Monday, 7 May 2018

Rumours of a move…

The War Diary for 15th (Suffolk Yeomanry) Bn. Suffolk Regiment on 3 April 1918 simply notes, “A quiet day. Rumours of a move.” At the time they were based in Palestine, at Sinjil, approximately 20 miles north of Jerusalem. The day before they had been ‘treated’ to a heavy bombardment by the Turks.

The 74th Division was to embark for France. The 230th Infantry Brigade (74th Division) were relieved by the 158th Brigade of the 53rd Division, the 5th Bn. Royal Welsh Fusiliers relieving the 15th Bn. Suffolk Regiment.

After relief was completed, at 0930 on 7 April the 15th Bn. Suffolk Regiment commenced its long march to Ludd which was reached on 11 April following several bivouacs. Here, on the night of 13/14 April they entrained for Kantara, where they remained until 29 April. Their time at Kantara was spent in training, particularly gas training, and re-equipping - handing in stores and equipment only needed in Palestine.

On the 29th the Battalion entrained for Alexandria and on the morning of 30 April they embarked on HMT Leasowe Castle, bound for Marseilles, France. Other troop ships in the convoy were S.S. Camberra, Caledonia, Malwa, Kaiser-i-Hand and Omra, plus escort. The Divisional War Diary notes that the men were fairly comfortable but crowded and that the food for all ranks was good. The Battalion War Diary covering this time states: “The voyage was uneventful for first four days. On the morning of the 5th however a submarine was sighted and fired on with depth charges and guns and believed to have been sunk.”

This appears likely to have been German U-boat U32 which is reported to have been shelled then depth charged by HMS Wallflower on 8 May 1918. It sank north west of Malta with the loss of all hands (41), including its Captain, Kurt Albrecht.

HMT Leasowe Castle

The Leasowe Castle arrived safely with 15th Bn. Suffolk Regiment at Marseilles on 7 May. From the port the men proceeded to No. 10 Rest Camp where they remained for two days. On the morning of the 9th the Battalion entrained at Marseilles for Noyelles-Sur-Mer, some 500 miles to the north. Noyelles was reached about 1:30am on 12 May and the men went to a staging camp for the rest of the night. About 9am they proceeded by march route to Lamotte-Buleux.

HMT Leasowe Castle, meanwhile, returned to Alexandria and on 26 May 1918 sailed again in convoy for Marseilles. On board were 2900 troops plus crew. At 12:25am on 27 May, and about 100 miles from Alexandria, the Leasowe Castle was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine UB51. Ost of the men on board were saved, but about 100 lost their lives. (Further information can be found at

"Somewhere in France, May 1918"

Pictured is (left) 2nd Lieutenant T.B. Minshall 15th Bn. Suffolk Regiment, with a fellow officer.

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