All the King’s Men

20 Nov

With Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day not long past, I’m reminded of one of the strangest occurrences of the entire First World War – the disappearance of an entire regiment of men in the midst of battle during the infamous Gallipoli campaign. The incident came to light mainly through the eyewitness account of three members of a New Zealand field company, who said that they watched from a clear vantage point as a battalion of the Royal Norfolk Regiment marched up a hillside in Suvla Bay, Turkey. The hill was shrouded in a low-lying mist that the English soldiers marched straight into without hesitation. They never came out. After the last of the battalion had entered the mist, it slowly lifted off the hillside to join the clouds in the sky. When the Great War was over, assuming that the battalion had been captured and held prisoner, the British government demanded that Turkey return them. The Turks insisted, however, that they had neither captured not made contact with these English soldiers and ever since then theories have abounded as to their fate.

That the ‘Vanished Battalion’ became so famous is mainly down to three factors: first of all, most of them were employed by the British Royal Family at the Sandringham Estate. A second strange fact was that – officially at least – their bodies were not found. Thirdly, it is an event which has long since been presumed to have some supernatural or paranormal cause and remains to this day unexplained. The Royal Norfolk Regiment comprised 250 men and 16 officers, the majority of whom were the King’s own servants, grooms and gardeners from the royal estate at Sandringham in Norfolk. At the time it was reported that they simply disappeared on 12 August 1915, during the height of battle, and, despite the understandable distress of friends and family (including the Queen herself) no official explanation was ever provided as to their fate. It was only when, almost fifty years later, veterans from New Zealand came forward with their extraordinary story that a fuller picture began to emerge. The witnesses described how the Royal Norfolk Regiment ascended the hill and began to enter some low lying mist that was skirting the area. Just as the last of the soldiers in the regiment was seen to enter the strange mist, it lifted off the hill. The company of men should now have been clearly visible, but not one of them remained. The entire regiment had simply disappeared.

In the absence of any other way to explain what happened, it appears that the authorities assumed that the vanished soldiers had simply all been killed and buried by the Turks. It was well known that the Turks did not like taking prisoners and that their German allies often had difficulty convincing them of the need to keep enemy soldiers alive for bargaining and interrogation purposes. There are, however, some difficulties with this hypothesis, which assumes that the Turks accomplished the capture and/or execution of all of the English soldiers during the short-lived mist cover – an extremely challenging task. The Turks themselves strenuously and persistently denied that any such thing could have happened and the bodies of the fallen were never found and identified conclusively. With no official version of the truth, another theory that has gained support is that the Vanished Battalion is one in a long line of unexplained mass disappearances throughout history. Ships, planes, families, and even whole towns have vanished with little or no trace of them left behind. Many of these mysteries have been mentioned on this very website e.g. The Mary Celeste, The Island of Disappearing Men and the Croatoan Mystery. What is the agency behind these inexplicable disappearances, as well as those of the British diplomat Benjamin Bathurst, the American ghost story writer Ambrose Bierce and the pilot Amelia Earhart? Are they linked to the fate of the Royal Norfolk Regiment?

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9 Responses to “All the King’s Men”

  1. poemsandponderings November 20, 2011 at 3:55 pm #

    Thank you for that piece of history and mystery. Extremely well written, grasping my attention at the very start and not letting it go, until well beyond the ending. Thanks again.

    • anilbalan December 2, 2011 at 8:00 am #

      Thanks, this was a story that haunted me the first time I heard it

  2. Sandra November 21, 2011 at 4:05 am #

    This was interesting. I had never heard this before. Makes me scared to walk into mist now.

  3. The Paranormalist November 21, 2011 at 6:39 am #

    Whole towns? These large-scale disappearances are new to me – other than Roanoke, of course. … There you go again, sending me off on another path of exploration.

    • anilbalan December 2, 2011 at 8:02 am #

      I was really taken aback when I first found out about these too – scary!

  4. somkritya November 21, 2011 at 2:33 pm #

    Am so in love with your posts…tonight i know where my dreams are going to take me..in search of the regiments and entire town(s) that dissapeared..

  5. anilbalan November 21, 2011 at 3:06 pm #

    Thanks everyone, good to hear from so many kindred spirits 🙂

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