upon as our second home.

Wishing you all the best of health and prosperity, and trusting that some day your never failing kindness will in some unforeseen way be rewarded. We are gratefully yours: The Shropshire RHAB. 31st July 1916.

The regiment obviously enjoyed and appreciated their time at Beccles, and they along with other regiments donated a large brass cross to St Michaels Church, and it is still in regular use at church services.

East Suffolk Gazette. 14 December 1915, page 5. Presentation to Beccles Parish Church.

On Sunday morning, at the Soldiers Service, the Lord Bishop of St Asaph dedicated a beautiful Cross, on which is inscribed “+ Given by the Officers and Non-commissioned Officers and Men of the Shropshire RHA, Denbigh Hussar Yeomanry, Head Quarter Staff, Signal Troop, RAMC, and ASC, of the 1st Welsh Border Mounted Brigade, who were quartered at Beccles during the European War 1914-1915”.

The Cross, which is 3 feet high, is in the English style of the period 1480-1520. It consists of an enriched Latin Cross, supported on a plain hexagonal base and stem, on which is placed a shield bearing the Sacred Monogram. The Cross itself is engraved with a pattern of roses on a draped ground, the end of each of the four arms bearing an embossed silver plaque worked into the symbols of the four Evangelists (the Angel, the Lion, the Bull, and the Eagle). In the centre of the Cross is a fifth silver plaque of the Lamb with the banner of the resurrection. The frame of the Cross is further decorated with the Tudor Flowers and foliage in brass, the inscription running in a single line round the hexagonal base. The Cross is given to the Parish Church to be a perpetual Memorial therein of the use of the Church for worship by the Officers, non-commissioned officers and men of the units named in the inscription, who were members of the Church of England.

Men of the regiment are recorded as having written back to people in Beccles throughout the remainder of the war and defending the town's good name when they hear others saying otherwise.

East Suffolk Gazette 29 May 1917, page 5. A pleasant memory

A person “somewhere in Beccles” has received another of a long series of letters from one of the Shropshires “somewhere in France,” who was formerly billeted with him. As his allusion to those days seemingly so far off, give anything but support to certain views concerning our town and its inhabitants expressed by a correspondent, we feel his words are worth quoting. He says: “We have just had a spell of lovely weather, and as the battery had the luck to be out resting at the time, we all made the best of it and enjoyed ourselves for a few days..... There's a lad from Beccles named Field, who has been talking to our fellows in the waggon line today..... It is now just over a year since we left your house for camp at ---, I only wish we were there now. I think the people of Beccles spoilt us when we were there; but anyhow I'd give a lot to be there again. You've only got to mention the name of Beccles, and the fellows all begin to talk of the good times they had there; and I don't think I shall be the only one to visit it after the war is over.

This final report summarises the SRHA's time during the war, and again it remembers with fondness their time in Beccles.

East Suffolk Gazette. 8 April 1919. The Shropshires in the War.

