The Suffolk Regiment Living History Society was formed in 2009 by a number of like-minded individuals with an interest in the Second World War, particularly the experiences of the British Infantryman. The Society was formed to help commemorate the role that the average British Soldier played in the 1939-45 conflict by displaying the uniforms, equipment and way of life of the individuals who fought in this conflict. This is achieved via 'Living History' using drill and field demonstrations; static displays involving encampments or dug in positions; period vehicle displays and also via 'battle' re-enactments performed on our own or with our colleagues in other Societies. The aim is not to glorify war but to remember the fallen and honour their memory by educating the public and providing something tangible that they can see and interact with.
In 1939, the First Battalion, The Suffolk Regiment was station in the United Kingdom as part of the 3rd Division, under the Command of Gen. Montgomery. They were mobilised and sent to France as part of the British Expeditionary Force, fighting through Belgium and France during 1939 and 1940, before joining in the general retreat to Dunkirk and the UK.
Following the British retreat from NW Europe, the First Battalion did not see overseas service again until 1944, although many other Battalions of The Suffolk Regiment were heavily involved in other Theatres.
For the Operation Overlord invasion plans, it was decided that the 3rd Division, of which 1/SUFFOLK remained a part, would be one of the Assault Divisions for the invasion and would assault what would become known as 'Sword Beach'. To this end, extensive training began for the Division which saw them shipped all over the UK practising beach landings, including locations as geographically diverse as the north of Scotland and south of England.
In June 1944, they joined the rest of the British and Allied Expeditionary Forces in the South of England, waiting for the invasion to commence. The morning of the 6th June saw the 8th Brigade (part of 3rd British Infantry Division) consisting of 1/SUFFOLK, 2/E YORKS and 1/S LANCS landing on Sword Beach in Queen Red and Queen White sectors. 1/SUFFOLK was the last Battalion of the Brigade to land, acting as a reserve and with further instructions beyond the taking of the beach itself. Inland from the beaches were two known gun emplacements, codenamed Morris and Hillman. 1/SUFFOLK was responsible for taking these objectives which it did, though not without severe fighting, particularly over the well-fortified Hillman emplacement.
From here, 1/Suffolk was involved in the advance on Caen, a British objective on D Day that was not taken until July. They fought throughout France, Belgium and the Low Countries, notably liberating the Belgian town of Hamont and Dutch town of Weert during their progress.
At the War's end, the Suffolk Regiment was near Bremen, Germany.
This Society seeks to honour the memories of those men who served in the Suffolk Regiment and, indeed, the wider British Army. If you would like more information on the history of the Suffolks, we recommend the following websites and books.
E. Lummis, 1st Suffolks on D Day, (Available from the Regimental Museum)
E. Lummis, 1st Suffolks in Normandy, (Available from the Regimental Museum)
P. Delaforce, Monty's Ironsides: From the Normandy Beaches to Bremen with the 3rd Division, (Amberley Pub., Aug 2010)
N. Scarfe, Assault Division: A History of the 3rd Division from the Invasion of Normandy to the Surrender of Germany, (Spellmount Classics, 2006)