The Norfolk Regiment in February: In the shadow of the Pyramids

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.

For the 1/4th and 1/5th battalions of the Norfolk Regiment, February 1916 was spent at the famous Mena Camp, under the gaze of the Great Pyramids. It is a view that has been well documented, and a number of rare photographs still exist in the museum collection.

Mena Camp, in front of the Pyramids. The 1/4th and 1/5th spent time here during February 1916

Mena Camp, just outside Cairo, in front of the Pyramids. The 1/4th and 1/5th spent February 1916 here.

Both battalions, ragged and worn out following their Gallipoli campaign, had arrived in Egypt in early 1916. After spending January at Alexandria, they were sent on to Mena to reorganise.

Mena, and others like it, were used as a springboard for the whole division to bolster the heavily defended Suez Canal. A number of forts and camps along the canal formed a line of defence that lay practically undisturbed for the rest of the year. Nevertheless, the threat of Turkish attack remained a constant. Over the next 12 months, the 1/4th and 1/5th moved from camp to camp, fortifying the lines and re-training fresh recruits. Mena camp remains the most well-documented.

Norfolk soldiers on camels in front of the pyramids. Almost certainly 1/5th men in 1916

Norfolk soldiers on camels in front of the pyramids. Almost certainly 1/5th men in 1916

Captain Buxton of the 1/5th wrote,

“From 1916 onwards the Suez canal was defended by a series of fortified posts in the desert on the eastern side. These posts were about two to four miles apart…. Rations and water were brought up to these posts daily on camels from railhead…. the troops were employed daily in completing the defences of the posts by surrounding them with broad wire entanglements, digging fire trenches or communication trenches or dugouts. The trench digging was especially tedious… owing to the soft sand continually falling in.”

Photograph of Egyptian Shpinx taken by  Regimental Quartermaster-Sergeant H. Naylor, 1/5th battalion. Christmas Day 1916

Photograph of Egyptian Shpinx taken by Regimental Quartermaster-Sergeant H. Naylor, 1/5th battalion. Christmas Day 1916

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