https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/97/King%E2%80%99s_Royal_Rifle_Corps_Memorial%2C_Winchester.jpg

Figure 1: Hampshire and Solent Museum’s image

Early photograph of the war memorial in Winchester which was erected in 1922.

Officers and riflemen of the King's Royal Rifle Corps are honoured on Cathedral Green.

 

Benjamin Suggitt

1881 - 1917

Rifleman R36569, King’s Royal Rifles Corps

15 January 1882  - baptism at St James the Great, Bethnal Green - Benjamin Suggitt, son of Benjamin & Mary Ann Suggitt of 47 Bacon Street, a hatter; date of birth 22 December 1881.

Figure 2: Benjamin Suggitt's baptism

14 September 1886 - Virginia Road School Infants, Shoreditch/Bethnal Green - Admission Book:

Benj. Suggitt, son of Benjamin Suggitt, Austin Street, date of birth 22 December 1881.

Figure 3: School Admission

1891 census (5 April 1891) - 5 Enoch Place, near Goodman's Yard, London EC1:

Benjamin Suggett, head, married, 35, hatter, employed, born in Bethnal Green

Mary Suggett, wife, married, 33, born in Bethnal Green

Benjamin Suggett, son, 10, born in Bethnal Green

Emma Suggett, daughter, 6, born in Bethnal Green

Figure 4: 1891 census

1901 census (31 March 1891) - 11 Griggs Court (off Mansell Street), Whitechapel:

Benjamin Suggitt, head, married, 50, hatter, employed as a worker, working at home, born in East London;

Mary A Suggitt, wife, married, 45, born in East London;

Benjamin Suggitt, son, single, 19, a cork cutter, employed as a worker, working at home, born in East London;

Thomas Suggitt, son, single, 12, born in East London;

Susan Suggitt, daughter, 10, born in East London;

Elizabeth Suggitt, daughter, 6, born in East London

Figure 5: 1901 census

1911 census (2 April 1911)- 3 rooms in 201 Bermondsey Street, Bermondsey, London

Benjamin Suggitt, son, 28, single, cork warehouseman, born in Bethnal Green

Thomas Suggitt, son, 20, single, tea packer in a tea warehouse, born in Shoreditch, cripple for 2 years

Susan Suggitt, daughter, 18, single, tailoress working at home, born in Minories London

Mary Ann Suggitt, mother, 54, married 34 years, 6 children (4 living and 2 dead), tailoress working at home, born in Bishopsgate

 .. Benjamin is likely to have worked either at Rankin Bros., 9 Tanner Street (most likely) or Bussey Bros., 302 Rolls Road, Bermondsey; both were cork manufacturers.

 .. at this time Benjamin Suggitt snr (husband to Mary Ann above) was a permanent resident in Tooting Bec Asylum

Figure 6: 1911 census

27 August 1914 - Benjamin lived at 4 Star Place, Bermondsey, according to his father's death certificate. Benjamin never married. He was referred to as 'my little Benjy' by his sister Susan. None of the family were tall in stature, Susan was just an inch or two over five feet tall so unless this was a ‘joke’ Benjamin was rather short. This was less than a month after the declaration of war at the beginning of The Great War.

5 January 1917 - Benjamin attested to join the British Army during WW1.

6 January 1917 - He joined and was made a private in the 10th Battalion of Kings Royal Rifles (No. 2 Company), Rifleman R36569. At around the same time Charles Edwin Perkins (26 years old), another Bermondsey Boy, also signed up for the army and was also recruited into the KRRC. At the time Charles was living in Alscot Road in Bermondsey, not far from where Benjamin lived in Tower Bridge Road. In 1911 Charles had worked in a warehouse for a chemical factory. His service number was R36605 which is reasonably close to Benjamin's and their short army careers were in tandem. The sheet listing his and Charles' attestations is headed Winchester which is where KRRC recruits were sent for basic training and fitness.

Figure 7: Benjamin attested and joined the KRRC

9 January 1917 - Benjamin became part of the complement of 5th Battalion K.R.R.C. The 5th and 6th (Reserve) Battalions were traditionally based in Winchester and were depot/training units. They moved on mobilisation to Sheerness and remained in that area throughout the war being part of the Thames & Medway Garrison. A recording in the Imperial War Museum archive of a recruit at this time describes how physical training and route marching were initially undertaken at Winchester before any fighting skills were learnt. Once the initial period of training was over the new recruits were sent to Sheerness for fighting skills. Training at Sheerness consisted of bayonet practice, firing on shooting ranges and other techniques such as handling Mills Bombs. In the recording the narrator recalls that because of a lack of Mills Bombs the recruits used Nestlé Milk tins with a short fuse attached.

