This is a long document and the following links are intended to break it up into manageable 'chunks'.
These notes include extracts from First World War Diaries which are available at the Public Record Office, Kew. Their permission to publish extracts from these records is gratefully acknowledged.
Description of Army Life in France
The War Diaries start here
Award of the Miltary Cross
The War Diaries Resume
Appraisal of the Battle - a forthright document
Edwin is killed in the Battle for Cherisy
Sir Douglas Haig's Despatch to Secretary of State for War
Telegrams reporting Edwin's death including one from the King and Queen
The Memorial Service
Letters of Condolence
Edwin was commissioned 20th January 1916.
The 8th Battalion, Suffolk Regiment went to the Western Front with 53rd Brigade, 18th Division, 25th July 1915.
The following extract from "WORLD WAR I ARMY ANCESTRY" by Norman Holding paints a vivid picture of trench life at the front. I am grateful to him for allowing me to reproduce these extracts here.
"Before 1st March 1916, when volunteering was stopped, a man could join the Regiment of his choice, if they would accept him. He could thus travel to the recruiting centre of the Regiment, usually in a town in the area bearing the Regiment's name, and enlist. If he preferred, he could enlist with his father's "old Regiment" or one associated with his own "home town". Alternatively, he could choose one of the Corps, e.g.. ASC or RE, especially if he had a trade, as they often paid more. The ordinary soldier got 1 shilling a day while certain skilled men could get 6 shillings a day.
After 1916 men enlisted anywhere and were posted according to their skills and the requirements of the Army.
Once enlisted, training began and took several months although at times of great need it was made shorter. No leave would be granted for a period of at least 10 - 15 weeks although an evening pass to visit a nearby town could be obtained. After that men were released in turn to go on leave every 20 odd weeks. In most cases, this meant no leave before the time to sail for France. It was then usual to grant 48 or 72 hours leave to the whole unit. Upon return from leave 4 days were spent packing etc. and by the 5th day the unit was on the way to the Port.
If a complete Division was assembled in England it was customary for the King to inspect it before sailing
A man could go to France as part of a complete unit, i.e.. a Battalion or ASC Company, or a part of a draft, which was a group of men who would be allocated to another unit or units once in France. On the other side of the Channel a short stay would be made at a transit camp. Here the completed units could wait until all the men and vehicles had crossed before proceeding further. The drafts would wait until their final destination was determined, then they would be given the appropriate car badges and also sent up the line to join their unit.
Transport to the front line would be by train and finally by marching. Mechanised units could use their own vehicles. Up to 1916 when Nissen Huts began to be introduced, men stationed behind the line such as Transport, Medical and Supply units would live in barns or tents. Officers would be billeted in a house. Beds or bunks were unknown, the men sleeping on the ground or on straw. Within a short time everyone was covered in lice and fleas which could not be got rid of until the return to England.
When one was stationed nearer the front, shell fire forced the men into dugouts in the ground or into cellars of ruined houses. Gun crews were often subject to enemy fire and hence they also lived together in dugouts. In certain areas movement on the roads, if any where left, brought an immediate hail of shells. Hence, all work tended to be done at night.
For the fighting men in the front line the situation was much worse. Each unit would spend a period in the front line trench. This entailed leaving most of their kit behind at the transport area perhaps 2 or 3 miles behind the front. Then, encumbered with extra ammunition, hand grenades, entrenching tools and other items for survival, often weighing 60 - 70 pounds, they would march forward at night to take over the trench within 50 - 300 yards of the German lines. The last mile or more of the approach might itself be along a communication trench, knee deep in water. Once in the front line trench they would have to stay there day and night till relieved in 4 to 15 days. At times they had to "stand-to", ie. stand up on a raised "shelf", the firing step, in the trench ready to shoot over no-man's land. At other times they could "stand down" or in other words stay at the bottom of the trench often deep in mud. To sleep they took it in turns to crawl into narrow recesses scooped out of the sides of the trench. When relieved they retired to a second line perhaps 100 - 200 yards to the rear where conditions were a little better. Here they were often called upon at night to come forward, past the front line, into no-man's land to put up barbed wire defences or to help rebuild trenches damaged by shell fire. Food for both lines would be brought up by fatigue parties from the cooks stationed near the transport. This often took 2 - 3 hours due to the mud and shell fire.
