The Norfolk Regiment in August 1915: The Territorials in Gallipoli

Each month staff at the Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum look back to what the Norfolk Regiment was doing 100 years ago, and tells their story through objects from the museum’s collection. See previous blog posts here.

The First Fourth and First Fifth Norfolk Battalions, known as the Territorial battalions, fought in the disastrous Campaign in Gallipoli in 1915. The 1/5th Battalion was recruited in north Norfolk, and included one company from the Royal Estate at Sandringham.

Sandringham Company in tropical uniform, 1915

Sandringham Company in tropical uniform, 1915

Almost a hundred years ago, on the 12th August 1915, this Battalion was part of an attack on Turkish positions inland from Suvla Bay. They received conflicting orders and advanced beyond the point where they could be supported by other troops. It was a calamity for British high command. The 1/5th were surrounded and suffered heavy losses. Their unmarked graves were found in 1919.

Shortly after the action, the King expressed a plea for information on the Norfolk Battalion in a letter to Sir Ian Hamilton (commanding the expeditionary force at Gallipoli). The King was anxious for news of the Sandringham company and their Captain in particular.

Letter from King George

Letter from King George

If it were not for the King’s interest, the 5th Norfolks (particularly the Sandringham Company) would never have received mass publicity.  Despite the facts being published immediately after the war, the fate of the 1/5th Battalion has given rise to all kinds of wild speculation and myths. They are still known by many as the “Vanished Battalion”.

The remaining soldiers from these battalions were brought up to strength by reinforcements, and went on to fight in Egypt and Gaza, advancing north towards Jerusalem where they remained until the end of the War. The 1/5th Battalion, including many Sandringham men, suffered more slaughter along the way but received nothing like the amount of attention as at Gallipoli; The disastrous action in August of 1915.

Companies of the 1/5th marching into Cairo, 1918

Companies of the 1/5th marching into Cairo, 1918. Some of these men had fought at Gallipoli three years earlier.

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