7 March 1917 to 11 March 1917 - Benjamin, along with his Bermondsey friend R36605 Charles Perkins, were members of the 6th Company in the 5th Battalion of the KRRC at Sheerness; this was the last part of his period of training when they were considered part of the army reserve. For this week, though, they were on leave before joining up with the British Expeditionary Force in France.

Figure 8: Transfer list indicating the end of training

19 March 1917 - Following this ten weeks period of training Benjamin and Charles were taken off the strength of the 5th Battalion and transferred to No.1 Infantry Base Depot (British Expeditionary Force) meaning that they were on their way to France to join the existing fighting army. At this time he became a member of 16th Battalion before transferring to 10th Battalion a few days later, on 28 March 1917. These ‘paper’ transfers were followed on 30 March 1917 when the KRRC received the transfers of three 2nd lieutenants, 18 fully trained other ranks and 105 partially trained or untrained other ranks. The fully trained men were likely to have had previous army service which suggests that Benjamin was part of the cohort of 105.

4 April 1917 - 10th Battalion K.R.R.C. War Diary - Dessart Wood (SW of Cambrai, France; a mile to the NW of the village of Fins). This was an engagement shortly after Benjamin and his colleagues joined up with the Battalion who were fighting on the front line. The battalion were attempting to take German positions to the south and south east of the village of Metz-en-Couture in awful conditions.

Extracts from the 10th Battalion KRRC War Diary:

4 April 1917 - "The attack seemed to be a surprise to the enemy possibly owing to the snow storm in which it took place. ... There were about 170 losses amongst other ranks comprising 22 killed, 120 wounded and 20 missing. ... The behaviour of the last new draft joined three days ago was beyond praise. ... The entire operation was a great success, though our casualties were heavy".

6 April 1917, Vallulart Wood - "Snow and pouring rain. The men here have only got bivouacs and the conditions are beastly."

11 April 1917, Vallulart Wood - "Snow blizzards and cold wind. 200 men on working parties".

21 April 1917, In the line, near Ytres (3 miles north west of Fins, France) - "First really nice spring day. The sentry groups pushed a little further forward. Whenever we push on a little, there appears in the official communique -'Further progress has been made today in Havrincourt Wood' - though this really means we have either pushed another outpost company forward or as stated above pushed the sentry line a little further forward through the wood."

4 May 1917, Havrincourt Wood - "Hot day. Companies resting. ... Another alarm at 11:00 p.m. - these alarms are becoming farcical. It was apparently started by the Boche sending up a Golden Rain Rocket which was mistaken by a sentry for our gas alarm rocket. ... The cuckoo was heard for the first time."

20 June 1917, In the line near Vraucourt - “... minor raid attempted on night of 20th/21st June ... Everybody fed up at finding no Huns."

The Battalion was withdrawn from the line, rested, trained and then sent to the area around Ypres in Belgium.

19 July 1917 - "We arrive at Proven about midday. We are now in the 5th Army and the XIV Corps."

26 July 1917, In the line near Proven Woesten (5 miles west of Ypres, Belgium) - "Relieved the 15th Battalion Welsh Regiment in a wood near Mahon Farm, east of Dawson's Corner, arriving about 7:30 p.m. Companies are living in L2 defences and breastworks around the wood. Our guns are all round the wood and the noise is terrific with practically a continual bombardment. ... At 8:30 p.m. the Boche put down a very heavy barrage on our front system of trenches and the canal line until 10:30 p.m. Some gas shells were also sent over and respirators were put on once or twice during the night."

31 July 1917 saw the beginning of one of the most horrendous battles of the First World War. The Third Battle of Ypres, which was fought for control of the village of Passchendaele in Belgium and the route to the coastal ports which supported German submarines, resulted in hundreds of thousands of casualties. The heavy rain turned the ground into a near swamp, causing thousands to perish through the conditions rather than any wounds they sustained. The seeming futility of the prolonged campaign makes the battle all the more poignant.

One of the objectives that needed to be taken as part of the Battle of Passchendaele was the enemy’s Eagle Trench which was north of the Belgian village of Langemarcke.

Figure 9: Langemarcke, Belgium

Further extracts from the 10th Battalion KRRC War Diary

31 July 1917, Canada Farm - "Great attack commenced. Zero hour being 3:50 a.m. All news good up to 12 noon. This brigade detailed to remake roads and tracks."

