This post was written and researched by Nicola Hems, Curator at The Museum of the Broads in Stalham.
10th Battalion, Royal Norfolk Regiment, Attached to the Loyal North 6th Battalion, Royal Lancashire Regiment.
Percy left Felixstowe for Mesopotamia in November 1915. He joined the 6th Loyal North Lancashire Regiment and travelled via Malta to Alexandria in Egypt and then through India to Mesopotamia (modern Iraq).
Percy wrote detailed letters home to his parents, the Rev and Mrs MCH Bird of Brunstead. His letters tell of his life in the army, the people he met, their customs, and the local wildlife, particularly birds.
25 Nov 1915 in Felixstowe
‘I shall always be thankful of you all and do my duty as well as I can.’
03 Dec 1915 on board ship to Malta
‘The news does not seem to get much better but trust that it may do.’
01 Feb 1916 in Alexandria
‘You should see some of the places and the women some men will go with. It’s absolutely damnable to think that such things are allowed to go on. Of course they get a lot of disease and you can’t keep them all away however you guard them.’
‘They are cruel to their animals, these natives. When I see one beating or cruel to his animal, I beat him with a good stick as do most of the others here.’
Undated, and unaddressed, probably in Calcutta
‘Please don’t worry about me, but be glad that your son is at last going to do his part in the great drama of life and war.’
26 March 1916 near to Basra
‘I am very fit so don’t you worry over me.’
31 March 1916 Percy’s last letter from the front line
‘I only hope we are successful and win through and retake Kut…’
Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq) was under the control of the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire. However, it was important to Britain because of its oil, and Indian troops were sent to the area to protect British interests. Britain and France declared war on the Ottoman Empire, Germany’s ally, on 5 Nov 1914 and the two sides fought until 1918.
The First Battle of Kut began on 5 April 1916. It was the final British attempt to relieve 10,000 troops garrisoned at Kut and under siege by the Turks. 30,000 British and Indian troops engaged the Turks at Falahiyeh. It was eventually taken after prolonged fighting across muddy terrain. However, casualties were heavy, and Second Lieutenant Percy Bird was killed in action.
The campaign itself failed and sealed the fate of the besieged troops. They surrendered unconditionally on 29 April 1916.
Information reproduced by the kind permission of the family of Rev MCH Bird.
Written by Nicola Hems, The Museum of the Broads, Stalham
The Museum is currently hosting a fabulous Broadland During the First World War exhibition and we highly recommend a visit!