- Mark Forsdike
2nd Suffolk’s Jungle War
The passing of His Royal Highness, the Duke of Edinburgh has highlighted to me just how few veterans we now have remaining of the Second World War.
Whilst an elite few crop up everywhere and tell the same tales, there are many thousands that have passed through history without ever telling their stories. Like the veterans of the Great War in their final years, our now few remaining veterans have become something of a point of hero worship for those who have never known that generation. Looking back, I feel proud and honoured to know so many veterans of both the World Wars, but none ever courted fame such as is seen today in the press and on social media. All those I knew very quiet and self effacing. The media never seemed to pay them too much attention and they were happy to tell their story to someone who was happy to listen. Now, the merest mention of ‘WW2 Veteran’ and its all ‘hero’ and ‘respect, sir’ - many of those I knew, would have been horrified at such attention.
When choosing a suitable picture to place on the ‘Friends of The Suffolk Regiment’ website to pay tribute to the late Prince Philip, the only one I could find of the Duke with a visible link to the Suffolk Regiment, was that below, of him inspecting men of the 4th Battalion (Territorial Army) when he visited Ipswich on 1st May 1956. The Duke inspected a line-up of old stalwarts of the T.A. paraded in Christchurch Park, which included men who had served previously with both the 1st and 2nd Battalion’s.
Here, he is talking to Sergeant S. Stimpson who had served with the 2nd Battalion since the early 1930s. Stimpson wears the India General Service Medal with clasp for ‘Northwest Frontier 1937-39’ and the Burma Star; a medal that His Royal highness also possessed for service in the Royal Navy in that theatre of operations during the war. These two men therefore had a bond of having served in the same campaign, and this got me thinking, should I start to try and record the story of 2nd Suffolk and their jungle wars? With known living Suffolk Regiment veterans of the Second World War now down into single figures, it might now be the time to try and record their story?
It would be a big job, as there is very little primary evidence of their campaigns in Burma in 1943-44, and there are no audio recordings of these men. Seldom did they attend Regimental Reunions. The old 2nd Battalion, pre-war soldiers did, but the young conscripts who joined 2nd Suffolk from other units, rarely attended these events. I was fortunate enough to speak with 2nd Suffolk veterans Jesse Matthews and Charles Parr one Minden Day, and maybe with a trip to the archives, it might just be possible for as the old adage goes, “If you do not, then someone else will!”
Maybe this is worthy of some more thought. A companion volume to ‘Fighting through’ perhaps?.....