7 August 1917, Canal Bank - “We march by companies to the east bank of Canal, just north of bridge 4, where the guns were making a great noise in response to an SOS. We are now No.3 Battalion in Brigade Reserve."

16 - 18 August 1917 was the Battle Of Langemarcke; in this attack the plan was for the allied forces to cross the Steenbeeck and advance upon the village of Langemarcke and the area to the north of the village. Strong resistance was encountered and there were many casualties as some objectives were achieved. Benjamin was part of the attacking force.

Ruins of Langemarck during the War

Figure 10 Langemarcke during WW1

The Steenbeek during the war

Figure 11: The Steenbeecke, taken in August 1917. Photo from 'The History of the Twentieth (Light) Division.

Figure 12: Battle of Langemarcke - 16 August 1917

The battle plan was to move the allied front line north eastwards to take Eagle Trench.

The lack of penetration in the centre of the line was the reason for a later attack to secure this area.

21 August 1917, Proven, near Ypres - "The Battalion was photographed as a Battalion and by companies." These photographs have not been located.

25 August 1917, Proven - "Rain continued with very strong winds."

8 September 1917, Proven - "The Battalion moved from Herzeele to Proven occupying their former camp."

10 September 1917, Malakoff Farm, Brielen, near the corner of Veurnseweg and Kapellestraat - "The Battalion moved to Malakoff Farm area ...".

post-92-0-73252600-1378642258_thumb.jpg

Figure 13: Malakoff Farm, taken in 2002

11 September 1917, Malakoff Farm - "The camp was bombed by enemy aircraft, fortunately no casualties were sustained."

17 September 1917, Malakoff Farm - "The final rehearsal for the attack took place and the remainder of the day was spent preparing for the line."

Soldiers in the streets of Langemarck during winter

Figure 14: A street in Langemarcke in WW1

18 September 1917, In the line facing Eagle Trench with Chinese House beyond - "The Battalion relieved the 7th K.O.Y.L.I. in the left sub-section of the Divisional Line. A & D companies went into the front line, B company in support and C Company at Reitres Farm [400 yards WSW of Langemarcke Church]. Battalion HQ was 200 yards in front of them in a half ruined pill box. There was continual heavy shelling for three hours before dawn and some casualties were incurred by front and rear companies."

19 September 1917, In the line - "The day passed quietly for the front companies but Reitres Farm was shelled in the afternoon. Battalion HQ was continually shelled and suffered a direct hit from a shell about 5:30 p.m. which destroyed the dugouts, killed the commanding officer and adjutant as well as eight other ranks, and wounded eight others. In the evening Major R S Cockburn came up to take over and established a new battalion HQ by digging a short trench by the side of the guiding tape running forwards, 200 yards in front of the old Battalion HQ."

The story of the 20 September 1917, the day that Benjamin Suggitt and his friend and colleague, Charlie Perkins, were killed, is told below using extracts from the aforementioned 10th Battalion K.R.R.C. War Diary, supplemented by reports in the Divisional War Diary, in the 59th Brigade War Diary and extracts from the War Diary of the 10th Rifle Brigade.

Figure 15: Broad Plan of Attack

This map shows the plan of assault and expected positions once objectives had been achieved. The yellow lines show the extent of the attack. The brown line shows the divisional boundary; 59th Division were to the north of the brown line with the 60th Division to the south of it. The dark green line shows the attack’s jumping off point and the lighter green line shows the objective to be achieved after a successful attack. The two red dotted lines show the original British Front Line and the eventual anticipated consolidated position.

Order 208 outlines the attack:

Figure 16: Order 208

Extract from the Divisional War Diary

Figure 17: Extract from the Divisional War Diary - 20 September 1917

 

Figure 18: 10th Rifle Brigade Map (enhanced and annotated)

Figure 19: Barrage map showing the creeping barrage behind which the infantry advanced

 

Extracts from the 59th Brigade War Diary for 20 September 1917:

Figure 20: Extract from the 59th Brigade War Diary - 20 September 1917

“Phase 2 - Sequence of Events

“4:00 a.m. - Assembly successfully accomplished

“5:40 a.m. - Barrage drops and assault commences

“6:50 a.m. - Forward Signal Station reports a heavy enemy barrage on Langemarcke.

