A special Service of Commemoration was held at St Mark’s Church Clerkenwell on Wednesday 19 April in honour of local men who died 100 years ago during the 2nd Battle of Gaza.
115 men of the 11th (Country of London) Battalion, The London Regiment (Finsbury Rifles) died in the battle, the Battalion’s heaviest loss of life during the war. Their names are recorded on a memorial in St Mark’s alongside other comrades who died in the First World War.
Recruited form Finsbury, Clerkenwell and Islington, the Battalion was part of the volunteer force, the equivalent of the modern Army Reserve in which the current London Regiment serves.
The service was addressed by Field Marshall Sir John Chapple GCB, CBE, who served in the Finsbury Rifles shortly after the Second World War, and by Police Officer and historian Darren O’Brien who is writing a history of the Battalion. He told the congregation that the Finsbury Rifles’ attack on Turkish defensive positions at Gaza was quickly halted:
“The wounded lay on the ridgeline all day under the murderous fire of the enemy’s machine guns and artillery. The war diary recorded casualties of 13 officers and 366 other ranks, of whom 115 were killed or died within a few days.”
Also attending the service were representative Deputy Lieutenant for Islington Dr Charles Goodson-Wickes, the Mayor of Islington Councillor Kat Fletcher and Israel’s Ambassador to the UK Mark Regev. They joined soldiers past and present of the London Regiment in laying wreaths at the Finsbury Rifles War Memorial.