I first came to learn the truth about the 1/5th Battalion Norfolk Regiment when I wrote my first book about the men from Worstead and Westwick who were killed in WW1 and WW2 and who are commemorated on the war memorials in the village churches.
Thomas Self was born in 1886 and lived with his family at Meeting Hill, this is a small hamlet in the parish of Worstead and it still exists today. He was the second eldest of four siblings born to Thomas and Harriet Self, an elderly couple, and Thomas Self senior was a farm labourer. Thomas junior also worked on the land and is also listed as being a ‘Farm Labourer’ in the 1911 Census. He had two sisters, Louisa and Trixie. His eldest brother, Benjamin, lived in Bacton on Sea and was married to Adeline Ann Self.
Cecil Ernest Bullimore was the second eldest son to George and Emma. He had an elder brother, Sidney, and a sister Evelyn. He was born in Westwick. Cecil is mentioned in a small history about Westwick and the church there. In the history he has to write a letter detailing his part in a stone throwing incident that involved the local landowner. In it he admits to being part of the group of children but blames his brother! And Cecil, Thomas and Benjamin all worked on the Westwick estate but they were also a pre-war Terrotorial Force soldiers.
By 1914 Benjamin had reached the rank of Sergeant, Thomas was a Corporal and Cecil a Private. Benjamin had even assisted Cecil in joining up as a volunteer in 1911 as he acted as a witness on his attestation papers, which are dated 17th February 1911. This shows that many of the men we are looking at knew each other very well and also helped to show that they did not just come from Sandringham. Sadly Benjamin died of illness on 28th October 1914 and is now laid to rest in Westwick (St Botolph) Churchyard.
Both Cecil and Thomas were killed in action on 12th August 1915 but they are not always listed as such on surviving records.
Between the 12th and 31st August 1915 Soldiers Died in the Great War (SDGW) records the 1/5th Norfolks lost 11 Officers and 151 Other Ranks killed, total 162. Many of them, including Cecil and Thomas; are listed as having ‘Died’. Their date of death is recorded as being the 21st August (Cecil) and 28th August (Thomas) respectively but it is almost certain that they died with the rest of the casualties on the 12th and Thomas is listed as such on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC). The CWGC records 166 men in total, so there is a discrepancy of 4 between each database.
This, in itself, shows that Hamilton was wrong in his estimation of numbers of men who supposedly disappeared and were never seen again.
This is not surprising after the confusion after the action on 12th August 1915. Many of the other men who were killed on 12th August also have either 21st or 28th August 1915 listed as the day they ‘Died’. Every soldier is listed on SDGW generally have their deaths recorded as either ‘Died’ ‘Died of Wounds’ or as ‘Killed in Action’. Died basically means either they did not know how they died or that they died of something such as an illness. In Cecil’s case he was officially reported missing on 21st August 1915 and then presumed dead from that date onwards.
To add to the fact that Cecil was killed on 12th August 1915 is that another 36 men are listed as having died on 21st August 1915 and 43 on 28th August 1915. These figures come from the CWGC.
But those dates listed do not correspond with any casualties incurred in the war diary
The war diary for those dates state,
21st August 1915
‘Same position. Were told to hold ourselves in readiness for attack at 3 p.m. but had no orders to move.’
28th August 1915
‘Arrived at Camp Lalababa at 3 a.m. First opportunity we have had of reorganizing the Battn, which we took advantage of. The men were able to have a change.’
So as seen in the war diary those facts are not recorded and even in the most basic war diaries I have seen, at the very least, this would have seen this amount of men recorded as being killed on those dates. So all of these men are just being listed as offically confirmed as being dead.
One other piece of evidence we have to show that the 1/5th Norfolks did not all disappear on 12th August 1915 is that Private, 2238, George Albert Brakenbury, also from Worstead, disembarked with Cecil and Thomas on the same day that they landed at Gallipoli. He survived the action on 12th August 1915 and went on to serve with the battalion through the rest of 1915 and did so until he was killed in action at the 2nd Battle of Gaza on 19th April 1917.
It should be noted that Worstead and Westwick were not the only local villages to suffer that day. Honing which is situated to the north east of the village lost two men on the 12th. What is significant is that both were brothers. Edward and Victor Cubitt were the sons of Mr. E. G. Cubitt, J.P., and Christabel M. Cubitt, of Honing Hall; Edward was also the husband of Janet Catherine Cubitt, of “Butlers,” Hatfield Peverel, Essex. Along with Cecil and Thomas both have no known grave and are commemorated on the Helles memorial in Turkey.
The debate over what happened to the 1/5th Norfolks will no doubt continue to rage on and I am sure that there will be those that still hold sway to the original idea that they disappeared into a cloud of smoke or were executed by the Turks. I personally hope that my research will perhaps help to clarify what actually happened to them so that their bravery and tenacity in the face of an extremely determined enemy can be honoured and not tarnished by ideas that have no real factual evidence. And, sadly, if you look on the internet, perhaps drop in on certain Facebook pages, you will see that certain local historians still peddle the myth that they were the ‘Sandringhams’ this, to me, has to stop.
As recent author and historian noted on Facebook about an inaccurate post about the Battle of Britain, ‘…let’s get it right for history’s sake.’
That says it all to me. We must strive to get it right!
I would not have been able to write these blogs or my books without the help of one person. Dick Rayner is a local historian and expert on the Norfolk Regiment. He contacted me in the winter of 2007 when I was writing my first book and we met up soon after. At that time Dick told me of the story of how he had always been saddened by the way that historians and the like still stuck to the myths of what happened to the 1/5th Battalion on 12th August 1915. I said to Dick then that I wanted to do my best to get the story right. Dick has helped me to do my best to hopefully do just that. His patience with me phoning him, writing to him and even emailing him, plus his critical eye on my drafts, has been something that I have not been able to do without. So thanks Dick and I hope that I have helped to get the story right for history’s sake.
I would also like to thank the local author and historian Steve Snelling for all of his support and guidance over the years. Steve has also written about the 5th Norfolks and Part 2 of his articles on their story will be published on Saturday 15th August 2015 in the EDP. So please buy a copy as I have seen his draft and it’s an excellent account of the real story.
The sources used in all of my blogs are from my own collection and the following books.
And They Loved Not Their Lives Unto Death, The History of Worstead and Westwick War Memorials and War Dead by Steve Smith published by Menin House.
Great War Britain Norfolk: Remembering 1914-18 by Steve Smith published by the History Press
The Sandringhams at Suvla Bay by Dick Rayner
All the king’s Men by Nigel McCrery published by Pocket Books; New edition