Their turn of duty in the trenches finished, the unit would retire to the rear area and try to relax. Here they had to sleep in dugouts and cellars as they were within shelling range. Nights were spent moving supplies to the front line from rearward depots or providing working parties to repair or make roads and railways. After a week or ten days the cycle would repeat itself. With luck they might be able to get to a bath house during this time. Here they would get a hot bath or shower and a change of underwear; however the fleas always survived the cleaning! After one or two months the whole unit would withdraw several miles, usually beyond shelling range. Here they could rest, train and help with transport and repairs. With luck they could live in barns etc above ground and move freely at all times. The whole cycle would repeat itself after about a month.
At less frequent intervals, the Division and then the Corps would be withdrawn into reserve so that all units contained within them could enjoy a period well away from the front. The time was spent in training or rehearsing new attacks.
Most of the time in the front line trench was spent watching; occasionally a small raid would be made to capture a prisoner. The total length of the famous battles took only about one third of the time between 1914/18. Hence on any one stretch of front, battles were comparatively rare. Some parts were inactive right up to the last 3 months of the War. However, units were switched from one part to another so that "fresh" troops could be used in a heavy attack. Units of fighting troops involved in an attack could lose 50% of their strength in killed and wounded. In some cases it was even more. The numbers would be made up with fresh drafts of men from England. No records of the names of theses latter still exist.
The men of the various Corps represented about 1/3 - 1/2 of the total Army strength and those units allocated as Divisional Troops had a more dangerous time than Corps, Army or Line of Communication Troops.
Divisional Artillery was often under shell fire from the opposing side; Royal Engineer Signal sections would frequently have to lay or repair telephone cables in sight of the enemy and Companies of Royal Engineers would work in no-man's land laying barbed wire. However, during their non-working periods they could retire to the comparative safety of a dug-out or billet in a cellar a mile or two behind the line.
Life would continue like this 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year, until home leave was granted. This would be about 10 or 14 days, including travelling time, every 12 months or so. For Officers at least, they could choose to take their leave in the South of France".
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The War Diaries are written in pencil on printed forms headed "War Diaries or Intelligence Summary" under the headings date, place, narrative and remarks.
Various other documents are filed with the War Diaries i.e. orders of battle, marching orders, casualties month by month (officers mentioned by name and O.R. for other ranks).
This is the first of a number of entries in War Diaries.
20.8.1916 Brigadier Church Parade:- The following officers joined for duty Captain A.C.Happell and 2/Lt E. R. Peck.
23.8.1916 Company training:- Following officers joined for duty 2/Lt H.A.Williams & 2/Lt G.H.Walker (see later - he wrote a letter of condolence)
Filed with the War Diaries a document listing orders of battle which includes the following extract:-
Intention. The 53rd Brigade in conjunction with 54th Brigade on the left and the 11th Division on the right will attack and drive the enemy off the THIEPVAL SPUR.
War Diaries Sept 25th - 29th. The attacks on THIEPVAL & SCHWABE REDOUBT.
Forceville 30.9.1916 Battalion in No.1 camp:- The entire day was spent in cleaning up, resting and generally straitening up after the battles.
Extract from Kew papers:-
Casualties for 24th - 29th September:- 3 officers killed 4 officers wounded Wounded 161 Killed 25 Missing 15 Telegram from Lt/General G.W.Jacobs, Commanding 2nd Army Corps "Corps Cdr. wishes to thank you and all ranks of your Division for their admirable work today. Thiepval has withstood all attacks on it for exactly two years and it is a great honour to your Division to have captured the whole fortified village at their first attempt. Hearty congratulations to you all".
War Diaries:- Trenclegg 19.10.1916 Companies left Albert starting at 2 am:- started to rain at 4.30 am:- Relief completed by 9 am:- men wet through:- trenches exceedingly bad and full of water and mud:- very cold night:- Enemy barraged front line during night:- attack postponed to 21st inst.
Trenclegg 20.10.1916 Fine day but cold:- Report sent to Brigadier that Battalion was unfit to carry out attack on 21st owing to wet and cold, in reply to question from Brigadier:- Whole day employed clearing trenches:- Froze hard during the night.
Albert 21.10.1916 Fine day but cold:- Battalion relieved by 10th Essex Reg't:- completed by 9.30 am and returned to Albert:- Coy and Coy Cdr returned to Brigade H/Q Poziers:- attack took place, after midday and was a complete success throughout:- Battalion stood to in Albert, ready to move forward. Men bathed:- A Coy sent up to line to be under orders of 6th Berkshire Reg't.
