Suffolk Regiment

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Suffolk Regiment
Suffolk Regiment Cap Badge.jpg
Badge of the Suffolk Regiment
Active 1685-1959
Country  Kingdom of England (1685–1707)
 Kingdom of Great Britain (1707–1800)
 United Kingdom (1801–1959)
Branch Flag of the British Army.svg British Army
Type Infantry
Role Line infantry

1–2 Regular battalions
1–2 Militia and Special Reserve battalions
1–4 Territorial and Volunteer battalions

Up to 15 Hostilities-only battalions
Garrison/HQ Gibraltar Barracks, Bury St Edmunds
Nickname(s) "Old Dozen"
Engagements Battle of Minden
Eureka Rebellion
Battle of Singapore

The Suffolk Regiment was an infantry regiment of the line in the British Army with a history dating back to 1685. It saw service for three centuries, participating in many wars and conflicts, including the First and Second World Wars, before being amalgamated with the Royal Norfolk Regiment to form the 1st East Anglian Regiment (Royal Norfolk and Suffolk) in 1959 which, in 1964, was further amalgamated with the 2nd East Anglian Regiment (Duchess of Gloucester's Own Royal Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire), the 3rd East Anglian Regiment (16th/44th Foot) and the Royal Leicestershire Regiment to create the present Royal Anglian Regiment.


Regimental uniform, 1840s

The "Duke of Norfolk's Regiment of Foot" raised in 1685 incorporated men from the East Anglian counties of Norfolk and Suffolk. It was subsequently named after ten different colonels and was ranked in 1747 as the 12th Foot regiment.

It was originally formed to combat the Monmouth Rebellion, but was not disbanded when the rebellion was defeated. Following the 1688 Glorious Revolution its Colonel Lord Lichfield was dismissed for his sympathies with James II and was replaced by Henry Wharton. Under Wharton the regiment participated in Marshal Schomberg's expedition to Ireland in 1689. It captured the unoccupied town of Belfast and then took part in the Siege of Carrickfergus.

Wharton died of fever in October 1689 while the regiment was part of the Dundalk Camp. Richard Brewer took command of the regiment and led it during the Nine Years' War in Flanders. The regiment was placed on the Irish establishment following the Treaty of Ryswick in 1697, and was not disbanded. It was subsequently stationed in Jamaica during the War of the Spanish Succession.

In 1751, the regiment was renamed the 12th Regiment of Foot. In 1758 the 2nd Battalion of the regiment was separated from it and formed the basis of the 65th (2nd Yorkshire, North Riding) Regiment of Foot.[1] In 1782, it was given a county association as the 12th (East Suffolk) Regiment of Foot.

While garrisoning the Australian Colony of Victoria in 1854, detachments from the regiment, the 40th Regiment of Foot and colonial police, suppressed the Eureka Rebellion, by gold prospectors at Ballarat.

1895 to 1914[edit]

Boer War[edit]

See also: Boer Wars

The 1st Battalion served in the Second Boer War.

2nd Battalion[edit]

By contrast between 1895 and 1914, the 2nd Battalion, Suffolk Regiment was not involved in hostilities. It was stationed for the majority of the time in India. Garrison postings during this period include; Secunderabad (India) 1895, Rangoon and the Andaman Islands (Burma) 1896 to 1899, Quetta (North West Frontier) 1899 to 1902, Karachi and Hyderabad (Northern India, now Pakistan) 1902 to 1905, Madras (India) 1905 to 1907, Aden 1907, returning to Southampton in 1908 after seeing 20 years overseas service as a battalion.[2]

During its service in India the 2nd Battalion became known as a "well officered battalion that compared favourably with the best battalion in the service having the nicest possible feeling amongst all ranks". The 2nd was also regarded as a good shooting battalion with high level of musketry skills.[3]

The spirit of independence and self-reliance exhibited by officers and non-commissioned officers led to the 2nd Battalion taking first place in the Quetta Division of the British Army of India, from a military effectiveness point of view, in a six-day test. This test saw the men under arms for over 12 hours a day conducting a wide selection of military manoeuvres, including bridge building, retreats under fire, forced marches and defending ground and fixed fortifications.[4]

First World War[edit]

Regular Army battalions[edit]

The value of the 2nd Battalion's 20 years of peacetime training was exemplified at the Battle of Le Cateau on 26 August 1914, a mere 23 days since Britain declared war on Germany. The battalion was serving as part of the 14th Brigade, alongside the 1st Devonshire Regiment, 1st East Surrey Regiment and 1st Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry, of the 5th Division. In this action the 2nd Battalion undertook a fierce rear-guard defence out-manned and out-gunned by superior numbers of enemy. The 2nd Battalion held their defensive position despite losing their commanding officer, Lt. Col. C.A.H Brett DSO, at the commencement of the action and their second in command, Maj. E.C. Doughty, who was severely wounded after six hours of battle as he went forward to take ammunition to the hard-pressed battalion machine gunners.

