1 Aug 2010

Lancing War Memorial - the Great War

Lancing War Memorial now stands in South Street, with the Parish Hall on one side, and the church of St. Michael and All Angels on the other, but originally it was erected immediately in front of St. Michael's, and on land belonging to the Church. Between the wars South Street was widened and the Church lost sixteen feet from its land, including the area of the Memorial, and it was at this tiime that it was moved to its present position. It takes the form of a stone cross on a rectangular base, with the names of those who died during the Great War on all four faces, with a second stone base added later to record the names of the men who lost their lives between 1939 and 1945. The wording above the names reads:

'To the Glory of God/
and the memory of Lancing men/
who laid down their lives for their country/
in the Great War 1914-1918'

A list of names with links to further information can be found by using the 'Lancing War Memorial Names' page at the top of the right-hand menu, or use the search box to find what you're looking for.


14 Jul 2010


The following names appear on Lancing War Memorial, but it has not been possible to positively identify them from available sources.



Despite many searches I've been unable to positively identify W. G. Lawrence. The Post Office directories of Lancing for the period 1910-1920 show a 'William Lawrance' as head of household at Yew Tree Cottages, South Street, but always with the different spelling. This is the only reference I have found to the surname in the village at that time, although of course it is possible that this man had no family ties with the village but was working and lodging locally. Some time ago I received information that William Lawrence was serving in the Royal Navy at the outbreak of war and died on board HMS Irresistible when she was involved in action at the Dardanelles on March 18th 1915, subsequently striking a mine and sinking in Kephtx Bay. A report in the Brighton Evening Argus of 20th March 1915 gives the names of Sussex men among the crew, and does indeed include a 'Lawrence, W., Lancing' among those 'believed to be on board.' However, most of the crew were safely evacuated, and W. Lawrence was not among the fourteen men of the ship who were killed or died of wounds received that day. A search of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission database reveals no man named 'Lawrence,' 'Lawrance,' or 'Laurence' who fits with the known facts, and a search of the GRO index of naval deaths between 1914 and 1921 is also negative. The index to the Register of Seamen's Service is available to view online from The National Archives, and although there are many men with the right surname and initial, it's not possible to identify any man that has a connection to Lancing.

It seems almost certain that W. G. Lawrence was in the Royal Navy; that he was serving on Irresistible in March 1915, and that he did not return home after the war. Beyond that I have not been able to confirm more concrete facts about his life or his military service.



There was certainly a Pinnell family living in Lancing during the Great War, as the 1918 street directory shows 'A. E. Pinnell, Esq.' as residing at 'Warrenhurst,' the house and market garden that was on the site of present houses in Grinstead Avenue. It seems likely that the person named on the memorial was a member of the family at Warrenhurst, and from information received it seems likely that it refers to an Elsie Pinnell, who was employed as a VAD, a member of a Voluntary Aid Detachment. The GRO death index contains an entry for an Elsie Pinnell, aged 24, whose death was registered in the East Preston registration district during the December quarter 1918. Although enquiries continue, I have not yet been able to confirm this from surviving VAD records.




Private G/7366, 9th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment

Died of Wounds on Saturday 6th April 1918

Buried at Abbeville Communal Cemetery Extension, Somme, Grave III.D.30

Tom Trevett was baptised on the 3rd May 1896 at St. James the Less, North Lancing, the son of Harvey Henry and Louisa Trevett - Harvey Trevett's occupation was given in the parish register as 'Licensed Victualler', although a carpenter by trade, between 1893 and 1899 he was the landlord of the original Farmer's Hotel in Lancing. Harvey was married twice; his first wife Mercy died in 1885 at the age of twenty-three, but the couple had at least two children. His second marriage to Louisa had its difficulties with the death of their first two chidren before Tom's birth in 1896.