“6:55 a.m. - Wounded sergeant of 6th Ox & Bucks L.I. reports ‘Attack appears to have gone forward uniformally and close under our barrage. Eagle Trench found to be strongly held but enemy retired from it. Little hostile artillery fire, but considerable fire from machine guns.’ …

“8:10 a.m. - Left Group R.F.A. reports our troops held up my machine gun fire from U.23.b.65.10 to U.23.b.4.5 [this is the trench shown in the map on the next page] …

“9:38 a.m. - 10th K.R.R.C. says a runner has returned with the news that all appears to have gone well. Enemy appears inactive. …

“10:50 a.m. - … Enemy still in Eagle Trench from U.23.d.90.85 to U.23.b.60.35

“12:50 p.m. - 10th K.R.R.C. reports attack veered too much right. …

“6:48 p.m. - 10th K.R.R.C. wires: ‘Left front company on dotted red line with two thirds of company. Machine gun post astride the railway. In close touch with Guards. 2 machine guns in battalion line 60 yards to the right of the railway. D company on right believed to be partly on red dotted line.”

 

Further extracts from the 10th Battalion KRRC War Diary

20 September 1917, In the line - "Companies moved into their assembly positions by 4:00 a.m. The left rested on the Ypres-Staden railway, and the front held by the Battalion extends over 400 yards. On our right was the 11th KRRC. On the left the 3rd Battalion Grenadier Guards. D company 11th Rifle Brigade were attached to our Battalion for supporting purposes and were in position about 150 yards forward of new Battalion HQ.

"At zero, 5:40 a.m., the artillery and machine guns barrage opened. The men moved forward very well and soon after zero the guards on our left advanced their right post to join up with our left on the railway. The left platoon (A company) advanced without difficulty and reached the red dotted line, though a good deal of hostile rifle and guns fire was met with. D company encountered opposition to such an extent from shell fire and from bullets that progress was less satisfactory. The Battalion on our right moved rather across our front, and a large pond of water in front of D company caused our men to go around both sides of it, and that fact combined with the smoke brought about a slight loss of direction. But D company were still going forward and may have reached the dotted line.

"Strong opposition made the subsequent situation obscure. Some men of A and D companies were forced back near Chinese House and others of both companies closed in on to the left platoon (A company) thus leaving a pocket on their right, with the enemy in possession of Chinese House. Some men were in shell holes level with Chinese House and in front of it. 200 yards in rear of A company on the brown line were C company (and men of other companies as well some of whom had been forced back from the right, from near Chinese House). B company were there too.

"The situation was this, as follows:

"A company in touch with the 3rd Grenadier Guards held a front of about 100 yards only, the rest of the Battalion in support were in slits and shell holes, 150 yards in rear. B company was on the right of C company and a good many men were still out in front of Chinese House. Some of them rejoined at dusk. The rest of the day was spent in consolidating and in keeping down hostile sniping, which was heavy. In the course of the morning HQ moved back to Reitres Farm and a relay post was set up in its former trench.

"At 6:30 p.m. an attack was planned to take place on our right and D company 11th Rifle Brigade was taken over by the 11th RB. The attack which was seen by our own men failed. The night passed quietly except for enemy sniping which was very heavy and continuous. ... Patrols sent out during the night were not very successful in clearing up the situation owing to the darkness which prevailed."

Figure 21: Extract from the War Diary of the 10th Rifle Brigade - 20 September 1917

http://benmuse.typepad.com/ben_muse/2005/11/over_the_top_fl.html has a highly descriptive narrative of the events of 20 September 1917.

Benjamin was killed aged 34. Benjamin's remains were never recovered, or identified if they had been recovered. Benjamin’s service or pension records have not survived. He has no known grave but is remembered on the Tyne Cot Memorial near Ypres in Belgium.

The Tyne Cot Memorial to the missing forms the north-eastern boundary of Tyne Cot Cemetery, 9 kilometres north east of Ieper. According to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission database, of the 38 members of the 10th Battalion lost in this engagement only two have been identified and are buried in Cement House Cemetery. The remaining 36 are all commemorated at Tyne Cot.

Extracted from the register held at Tyne Cot:

“Suggitt, Rfn. Benjamin, REG/36569, 10th Bn. King's Royal Rifle Corps 20th Sept 1917.  Age 34.  Son of Mrs Suggitt of 228 Bermondsey Street, London, SE1. No known grave.” Panel Number: 119A.”

 

Figure 22: Wall of Remembrance at Tyne Cot

Figure 23: SUGGITT B - on the Wall of Remembrance at Tyne Cot

On the same day that Benjamin was killed his friend Charles Perkins, the other Bermondsey boy from the same regiment, was also killed, probably in the same attack. Charles Perkins is also commemorated on the Tyne Cot memorial wall. Charles' name was also recorded on a triptych at the Old Boys Club of the Bermondsey Settlement but that memorial has since been lost. Charles was awarded the Victory and British Medals posthumously.

