A few months ago I was lucky enough to find the Great War medals belonging to 240221 Private William Rumbelow of the 1st / 5th Bn Suffolk Regiment for sale on E Bay.
I was really pleased to be able to purchase the medals and began to undertake some research into the life of their owner and the circumstances surrounding his death.
After the Second Battle of Gaza the Palestinian campaign settled into a stalemate along a line of entrenchments from Gaza on the Mediterranean to the water wells of Beersheba at the foot of the mountains thirty air miles to the southeast. In his book ‘The Egyptian Expeditionary Force in World War I’ Michael J Mortlock wrote:
‘There was considerable bitterness amongst the front line soldiers over what had transpired. The troops were bitterly disillusioned and very angry as General Murray had no idea how to break the dead lock and kept his headquarters in the comfort of the Savoy Hotel in Cairo, giving awards for gallant services to members of his large headquarters staff – many of whom had never even see the front line’
Actually Murray did temporarily move to a train carriage at El Arish so as to be closer to Generals Dobell and Chetwode quartered at In Seirat. It was during this period that Private W. Vincent Rumbelow ‘D’ Company of the 1st / 5th Suffolk’s was mortally wounded by a 5.9 shell burst on the 1st of May 1917 while on ‘light duties’ as his comrades were detailed for a wiring party. Murray reported
‘They directed artillery fire on the rear of our positions on the Mansura ridge, doing a certain amount of damage among the transport animals, and making any movement of camel transport during the day impossible’
Although urged by his pal, Private Jake Mortlock, to come with their wiring party ‘as the Turks will send over a few shells and we shall be lying about most of the day’ he could not be convinced and a 5.9 ‘Jack Johnson’ shell mortally wounded him. His sister, Marjorie, remembers the fateful day the Postman delivered the news to his Parents who up until that day had prayed nightly for his safe return – she never again saw them kneeling by their bed.
Private Mortlock’s grief was not readily discernible in the letter he penned in the rear of the Sheikh Abbas ridge – but the loss of his best pal was a terrible blow to him – not to mention his sister, Gwen, who had been engaged to be married to ‘Vinnie’.
‘One of the Best’ was Jake’s tribute written on the back of a photograph he sent to Gwen.
Michael J Mortlock wrote that ‘W Vincent Rumbelow’s premature death also had unforeseen repercussions regarding the family ownership of the ancient Freckenham manor, as his surviving brother was described as a ‘cripple’ and not up to such an onerous task’ I will research this statement further as although William has an entry on the Soham Grammar School war memorial on the 1911 census he is listed as the son of William W and Mary Rumbelow, aged 15, a Farmer’s Son working on farm, born Freckenham, resident Freckenham, Soham, Cambridgeshire.
For now Williams medals are safe in my keeping.