Over a period of nearly twenty years, I was most fortunate to interview over fifty Suffolk Regiment veterans of the North West Europe campaigns and after extensive research, I have collated the accounts of at least another fifty.
It is their words from the interviews that I and others conducted with them, that form the backbone of my book, coupled with numerous first-hand accounts that I have been fortunate to view over the years.
Here you can learn a little more about just a small proportion of those who feature in the book and their service with the Battalion.
“He aint stonkin’ us now, lets get going”
‘Bob’ Blizzard was a member of the Pioneer Platoon along with his close friend Alex Bailey. Amongst their other jobs, they buried most of the Battalion's dead throughout the campaign. Later promoted to Sergeant following the death of Sergeant Croft at Haldern, he went with the Battalion to Palestine and then Greece, before being demobbed in 1948.
“I had a bag of No. 69 phosphorus grenades and was throwing a steady stream of them"
8 Platoon, A Company
'Yorkie' Flockton was wounded by mortar fire as his platoon attacked the Hillman bunker on D-Day. Invalided home, he later served with the Royal Army Pay Corps whilst convalescing. In the late 1980s, he used Ceefax to try and contact his old comrades in the Battalion. Late one night, his message was spotted by an old comrade Joe Fuller, who made contact with him. (Image courtesy of Peter Suffolk)
“I nudged him and said 'come on Cully, lets get going' but he didn't move”
9 Platoon, A Company
'Dedge' Deller joined the Battalion at Sanneville in July 1944 and served all the way through to VE Day. He was Batman to Lieutenant Brooks over the winter of 1944-45 and later served in Palestine. His best mate Doug Cullingham was killed by shrapnel in the foxhole they shared at Venray. Virtually every year since he retired, Cecil has returned to his grave in Holland to honour his chum.
“I felt like I'd done something good”
George Rayson landed on D-Day with the Battalion and sustained a broken nose due to slipping off the ramp of his landing craft. He later commanded 9 Platoon after the battle of Overloon when all his officers and senior NCOs had been either killed or wounded. He was later promoted sergeant and received the Divisional Commander's certificate for distinguished service.
“No-one told us that it was going to be so well defended”
12 Platoon, B Company
Stan 'Catch' Catchpole was a pre-war Militiaman who had served with the Battalion in France in 1940 and had managed to escape via Dunkirk. A keen footballer, he played for the Battalion and even a special match for Ipswich Town. He was taken prisoner at the Chateau de la Londe and spent the remainder of the war working in Germany. He attended several pilgrimages to Normandy.
“There were other battles going on which attracted more attention"
Commissioned into the Suffolk Regiment in 1939 from RMA Sandhurst, Lieut.-Col. Eric Lummis wrote the two seminal pamphlets on the Battalion’s part in the Normandy campaign. He was wounded by shrapnel in Le Mesnil wood on D+6 whilst commanding A Company. He was later instrumental in forging the links with 'Les Amis du Suffolk Regiment' who look after the Hillman bunker.
“I wasn't frightened, just shaken"
9 Platoon, A Company
‘Joe’ Fuller joined the Battalion in 1942. He served throughout the campaign without being wounded, but suffered battle fatigue after fighting at Overloon and was sent on a course to recuperate. He later worked all his life as a storeman for Woolworths in Ipswich, before moving into the Regimental Memorial Homes. Into his eighty's, he still drove a moped to Felixstowe to visit his old chum, Tom Nicols.
“Thank goodness I didn't go in head first!”
Anti-Tank Platoon Commander
John Perrett joined the Battalion on the night after the battle at the Chateau de la Londe. He was wounded at Goch in February 1945 and later suffered with blood poisoning due to shards of shrapnel still lodged in his back. He was instrumental in setting up the 'Long Shop' museum at Leiston in the 1970s. He later served in Palestine and was confirmed in Jerusalem Cathedral.
“We were never happy there, out of reach of a slit trench”
George Fouracres joined the Battalion when it was dug-in around the Chateau de la Londe in late June 1944. He was a reinforcement from the Dorsetshire Regiment. He went back on several Regimental trips in the 1990s to Normandy and also to Holland with his family and afterwards wrote up his detailed experiences of his wartime service. (Image courtesy of Jennie Carter)
“It was them or me”
11 Platoon B Company
Bob Garner was a reinforcement from the 8th Battalion who joined the Battalion at the Chateau de La londe. Posted to B Company at Sannerville, he was badly wounded through the throat at Tinchebray and immediately invalided home. He was chosen to represent the Suffolk Regiment at the VE Day celebrations in London in 1945 and later worked in later life for Pye Electronics in Cambridge.
“His face wearing that greyish pallor of death"
12 Platoon, B Company
Richard Harris was transferred to the Battalion from the Lincolnshire Regiment in 1942. He wrote arguably the finest three personal accounts of fighting in Normandy from the viewpoint of a private soldier. Badly wounded at Tinchebray, he returned to the Chateau de la Londe in 1949 on holiday which inspired him to write up his accounts of the campaign. He later became a school teacher in Essex.
“What’s it like mate? ‘Duff up’ he replied”
14 Platoon, C Company
Frank Chivers served with C Company until he was wounded at the Chateau de la Londe. His foot later had to be amputated and he received an an artificial leg. In retirement he became a film extra and was regularly seen on television. He was a regular attendee on Regimental Pilgrimages to Normandy. His party-piece was a very good rendition of Al Jolson! (Image courtesy of Les Amis du Suffolk Regiment)
“He was lying on his back screaming blue murder!”
D Company Commander
Ken Mayhew commanded the Carrier Platoon on D-Day and later commanded D Company in Holland and Germany. Wounded first at Venray, he discharged himself from hospital and returned to the Battalion. Wounded again at Goch, he did not return to the Battalion. In recognition of his gallant services in Holland he was awarded the Militaire Willems-Orde in 1947. (Image via Kelvin Dakin)
“We had quite a job to keep them quiet, but they fought well!”
Ron Rogers was Second-in-Command of A Company until he was wounded at Tinchebray in August 1944 when he was hit by shrapnel. He recovered and returned to the Battalion in 1945. He was a first-class athlete and was part of the Battalion's Cross-Country and Athletic teams. He had a varied post-war career including being a market gardener.
“Delighted to have you with us again”
D Company Commander
W.S. 'Bertie; Bevan was commissioned into the Regiment in 1938. He served with the 2nd Battalion at Razmak, before he joined the 44th (Indian) Airborne Division. Arriving home in 1944, he joined the Battalion at Bremen just days before the war ended. He commanded 'D' Company, and then assumed command of the Battalion on VE Day. He later commanded the Battalion again in Cyprus in 1956.