The museum houses the collection of the Suffolk Regiment which includes a wealth of personal items and information on individuals who served in the Regiment. The story of the Regiment across the nearly 300 years in peace and war is told through a treasure trove of regimental artefacts and personal belongings.
The Roubaix Drum
During the Allied retreat to Dunkirk the British Expeditionary Force was ordered to destroy all non-essential equipment, which included the instruments of the Band and the Drums.
Rather than destroy their Drums, the 1st Battalion the Suffolk Regiment handed them to the people of Roubaix for safe keeping. The French later moved them to a safe place in a hat factory, where they were hidden in hatboxes.
In 1944 the Battalion returned to the area after D-Day and the Commanding Officer sent a party to Roubaix to enquire after the Drums. Of the original eight Drums, three had survived the war and were retrieved although unfortunately one of them was later destroyed by enemy action. The surviving Drums were played on the Battalion’s first ceremonial parade after D Day.
After the war the Drums were again used by the Corps of Drums and were eventually replaced and disappeared from view.
In the early years of the 21st century a Suffolk Regiment Drum appeared for sale on eBay, which was identified as one of the pre-war set. It was purchased and is now one of the Suffolk Regiment Museum’s cherished artefacts.
The Regiment was awarded two Victoria Crosses in the First World War. Sgt Arthur Saunders won his for acts of gallantry at the Battle of Loos on 26 September 1915. 9th Suffolk were in support of an advance of the Cameron Highlanders. As the situation deteriorated, Saunders quickly took over command of the Platoon:
‘For most conspicuous bravery. When his officer had been wounded in the attack he took charge of two machine-guns and a few men, and, although severely wounded in the thigh, closely followed the last four charges of another battalion, and rendered every possible support. Later, when the remains of the battalion which he had been supporting had been forced to retire, he stuck to one of his guns, continued to give clear orders, and by continuous firing did his best to cover the retirement.’
The other VC was awarded to Corporal Sidney Day and is part of the Lord Ashcroft collection of Victoria Crosses, displayed at the Imperial War Museum, London.
WW2 Fan inscribed by C/Sgt Arthur Challess
A fan kept by C/Sgt Arthur Challess of the 4th Battalion while a Far East Prisoner of War between 1942 and 1945. The fan was inscribed with a record of his movements, with comments, on the leaves of a fan.
The fan was professionally restored in November 2021 and is on display in the museum.
The Farmer Brooch
The brooch was given by Mr A V Farmer, a former Great War Suffolk Regiment Officer, to his wife as a reward for her courage during their internment in China from 1949 to 1952. It is modelled on the regimental cap badge.