• Si Biggs

Lt Colonel Norman Ormsby Burge

When the First World War broke out, Burge volunteered for active service. He was put in command of one of the Portsmouth Battalion Companies, RM Brigade between 19th September and 13th October 1914, in which time he landed at Dunkirk and was involved in the Defence at Antwerp.


He went on to command the RM cyclist company, and landed at Gallipoli 3rd May 1915.


In July 1915, he was appointed in command of Nelson Battalion


In August 1915 a new draft of 1,300 RND men arrived to bolster the decimated Naval Battalions on the peninsula.


Norman or “Nob” as he was known to his friends had this to say on seeing them for the first time.


“Quite impossible to go on with diary. New draft would occupy remainder of this book. Undersized, untrained, undisciplined, weedy youths of 14-17 dreadful !!!”


He was one of the last men off the peninsula and was instrumental to the evacuation.

Map of Cape Helles showing the location of V Beach

He had a sense of humour and applied for the following, waterproof sheets for the war babies, seaside buckets and spades , night lights and books of fairy tales.


He was OC of the final checkpoint rendezvous above 'V' Beach and was especially proud that he and the 'V' Beach guard of 400 men of 2nd RM Battalion were last away from the peninsula. After the last troops had passed through he recorded:


"I had been too busy to notice that the wind was rising rapidly and it was beginning to get nasty-ish by the time we got down [to 'V' Beach]. But the French pier, which we used, consisted largely of an out-of-date battleship, which they sank some time ago to form a breakwater, and so we were able to get from her straight into a destroyer.

V Beach, Cape Helles

She was the GRASSHOPPER, one of the biggest and we pretty well filled her up. You see, we few and the 400 beach guard (put out as a last line of defence round the beach) and some others make a pretty good load for a destroyer in bad weather (it was bad by now and getting worse).


I'm so glad the 2nd RM Battalion were left to the last party. They are formed by the amalgamated Portsmouth and Plymouth Marine Battalions and as the Plymouth people were the first in the Peninsula, it was their proud job to be the last too.


Though there are practically none who have done both. We got away at 3.30 [a.m.] - I really didn't notice the time and started off for Lemnos."


Burge landed in France 22nd May 1916, and was killed in action in November that year at Ancre leading his battalion in the latter stages of the Battle of the Somme.


He was universally loved by his men and was the longest serving C/O of Nelson Battalion.


"The Hawke, ... were not so fortunate; both they and the Howe on their left came up against a strong point, a redoubt between the 1st and 2nd line of the enemy, that had been missed by the artillery; a few of the Hawkes reached the Dotted Green Line, but the commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel L Wilson, RMLI was seriously wounded. The Nelson pushing on to pass through the Hawke came against the same redoubt; the majority of the battalion including their commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel N. O. Burge, RMLI fell around the redoubt, and only isolated parties struggled through to the Green Line." [1]


Lt Colonel Norman Ormsby Burge - The Times, Friday, 24 Nov 1916, p.11

Lt Col Burge RMLI's medals were purchased by the Royal Marines Museum, Portsmouth who also hold one of Burge’s diaries and a flag belonging to a battalion he commanded.


BURGE Norman O N/E Major RMLI 86W028 R.N.D. N/E


01.11.16 G(M) Officers Royal Naval Division Gallipoli September - November 1915 M in D


Mentioned in Despatches by General Hamilton, for distinguished and gallant services in Gallipoli - 1915.


Military Gazette 01.11.16.


BURGE Norman O N/E Major RMLI 86W026 R.N.D. N/E


06.09.16 Gazetted


Officers Royal Naval Division Gallipoli 1915 - 1916


Promoted Brevet Lt.Col.


In recognition of his services with the Royal Naval Division in the Gallipoli Peninsula


Other Related 'Dits'

First to Land - Last to Leave - Withdrawal from Gallipoli

Royal Marines Light Infantry - The Battle of the Ancre (Battles of the Somme 1916)



[1] Gen Blumberg's 'Britain's Sea Soldiers'




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