The Shrewsbury News has published a very interesting series of articles on the important part the Shropshire RHA took in the war. Referring to their stay is Suffolk the writer says: The Battery entrained at Chester, arriving at Norwich as midnight, and proceeded by road, a distance of about 14 miles, to Bungay,. The officers and men being billeted in the town, the horses being picketed on the Common. Here the Battery resumed it's training, taking part in brigade schemes, for the surrounding country was most suitable. Its stay at Bungay was but a short one, great difficultly being experienced with the water supply. We moved to Beccles. Our reception was a mixed one, and the task of finding billets for the NCO's and men was not one to be envied. It was surprising what a large number of small children some people had!. The difficulty was, however, overcome, and in a very little time any feeling which might have originally existed was more than wiped out by the many kindnesses shown to the soldier visitors. The Battery was billeted here for close on two years, becoming a part and parcel of its life. Shropshire men became honoured members of its clubs, sang in the Parish Church choir, and married many of its fair daughters. The battery proceeded overseas to France on January 20th, 1917. A memorable day in its history, and one that had long been looked for. Disembarking at Harve early next morning, they went into camp before going up the line. The horrors of the journey up country were beyond description, the cold being intense. On arrival at Mezerolles the men were billeted in houses and supplied with anti gas respirators, fur jackets, etc. From there they moved to Lucheux, where the Battery received its baptism of fire. They stayed in the line at Pommier, some 3500 yards away from the enemy's front, and afterwards at Achicourt,. Where the Battery's first casualties occurred., a gunner being severely wounded. Their share in the memorable battle of Arras is fully described in the narrative. Another move was made to St Martin, which was their first acquaintance with the famous Hindenburg Line. During operations there the Battery was attached in turn to the 56th, 34th and 31st Divisions. The Battery next proceeded to to Anzin, St Aubin, on the north side Arras, the position of the guns being Athies, now spoken of as Hells Valley. Their next scene of action was near to St Leger, their target being Fountaine les Croiselles. Then to Arras itself, the gun position being in rear of Monchy le Preux. The writer traces the movements of the Battery in detail and their actions on the Hindenburg Line, followed by the period spent in Belgium. Major GW Jones was fatally wounded near Langemarck, and Captain HJ Leake took over command of the Battery. All the time the Battery was in Belgium the enemy made use of great quantities of shell gas, mostly at nights, making it almost impossible for the detachments to obtain any sleep. The Battery was especially thanked for their splendid work in connection with the 31st (Highland) Division in the opening days of the Boche offensive which began on the now famous 21st March 1918. For his work in this fighting Major Leake was awarded the Military Cross. Sergt Major R Bowditch was given a commission in the Regular Army. The honourable part taken by the Shropshire's in this series of successful offensives initiated by the Allied Forces, and the thrusts for Bapaume and Cambrai make glorious history. Would that the people of Shropshire could have seen the Battery during these days, exclaimed the writer. The RA Commander of the Fourth Corps, in expressing his appreciation for their work, said it had been marked with dash and bold execution and good gunnery. The Battery was associated with the Canadians in the operations having Cambrai as their objective, and later with the New Zealanders, and the story of their achievements concludes with the pursuit of the Germans after cracking the enemy line. The Battery was particularly fortunate, considering their many actions on all the sectors, the losses for the whole time being one officer and six other ranks killed, and thirty wounded. Of the horses since the date of mobilization 562 were on charge, of which, on the day the armistice was signed, 149 only were with the Battery. It has been calculated that the Battery fired approximately 90,000 rounds of ammunition.

Essex Regiment

It would appear that the Essex Regiment were in the town for a short period but were quickly deployed to France as there is little further reference to them in the newspapers

East Suffolk Gazette 17 November 1914, page 5.

About 500 of the Essex Infantry took up temporary quarters in the town on Saturday. Arrangements for their accommodation were made at the Men's Social Institute, Lecture Hall, bowling green, the Adult school, and the other large buildings, and some of the men cottage billeted in the town. Others who came to the town on Sunday were accommodated at the Conservative Club and elsewhere.

Denbighshire Regiment

The Denbighshire Yeomanry were made up of three Regiments:

1/1st were formed in August 1914, part of the Welsh Border Mounted Brigade. They converted to a dismounted Division in November 1915. In March 1916 they moved to Egypt as part of the 4th Dismounted Brigade. In February 1917 they formed the 24th Battalion The Royal Welsh Fusiliers and moved to France.

2/1st formed as a second line Regiment in September 1914 and in July 1916 became a cyclist unit.

3/1st formed a third line training unit in 1915 and remained in the UK until disbanded in 1917.

Denbighshire Yeomanry Corps of Hussars, c1914.

The Denbighs appear to have had a presence in the town for most of the war, the first record appearing in December 1914. The Hut referred to may well have been a YMCA hut that was erected on the Common. These huts were large in size, the one at Worlingham is recorded as costing £750 (some £45,000 in to days terms), and provided many facilities such as food, drink, newspapers, envelopes and writing paper for the soldiers, much provided by local donations. It would have been one of the few substantial structures for use by the soldiers as many of them would have been accommodated in tents and during the winter months they would have provided little in the way of comfort.

East Suffolk Gazette. 29 December 1914, page 5 The Denbighs

The Denbigh RHA were entertained by their officers on Christmas Eve to a substantial dinner of Christmas fare in one of the new huts. Several members of the Beccles Concert Party, viz. Messrs G Crisp, AJ Balls, N Bolingbroke, FA Simpson and JC Macbeth assisted in the excellent smoking concert that followed.

There appear to have been two main areas where soldiers were billeted, the Common and Worlingham. The common was also used as a practice ground where skills such as target practice and trench digging were practised. There are references to the Denbighs being located at Worlingham and facilities at this second location were improved as the war continued, the YMCA hut being built early in 1917.

East Suffolk Gazette. 06 April 1915, page 5. Beccles Concert Company.

By arrangements with the Sergeants Mess of the Denbigh Hussars, a concert was given at the Worlingham Camp on Wednesday evening, by the Beccles Concert Company. The commodious hut was welled filled, and amongst those present were Colonel HP Sykes, the Lord Bishop for St Asaph, Major and Mrs Clegg, Captain and Adjutant and Mrs Platt.......................Colonel Sykes in thanking the Beccles Concert Company for the pleasant entertainment they had given that evening, trusted there would be many more during the stay of the Denbighs in this neighbourhood............