29.8.1916 Battalion relieved 6th Battalion Northamptonshire Reg't in REGINA trench, refit was carried out in day light and complete by 2.30 p.m:- During the evening VANCOUVER trench was heavily shelled:- A Coy who were "counter attack" in the trench had their Coy H/Q blown in:- and 5 men killed:- 2/Lt J.E.Row was killed shortly after in the trench by a shell:- Battalion H/Q was situated at R 29 Central:- Battalion under orders of 54th Infantry Brigade
Casualties 11 killed one Officer (Row) Died of wounds 1 Wounded 31
War Diaries:- Trenches (Regina) 1.11.1916 Rain during day:- communication with front line very difficult owing to mud:- Enemy shelling on Vancouver trench:- owing to wet it was found impossible to continue mined dugouts.
The same - 2.11.1916 A & C Coy's relieved B & D Coy's in Regina trench:- the relief being carried out before dawn:- B & D Coy's went into ZOLLERN TRENCH:- During the night all Coy's worked hard on the trenches to keep communications open:- men very tired.
Trenches (Albert) 3.11.1916 During the early hours of the morning 4 Germans were captured in front of Regina, two near the West Miraumont Road and two Courcilette trench:- They belong to 12 WURTENBURGERS and 2nd Battalion 106th Reg't:- These prisoners were sent to Brigade H/Q at POZIERS:- The Corps Cdr and Divisional Cdr sent messages expressing their satisfaction on the identification which was made:- Relieved by the 7th Bedfordshire Reg't:- B & D Coy's during the day and A & C Coy's at dusk:- relief complete by 8.30 p.m.:- The Coy called at the 54th Brigade H/Q which had then relieved the 53rd Brigade at :- Poziers:- Coy's proceeded to Albert by bus:- the last Coy arrived back about 11 o'clock.
Found Edwin in an Index at Kew recording his Military Cross Award but discovered that unfortunately the original Citation has not survived.
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The Military Cross was introduced in 1914 and devised by King George Fifth and Lord Kitchener as Secretary of State for War for "...... gallant and distinguished services in action".
The Cross was designed by E.C.Collings, Herald Painter to King George V. 37031 M.C's were awarded 1914 - 1918.
The Suffolk Regiment Museum provide an extract from "The Eighth Battalion Honours and Awards" list showing that the award of the M.C. was made on the 25th November 1916. (Interestingly the list includes other officers whose names appear in this narrative, vis. - Lieut.Col.G.V.W.Hill with first and second Bars to his D.S.O., Capt.C.Ll.Sanctuary - the M.C., Capt.H.A.Angier - the M.C., Lieut.R.C.Bolingbroke,D.C.M. - the M.C.)
The Suffolk Regiment Museum publication "The Eighth Battalion Diary of Events" which shows that in November 1916 the Battalion was involved, inter alia, at Albert and this coupled with the War Diary entry indicate that he gained the award in the battle for Albert.
The Suffolk Regimental Gazette Nov.-Dec.,1916 records the award of the M.C.:- "Temp.2nd Lieut. EDWIN ROBERT RICHMOND PECK, Suffolk Regiment. For conspicuous gallantry in action. He led his platoon in the attack with great courage and initiative. Later, he took out a patrol in daylight under heavy fire, and obtained most valuable information".
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War Diaries Albert & Warlog 7.11.1916 Brigadier parade ordered for presentation of medal ribbons but cancelled owing to wet:- General Masse? however presented same in the Hotel Voyageurs:- all officers were present.
War Diaries:- Trenches 10.11.1916 Battalion relieved the 6th Northants in the line:- relief completed by by 10 p.m.:- Battalion H/Q at R29 Central (Le Sacs 1/10000):- A & C Coy's in Regina trench:- D counter attack:- B Coy in Zollern trench.
Harponville 19.11.1916 Battalion marched to H/Q :- start at 9 am arrived in billets 1 p.m.:- Maj.Gen'l Gough Commanding 5th Army saw Battalion in line of march while driving past in his car:- he stopped and congratulated them on march discipline.
