August 13th 1916

Edmund GayCaptain Edmund Gay (Norfolk Regiment) was declared missing a year ago.

The Daily Telegraph reported about ten days ago that our Government understands that there are only nineteen officers and 359 other ranks known still to be in Turkish hands as Prisoners of War.

With regards the 290 officers (amongst whom Edmund is numbered) and 9,700 other ranks still missing, they feel that there are no longer any grounds for hoping they might be prisoners,

“and therefore it was consequently decided that the missing officers and men not accounted for must be officially accepted as dead. Effect is being given to this decision after due consideration of the circumstances of each individual case.”

There has still been no official confirmation of his death given to the family however, and until such time we will continue to list him as “missing.”

* * * * * * *

Benham, FrankCaptain Frank Benham (RFA) was wounded by a German shell hitting his dug-out on August 5th. At the time he was in charge of a battery at Mametz Wood on the Somme.

On August 8th he was strong enough to be able to write to inform his wife of his situation and the matron on his ward has also written to say she hopes he will be strong enough to return to England shortly.

 

May 7th 1916

William Esson

Major William Esson (Royal Marines Light Infantry) 

Lance Freyberg

Lieut-Commander Lance Freyberg (RN)

On 27th April 1916, off the port of Malta, HMS Russell struck two mines laid by a German U-boat and sank. 27 Officers and 98 ratings were lost, including two Old Dragons, William Esson and Lance Freyberg.

HMS Russell

HMS Russell

HMS Russell was flying the flag of Admiral Fremantle, who was amongst the 702 saved. He has written from Malta to say of William Esson, “His cabin was immediately over where the mine struck us. We were hit only four miles from the entrance to Malta Harbour. At that time all the officers, except those actually on duty, were in their cabins, and it is for that reason that we lost such a very large proportion of officers. The great majority of the people on the deck below the main deck, including your husband and five lieutenants (this must include Lance Freyburg) were never seen after the explosion, indeed there are now alive only two men who were in that part of the ship… ”

Whilst 24 officers together with the Captain and Admiral were saved, 27 were killed – almost 50%.

The degree of grief currently the lot of the Esson family can only be understood when one remembers that William Esson’s sister Margaret is the wife of Capt. Edmund Gay (Norfolks), who has been “missing” since last August.

Of Lance Freyberg, Captain Bowden-Smith wrote, “He was asleep in his cabin at the time (5.30 a.m). The explosion took place immediately under his cabin and I think he must have been killed instantaneously and did not suffer. I am afraid that all his belongings went down with the ship. Nothing was saved.”

Clearly, William’s and Lance’s cabins were in very close proximity and it is some small comfort that two Old Dragons should be together, comrades in life and death.

HMS Russell was one of the ships for which our boys supplied the crew with pipes in November 1914. Lance wrote a charming letter back to them. It is a great sadness that the pipes have not become pipes of peace, as he had hoped.

 

January 19th 1916

On January 6th, the London Gazette published Sir Ian Hamilton’s final despatch as Commander in Chief of the Gallipoli expedition before he was replaced by Lieut. General Sir Charles Munro, who in consultation with Field Marshal Lord Kitchener, agreed to the evacuation.

In this report he refers to the 1/5th Norfolks and the events of August 12th 1915:

“… In the course of the fight, creditable in all respects to the 163rd Brigade, there happened a very mysterious thing. The 1/5th Norfolks were on the right of the line and found themselves for a moment less strongly opposed than the rest of the Brigade. Against the yielding forces of the enemy Colonel Sir H Beauchamp, a bold, self-confident officer, eagerly pressed forward, followed by the best part of the Battalion.

The fighting grew hotter and the ground became more wooded and broken. At this stage many men were wounded or grew exhausted with thirst. These found their way back to camp during the night. But the Colonel with 10 officers and 250 men kept pushing on, driving the enemy before him.

Amongst these ardent souls was part of a fine company enlisted from the King’s Sandringham estates. Nothing more was ever seen or heard of any of them. They charged into the forest and were lost to sight and sound. Not one of them ever came back.”                                            

Captain Edmund Gay (Norfolk Regiment) was one of this ‘Lost Legion.’ 

Edmund Gay

Capt. Edmund Gay

Private information has supplied the fact that Edmund was last seen getting over a fence or wall into a farm with a sergeant and another man. The man who last saw him was wounded and lay all night beside the body of another 1/5th Norfolk soldier and managed to crawl into our lines next day.

Until we hear anything certain, however, we must continue to hope that he is in captivity and did not perish in that attack.

The final evacuation of our troops from Gallipoli was completed with the withdrawal from Cape Helles on January 9th. During the campaign, of the 20 old boys of OPS and one member of our staff who served, we know of three who have been killed and two wounded.

It now seems highly likely that all the other Old Dragons are safely off the peninsula, as we understand from the Illustrated London News – hopefully correctly – that the operation was completed with astonishingly few casualties.

January 5th 1916

There are many families close to us who have lost a much loved son, brother or husband over the past year. However, we should not forget the suffering of those families whose boys are either lying seriously wounded in one of our hospitals or remain missing in action:

 

Capt. R. French

Captain Robert French (Royal Welch Fusiliers) was wounded on September 25th in the Battle of Loos. Having spent four days at a Base Hospital in Boulogne, he was admitted to the Empire Hospital in Vincent Square, London, on 30th September 1915.

He underwent an operation on October 17th but he remains paralysed, having no feeling in arms, legs or body and has no power of movement.

 

Edmund Gay

Capt. E. Gay

The London Gazette of November 6th  announced that Lieut. Edmund Gay (Norfolk Reg) was promoted to the rank of temporary Captain, effective 13 August 1915. However, he has been listed as “missing” since August 12th 1915 and we fear he was killed in the attack.

 

This time last year Mr & Mrs Campbell were in this very same position, not knowing whether their son Percy was dead or alive.

We must still hold out hope for Edmund.

September 2nd 1915

Edmund Gay

In yesterday’s edition of The Times, under the heading “Missing” is the name of Lieut. Edmund Gay (5th Norfolk Regiment).

He has been serving in Gallipoli and was involved in a battle for Tekke Tepe on August 12th. Edmund is one of some 250 men involved in this attack who are unaccounted for as at present.

This is a most worrying situation for his family and it must remain our hope that he has in fact been captured.

His wife Margaret is the sister of Major William Esson, also an Old Boy of the OPS, who is currently serving with the RMLI on HMS Russell.