Will Sutton in 1914 - The Tubbs - online
The Tubbs 2016


Two members of the family served in the Somerset Light Infantry during the Great War. These were William Sutton whose sister Irene married Cecil B Tubbs, who also served in the Somersets. The Regiment's nickname was The Light Bobs.

Will was a regular soldier, in 1st Battalion. Prior to the war the two regular battalions served overseas in turn, so Will spent many years with the Somersets in India.

They were back in the UK at the outbreak of war in August 1914 and were overseas almost immediately. By this time Will was a Lieutenant.

The information readily available to me prior to this year was mostly from the history of the regiment in the war by Everard Wyrall. I have Cecil’s copy and it has been reprinted but inevitably it is not exhaustive in its information, and one omission in particular was very obvious.

A second source, now missing, was an account made by Will of the Christmas Truce of 1914 which Wyrall passes over without mention. Wyrall was also a class=GramE>soldier and his account of the war is always more impassive than the agony should have brought out, and rarely if ever critical of the conduct of the war.

The third source was Cecil’s two sets of audio memoirs, the first made for the Imperial War Museum which is online at IWM.

and the second was a personal account recorded by Elise Tubbs, his second wife. Both recordings were made in the 1970s at a time when the survivors were rapidly diminishing in number, memories were fading and the reluctance of many survivors to talk of their service experience had not been overcome, so we are exceptionally fortunate to know as much as we do about Cecil’s war.

The truce became infamous, and was rapidly condemned by the high command, not to be repeated and not to be publicised. Fraternisation across no-man’s land was regarded as likely to have unfortunate consequences. Will’s original account in manuscript was found by Martin Tubbs (my father) when he was sorting the affairs of the last survivor of the Sutton siblings, Dorothy, who died in 1973. MCT was her executor and I assisted in the task of clearing the house of of piles of newspaper some of which had been used as cat litter. MCT sold Aunt Dot’s moped for £10, transferred a large number of the Reverend Sutton’s books to an ecclesiastical library in York, and eventually handed the correspondence of Geoffrey Sutton to me. Geoffrey was in The Artist’s Rifles, a territorial battalion which he had had joined (part-time) before the war. I have written extensively about these, which can be browsed at tubbspubs.org.uk. Dot generously left me £25 which I mis-spent, no doubt.

Finally lang=EN-US> I also had a copy of Will’s obituary in The Light Bob, the journal of the regiment.

My sister Carolyn remembers typing the account up for Dad, but no copies seem to have survived. I was therefore very pleased to see that a very full account of the Somersets in the war has been published as Chronicle of the Somerset Light Infantry in the Great War by Nick Kellett, whose detailed interest in the regiment began as he toured the battlefields in the 1990s.

I am pleased to say this massive volume does included the official war diary entries for the Christmas and New Year period, and reprints a personal account from another member of the regiment.

Kellett reprints a summary of Will’s very distinguished Great War career.

21st August 1914 – Embarked for France as the Battalion Adjutant

24th February 1915 – Promoted to Captain

18th June 1915 – Article in the London Gazette referring to his mention in despatches.

22nd June 1915 – Mentioned in London Gazette for award of Military Cross

11th October 1915 – Appointed as Brigade Major to the 143rd Brigade

31st December 1915 – Another reference in London Gazette to being mentioned in despatches

5th February 1916 – Posted to 56th Division as D.A.A (Deputy Assistant Adjutant) and QMG (Quarter Master General)

1st January 1917 – Mentioned in London Gazette on promotion to Brevet Major.

4th January 1917 – Report of 3rd Mention in Despatches.

11th December 1917 - 4th Mention in Despatches

29th December 1917 – Promoted to Temporary Lieutenant Colonel

1st January 1919 – Award of Distinguished Service Order mentioned in London Gazette.

His obituary noted that he served with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in the early post-war years.

Mention in Despatches is the first level of recognition for gallantry or distinguished service. It is recognised by Oak Leaves on the ribbon of a service medal. The Military Cross was at that time awarded only to officers, the Military Medal to other ranks. The DSO is recognition of conduct of an exceptionally high order, and is ranked between the MC and the Victoria Cross.

In early August 1914 the Battalion was based at the garrison town of Colchester.

On 8th August mobilisation was completed. On 17th August they moved by train to Harrow and were encamped on the School playing fields in the 4th Division.

On 21st they travelled by train to Southampton. At 8.30 a.m on 22nd they sailed on SS Braemar Castle and landed at Le Havre. By the end of 1914 just 4 officers and 266 of those men were still alive.


The story of the retreat from Mons, the Battles of Le Cateau and the Marne and the onset of trench war are widely reported elsewhere, and I will concentrate on the events at the end of 1914.

By that time the 1st Battalion was in the line at the infamous killing ground of Plugstreet Wood as it was known to the men, properly Ploegsteert Wood.

Silent Night

25th December 1914 – from the Battalion diary.

There was much singing in the trenches last night by both sides. Germans opposite us brought up their regimental bands and played theirs and our National Anthems followed by Home Sweet Home. A truce was mutually agreed by the men in the trenches. During the morning officers met the German officers half way between the trenches and it was arranged that we should bring in our dead who were lying between the trenches. The bodies of Captain Maud, Captain Orr and 2/Lt Henson were brought in and those of 18 NCO’s & men. They were buried the same day

The Germans informed us that they had a captured wounded officer and this was thought to be 2/Lt KGG Dennys who commanded one of the attacking platoons of B Coy on the 19th

There was a sharp frost last night which continued during the day and the weather was very seasonable. Not a shot or shell was fired by either side in our neighbourhood; and both sides walked about outside their trenches quite unconcernedly. It afforded a good opportunity of inspecting our trenches by daylight. The enemy’s works were noticed to be very strong. A very peaceful Day.


The truce continued on the 26th and 27th and there does not seem to have been much activity before the New Year though work on the trenches was carried out and replacement officers were brought in from the London Rifle Brigade.

On New Years Eve a message was received from the Germans

Dear Comrades I beg to inform you that it is forbidden us to go over to you but we will remain good comrades. If we shall be forced to fire we shall fire to (sic) high. Please tell me if you are English or Irishmen. Offering you some cigars. I remain yours truly camerade (X.Y).


None of this was recorded in the regimental history, probably because the official line was to ignore it and pretend it did not happen.


On 31st December they also had an visit after dark by General Officer Commanding 11th Brigade.