17 January 2005 20:31
They were proud volunteers to a man, who willingly left
a secure and peaceful existence on Norfolk's royal estate
to take up arms for king and country.
And for many, that unquestioning loyalty and sense of national
duty would require them to pay the ultimate price.
Yesterday, the Sandringham soldiers who lost their lives
at Gallipoli were paid a special honour as the much-documented
campaign prepares to mark its 90th anniversary.
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh laid wreaths at the
war memorial erected by George V and Queen Mary on the estate
to commemorate the 77 local men killed during the Great
Eighteen of them, all members of C Company of the Norfolk
Regiment's 5th Battalion, led by Sandringham's land agent,
Captain Frank Beck, perished during an ill-fated allied
expedition which aimed to capture Constantinople and open
up a Black Sea supply route to Russia in August, 1915.
The landing at Suvla Bay on the west coast of the Gallipoli
peninsula in Turkey resulted in heavy losses.
On August 12, as part of an attack on Turkish positions,
the 5th Norfolks, including Capt Beck and his men, moved
forward under their commanding officer, Sir Henry Proctor-Beauchamp.
In the face of ferocious opposition, the advance quickly
turned to confusion but they pressed on resolutely into
dense clouds of smoke raised by burning scrub.
They veered away from the central thrust of the attack,
their fate only becoming clear in 1919 when War Graves Commission
clearance parties discovered the remains of more than 120
British soldiers well behind the former Turkish main line.
Although only two were positively identified, it was clear
these were officers and men of C Company.
At 53, Capt Beck, who died with his two nephews, was theoretically
over the age for active service overseas, but insisted on
embarking with his men.
An inscribed gold watch presented to him by Queen Alexandra
as a mark of her respect, which he carried into battle,
was recovered from a Turkish officer after the war and returned
to his family.
In another tribute to his bravery, he is depicted as St
George in a striking stained glass window at West Newton
Church on the estate.
Yesterday, members of the Gallipoli Association attended
morning service with the royal party at the church of St
Mary Magdalene, Sandringham, which was led by the rector
of the Sandringham group of parishes, the Rev Jonathan Riviere.
Afterwards, the Queen walked the short distance to the memorial
with Prince Philip, who is patron of the association.
Wreaths were also laid by association chairman Captain Christopher
Fagan and Major Dean Stefanetti of the Royal Anglian Regiment,
into which the Norfolk Regiment was merged and whose soldiers
furnished a guard of honour.
Prayers were said by Mr Riviere and a blessing given by
the Bishop of Carlisle, the Rt Rev Graham Dow, who was the
preacher at the church service.
Association committee member Colonel Michael Hickey said
other events would be held during the year to mark the anniversary
but yesterday's ceremony had offered the only opportunity
to involve the Queen and the Duke.
are so glad that the sovereign has agreed to attend," he
said. "It's a great honour to us in the association and
the people who served there.
man was a volunteer - there was no conscription. Many of
them had never left the country.
is so sad when you think of all these wonderful men - salt
of the earth - who had lived on the estate here as keepers,
farm labourers, stewards and all the jobs connected with
the estate, and had an undying loyalty to their employers.
their employers looked after them. There was no welfare
state in those days and the loyalty went both ways, up and
may have been 'the bad old days'; it may have been that
everybody had to tug their forelock and defer but it came
naturally, and nobody knew any differently.
am still so moved by what that generation endured and suffered
- and the way they were treated by the politicians afterwards."