Descendents pay respect in King's Lynn to those who fell in the Gallipoli Campaign
PUBLISHED: 10:27 15 March 2015 | UPDATED: 10:45 15 March 2015
© Archant Norfolk 2015
Many Norfolk soldiers served in the Gallipoli Campaign which marks its centenary later this year. Their descendents have gathered in King's Lynn to pay respect to the men who fought, and to remember those who lost their lives.
Graham Beck’s great uncle was Frank Beck, the Sandringham land agent who still went to war despite King Edward VII asking him not to go.
“My family has an incredible story,” said Mr Beck, from Cambridge. “Everyone in this room has a special connection with Gallipoli, and it’s wonderful to be in touch with other descendents.”
The Gallipoli Campaign was an ultimately unsuccessful attempt by the Allies to knock the Ottoman Empire – an ally of Germany – out of the war.
As many as half a million soldiers died on both sides of the conflict, from when the campaign was launched in April 1915 until allied troops were evacuated in January 1916.
John Crowe, president of Gallipoli and Dardanelles International, added: “The bravery of these men should never be forgotten.”
The Sandringham Company is remembered 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 army of men from the estate and surrounding area.
More than 100 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 from the local land-owning families that neighboured the Royal estate.
When war broke out in 1914, Captain Beck was too old to fight but insisted on accompanying his men despite the King asking him not to.
On 12 August 1915, just days after arriving in Turkey, they were sent into action for the first time. Most were last seen advancing towards a farm where it is likely they were killed in action.
When there was no news of the 5th Norfolk Regiment for days, everybody feared the worst.
After the Armistace, a mass grave of 180 bodies was found near to where the company had disappeared. More than 100 of them bore the Norfolk badge.
Graham Beck, Frank Beck’s great nephew, said: “Queen Alexandra did her best to find him after he disappeared. She had known my great uncle from when he was a child growing up in Sandringham and was absolutely devoted to him.”
Later Captain Beck’s watch that had been retrieved was sold back to the British. The item is still with the family today.