Tom Trevett enlisted in Worthing on the 28th June 1915, joining the 9th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment. He was twenty years old, 5ft 11 ins. tall and his occupation was given as grocer's assistant. He gave his next of kin as his mother as although his father was still alive, he was very ill with pulmonary tuberculosis and died at home just five weeks later.
The 9th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment were serving on the Western Front for a large part of the war, and Tom Trevett's death came shortly after the start of the German Spring Offensive of March 1918. The battalion had suffered many casualties, mainly between the 21st and 25th of March, but on the 4th April the battalion war diary shows no significant action, and a casualty list shows Tom Trevett named as the only man wounded that day:

4th April - Battalion less 'B' Company marched off to BOIS de GENTILLES at 5 a.m. where it bivouacked until 2 p.m. [Tom was part of 'D' Company]. 'B' Coy. rejoined at 1.30 p.m. At 2 p.m. Battalion went forward and took up support positions in depth to 24th Divisional Depot Battalion in front of BOIS de GENTILLES on SW side of AMIENS-ROYE Road.

On the 8th April Louisa Trevett received the telegram that she must have dreaded:

Regret to inform you No. G/7366 Private T. Trevett 9th Royal Sussex dangerously ill at No.3 Australian General Hospital Abbeville France. Regret permission to visit cannot be granted.

And the following day:

Regret to inform you No. G/7366 Private T. Trevett 9th Royal Sussex died gunshot wound head April 6th at 3 Australian General Hospital Abbeville France.

Although much information can be found in newspapers which would otherwise be lost, the following two extracts show how much care needs to be taken with interpreting the facts. The first appeared in the Sussex Daily News on April 17th, 1918:

LANCING CASUALTIES - Private T. Trevett, Royal Sussex Regiment, son of Mrs. Harvey Trevett, a widow, living at Rose Cottage, Penhill Road, Lancing, has died from wounds received on the Western Front. He was 22 years of age and single and at one time worked at the London Stores, New Road, Shoreham. He had been in the Army three years, and fell during the German attack at the Western Front, the fatal injury being a gunshot wound in the head. He was acting as dispatch runner.

And the second, again from the Sussex Daily News, this time dated 8th May, 1918:

LANCING MAN'S DISTINCTION - In connection with the death of Private T. Trevett, son of Mrs. Harvey Trevett of Rose Cottage, Penhill Road, Lancing, recently reported, a letter has been received by his mother from an officer of his Brigade, from which it transpires that the Brigadier has recommended him for the Distinguished Conduct Medal. At the time of his death the house where the Headquarters of the Brigade were situated was being shelled. Private Trevett was inside at the time, when a shell exploded in the garden and he was struck by a large fragment, passing away in a short time without recovering consciousness. 'The memory of your son's splendid character still lives' the writer stated.

Two rather different slants on what happened at the time, and Tom certainly lived another two days, during which time he was transferred back to a hospital in Abbeville, probably having been treated initially at a casualty clearing station. But hopefully the letter was of some comfort to Louisa Trevett, who had lost both her husband and her eldest son during the course of the war.


12 Jul 2010

TEE Owen Cecil


Private 6902, 3rd Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment

Died on Wednesday 27th September 1916

Buried at St. James the Less Churchyard, North Lancing, Sussex

There are several photographs in local history books of Owen Tee as a child, but despite the compelling evidence that he lived for many years in the village, it has been a difficult process to solve the puzzle of his military service. His name appears on the war memorial, and the date of death on his grave is 29th September 1916. There is an entry on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission web site for a Cecil Tee of the 19th London Regiment who died on that day and appeared to fit the bill. But on searching more deeply there were several things which seemed at odds with the details of the man I was researching and so I had to start again.

Owen Cecil Tee was born on the 6th May 1898 in Alresford, Hampshire, the son of Annie Rose and Thomas Tee, and I will use the name 'Cecil' as I believe this was the name by which he was commonly known. At the time of the 1901 census he was living with his grandparents in Alresford, and I've been unable to trace either of his parents at that time. The family came to Lancing in the autumn of 1910 and moved to 6, Cecil Road - these houses were built in 1903 and were the first new houses to have the luxury of a bathroom. The admissions register for North Lancing School shows that Cecil Tee and his sister Connie joined the school on the 24th October 1910. By 1911 he was at the Watts Naval Training School in Bintree, Norfolk, which was part of Dr. Barnardo's Homes, although later evidence shows that both his parents were still alive at that time.