Almost totally decimated as a fighting unit after over eight hours of incessant fighting, the 2nd Battalion, Suffolk Regiment was gradually outflanked but would still not surrender. This was despite the fact that the German Army, knowing the 2nd Battalion had no hope of survival, entreated them to surrender, even ordering the German buglers to sound the British Cease Fire and gesticulating for the men of the 2nd to lay down their arms. At length an overwhelming force rushed the 2nd Battalion from the rear, bringing down all resistance and the 2nd's defence of Le Cateau was at an end. Those remaining alive were taken captive by the Germans, spending the next four years as prisoners of war and not returning home until Christmas Day 1918.[5]

As an example of their valour and the level of training they had been subject to as a peacetime unit, it is noted that 720 men of 2nd Battalion, Suffolk Regiment total roll call of some 1,000, many of whom had been with the battalion since the 1899 posting to Quetta, were killed, wounded or captured. This fight-to-the-last-man defence at Le Cateau was later recognised as a key factor in preventing the German occupation of Paris. (Bell 2007) The battalion, due to the casualties sustained, was transferred to GHQ Troops before, on 25 October, transferring to the 8th Brigade of the 3rd Division and, almost a year later, transferred to 76th Brigade of the same division, where they were to remain for the rest of the year.[6]


The 1/5th Battalion was assigned to 163rd (1/1st Norfolk and Suffolk) Brigade, alongside the 1/4th and 1/5th Norfolk Regiment and 1/8th Hampshire Regiment, part of the 54th (East Anglian) Division, and saw action at Gallipoli (1915) and the First Battle of Gaza (1917).

Hostilities-only battalions[edit]

During the war the regiment raised many service battalions, formed specifically for service in the war only. During the Battle of Loos, the largest British Army offensive of 1915, Sergeant Arthur Frederick Saunders of the 9th (Service) Battalion, part of 71st Brigade, alongside 9th Norfolk Regiment, 8th Bedfordshire Regiment and 11th Essex Regiment, part of the 24th Division, was awarded the Victoria Cross.

Second World War[edit]

Regular Army[edit]

The 1st Battalion, Suffolk Regiment was a Regular Army unit stationed in Devonport as part of the 8th Infantry Brigade, alongside the 2nd East Yorkshire Regiment and 2nd Gloucestershire Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division and served with the British Expeditionary Force in France from late 1939 to May 1940. The division was commanded by Major-General Bernard Law Montgomery who would later lead the Anglo-Canadian forces of 21st Army Group in the fight to reclaim occupied Europe. With the rest of the BEF, it was evacuated from Dunkirk in 1940. The next four years were spent training in the United Kingdom for the invasion of Normandy in 1944, otherwise known as D-Day. The 1st Battalion was involved in attacking and taking the Hillman Fortress on D-Day itself. They served with the 3rd Infantry Division throughout the entire North West Europe Campaign from D-Day to Victory in Europe Day in 1945. By the end of the war the 1st Battalion had lost 215 men killed in action.[7]

The 2nd Battalion of the Suffolk Regiment was serving in India at the outbreak of the Second World War, spending the early years of the war mainly deployed on internal security duties. In 1943 the battalion transferred to the 123rd Indian Infantry Brigade, part of the 5th Indian Infantry Division and served with them in the Burma Campaign. In 1944 the battalion was flown to Imphal with the rest of the division, minus the 161st Indian Infantry Brigade which was sent to Kohima, to relieve Imphal. In March they were transported to defend Kohima and returned to Imphal in April. By the end of the war the battalion had lost 78 KIA, 149 WIA, 9 MIA and 1,599 evacuated to hospital from disease.

Territorial Army[edit]

Surrendering troops of the Suffolk Regiment held at gunpoint by Japanese infantry in the battle of Singapore.

The 4th/5th Battalion, Suffolk Regiment was a Territorial Army unit and was split to help re-create the 5th Battalion, which had been disbanded in the 1920s, in 1939 due to the Territorial Army being doubled as another conflict had, by this time, seemed inevitable. Both battalions were assigned to the 54th Infantry Brigade, which included the 4th Royal Norfolk Regiment, assigned to the 18th Infantry Division, a 2nd Line duplicate of the 54th (East Anglian) Infantry Division. Despite being a 2nd Line formation, the 18th Division contained many 1st Line units. The division spent the early years of the war in the defence of England and guarding against a possible German invasion after the bulk of the British Army was evacuated at Dunkirk. In late 1941 the 18th Division, the 4th and 5th Suffolks included, were originally to be sent to Egypt but instead were sent to Singapore to help strengthen the garrison there after Japan entered the war in December 1941. In early 1942, both the 4th and 5th battalions fought briefly in the defence of Singapore against the Japanese, with the 18th Division, before British Commonwealth forces on that island surrendered on 15 February 1942 under the orders of Lieutenant-General Arthur Percival. Men from the two battalions suffered great hardship as POWs and only a few would survive the war.