List of Casualties:- 13 O.R.Wounded 2 O.R.Killed 1 O.R.Missing
WAR DIARIES:- Hautvillers 5.12.1916 Brigade route march:- Battalion played 8th East Surrey Reg't in Divisional Football competition:- Result lost 0 - 11 11.12.1916 Training:- Draft of 125 O.R. arrived, class "untrained":- Lecture by Brigade Major in "Esprit de Corps" in the evening at le Titre. 12.12.1916 Training:- Snow during day:- 2/Lt Wallace who was attending Brigade Bombing school accidentally wounded. 25.12.1916 Christmas Day:- Commanding Officer visited all ranks during dinner. Greetings received from Mayor of Bury St Edmonds. 26.12.1916 Boxing Day:- Divisional Gymkhana in the afternoon. 27.12.1916 Training:- All ranks now fitted with the new box respirator. 27.1.1917 Battalion relieved 6th Northamptonshire Reg't in the line:- completed by 8.26 p.m.:- Battalion vantage from West Miraumont Road to Sixteen Road:- Battalion H/Q situated R28 D47:- 2nd South Staffordshire Reg't on our right (subsequently relieved by 23rd Royal Fusiliers) and 6th Royal Berkshire Reg't on our left:- ground covered with snow:- A Coy right, B Coy left, C Coy counter attack, D Coy :- Reserve. 28.1.1917 Very cold:- Our Artillery shelled "Boom Ravine" at 8.15 p.m:- Wire was erected in front of forward parts during the night.
Trenches 30.1.1917 Cold and snow still on the ground:- Major S.W.Ford went down to the two front Cos early in the morning during the hours of darkness and spent the day in front, returning to Battalion H/Q after dark:- at 4 am an enemy patrol 30 - 40 strong approached Battalion H/Q , down Ravine, but they were driven off with Lewis Gun fire:- it was observed during the day that enemy had a "strong point" at R16 B85. 31.1.1917 Still very cold:- Enemy artillery more active:- Telephone wires cut with front line:- Enemy patrols active. Ham-en-Artois 8.4.1917 Easter Sunday:- Divisional Parade Church service and medal presentation.
WAR DIARIES:- Beaurains 1.5.1917 Battalion in bivouacs:- Preliminary instructions for operations received also an instruction for the supply of ammunition and supplies. Battalion marched by platoon to the vicinity of "The E.G.G." and bivouacked. Hindenburgh Support 2.5.1917 Preliminary instructions issued by Lt.Col.Hill:- ammunition orders received.
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1. Information. On Zero Day the 3rd Army will continue its advance in conjunction with the 5th Army. The object of the 5th Army are Bullecourt, Riencourt les Cagnicourt, Hendecourt les Cagnicourt its left resting on the high ground in U.9.d - U.14.d etc The 53rd Brigade will be Divisional Reserve. 2. Disposition at Zero. At Z the Battalion will be in the area N.20.d -N26.b and N.27.a with the Battalion H/Q at N.26.b.8.7. 3. Possible Tasks of the Battalion. a. The possible tasks of the Battalion are To relieve units in the line To form a defensive flank To repel or deliver a counter attack b. The Battalion will be prepared to move at short notice fully equipped for fighting. All necessary ammunition, bombs, tools etc will be drawn and issued today. c. In the event of the Battalion taking over the line it will relieve the 5th Brigade. Coys will in this case make a dump of packs, blankets etc in their present area leaving their details as a guard until the transport can move the dumps to the transport lines. Great coats will be will be taken up rolled round the haversack. If possible only 2 Cos will take over ("A" & "C" Cos). d. One section MG (presumably machine gun) Coy will be attached to the Battalion. Two guns will be located in selected positions forward and two guns will be echeloned in rear on either flank. e. heavy counter attacks must be expected. This together with the following methods of repelling them must be impressed on all ranks. 1. Determine to hang on at all costs. 2. Shoot when enemy is within 600 yds and shoot to kill i.e. aim well. 3. M.G. and Lewis Gun in selected positions from which they can bring crossfire and mutually support each other. 4. Protection of the flanks. 5. Extreme vigilance. 6. S.O.S. signals in well known positions. 7. Bold patrolling. 8. Good and hard digging and good fire positions. 9. Good signal communications. 10. Wire. 11. The Reserve Coy Commander must be in close touch with Battalion H/Q. 4. Liaison & Reconnaissance. The following personnel will report to 54th Brigade H/Q (N.22.d.5.4.) at Zero hour on Z Day. Lieut. Bolinbroke and 1 Runner 1 Officer and 2 Runners per Coy.
