The Vanished Battalion

‘The Vanished Battalion’ or the ‘Lost Sandringhams’ were a group of soldiers that became lost during the Dardanelles Campaign of World War I. Whether or not they simply ‘vanished,’ is a matter of debate. A certain mystique has developed around the loss of these soldiers for a few reasons. Some claims have been made that their loss had something to do with a supernatural occurrence. There is also the fact that a loss of such a large group of soldiers with no survivors is exceedingly rare, if not unheard of. However, there is the question of whether they were ‘lost’ at all, or if their bodies were simply never identified properly.

 

vanished battalion

Sandringham estate circa 1880.

Most of the members of the ‘Vanished Battalion’ came from the ‘Sandringham Company’ of the Norfolk Regiment, which later became known as the Royal Norfolk Regiment. The Sandringhams were thus named because they had all come from the staff of the royal Sandringham Estate. The King had ordered that a company of military men be formed of his staff there, in 1908. This was done and the Sandringham Company was sent to war in 1915.

In August of 1915, the Sandringhams and the other members of the ‘Vanished Battalion’ arrived in Sulva on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey. They were under the command of Colonel Horace Proctor-Beauchamp. They saw action, for the first time, on August 11, 1915. The Allies were attempting to advance on Turkish positions on the peninsula and the ‘Vanished Battalion’ were part of the struggle for advancement. The fighting was intense and the Allies were taking heavy losses.

The following day, August 12, enemy fire was heavy when the ‘Vanished Battalion’ was ordered to advance. They fought through the heavy smoke, machine gun fire and sniper fire with their comrades. As they advanced, Colonel Beauchamp directed a group of men (including the ‘Sandringham Company’) into a wooded area. Some witnesses say that they simply marched through the heavy smoke, into the woods and were never seen again. Four witnesses said (much later) that the men had walked into a formation of ground-level clouds and had vanished right before their eyes.

It is important to note here that the number of men lost was not, in fact, a full battalion. It was rather close, but the moniker is a misnomer. There were 250 men and 16 officers in the group.

It was later discovered that these men were not taken as prisoners by the Turkish and their bodies were never ‘officially’ found. However, some time after the battle, more than 100 bodies were found near where the ‘Vanished Battalion’ had last been seen. They were the bodies of soldiers that had been executed with single gunshot wounds on their heads. These men could certainly have been some of the members of the ‘Vanished Battalion.’ Of course, there are many people who believe the ‘cloud story’ and think that God or aliens intervened that day in 1915.

Sources

The Vanished Battalion of the King’s own Sandringhams, retrieved 12/9/09,
Doncaster, Lucy & Holland, Andrew, Greatest Mysteries of the Unexplained, pages 12-14, Acturus Publishing Limited, 2006
Regimental History of the 1-5th Norfolks, retrieved 12/9/09, user.online.be/~snelder

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Shelly Barclay writes on a variety of topics from animal facts to mysteries in history. Her main focus is military and political history. She is a writer for the Boston History Examiner, Military History Examiner and the Boston American Revolution History Examiner. She also writes for a local historical society newsletter.

Historic Mysteries