Mark Forsdike.
ARRSE Rating
4.5 Mushroom Heads
An account of an 'ordinary' county Regiment doing 'ordinary' fighting during the Normandy invasion through to the surrender of Nazi Germany. 1 SUFFOLK fought from D Day through to Bremen gaining an exemplary reputation.

The story begins with the rebirth of the Battalion after the evacuation from Dunkirk. That it is a personal story from many of the men in the Battalion starts on page one of chapter one from a short account of a Territorial soldier who volunteered. These personal accounts take place all the way through the story giving the book a real feel of a family regiment. The Battalion was lucky not being posted to the Far East and the Japanese war, but also not for them the 'glamour' of the Middle East and desert fighting. 1 SUFFOLK was kept and trained in the UK with the aim of a return to the continent.

The Battalion landed on D Day, and while they were not one of the assault battalions, they had their own objective known as HILLMAN, a bunker complex. The stiff, and at times almost attritional, fighting is well described, while numbers make a statistic, in many places casualty names are given making it more personal, while the small vignettes about the casualty, either how he came to be a casualty, or a little bit about his background, make each death a tragedy. Interestingly, Fort Hillman, as it is now known, was gifted to the Suffolk Regiment Association and is now preserved as a memorial.

The book continues in the same vein through different chapters with differing battles. As many are company and battalion sized they are little reported in textbooks and Wikipedia, but each would have been a battle in it's own right for the men of 1 SUFFOLK. The continuing casualties are replaced with new drafts from the UK, a disbanded division with men from neighbouring county regiments becoming 'Suffolks', drafts from other Corps where it was deemed there was too many units and so fed the infantry. All seemed to happily became Suffolks and despite this dilution the battalion kept its character of stout men from the East Country.

From HILLMAN the battalion fought through France to Cazelle Wood, to Château de la Londe, on to Sannerville and Banneville, a celebration of Minden day at a rest camp at Fontaine-Henry, thence to Tinchebray and on to Flers, which was liberated by 1 SUFFOLK, and it's members rightly treated as heroes. Each chapter dealing with a battle has a useful map, although sometimes poorly placed. I would have rather had the map near where the battle starts, in some chapters it is a few pages further in – however, this is a minor point.

Moving into Belgium at Hamont, the battalion continued to Weert to again be treated as liberating heroes, then on to Venray in Holland. Many of the battles are well planned set pieces against a stubborn enemy, with periods of patrolling in between; and still the casualties go on, despite at many times being supported by tanks and AVREs, with the battle at Kasteel Geijsteren finally providing a stop point for a miserable winter on the Maas. During this point the battalion manage to recover three drums left behind during the retreat to Dunkirk in 1940. At Wanssum Wood in the new year of 1945 the SUFFOLKs got their first taste of APCs when they were supported by two troops of Kangaroos to carry them to the objective.

Moving into Germany 1 SUFFOLK advance from Goch to the Udem to Weeze road; onward to Hallen Seckenhausen then forward onto Bremen. In this period of the war the fighting moved from planned set pieces to more advance to contact. The German surrender came with the Battalion on the outskirts of Bremen, including having taken the Becks Brewery. Just to show how the death of one man is a tragedy, the last casualty of 1 SUFFOLK in the campaign was of a Corporal, having been a regular and served all the way through from garrisoning India to the end of the war, accidentely killed when a Sten gun fell over while they were having a beer in celebration. Such a shame to end a successful campaign with such an accident.

The book has 16 glossy pages of black and white photographs, three appendixes covering Canadian loan officers, honours and awards and a roll of honour. There are notes and an Index.

Every battalion that fought in World War Two should have a history written for it like this, and 1 SUFFOLK are lucky that Mark Forsdike has such a family connection. As said in the last paragraph by an old soldier 'We had a bond.'

Four and half Mr Mushroom Heads from me.

Amazon product
First release
Last update
0.00 star(s) 0 ratings

More resources from W21A