It seems likely that Cecil Tee had always suffered from poor health, but he enlisted into the 3rd Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment on the 26th May 1915, just after his seventeenth birthday, giving his age as nineteen and his occupation as 'shop assistant.' His mother was given as his sole next of kin. His service record has survived, but few details remain. He was discharged from the Army on 5th July 1916 as 'no longer physically fit for War Service' and there is no evidence that in his year as a soldier he ever served overseas. His record contains a letter that he wrote shortly after his discharge, on 17th July 1916:

Dear Sir
I wish to say I received my discharge papers quite safe as I am now in bed very ill. I am almost helpless as I have no money to support me in any way whatsoever. I am obliged to go on the Pannell [sic] but cannot do so as I have not got the Green Card required to show I am discharged from the Army. Will you please forward the required card before the end of the week as I am entirely depending on my parents which causes offence to do so as my mother is very ill also as I have not heard anything about my Balance Money yet. I am quite Pennyless. By doing this you will greatly oblige.
I remain yours truly
Cecil Tee, late 3rd Royal Sussex Regiment
Chelsea No. 12803

Cecil was very ill indeed, as was his mother, and within three months they were both dead. Cecil died on the 27th September 1916, aged eighteen, his cause of death being given as pernicious anaemia and syncope [collapse] and his father was present at his death. Pernicious anaemia is caused by the body's inability to absorb vitamin B12 from food and today it is easily treatable. But at that time there was no cure and he must have been suffering for a considerable time prior to his death. His mother died two weeks later, and they are buried together in the churchyard at St. James the Less, North Lancing. The inscription on the grave reads:

In fond and loving memory of Annie Rose Tee, who departed this life 13th October 1916 aged 48 years. Also Owen Cecil, second beloved son of the above who died 29th September 1916 aged 18 years.
Nothing in my hand I bring
Simply to thy cross I cling

Because Cecil Tee had already been discharged from the Army and his discharge was not attributable to injury of disease caused by his military service, he did not receive a pension, and does not appear on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Roll of Honour. He does however appear on Lancing war memorial, perhaps because the village felt that some tribute was due to his father Thomas Tee, who lost both his wife and his son during the war, although not as a direct result of it.



Gunner 374377, 173rd Siege Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery
Killed in Action on Thursday 21st March 1918
Commemorated: Arras Memorial, Pas-de-Calais, Bay 1

Ernest Strudwick was born in Thakeham, Sussex, and baptised there on December 6th, 1885, the eldest child of Alfred and Deborah Strudwick. The family moved to Lancing in 1890, and in 1905 Ernest married Rose Grinyer. Their family quickly grew and by 1911 they were living at St. Kilda, Penhill Road with children Dorothy, Percy and Gertrude, while Ernest worked as a garden labourer. But unlike the majority of Lancing men he did not continue in that employment, and by the outbreak of war had joined the staff at the Southern Railway Carriage Works in Lancing where he worked as a lifter. In 1909 the works had been relocated from Brighton and many of the workers were not local men. The Carriage Works War Memorial names seventy-six men employed there who lost their lives during the Great War, but Ernest Strudwick is the only one known to be a Lancing man, and the only one to appear on both memorials. That the Carriage Works lost twice as many men to the war than the village gives some idea of the scale of industry that was taking place there at that time.