The river seems to have been a important facility much used by the troops, unfortunately it was also the scene of a number of accidents, some of them serious.

East Suffolk Gazette 14 September 1915, page 5. Soldier drowned at Beccles.

A drowning tragedy occurred at Beccles on Saturday morning, while some of the Denbighs were watering horses along side Beccles Bridge. One of the soldiers, Trooper Hugh Richard Rowlands, appears to have slipped off his horse and there being a strong tide, and he was unable to swim, he was carried away, and sunk while spectators on the bridge were directing him what to do. A corporal who could swim a little, made a gallant effort to rescue his comrade, but was unable to do so. The body was recovered after about ten minutes immersion, and Police Sergeant Clark, Mr WJ Money, and the regimental doctor continued their efforts for over an hour to resuscitate, but without success. The deceased, whose home address was 6 Waterloo Street, Bangor, NW, was 21 years of age.

This news item is followed by the report of the inquest into Trooper Rowlands death and finishes with the following tribute.

The Bishop of Asaph, on Sunday morning, in hos reference to the sad drowning of Trooper Rowlands, said that he died on duty and that it was just as worthy a death as had he fallen in action at the Front. Gunner LI Ceiriog Hughes, of the Shropshire RHA, who knew the deceased well, sends us the following tribute.

Doing his bit

The comrade we mourn today will lie

In truly a soldier's grave;

This “son of the hills” so willing to die,

And side by side with the brave.

Aye, truly a soldier, that honour is due,

Whilst doing his duty he fell.

May all be as able, willing and true

To do their duty as well.

There is further information in the Beccles Museums World War 1 Database on Trooper Rowlands.

Royal Army Medical Corps

There are many references to individuals of the RAMC taking part in events in the town throughout the war but it's not clear if they were actually based here or located near by. It possible that RAMC members were spread around the district in order that they could assist with any medical emergencies that occurred with the soldiers as they were training.

East Suffolk Gazette. 05 January 1915, page 5. Entertainment for the Troops.

The second of a series of popular concerts arranged by a United Free Church Committee for the troops stationed in the town was held on Tuesday evening last in the Congregational Hall, Hungate. There was a large attendance, and in the unavoidable absence of Lieut Col. AG Hamilton RAMC, who had promised to preside, the chair was occupied by Major Orton, RAMC. The concert took the form of a “Soldiers Own.” and, with the exception of Miss Read, Miss Lily Ingate, and Miss Ethel Frost, the soldiers themselves provided the programme. The contributors were: - Corpl. Ryley, Shrop. RHA; Pte TH Williams, RAMC; Pte R Pinnington, RAMC; Gunner Arnold, Shrop RHA; Frank Evans, RAMC; Driver Curtis, ASC; Pte G Clements, Ist Cambs; Bomb. Lee Shrop RHA; and Gunner WG Stephens, Shrop RHA. Mrs CA Stannard ably accompanied.

Fife and Fofar Regiment

Members of the regiment are often mentioned during 1916 as attending concerts and providing music for charity events in the town, but they appear to have been billeted at Flixton.

East Suffolk Gazette. 4 April 1916, page 5. People's Concert.

On Saturday night the People's Concert was given by members of the 2/1st Fife and Forfar Regiment, stationed at Flixton Camp. The article then goes on to the list those involved with the entertainment and included Newlove, Elder, Greig, Ashworth, Green, Harris, accompanied by Mrs Aldrich and Miss Ethel Hindes.

Lovat Scouts

This is the first reference to the Lovat Scouts being in the town. But once here they appear regularly in the newspaper columns often in connection with concerts and playing music.

East Suffolk Gazette. 11 April 1916, page 5. People's Concert.

On Saturday night the People's Concert was given by the men of the 2/2nd Lovat Scouts.

The article then goes on to the list those involved with the entertainment and included Nash, Norris, Saltworthy, Buchanan, Irish, Baker accompanied by Miss Maggie Grieve.

There are many reports of the Lovats being just about to leave the town or having just left the town, but there are still references to men from the Regiment right up to October 1918.

East Suffolk Gazette 28 November 1916, page 5. Popular Concert

The very popular and talented concert party of the Lovat Scouts gave a farewell concert at the Public Hall on Wednesday evening , and delighted everyone present by their rendering of an excellent programme.

The article then goes on to describe the event and finishes with:

The Rev. WE Davies speaking on behalf of the Troops Recreation Room Committee, said that the Lovat Scouts had given more concerts in aid of their funds, which are all applied for purposes of recreation for the troops in the town and war funds of one kind and another, than any other regiment that had been in the town, and the Committee desired to express their sincere thanks to them, and while their very much regretted their departure from Beccles, the speaker trusted that they would find a warm welcome and many friends at the place where they were going.

