Image from 1917 Suffolk Chronicle and Mercury newspaper.
Born: 1885, Ipswich.
Died: 22nd January 1916; age 31; KiA – mine explosion. Served 14 years.
Residence: 76, Richmond Road, Ipswich.
Enlistment Location: Ipswich; age: 21 years.
Storekeeper to the 2nd Battalion in times of peace.
Rank: Private/Signaler; Service Number: 5977
Regiment: Suffolk Regiment, 2nd Battalion.
Medals Awarded: Victory, British War & 1914 Star.
1891 195, Bramford Lane, Ipswich.
George was 5 years old and living with his parents & brothers.
Henry Abbott, 34, a General Labourer, born Whitton, Suffolk.
Ellen Abbott (nee Copping), 33, born Ipswich.
Charles James Abbott, 3, born Ipswich.
Clifford Walter Abbott, 1, born Ipswich.
1901 76, Richmond Road, Ipswich.
George was 15 years old, a Stay Steel Cutter. He was living with his parents & siblings.
Henry, 45, a Gardener – Domestic.
William Abbott, 8, born Ipswich.
Ellen Eliza Abbott, 3, born Ipswich.
Frederick Walter Abbott, 1, born Ipswich.
1911 Barrosa Barracks, Stanhope Lines, Aldershot, Surrey.
George was 25 years old, a Soldier, ranked Private in the 2nd Battalion, Suffolk Regiment.
Soldiers’ Effects to Henry Abbott & Ellen Abbott – parents.
The Suffolk Regiment diary noted:
“A terrific explosion occurred. The ground shook violently and an immense column of earth shot up in front of the Bluff carrying away the south-eastern face of it. The explosion was not followed by any bombardment or attack and for the moment no one realised what happened. Men in the trenches next to the canal were buried several feet deep; ammunition boxes were hurled hundreds of yards; and all the surrounding trenches upon which the Battalion had spent so much labour, as well as the systems of tunnels within the Bluff, collapsed completely.”
Dazed and confused, command was quickly regained. The War Diary noted that “the garrison of trench 28 immediately opened rapid fire” as the men awaited the counter attack they felt sure would come. Lieutenant Dix, finding none of his men had survived the explosion, took what men he could find and immediately manned the right hand lip of the crater against attack. They waited for the enemy, but thankfully, they nor their artillery came.
The official figures for killed wounded or missing that day will probably never be known. The official figure now, is 45 Suffolk men killed that day; all of whom were privates and NCOs. No officers of the Battalion are recorded as being killed that day.
The Battalion received a special commendation for their actions that night by the commander of 3rd Division; Major-General R. Haldane, who described their actions in a Divisional Memo which was typed out and pasted into the War Diary by the then Adjutant; Captain H.C.N. Trollope. It concluded: “The conduct of the Battalion under these trying circumstances , was excellent, all ranks behaving in a soldier-like manner, so that their position, which might easily have become serious, was never in danger.”
Of all the amazing incidents that occurred that night, perhaps the tale of No. 4142 Sgt Harry Bragg was probably the most courageous. The Regimental History modestly recorded his award of the DCM as being “for conspicuous gallantry” but the truth was far more amazing. Bragg and his men were manning the front line just yards from where the mine was detonated. Initially blown upwards, they were subsequently buried under almost four feet of earth. Bragg succeeded in digging his way out, then single handedly dug out four of his comrades; one of whom was wounded. They then manned the crater for the remainder of the day and what was describes as “hot fire.”