Service Number: 43982
Date of Birth: 1896
Regiment: 9th Battalion Suffolk Regiment
Date of Death: 9 Oct 1916
Age at death: 21
Cemetery / Memorial: Thiepval Memorial
Grave / Reference: Pier and Face 1C and 2A
Relatives: Son of Edgar Charles and Annie Elizabeth Bloomfield
Address: 58 High Street, Hadleigh
Robert was born in Hadleigh in 1896. The 1911 Census report him living at home with his parents; Charles and Elizabeth and siblings; Stanley Edward and Edith Elizabeth at 12 Benton Street, Hadleigh. At that time he was 15 years old and employed as an apprentice grocer.
In 1912 when Robert was 17 he joined the local territorial battalion, the 5th Battalion the Suffolk Regiment and attended his first annual camp. Annual camps took place in different locations around the county and lasted for two weeks. In 1912 the camp was at Lowestoft. Not long after arriving at camp Robert sent a post card home to his mother. This was probably the first time he had been away from home and no doubt his mother would have been worrying about him. He writes to let her know he is safe and well.
Soldiers enlisted into the territorials initially for 4 years service and so Robert would have been with the battalion when war broke out. The battalion was mobilised on the night of the 4th/5th August 1914. Once mobilised the 5th Suffolks spent a number of months carrying out home service tasks. At that time territorial units were only liable for home service only and were not required to deploy overseas. However, when it became apparent that more troops would be needed for overseas service, the men of the battalion were asked to volunteer. After giving this some serious thought, 72% of the men volunteered and the battalion was redesigned 1st/5th Suffolk Regiment. Those who opted to stay on home service duties only, became the 2nd/5th Suffolks. Robert who was only just 19 opted to stay with the 2nd/5th.
Following the outbreak of hostilities the then Secretary of State for War, Lord Kitchener realised that a new, massive army would be required in order to defeat the central powers in Europe. He set about recruiting 'Kitchener's New Army'. Thousands of recruits were formed into complete New Army battalions under existing British Army Regiments.
The 9th (Service) Battalion were formed at Bury St. Edmunds in September 1914 as part of K3 and came under command of 71st Brigade in 24th Division. They landed at Boulogne on 30 August 1915. They were transferred with their Brigade to the 6th Division on 11 October 1915.
At some point Robert was transferred to the 9th (Service) Battalion. The exact date of the transfer or when he joined the battalion in France is not known, but going by his medal index card it must have been sometime in 1916.
By the summer of 1916 the battalion was engaged in the Battle of the Somme and on 8 October 1916 they moved to a bivouac site in Bernafay Wood. The following day they went into the trenches. The entry in the battalion war diary for 12 October 1916 states:
Trenches 12/10/16 - “Batt in Trenches. Draft of 5 O.R. arrived and taken on strength. Casualties 13 O.R. killed, 34 wounded”.
Robert Elmer was one of those killed. It is not known if his body was recovered and subsequently lost, but he has no known grave and his remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the missing.