West Norfolk: One of The King’s Men who never came back from the front
A poignant piece of history touching on the tragedy of World War I and how it affected West Norfolk is now on show to the public.
The important documents tell the story of an officer from Necton who perished on one of the blackest days in British military history.
The deeply moving family tragedy unfolded on August 12, 1915, when the 5th Territorial Battalion of the Norfolk Regiment attacked Turkish positions at Suvla Bay, Gallipoli.
The day is forever associated with the so-called “disappearance” of the King’s Sandringham Company, an episode which was the subject of a highly-controversial BBC television drama starring David Jason, several years ago, All The King’s Men.
One of the officers killed in action on that day was Capt Arthur Humfrey Mason, of Necton Hall, known as “Humf”.
Norfolk born and bred, he was educated at Charterhouse before joining Morgan’s Brewery, Norwich, as a director.
In 1911, he applied for a commission in the 5th Norfolks.
The papers received by the hi-tech conservation studio at the Archive Centre, at County Hall in Norwich, are described by experts as a “veritable treasure trove of local history”.
n Letters from Capt Mason to his mother during his army service at Colchester and en route to Gallipoli.
n Ward family letters from Capt Mason’s sister, Audrey Ward, whose husband, Arthur, a fellow officer, was also killed in action at Gallipoli.
n Letters of condolence.
In October 2009, this collection of correspondence came up for sale at Key’s Auctioneers, in Norfolk.
The Mason family papers were purchased by three keen local military historians, Michael Eastaff, Graham Prior and Dick Rayner, whose primary objective was to ensure the collection stayed where it belonged – in Norfolk.
Norfolk county archivist Dr John Alban said: “Everyone in Norfolk is aware of the dreadful military tragedy which occurred at Suvla Bay on that August day in 1915. The letters in this collection add a very human dimension to that event.
“Reading them, one cannot fail to be struck by their immense emotional force.
“They form an outstanding record of the saga of sacrifices made by Norfolk soldiers and their families and it is therefore very important that they should be preserved for posterity.”
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Saturday 18 May 2013
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