These officers will take steps as soon as possible to reconnoitre the area the Battalion may have to take over and the best routes up. They must not leave the 54th Brigade H/Q without consulting the Brigade Major. They will take rations and be prepared to stay away the night. 5. Transport. In the event of the Battalion moving forward from the present the Transport Officer will arrange for a. Dumps in present positions are moved to the Transport Lines. b. Conveyance as far forward as possible of 1. Signal equipment 2. Lewis guns 3. Mess kits etc The transport should never return empty. There are quantities of Salvage dumps forward and material lying about (Shell cases) etc. Anything of value will be taken back to the Division dump. Drivers and brakemen are responsible that they pick up all they can at all times. 6. Officers going into action. H/Q "A" Coy "B" Coy C.O. Capt. Angier M.C. Captain Greene M.C. Adjt. 2/Lt Peck M.C. 2/Lt Chibnall Lt Bolingbroke 2/Lt Boughton 2/Lt Pells 2/Lt Crosher "C" Coy "D" Coy M.O. Capt. Sanctuary Capt Crandon Chaplain 2/Lt Argles Lt Furniss 2/Lt Trounce 2/lt Brown Details to be left behind will be previously laid down. Issued at 4.15 p.m. Capt. & Adjt. 2nd May 1917 8th Bat'n The Suffolk Reg't
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1. Position of dumps.
2. Water. Water bottles will be kept full throughout the 3rd instant. The Transport Officer will arrange for the Water Carts to come up to the present area as often as possible throughout the day. There is a well at N.19.b.6. (Neuville Vitasse). This water requires one measure of lime per Cart. After the capture of the final objective an advanced water point will be formed O.32.b.4.1. Water Carts can be filled there. A good supply of water can be obtained from a house in HENINEL at N.28.b.54. 3. Medical Arrangements. Collecting Posts at N30.a.1.3. Advanced Dressing Station at N22.C.33.32. Walking wounded post at MERCTEL. On an advance taking place a collecting point will be established at Gunpits N.30.d.2.3. The Regimental Aid post will be taken over from the 54th Battalion in the event of the Battalion going into the line. 4. Visual Radio Station. 5. Salvage. Coys must salve all in their areas and send them back to Battalion H/Q at all times. 6. Burial of the Dead. As far as possible Coys must bury the dead in their areas. Map references of graves together with private papers etc must be sent to Battalion H/Q. 7. Return of Casualties. A return of a. Estimated casualties will be rendered whenever possible. The total estimated always being given. b. Accurate returns will rendered daily by 5 p.m..
Capt. & Adjt. 8th Batt'n The Suffolk Reg't.
WAR DIARIES:- 3.5.1917 Attack on Cherisy by 54th & 55th Infantry Battalions ZERO hour 3.45 am. 12.33 p.m. Orders received to move up to trenches in vicinity of N30. C & D Battalions moved in artillery formation, under heavy enemy artillery fire:- 2/Lt E.R.Peck M.C. was killed and about 26 O.R. casualties were sustained:- Battalion H/Q was established at N 29 D52:- a fresh attack was made by the 54th & 53rd Battalions at 7.15 p.m. 8.45 p.m. Messages received that if enemy attacked and broke through front line, Battalion would counter attack immediately. Enemy however did not attack and the night was fairly quiet.
The following are some of the mistakes made during the attack on 3rd May
1. Previous reconnoitre by Officers & N.C.O's of the ground to be attacked was either not done or not sufficiently done.
2. All ranks taking part did not appear to know what was required of them, what they were likely to meet during the attack. 3. Loss of direction from the start. This was partly due to the darkness. 4. "Moppers Up" did not do their job. They did not appear to know what their job was. They had not been given definite tasks and when these were completed definite positions to hold and consolidate. 5. The latest intelligence maps had not been studied by all Commanders. 6. Units had not taken steps to protect their flanks. As far as possible every unit must protect its own flanks. When gaps occur they must be filled up by reserves. Some units were able to go forward others were held up, resulting gaps were not filled and one unit did not assist the other to get forward. 7. Information was not sent back. All means of communication were not considered or used. If not supplied , in future every officer and platoon will supply himself with a number of cards or previously prepared messages. The following are some of the headings. 1. Have reached 1st objective.......................... 2nd .......................... 3rd .......................... final .......................... 2. Am held up by...............from................... on the line............... 3. Am in touch with............................on right and............................on left 4. Am ready to advance. 5. Casualties. These can be sent back by runners. wounded. 8. The word "RETIRE" was used and acted upon by at least one unit. This word does not exist in the British Army vocabulary and anyone using it is to be "SHOT". 9. The rifle was not used. It must invariably be used. It must be invariably impressed on all ranks that the rifle is an invaluable weapon. It can "wipe out" any enemy counter attack. "SHOOT LOW AND SHOOT KILL" If the rifle is used and well used on every occasion it will a. minimise our casualties. b. increase the enemy casualties. c. materially assist our attack. 10. Reorganisation was not carried out in many cases and almost throughout was very indifferently done. 11. Dividing lines are not hard and fast. They are given in order to assist units. If occasion arises they must be crossed unhesitatingly.