Ernest Strudwick's service record has not survived, neither have I been able to trace a unit war diary, but from his medal entitlement it is known that he did not leave England until after the beginning of 1916. At that time he was living at 4, Salt Lake, and as the father of four small children it must have been hard for him to leave them and his wife Rose for a life of military service. He died on 21st March 1918, yet another Lancing casualty of the German Spring Offensive or 'Kaiserschlacht' and one of six local men to die in the following ten days. At 4.40 a.m. on the morning of the 21st thousands of German guns opened a violent bombardement which was to last for five hours, followed by an infantry assault so massive that many units were quickly overwhelmed. A report in the Sussex Daily News of 25th September 1918 gives news of the Strudwick family and some idea of how Ernest met his death that day:

LANCING MAN IN HOSPITAL - Giving three sons to the Army, of whom one has been killed and one severely wounded, Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Strudwick, of 23 Joyce Cottages, North Lancing, have shared the lot of many during the present war. One son, Private A. C. Strudwick, Royal Fusiliers, has had what may be termed a remarkable escape from death. He received a bullet wound deep in the neck, but providentially no big blood vessel was injured. He is at present in hospital at Orpington. Not quite nineteen, he enlisted in November 1917, and went to the Western Front in March of the present year at the time of the great German Offensive. The son who was killed, Gunner E. Strudwick, Royal Garrison Artillery, was a lifter at the Railway Works when he enrolled in August 1914. He was instantaneously killed by a shell in the spring of this year, and he is buried where he fell, the place being again in British hands. He age was thirty-two, and he leaves a widow and four children. The other son serving is Driver H. Strudwick, Army Service Corps, who was formerly in the employ of Mr. D. Gooderham, market gardener.
[The other two brothers mentioned above are Alfred and Horace Strudwick]

Although Ernest Strudwick may have had a burial at the time, he now has no known grave and is commemorated on the Arras Memorial to the Missing. Rose Strudwick is buried in the extension churchyard at St. James the Less, North Lancing, the inscription a reminder of the children her husband left behind:

'In loving memory of our dear mother and father
Rose Strudwick passed on 3rd July 1936 aged 53
Ernest Strudwick killed in France 21st March 1918 aged 32.'


There is now a Facebook page dedicated to the officers and men of 173rd Siege Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery here:

SCUTT Thomas William

Private G/3304, 7th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment
Killed in Action on Friday 4th August 1916

Commemorated: Thiepval Memorial, Somme, Pier and Face 7c

Thomas Scutt's name appears on Worthing war memorial rather than in Lancing but he is included as a man born here, and whose mother was a member of one of the largest extended families in the village. Caroline Riddles married George Scutt, an agricultural labourer, at Lancing Parish Church on 22nd May, 1858, and all except one of their children were born in the village. The family lived in South Street from the time of their marriage until sometime during the 1890s when they moved to Worthing. By 1911 Thomas was still single and living in Worthing where he worked as a bricklayer's labourer.

Tom Scutt's service record has not survived, but his service number suggests that he enlisted very early in the war into the 7th (Service Battalion) Royal Sussex Regiment. His medal index card gives his date of entry into France as 31st August 1915, and by luck he is mentioned by name in 'The History of the Seventh (Service) Battalion The Royal Sussex Regiment, 1914-1919" which gives a brief but wonderful glimpse into his service life:

"Sergeant Major Hanlon also contributes a reminiscence of the 'Lilliputians,' a section of men in 13 Platoon, small in stature, but great in heart:-
'The Lilliputians had a bad time that day, for although hot food was available in the village, few managed to get any. However, they did manage to produce some tea by the aid of four candles and little pieces of wood. I can see them even now, Corporal W. Baker, Lance-Corporal E. Stoner and Private T. Scutt, huddled up in a small shelter, with an old sheet to keep the light from showing. I doubt if the dixie ever boiled, but I have never tasted better tea since.'"

