Memories of a First World War Suffolk Regiment infantry man
PUBLISHED: 13:32 09 November 2018
ARCHANT EASTERN DAILY PRESS (01603) 772434
Arthur Bantick recalled his memories of serving as an infantryman with the 7th Battalion Suffolk Regiment in World War I, Sabrina Johnson reports
Arthur Bantick, was born in Pakenham in 1894, the seventh son of Harriet and William Bantick, on November 9, 1914 he enlisted with the 7th Battalion Suffolk Regiment. He was passed fit for service on Sunday, November 10 and quickly sent to training camps in Folkestone and Farnborough before being dispatched to Boulogne in France on May 31, 1915. During the war he saw considerable service on the Western Front but in March 1917 was reported missing. It was later discovered that he was among a group of more than 400 prisoners of war captured by the German Army.
Returning to Pakenham after the war, in the 1980s at the request of his daughter L/cpl Bantick compiled his notes and wrote down his memories, which were later transcribed word for word.
In July 1915, after marching for six days with a full pack on cobbled roads under scorching sun Bantick and his regiment arrived in Neippe, where they got their first glimpse of the front: “At this place at night, we could see the firework display at Plougsteert trenches a few kilometres away and occasionally heard the crump of a coal-box. We were all excited as to when we should actually experience trench warfare in reality. On the 7th July, our promise was fulfilled and we were taken into the trenches.”
From then on L/Cpl Bantick and his regiment spent their time rotating between the front and their billets.
On one re-posting to the front he recalled: “That march across the battlefield one will never forget who were there, the scarred bodies of our brave lads, horses blown to pieces, transports scattered everywhere, trenches and a few ruins a mass of crumbling dust, barbed wire entangled in human bodies, and groans of our dying comrades and those of the enemy.”
On October 13, 1915, his brigade was posted to lines at Holenzollern Redoubt: “At noon about 600 of our guns were pouring lead and shell into the enemy lines. One thought is it possible that human beings can live under such bombardment.”
In January 1916, he recorded: “One of greatest difficulties in the trenches is to fight against sleep. One of the best cures is, as soon as one feels sleepy, the only thing is to light a fag,”
L/Cpl Bantick spent his second Christmas of the war, in the village of Ambrines in France: “We had a decent repast at the village school, our menu being maconochies stew, ham and potatoes, plum-duff, beer and cigs.”
But just three months later in March 1917, following a heavy shelling in the trenches at Arras L/Cpl Bantick was injured and taken prisoner: “No one can realise what it means being taken a prisoner, only those who are taken, for immediately you are captured you seem to be severed from the outside world.”
He spent the remainder of the war in German work camps and hospitals, surviving a severe attack of pleurisy and Spanish Flu. On August 31 1918, his was among 400 men to be put on a trains to Switzerland arriving in Berne on September 1 1918. On November 11, 1918 when news the armistice had been signed he remembered: “It was 6pm, Monday when the news came and we all went mad with the thoughts of getting home to Blighty. On November 12 flags decorated our hotels and a thanksgiving service was held in the little church for the success of our arms.”
L/Cpl Bantick began his journey home on December 4, 1918 arriving six days later on December 10, his five brothers and eldest sister who served as a Voluntary Aid Detachment also all returned home from the war alive.