The 7th Battalion, Suffolk Regiment was a war-formed unit raised in June 1940 and, on 10 October, was assigned to the 210th Independent Infantry Brigade (Home) alongside other hostilities-only battalions. With the brigade, the battalion alternated between home defence duties and training to repel an expected invasion of the United Kingdom. In November 1941, with the threat of invasion reduced due to the oncoming winter, the battalion was converted to a regiment in the Royal Armoured Corps, becoming 142nd Regiment Royal Armoured Corps (142 RAC) and joined 25th Army Tank Brigade, serving alongside the North Irish Horse and 51st (Leeds Rifles) Royal Tank Regiment. They continued to wear their Suffolk Regiment cap badge on the black beret of the Royal Armoured Corps as did all infantry units converted this way.[8] Equipped with Churchill tanks the regiment landed at Algiers in 1943, fighting at the Battle of Medjez-el Bab in the Tunisia Campaign in April 1943. After the end of the fighting in North Africa the regiment remained there until April 1944 when, with the rest of the brigade, it landed at Naples, Italy, destined for service in the Italian campaign, where they fought in Operation Diadem, where the Allies finally broke out of the Gustav Line. 142 RAC was present when the Allies overcame the Hitler Line and the Gothic Line in late 1944. However, due to a shortage of manpower, the regiment was disbanded in January 1945 while in northern Italy.

The 50th (Holding) Battalion was created in late May 1940, around the time of the Dunkirk evacuation, and was originally intended temporarily to 'hold' men who were medically unfit, awaiting orders, or, as this was at the time of Dunkirk, returning from overseas service. However, in October, the battalion was redesignated as the 8th Battalion.

In addition, the 6th, 9th, 30th, 31st and 70th (Young Soldiers) battalions were also formed, although none of these saw service overseas.[9]

Post war[edit]

The regiment was amalgamated with the Royal Norfolk Regiment to form the 1st East Anglian Regiment (Royal Norfolk and Suffolk) in 1959.[10]

Battle honours[edit]

Suffolk Regiment Museum[edit]

The Suffolk Regiment Museum is at The Keep, Gibraltar Barracks, Newmarket Road, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. Exhibits include uniforms, weapons, medals, badges, insignia, photographs, regimental regalia and memorabilia. Admission is free.


  1. ^ The 63rd Regiment of Foot (another regiment recruiting in Suffolk) became the 63rd (West Suffolk) Regiment of Foot, which would later form the 1st Battalion, Manchester Regiment.
  2. ^ Webb 1914 & Bell 2007[page needed]
  3. ^ Webb 1914 in Bell 2007
  4. ^ Bell 2007 & Webb 1914
  5. ^ Murphy 1928 & Bell 2007
  6. ^ "The 3rd Division in 1914-1918". The Long, Long Trail. Retrieved 24 January 2016. 
  7. ^ Delaforce, p. 211.
  8. ^ George Forty (1998), "British Army Handbook 1939–1945", Stoud: Sutton Publishing, pp. 50–1.
  9. ^ The Suffolk Regiment Day by Day
  10. ^ "Birth of a regiment". East Anglian Film Archive. 19 September 1959. Retrieved 24 January 2016. 


  • Mills, T.F. "The Suffolk Regiment". Archived from the original on January 4, 2007. Retrieved February 7, 2007.  Includes chronological index of titles.
  • Webb, Lt. Col. E.A.H. (1914) History of the 12th (The Suffolk) Regiment 1685 to 1913
  • Murphy, Lt. Col.C.C.R. The History of the Suffolk Regiment 1914 to 1927
  • Bell, K.M (2007) A Private from the Suffolk Regiment (an unpublished manuscript) Suffolk Records Office Reference GB554/Y/515
  • Patrick Delaforce, Monty's Iron Sides, Stroud: Alan Sutton, 1995, ISBN 0-7509-0781-9,
  • Scarfe, Norman (2006) [1947]. Assault Division: A History of the 3rd Division from the Invasion of Normandy to the Surrender of Germany. Stroud, Gloucestershire: Spellmount. ISBN 1-86227-338-3.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
12th Regiment of Foot
The Suffolk Regiment
Succeeded by
1st East Anglian Regiment