By early August 1916 the battalion, as part of 36th Brigade, had been in action on the Somme for a month, and at least two other Lancing men were part of the same battalion. William Dykes had died at Ovillers on July 7th, and Captain Hugh Bowlby, son of the headmaster of Lancing College, was one of the company commanders. On the 3rd and 4th of August, in conjunction with the 8th and 9th Battalions, Royal Fusiliers, the 7th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment attacked and took Ration Trench, north-west of Pozières. The following extract is taken from the battalion war diary for the 4th August [WO95/1856]:

At 3 a.m. received orders to send one Company over to RATION trench to get in touch with 8th Royal Fusiliers and work up to the right; also one Platoon to attack strong point on the right, after this had been captured they were to work down RATION and get in touch with A Company. A Company went too much to the left, but reached RATION trench finding the Buffs already there. Col. Cope (O.C. Buffs) ordered A Coy. to push forward and take the ridge, which they reached without any difficulty, but were heavily counter-attacked and obliged to fall back to RATION trench. The Platoon on the right came under heavy machine gun fire and were not able to capture the strong point. Later in the day orders were received for two Companies to attack the right of RATION trench in conjunction with attack of 9th Royal Fusiliers. Two Platoons were again to attack strong point on right from POZIERS trench. B and D Companies attacked across the open but lost direction, some however reached their objective and got in touch with 9th Royal Fusiliers. The two Platoons of C Company were unable to capture Strong point, owing to heavy machine gun fire. The result of this operation was that practically the whole of RATION trench was captured and consolidated.
Casualties during two days: 2nd Lieuts. Wood, Le Doux Veitch, killed; 2nd Lieuts. Cooke, Fitzsimmons, Rolfe, missing; Capt. Trower, 2nd Lieuts. D. Alton, Glenister, Howe, Browning, wounded. Other Ranks, 18 killed, 25 missing, 109 wounded.

Among the men to die that day was Tom Scutt - he has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing, his name among the 72,000 officers and men of the British and South African forces who died on the Somme before March 1918 and who have no known grave. The Scutts were a large family and the name continues today with many people with the surname living locally - undoubtedly quite a few are related to Tom Scutt.

Thomas Scutt's name engraved on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing, Somme


11 Jul 2010

SCOONES Archibald John

Sergeant 926316, D Battery, 290th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery
Killed in Action on Saturday 23rd March, 1918
Commemorated: Pozières Memorial, Somme, Panel 7 to 10

Archibald Scoones was born in Camberwell in 1887, the son of Edward and Kate Scoones. At the time of the 1911 census the family were still in London and living at 75 Arran Road, Catford. Edward was the manager at a factory making toilet preparations, and both Archibald and his younger brother Horace were clerks in the same business. It's not known when they moved to Lancing, but Edward Scoones must have either been relatively successful, or perhaps had inherited money, as by the outbreak of war they were living at Laurel Lodge, North Road, Lancing, a large detached house just south of Monks Farm, and opposite the present turning for North Farm Road. Archibald Scoones' service record does not survive at The National Archives, but it is known that he joined the army in September 1914, enlisting in Lewisham, while resident in Lancing.

He must have proved an efficient and responsible soldier, as three and a half years on he had reached the rank of Sergeant. Unfortunately, like several other Lancing men, the German Spring Offensive or 'Kaiserschlacht' of 1918 was to be his last action. The Battalion war diary held at the National Archives [WO95/2995] shows that his unit was about 20 miles south of St. Quentin, near Chauny, and withdrawing daily. They had lost heavily on March 21st, with casualties of 122 officers and men killed, injured or captured, and also 16 horses. There is no mention in the diary of casualties on the 23rd March, but the nature of Archie Scoones death was mentioned in the Sussex Daily News on 20th May 1918:

SERGEANT A. J. SCOONES - LANCING - Mr. and Mrs Scoones of Laurel Lodge, Lancing, have sustained a bereavement by the war, their son Sgt. A. J. Scoones, Royal Field Artillery, having been killed by a shell on the Western Front. Enlisting in September 1914 he had been in this theatre of war since January 1917. He was thirty-one and single.