These notes will form the basis of company conferences. They must be brought to the notice of every man in the Battalion. Sufficient copies are issued on the scale of 1 per Officer and Sgt.
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Arras-The Third Battle of the Scarpe-The battalion in front of Cherisy-Transferred to the Salient-The battles of Ypres,1917-Pilckem-Resting at Rubrouck-The First Battle of Passchendaele-The 8th Battalion disbanded at Rousbrugge.
At the close of April (1917) the 18th Division, having been transferred from G.H.Q. Reserve to the VIIth Corps, concentrated in the neighbourhood of Arras. The arrival of the 8th Battalion brought the number of Suffolk battalions in that area up to five, the 2nd, 4th, 7th and 11th having already been engaged in the opening battles of the Arras offensive. Shortly after reaching Neuville-Vitasse, the 18th Division received operation orders for the third battle of the Scarpe - a well planned scheme of vast pretensions.
After the moon had set, and in the darkness before the dawn of May 3, the long lines of troops were set in motion. The 18th Division attacked with two brigades, one of which (55th) captured Cherisy and advanced to a depth of about three thousand yards. Along the front immediately to the north and south of that village matters had not gone so smoothly, and the 55th Brigade, with both flanks in the air, was forced to withdraw to its original position. While the 53rd Brigade (in support) was moving up in broad daylight and in full view of the enemy, it came under heavy artillery fire, the battalion sustained numerous casualties, including 2nd Lieut.E.R.R.Peck, M.C., killed, and Lieut.Col.Hill, slightly wounded. About noon the Germans counter-attacked vigorously, retaking Cherisy after much bitter fighting and remaining in possession".
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I have the honour to submit the following report on the operations of the Forces under my Command from the opening of the British Offensive on the 9th April 1917....
General Allied Plan.
This Plan comprised of a series of offensives on all fronts, so timed as to assist each other by depriving the enemy of the power of weakening any one of his parts in order to reinforce another......
In the spring...... my first efforts were to be directed against the enemy's troops occupying the salient between the Scarpe and the Ancre into which they had been pressed as a result of the Somme battle. It was my intention to attack both shoulders of this salient simultaneously, the Fifth Army operating on the Ancre front while the Third Army attacked from the N.W. above Arras. These converging attacks if successful, would pinch off the whole salient and would be likely to make the withdrawal of the enemy's troops from it a very costly manoeuvre for him if not commenced in good time.
Five days later, at 3.45 am on the 3rd May, another attack was undertaken by us of a similar nature to that of the 28th April, which in the character of the subsequent fighting it closely resembled.
In view of important operations which the French were to carry out on the 5th May, I arranged for a considerable extension of my active front. While the Third and First Armies attacked from Fontaine-lez-Croiselles to Fresnoy the Fifth Army launched a second attack upon the Hindenburgh Line in the neighbourhood of Bullecourt. This gave a total front of over sixteen miles.
Along practically the whole of this front our troops broke into the enemy's positions. Australian troops carried the Hindenburg Line east of Bullecourt. Eastern Counties battalions took Cherisy. Other English troops entered Roeux and captured the German trenches south of Fresnoy. Canadian Troops found Fresnoy full of German troops assembled for a hostile attack which was to have been delivered at a later hour.
Later in the day, strong hostile counter attacks once more developed, accompanied by an intense bombardment with heavy guns. Fierce fighting lasted throughout the afternoon and far into the night, and our troops were obliged to withdraw from Roeux and Cherisy. They maintained their hold however on Fresnoy and the Hindenburgh Line east of Bullecourt, as well as upon certain trench elements west of Fontaine-les-Croiselles and south of the Scarpe. Nine hundred and sixty eight prisoners, including twenty nine officers, were captured in these operations".
