Visit to Suffolk Regiment Museum Bury St Edmunds 29 August

Reporter: Anne Grimshaw

Silver box and chain JJ French Sudbury-1
The Suffolk Regiment Museum at Bury was new territory for most of the Sudbury Society visitors. We were a given a potted history of the regiment by curator Gwyn Thomas then taken to the gallery and left to browse through medals, uniforms, photographs, weapons, equipment and personal memorabilia. The regiment was formed in 1685 to counter the threatened Monmouth Rebellion. Ninety years later the regiment was in Gibraltar from which it takes its cap badge of a castle and key. It spent many years in India, Australia, New Zealand, Afghanistan and South Africa. If you haven’t seen the fine Boer War monument in the Buttermarket in Bury, do have a close look next time you are there. Not surprisingly in this year of the 100th anniversary of the start of WWI, there has been much interest in tracing Suffolk Regiment soldiers for family history. However, the regiment’s documents are housed in the Suffolk Record Office in Bury. Amongst the artefacts of particular interest was a small silver box presented to Sudbury man Colour Sergeant J.J. French of the 5th Suffolk Regiment by the Territorial Shooting Committee in 1910 and carried by him throughout the war (see photo).

The Suffolk were in action in WWI, a mere 20 days after war had been declared they were in action at Le Cateau and in just about every major engagement for the next four years. WWII saw them at Dunkirk, Normandy, Burma, Singapore, India, North Africa and Italy. Post-war service was in Malaya, Palestine and Cyprus on peacekeeping duties – the period of National Service that maybe familiar to some readers! A little nearer home, did you know that Minden Road in Sudbury takes its name from the battle of Minden on 1 August 1759 (Seven Years’ War) in which the Suffolk Regiment (then the 12 Regiment of Foot) earned its battle honour and from then on its soldiers wore yellow and red roses every Minden Day. Did you know that the phrase “Women and children first” comes from the tragic sinking in 1852 of the Birkenhead, a troopship carrying soldiers and their families to South Africa (Kaffir Wars)? It was wrecked on rocks near the Cape of Good Hope and 55 Suffolk Regiment soldiers died standing to attention on deck while their families took refuge in (too few) lifeboats. The Suffolk regiment is now part of the Royal Anglian regiment.