Archibald Scoones has no known grave and is commemorated on the Pozières Memorial, Somme - his name does not appear on Lancing War Memorial as his parents left Lancing in about 1920 and moved to Maidenhead, Berkshire, but he is included here as a Lancing man throughout the war years. However, his name does appear on the war memorial of St. Peter, Brockley, in the Borough of Lewisham - the area that he and his family knew as 'home.'

Archibald Scoones name engraved on a panel at the Pozières Memorial, Somme


5 Jul 2010

READ Frederick


Driver 56776, 82nd Battery, Royal Field Artillery
Died on Saturday 30th September 1916
Commemorated on Basra Memorial, Iraq, Panel 3 and 60

Frederick Read's name does not appear on Lancing war memorial, and he is included here as one of the sons of a large family living in Lancing during the war. Trying to identify that family and their roots proved difficult at first, the surname being a common one, but slowly the pieces came together. Frederick was born in 1892 in Edmondsham, Dorset, the son of George and Fanny Read. Both parents were from Dorset, and in 1891 the family were in Edmondsham where George worked as a sawyer and by 1901 they had moved a little farther south to Canford Magna.

Fred was a regular soldier and had enlisted into the Royal Artillery at Fort Purbrook, Hampshire some years before the Great War. The 1911 census shows him as a driver with 82nd Battery, Royal Field Artillery, in Kirkee India. As part of 10th Brigade, the unit were still in India at the outbreak of war, and the war diary held at The National Archives [WO95/5117] shows that they received orders to mobilise on September 9th 1914, and they left Bombay on 8th November 1914 on the S.S. Torilla, as part of 6th [Poona] Division, disembarking at Saihan eight days later. On the 12th August 1916 the Sussex Daily News carried the following story about the Read brothers military service:

FIVE SOLDIER SONS - LANCING - Five sons of Mr. and Mrs. G. Read of New Salts Farm Cottages are serving their country. They are:
Cpl. E. G. Read - Royal Sussex Regiment

L/Cpl. A. S. Read - Royal Munster Fusiliers

L/Cpl. W. H. Read - Royal Sussex Regiment

Driver F. Read - Royal Field Artillery

Private S. H. Read

Driver F. Read R.F.A., was at Kut and was taken prisoner when the Turks captured the British Garrison there. L/Cpl. W. H. Read, Royal Sussex Regiment, who was gassed and wounded on the Western Front, has just completed his ten days leave after recovering from his injuries. L/Cpl. A. S. Read, Royal Munster Fusiliers, who was wounded at the Dardanelles in 1915, has still no any use in one of his arms and is now in Ireland. Cpl. E. G. Read, Royal Sussex Regiment, is still in France, and beyond one spell of illness has come through alright so far. Private S. H. Read, the youngest, had served about a year in the forces when he was invalided out. He has, however, managed to pass for service again, although it is not quite certain in what Regiment he will be serving.

During the siege of Kut many men died as disease ran riot through the garrison, and decimated the ranks of men already weakened by starvation. Following the surrender, the situation did not improve. The weakened men were force marched, beaten, tortured and executed by the Turks, most of them dying either in prison camps in Asiatic Turkey, or on the journey there. 6th Division 'died a prisoner' with the death of 1,700 other ranks out of a total of just over 2,500, and the Indian dead of the Division numbered more than 2,500. It was more than two years before the few survivors were freed. It is poignant that Fred Read's name was still included in the Absent Voter's list of October 1918 - presumably his family still held out hope for his safe return. The officers who were captured fared much better than their men, among them another Lancing man, Basil Peel, son of Edmund Peel, vicar of Lancing. Basil Peel was a staff officer to General Townshend, much decorated, and finally repatriated in December 1918.

Fred Read is recorded as having died of illness or disease on September 30th, 1916, probably in a prison camp in Anatolia. It is known that the bodies of other men of his Battery who died at around the same time were exhumed after the war and re-interred at Baghdad (North Gate) Cemetery, but Fred has no known grave and his name is recorded on the Basra Memorial to the Missing, which commemorates more than 40,000 men of the Commonwealth forces who died in Mesopotamia between 1914 and 1921 and who have no known grave.

