Sunday, June 22, 2014
A hand of friendship was extended between Turkey and Norfolk as former soldiers and descendents of those who fought at Gallipoli came together to remember those lost.
The language barrier and 99 years of history were overcome in Norfolk as the county joined hands in friendship with Turkey at a poignant service.
Former soldiers and descendants of those who fought at Gallipoli in 1915 came together at King’s Lynn’s historic town hall to quietly mark one of the First World War’s bloodiest campaigns. People from opposite sides of Europe united at the service with a simple message: “We are all friends now.”
John Crowe, whose father Robert was part of the Sandringham Company that fought at Gallipoli, was joined by retired Turkish Brigadier-General Haldun Solmazturk and members of the charity Gallipoli and Dardanelles International.
The charity hopes to bring people together by remembering the campaign and learning lessons from it.
Brig-Gen Solmazturk, now a defence and security analyst and lecturer, gave a talk on the lessons to be learned from Gallipoli and their role in the current political climate.
He said: “This association is about coming together as friends and sharing our cultures and ideas.
“We all share the same concerns about the state of affairs in the world today.
“It is about learning from what has happened in the past, at Gallipoli, and making sure that does not happen today.
“It is also about setting perceptions of history right.”
All the King’s Men was first broadcast on Remembrance Sunday, November 14, 1999.
The title derives from the Humpty Dumpty nursery rhyme and is based on a book by the film’s co-producer, Nigel McGrery.
It starred David Jason, Patrick Malahide, David Troughton, and Maggie Smith.
The plot is based on the story of the territorial battalion of the Norfolk Regiment which included men from King George V’s royal Sandringham estate.
The battalion, known as the Sandringham Company, fought at Gallipoli where many were killed.
After the war the Reverend Pierrepoint Edwards was charged with discovering the fate of the company.
He discovered a mass grave near the site of their final known whereabouts and was reported to have revealed later that the bodies had been shot in the head.
The film based its ending on this and showed the remnants of the Sandringham Company being shot while trying to surrender. It was criticised at the time by both the Turkish Ambassador in London and Frank Beck’s grandson Edward Hunter who said that there was no evidence or basis for the ending.
For many years uncertainty has surrounded the fate of the Sandringham Company who were said to have vanished under a cloud of smoke.
Television dramas and books would have us believe the company was executed to a man.
However Cpl Crowe, though wounded, returned home as did many other of the estate workers who made up the Sandringham Company.
His son Mr Crowe, who is president of Gallipoli and Dardanelles International (GDI), said: “They certainly weren’t all killed. My father came back as did my uncle Frances and the post master at West Newton and many others.
“A lot of bad things, done by both sides, happened in the war, sadly that is what happens.
“It is a waste of time to focus on such negativity we are all friends now and we should look to the future.
“What we are doing is using a tragic event in history as a conduit to create international relationships.”
The charity aims to remember those who lost their lives whilst building friendships and has chosen the an Australian soldier carrying a wounded Turk as its emblem.
West Norfolk mayor Mr Ayres said: “It is a great honour for me to be here today. It is about extending the hand of friendship.
“In war often the normal people get along it is just the politics that gets in the way.”
For more information about GDI visit www.gdinternational.org.uk
• THE GALLIPOLI CAMPAIGN
The Gallipoli campaign, also known as the Dardanelles campaign, ran from April 25 1915 until January 9, 1916.
British, French, Austrailian and Indian troops along with other allies attempted to secure the Darnelles strait, a sea route to allied Russia north of modern day Turkey.
It ended in one of the Ottoman Empire’s biggest victories during the First World War and was a major blow to the allies and the career of the then First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill.
The campaign resulted in over half a million casualties with at least 44,000 allied and 87,000 Turkish dead.
A naval assault by the Allies failed when a number of ships struck mines and sank.
This led to a land assault which soon descended into trench warfare with the Allied hopes of reaching Istanbul fading.
After it became clear that there would not be a successful outcome Allied forces began to evacuate from December 7, 1915. A number of ruses were used to give the impression that a strong contingent remained including a self-firing rifle.
The last men left in the first weeks of 1916.
In Australia and New Zealand April 25 is known as Anzac Day and is one of those countries’ most important commemoration events.
• SANDRINGHAM COMPANY’S MISSION TO TURKEY
The Sandringham Company has been remembered in folklore partly due to the mystery that surrounds the disappearance of many men during fighting in Gallipoli.
In 1908 King Edward VII asked his Sandringham land agent Frank Beck to form a territorial company of men from the estate and surrounding area.
More than a hundred workers joined E company of the 1st/5th battalion of the Norfolk Regiment.
Gardeners, gamekeepers, grooms, farm labourers, engineers and even the milk boy joined the ranks with officers coming from the local land-owning families that neighboured the Royal estate.
When war broke out in 1914 Captain Beck was too old to be obliged to fight but insisted on accompanying his men despite the King asking him not to.
On July 30, 1915, the Sandringham Company set out on the SS Aquitania from Liverpool heading for Turkey. At 5.30am on August 10, 1915, the Sandringham Company landed on Turkish soil at Sulva Bay.
Two days later they were ordered to attack.
Most of the company were last seen advancing towards a farm where it is likely they were killed in action.
With no news of the 5th Norfolk Regiment filtering through for days worries began to spread.
King George V himself cabled the war office asking for information.
After the Armistice a mass grave of 180 bodies was found near to where the company had disappeared.
More than a hundred of them bore the Norfolk’s badge.
Later Capt Beck’s gold watch was sold back to the British, helping to confirm his fate.