George Hugh, and Matthew Clark of Gorefield
George Hugh and Matthew Clark Sons of Thomas Edward, and Susannah Clark of Harold Bridge Gorefield
George and Matthew both enlisted in the Suffolk Regiment at Wisbech in February 1915. George was given the number 18576 and Matthew 18577 (the consecutive numbers show that they were next to each other in the queue). They initially would have joined the 3rd Battalion of the Suffolk Regiment which was the Reserve Battalion and undergone a period of training.
Drafts of men were being sent out to France from the 3rd Battalion constantly to reinforce and replace the continuous losses. George left for France on the 17th August 1915 and was posted to the 2nd Battalion. A week later on the 24th August Matthew joined him in France and was once again sent to the 2nd Battalion.
The 2nd Battalion was part of the 76th Brigade of the 3rd Division and had been in France since the very early days of the war. It had taken part in very heavy fighting and had been nearly completely wiped out on the 26th August 1914 at Le Cateau. Since then it had been rebuilt and was serving as a Pioneer Battalion.
Shortly after George and Matthew reached the battalion it was back in the front line around St Eloi in the Ypres Salient. They remained around that area taking part in several attacks over the winter. On the night of 21-22nd January 1916 the 2nd Suffolks were in the trenches near to a mound known as the Bluff when a German mine that had been dug under the British trenches exploded. The damage was extensive and numerous trenches collapsed or were buried. The trenches above the mine and the whole southeast face of the Bluff disappeared. On that day the 2nd Suffolks unfortunately had 45 men killed including Matthew Clark. He was buried near by at Spoilbank cemetery with numerous others killed on that day.
At this point it is impossible to say exactly what happened to George. What we do know is that he left the 2nd Battalion, probably after being wounded. He subsequently was posted to the 9th Battalion, Suffolk Regiment, which was part of the 71st Brigade of the 6th Division. They had been in France since the summer of 1915. They took part in fighting Ypres, Flers, Morval, Loos, and Cambrai
The 9th Battalion was disbanded due to losses and a shortage of replacements in early February 1918, the men were drafted into other Battalions of the Suffolk Regiment. It was probably at this stage that George was posted to the 11th Battalion of the Suffolk Regiment. The 11th Battalion was made up mainly of men recruited from Cambridgeshire and had arrived in France early in 1916, they had suffered heavy losses on the first day on the Somme that summer. Around the time that George probably joined the 11th they were in the area Mercatel.
The 11th Battalion was in the front line on the 21st March 1918 when the Germans launched their Spring Offensive; a huge artillery bombardments and mass gas attacks were quickly followed by well German equipped shock troops. The 11th were in the trenches on Henin Hill. They stood their ground through intense shelling and attacks throughout the day, finally withdrawing at 8.30 that night. Heavy fighting took place for days in a desperate attempt to stem the German advance. The 11th Battalion more than playing its part and by the time the advance was finally stopped they had taken very heavy casualties.
After a period or rest and reinforcement and in the months that led up to the Armistice the 11th were involved in the Allied attacks and advance in Picardy as well as fighting at Selle and Valenciennes. We can’t say for sure if George was still in France by this stage or if he had been wounded in the earlier fighting. He was finally discharged from the army on the 18th February 1919. By this time he was a Lance Corporal, had been wounded at least twice and had earned a good conduct stripe.
Both George and Matthew were awarded three medals for their service in the war; The 1914-15 Star, The Allied Victory Medal and The British War Medal. Matthew’s parents were also sent a Memorial Plaque and a Scroll to commemorate his sacrifice. Matthew is commemorated on the Gorefield War memorial.
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