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10.5.1917 Telegram to R.Peck, Chandos, Hatfield Road, Ipswich Deeply regret to inform you 2 Lieut E.R.Peck 3rd Att 8th Suffolk Reg't was killed in action May 3rd the Army Council express their sympathy. Presumably this refers to 2 Lt E.R.R.Peck 8th Suffolk Reg't
Secy. War Office
24.5.1917 Telegram to R.R.Peck
The King and Queen deeply regret the loss you and the Army has sustained by the death of your son in the Service of his Country Their Majesties truly sympathise with you in your Sorrow
Keeper of the Privy Purse
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A Memorial Service is to be conducted in Holy Trinity Church, on Saturday, June 2nd, at 3 o'clock. This will afford an opportunity to our congregation and others, for showing sympathy with Lieutenant Peck's family in an acute sorrow that is theirs today and may be ours tomorrow. I hope many will attend, and I suggest that it would be a compliment to the deceased officer if those who are entitled to wear a uniform, whether khaki or another, should come so dressed.
May 24th 1917. W.H.H.W.
(Reprinted from Holy Trinity Parish Magazine
From the Parish Magazine of Holy Trinity Church, Ipswich - June 1917 Vicar: Rev.W.H.H.Williamson
"An excellent likeness is before me of an excellent son of whom nothing could be said but what is good. I refer to 2nd Lieutenant Edwin R.Peck, of the 8th Suffolk regiment, who was " faithful unto death" and has left a fragrant memory behind him. Beloved and admired in life, it is our lament that his name has been added to the long and sad list of those whose lives have been sacrificed in this terrible war. As a hero he served his earthly Sovereign, who rewarded him for his bravery. As a Christian he was no less recognised by all who knew him.
In January I referred to his winning the coveted Military Cross. Now he has been called to receive a Crown of Glory from another King, even a heavenly. Today I had the privilege of reading charming testimonies to his work, received by his bereaved parents, whose consent I have obtained to give extracts.
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The first I quote was a telegram from Buckingham Palace on this date, as follows:-
Please see above.
I also give quotations culled from letters sent (among many others) by the Colonel, the Chaplain, and a brother Officer. These say:-
"To the Battalion your son is a very great loss, not only as a comrade, but as a most gallant and capable Officer. Up to the very last his work in the Battalion has been of the highest quality, no matter when, where or in what conditions.".
He was honoured and beloved by all, and especially by his own Company Officers and his men. He was zealous in his work, and has left an excellent memory amongst us here. You may be proud of him. He has done his work well".
"Throughout the whole Battalion he was a general favourite, and the object of everyones respect, and no Subaltern Officer could possibly be more regretted both by his brother Officers and his men. His splendid soldierly character, together with his unfailing cheerfulness and gallantry, had indeed caused him to take such a place in the regard of all, that his loss has left a real mark upon the Battalion".
Our earnest hope is that the pronounced testimony of those who knew him best as to his sterling work, may be a means of comfort to the mourning family, whose loved one was instantly killed in action on the 3rd may, and was buried in a soldiers' cemetery near Arras, in France".
A cutting from a local newspaper:-
At Holy Trinity Church, Ipswich, on Saturday afternoon, a memorial service for the late 2nd Lieut.E.R.Peck, M.C. Suffolk regiment, eldest son of Mr & Mrs R.Peck of Hatfield Road, was well attended. Among those present, in addition to members of the family, were Major E.A.Jackson, Lieut. R.L.Hartopp, and 2nd Lieut. D.T.Williams, representing the deceased Regiment; Mr J.D.Cobbold, in whose employ in offices of Cliff Brewery Mr Peck had spent some years; and Messrs J.Toller, Underwood, Cutting and Coleman, of the Cliff Brewery staff; Mr Porter, of Felixstowe, recently head of the office staff at the Cliff Brewery; Mr A.Lambert, secretary of the Y.M.C.A., an institution of which the deceased officer had been a zealous and useful member; Mr W.Hunter Woods, Mrs Angell, Mr & Mrs R.Collis. Mrs Edwin Everett, Mrs and the Misses Damant, Mrs Williamson, Mrs Pemberton, Mr Aubrey Stewart, Mr A.Aldous, Miss Powley, Mr Thomas James, and Mr & Mrs F.H.Orvis.
