In early 2009 the Museum purchased a First World War medal group. The group was unremarkable in itself; it comprised of three campaign medals popularly known as ‘Pip, Squeak and Wilfred’. These were issued in very large numbers. So why did we buy them?
The medals belonged to an Officer of the Royal Marine Light Infantry, Norman Burge. When we checked our records we found that we already had one of Burge’s diaries. His diary covered the period May to August 1915, when he was serving at Gallipoli. We wanted to reconnect his medals with his diary.
By the time Norman Burge landed at Gallipoli, he had served in the Royal Marines for nearly 20 years. He had some interesting War service before that, as he was a company commander in the Portsmouth Battalion Royal Marine Light Infantry. He was awarded his first medal, the 1914 Star, for his service in Belgium in 1914. He then moved to the Cyclist Company of the Royal Naval Division when it formed in December.
As second in command of the Cyclist Company, he landed on ‘W’ Beach, Gallipoli on 3 May 1915 and was soon in action. His diary entry for 6 June reads: “We’ve now been more or less continuously under shell fire for over a month and always exposed to it. It’s not like France, where you can get rest out of range of the enemy, and even on days when I don’t mention shelling there’s always some”.
On the 19 July 1915 he took command of Nelson Battalion who had lost their Colonel and had five officers killed and eleven officers wounded during an attack on Achi Baba Nullah. He remained in Command of Nelson Battalion and subsequently landed in France on 22 May 1916. He was killed in action in November that year, leading his battalion in the latter stages of the Battle of the Somme.
He never lived to receive his medals. The last medal, the Victory Medal, has an oakleaf. This reflects the latter part of the Gallipoli Campaign in early 1916 where he played an important role in the successful evacuation of Gallipoli, for which he received a Mention in Dispatches for his part in this ill-fated and costly campaign of the First World War.
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