West Somerset Yeomanry

This is the only reference I have found to the regiment but for them to have been involved with this service they must have been located in or around the town. The Denbighs and the Shropshires also provided guards of honours at funerals, so it is interesting that the Somerset's were chosen this time.

East Suffolk Gazette, 8 August 1916. Funeral of Sergt. EC Betts

Amid signs of wide spread sympathy, and with full military honours, the body of Sergeant Edmund Chandler Betts, fourth son of Mr Charles C Betts, was interred in the cemetery this (Monday) afternoon. The deceased enlisted in September 1914, at Lord Kitcheners first call for men for the new armies, and joining the 10th Suffolks he was stationed for some time at Felixstowe, where he was promoted lance-corporal, then at Bury St Edmunds and afterwards at Colchester. Training completed, the regiment went out to France in August 1915, and he took part in operations near Albert. The deceased contracted septic poisoning in the trenches, and was invalided home in November. He made a good recovery and spent Christmas with his father. He was subsequently transferred to the 8th Battalion Suffolk Regiment and remained for some time at Colchester, where he was promoted Sergeant. He married Miss E Welton in February 1916, and after short leave he was drafted to France, crossing over on Good Friday. Engaged in battle from July 1st to July 20th, he was shot in the left thigh on the latter date and while crawling to shelter he was wounded by shrapnel and gassed. After a day or two at the base hospital, he was brought to Southampton, where he died, after operation, on August 2nd. His wife and sister, Miss A Betts, were with him for a few days and up to the hour of his death. The body was removed to Beccles for interment, and was bourne to its resting place on a gun carriage, the coffin being covered with the Union Jack and flowers. The breast plate on the coffin, which was of polished elm, bore the inscription 13047 Sergeant Edmund C Betts, 8th Suffolks, Died Au 2nd, 1916, from wounds received in action, aged 23 years. The first portion of the funeral service look place at the Parish Church, military honours being paid by detachments of the West Somerset Yeomanry and the RAMC of the Highland Mounted Brigade, who supplied the bearers. The NCOs of the unit acted as pall bearers. The Band of the Somersets played a funeral march to the church and cemetery, and there was a large concourse of sympathizing townspeople. The service was conducted by the Rev P Higham, curate: and at the close of the solemn ritual, the firing party furnished by the Somersetshire Yeomanry fired three volleys over the grave, and the Last Post was sounded by the Trumpeters. The chief mourners were Mr CC Betts (father), Mrs EC Betts (widow), Miss A Betts and Miss B Betts (sisters), Master Clarence Betts (brother), Mr and Mrs F Welton, Mr and Mrs A Welton, Mr and Mrs John Welton, Mrs Dennington, Mr and Mrs A Parr, Mr and Mrs J Betts. Four members of the Shropshire RHA, who had been billeted with Mr CC Betts were also present. There were numerous floral tributes. Mr Arthur Dare, funeral director, St Andrews House, carried out the funeral arrangements.

Glamorgan Regiment

This is the first reference of the Regiment in the town:

East Suffolk Gazette 02 October 1917, page 5. Evening Concert.

A full house enjoyed the excellent concert given by the Glamorgan Yeomanry (Welsh) Choir, on Wednesday evening, at the Public Hall, in aid of the funds of the Suffolk 37 VAD British Red Cross Society..........................About £30 was realized by the Concert.

and the final reference a year later was:

East Suffolk Gazette 08 October 1918, page 5. Military Dance.

On Thursday evening the WO's staff sergeants and sergeants of the Glamorgan Yeomanry held a farewell dance at the Public Hall, which was nicely decorated for the occasion. The officers and their ladies were present, and the Adjutant acted as MC. The company numbered about 130. The music was supplied by members of the regiment, assisted by Mrs Crisp (piano) and Mr J Cutler (violin).

The speed of departure once the war was over was very rapid. The armistice was signed on the 11th November, two weeks later the camps were being dismantled and sold off.

East Suffolk Gazette. 26 November 1918, page 4. Sale by Auction.

Worlingham Camp and Ellough Road, Beccles. Read, Stanford and Owles are favoured with instructions from Lieut, Colonel H Marsham, of Glamorgan Yeomanry, to Sell by Auction, on Thursday Next, 28th November, 1918, 5 Military Sheds, built in sections, viz. Quartermasters Store 36ft by 15ft, Company Orderly Room 24ft by 12ft, Grocers Store 11ft by 10ft, Bye Product Shed 8ft by 6 ft, Officers Cycle Shed 21ft by 10ft. Sale commence at the Worlingham Camp at 2:30pm.