The service was simple but impressive. Choral throughout, the hymns were well chosen - "Peace, Perfect Peace", "My God, my Father", and "Hush, blessed are the dead". The organist rendered "O Rest in the Lord" at the commencement of the service, and the "Dead March" (Saul) at the close, the congregation standing. The vicar, the Rev. W.H.Williamson, very feelingly recited the beautiful service for the burial of the dead, which seemed doubly impressive on this lovely afternoon. Our young townsman had a brief but brilliant career as a soldier, winning the Military Cross early in the year. (actually, last year - GRP). Letters received from his bereaved parents from officers of the Battalion were eulogistic of his character and work. The Colonel wrote: "To the Battalion your son's death is a very great loss, not only as a comrade, but as a most gallant and capable officer. Up to the very last his work in the Battalion has been of the highest quality, no matter when, where, or in what conditions". Lieut. Peck was killed instantaneously on May 3rd in France
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8 th Suffolk Regiment IIIrd Army Inf. School B.E.F. 11.V.17
My dear Mr & Mrs Peck,
It is with the deepest sympathy that I, as your son's closest friend in the Battalion, write to express my sorrow at his death.
As you in all probability know, his death occurred on the 3rd of the present month and was perfectly instantaneous being caused by the bursting of a shell. Happily the circumstances were such as to permit of his body being brought down from the line and buried in a cemetery in the neighbourhood of Arras: the grave being strongly made up and marked by a cross.
What sadness his death will cause you I cannot pretend to estimate but for my part, the loss of one I had come to regard as my greatest friend leaves me with the feeling that much of the sweetness of life has gone and that his place can never be refilled. For the past year we had been constantly together and his sterling character had so endeared him to me that we had become as closely drawn together as brothers.
Throughout the whole Battalion he was a general favourite and the object of everyone's respect and no subaltern officer could possibly be more regretted by both his brother officers and his men.
His splendid soldierly character together with his unfailing cheerfulness and gallantry had indeed caused him to take such a place in the regard of all that his loss has left a real mark upon the Battalion.
I enclose several photographs which were not sent with the remainder of his kit but which doubtless will be valued by you.
For my part words, more especially written words, seem futile and meaningless on such an occasion as this but we can all take comfort from knowing that he died in the furtherance of the greatest cause in the world and that now he is a member of the most glorious company.
I close by hoping that you will remain assured of my deepest sympathy with you in your sorrow and my willingness to give you any possible information.
Yours most sincerely
Charles B. B. Clee
2 lt 8 / Suffolk Regiment
8th Batt. Suffolk Rgt. 23 May 1917
Dear Mrs Peck
I dare to write to you, a Mother, about your loss knowing as I do a Mother's loss I can dimly realise the enormity of your loss, and the magnitude of your grief.
The circumstances of your son's death I will not dwell on; you must have heard all you care to hear from others who have written.
Dear Edwin (for I always called him that). I was with him at Shoreham and coming out to France together we have been in the same Company ever since. I have never met a more evenly tempered fellow; he was always cheerful and even in the worst circumstances had the brightest smile.
What more can I say? save that I pray to God that he may comfort you with the thought "To every man.......death cometh soon or late"
Please forgive me for the intimacy of my letter and also for "scrappy" nature due to the fact that I am writing under such conditions.
God bless you
Yrs with all sincerity
2/lt 8th Batt, Suffolk Reg
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WAR DIARIES:- Heard news that the Battalion was to be broken up under the new reorganisation. 8.11.1918 In Troop Train all day, passing through Arras and then through the Somme battlefield including scenes of of the Battalion's finest successes during the Somme Battle, Thiepval, Miraumont, Grandcourt, Boome Ravine etc and then finally through Albert, Mericourt and Bray. Reached NO YO N at 6 p.m. and marched 10 kilometers in darkness and intermittent rain to village previously occupied by German troops, called GRANDRU. Billets very fair.
War Office 27 Pilgrim Street London E.C.4.
1st March 1922
I am directed to transmit to you the accompanying "British War & Victory Medals which would have been conferred upon 2nd Lieutenant E.R.R.Peck had he lived, in memory of his services with the British Forces during the Great War.
In forwarding the Decorations I am commanded by the King to assure you of His Majesty's high appreciation of the services rendered.
I am to request that you will be so good as to acknowledge the receipt of the decorations on the attached form.
I am, Sir,
Your obedient Servant
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"Second Lieutenant E.R.Peck M.C. of the Suffolk Regiment who was killed instantaneously in France on 3rd May was the eldest son of Mr Robert R.Peck of Hatfield Road, Ipswich. He received his commission in June 1916. Prior to the outbreak of War. Mr Peck was employed in the offices of the Cliff Brewery and was a zealous member of the Y.M.C.A. He was described by the Colonel of the Battalion "as a most gallant and capable officer".
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