UK, WWI Service Medal and Award Rolls, 1914-1920 for Benjamin Suggitt - posthumously awarded the Victory Medal and the British War Medal.

11 May 1918, Soldiers' effects - £2 1s 3d sent to his mother Mary A Suggitt; 9 Sep 1919 a War Gratuity payment of £3 was made to Mary Ann Suggitt, Benjamin's mother.

Passchendaele

Squire nagged and bullied till I went to fight,

(Under Lord Derby's scheme). I died in hell -

(They called it Passchendaele). My wound was slight,

And I was hobbling back; and then a shell

Burst slick upon the duck-boards; so I fell

Into the bottomless mud, and lost the light.

(Siegfried Sassoon, November 1918)

The 38 men whose names appear on the Commonwealth War Grave Commission database, who were members of the King’s Royal Rifles Corps and who died on 20 September 1917, are listed below. Two men named here are buried at Cement House Cemetery and their names are marked here with an asterisk (*). The remaining 36 have no known grave and are commemorated on the Memorial Wall at Tyne Cot.

Rank

Service Number

Name

Age

Lance Corporal

A/200973

Bass, Matthew Henry

19

Lance Serjeant

R/11674

Berry, Herbert

Rifleman

R/24988

Bourne, Arthur

30

Lance Corporal

R/2673

Bracey, George William

Rifleman

R/36593

Brewer, Frederick James

Rifleman

R/25093

Brooke, Charles Neville

Rifleman

R/26040

Brown, Henry Edwin

32

Rifleman

A/200984

Burden, Francis Frederick

39

Rifleman

R/38543

Burton, Henry

Rifleman

R/32890

Chiles, Sidney Albert

30

Rifleman

A/200397

Clarke, Harold Percy

20

Lance Corporal

R/32969

Earle, Robert George

34

Rifleman

R/16495

Fountain, F*

25

Rifleman

R/2677

Greenwood, Joseph

20

Rifleman

A/200430

Hagger, Edwin Mead

34

Corporal

12006

Hartwell, Ernest Leonard

24

Rifleman

R/36743

Hayhoe, Frederick Albert

30

Rifleman

R/38708

Hose, Frederick John*

38

Rifleman

C/3762

Howes, Victor Augustus

Rifleman

R/11833

King, Ernest Herbert

22

Second Lieutenant

Lines, Herbert A.

19

Rifleman

R/13552

Maltby, George

22

Rifleman

R/38712

Mannering, Henry

28

Rifleman

R/3186

Matthews, James

Rifleman

R/38740

Nokes, Harold Charles

19

Corporal

R/13491

Oliver, Cyril

23

Rifleman

R/36605

Perkins, Charles

28

Corporal

R/16410

Petch, Phillip

Rifleman

R/25402

Piller, Henry

33

Rifleman

A/201704

Simons, Percy

Rifleman

R/34858

Stevenson, Walter

26

Rifleman

REG/36569

Suggitt, Benjamin

34

Rifleman

R/31914

Wells, Thomas Edward

Rifleman

R/15957

Wilkes, Frank Amos

Rifleman

R/1964

Wilkes, Phillip James

Rifleman

A/200478

Willis, Walter

Rifleman

R/2642

Wills, Arthur

Lance Corporal

R/3823

Wingate, Joseph


Acknowledgements:

I am grateful to the members of The Great War Forum, and particularly member Andy Pay, who have been instrumental in enabling me to remember Benjamin in this document. Another member who has helped is Aurel Sercu who provided the image of Malakoff Farm.

My Aunt Rose Moore (nee Bullion), who died in 2002 and was Benjamin’s niece, started recording Benjamin’s life and her work has formed the basis of this document.

Some images have been taken from “World War One Battlefields” (http://www.ww1battlefields.co.uk/flanders/langemarck.html).

The list of the fallen has been extracted from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website (http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead.aspx).

The Battle of Langemarcke 16 August 1917 map has been taken from the website of The Western Front Association (http://www.westernfrontassociation.com/the-great-war/great-war-on-land/battlefields/56-ksli-langemarck.html#sthash.ToJ8gEoh.dpbs).

Marian Dawes took the images at Tyne Cot.

 

©Ken Ripper (kenripper@btinternet.com) - great nephew of Benjamin Suggitt.

8 December 2016