In the opening months of the First World War, 1,500 men from Cambridgeshire came forward to serve their country as a battalion in Kitchener’s New Army. They came from the city and they came from the fields. Many had never left the county before, let alone their country, and all too many would never return. Whether farm labourers, shop assistants, bricklayers, chauffeurs, university scholars or college porters, men from all walks of life united and became the Cambridgeshire Kitcheners. Sent to the Western Front in January 1916, they took part in some of the bloodiest battles of the war, including the Battle of the Somme. One hundred and eighty-seven men lost their lives on 1 July 1916, most within a few minutes of each other, as they marched over the top into no man’s land and shell and machine-gun fire. This was not the end of their story. In early April, the battalion saw fierce fighting during the Battle of Arras and in a doomed assault on a heavily fortified position near Roux at the end of the month. In 1918 they resisted the German Spring Offensive, never falling back without orders, despite parts of the battalion becoming cut off and nearly surrounded during the fighting.Mixing personal accounts with official documents, this is the story of the Cambridgeshire Kitchener’s war. Their momentous efforts are explained throughout this book, which is a timely reminder of this heroic battalion’s dedication, skill and bravery.
CAMBRIDGESHIRE KITCHENERS A History of 11th (Service) Battalion (Cambs) Suffolk Regiment
Following the outbreak of war in the summer of 1914 and the subsequent call for volunteers, the men of Cambridgeshire were not slow in stepping forward in the service of their country. However, in a departure from standard practice, these enthusiastic new volunteers did not join their county regiment. For organisational reasons they were enlisted into a separately designated Cambridgeshire battalion of the Suffolk Regiment – the 11th (Service) Battalion. The book takes the form of a chronological narrative over seventeen chapters starting from the early days in Cambridge through to the closing stages of the war. In particular, the reader learns about the battalion’s heroic involvement on the first day of the Battle of the Somme in 1916, the difficult assaults undertaken during the Battle of Arras in 1917 and the critical defensive actions on the River Lys in the spring of 1918.