The other Read brothers who are named above were:
Edwin George Read, Albert Read, Sidney Herbert Read and Walter Henry Read.


4 Jul 2010

PRIOR Charles James


Rifleman 1214, 3rd Battalion Rifle Brigade
Killed in Action on Wednesday 23rd December 1914

Commemorated: Ploegsteert Memorial, Comines-Warneton, Belgium, Panel 10

Charles Prior was not a Lancing man and his name does not appear on the war memorial, but he was a member of the village community at the outbreak of war and has an interesting tale to tell, so will be included here. He was born in 1888 in Westgate, Chichester, the son of Nathaniel and Mahala Prior. His father was an engine driver and he was one of at least six children.

In early 1906 the age of eighteen he joined the Army, enlisting into the 4th Battalion, Rifle Brigade, as Rifleman 1214 and his occupation prior to enlistment was given as 'Porter.' His service record shows that he had several admissions to hospital but all for minor illnesses, and his conduct was generally good. In September 1911, while in Cairo, he was drunk on returning to barracks one night and received eight days confined to barracks as punishment, but this appears to have been an isolated incident. In February 1914, after having served for eight years and three months he left the Army, returned from Delhi where he was serving, and transferred to the Army Reserve for the rest of his twelve year engagement. He returned to Chichester and found work once again as a porter, but in May 1914 he applied to join the West Sussex Constabulary. At that time many police officers were former regular soldiers and Charles Prior was accepted, and after initial training he was stationed at Lancing from 19th June 1914.

When a regular soldier was transferred to the Army Reserve he was liable for recall to his unit immediately on the outbreak of hostilities, so with war growing ever nearer during the summer of 1914, these men must have been aware that their civilian lives were drawing to a close, for a while at least. The final entries for Charles Prior in the West Sussex Constabulary Examination Book report:

3rd August 1914: Called upon to resign for being drunk in uniform at Lancing on the night of the 1st August 1914. Date of removal from the Force - 3rd August 1914.

It's interesting to speculate on the reasons for Charlie Prior's actions - his eight years as a regular soldier had only led to one charge of drunken behaviour, so it was not a regular occurrence. Maybe the thought of returning to his unit and war was unbearable to him after such a short time as a civilian with a new life and a responsible job; or perhaps as a highly trained soldier in a respected regiment he was delighted to be facing the enemy in battle at last - no-one will ever know. The next day, 4th August 1914, he would have received a telegram ordering him back to the Rifle Brigade for duty - in that way his dismissal from the Police Force made no difference to the course that his life would now take. On his return, Charles Prior joined the 3rd Battalion, and the following are extracts from the unit war diary held at The National Archives [WO95/1613]:

On the 8th September 1914, the Battalion left Southampton on the S.S. Lake Michigan, having on board the Headquarters of the 17th Infantry Brigade, and the 2nd Battalion, Leinster Regiment, and arrived at St. Nazaire on the 10th, where the boat had to remain outside the harbour until the morning of the 12th while the rest of 6th Division were disembarking ...
... the next 36 days were spent in the trenches near Flamengerie Farm and Bois Grenier during which time the Germans shelled us unpleasantly on several occasions. Still, it was getting near Christmas when we all confidently believed the war would end, and the farmhouses close to the trenches still held chicken and pigs which kept us all in good spirits. On December 15th we left the 16th Infantry Brigade and returned to the 17th Infantry Brigade commanded by Brigadier General Doran, and went into new trenches at Armentières, on the line we had retired to during the fight on the 17th October. Here we did another 34 days without being relieved. Christmas in the trenches will always be remembered by the Battalion as a day of perfect peace during which, by mutual consent, both sides declared a truce. There were many interesting features on this Christmas Day not the least of which was a German juggler who drew a large crowd of Riflemen and Germans in the middle of No Man's Land ...

Unfortunately Charles Prior did not live to be part of the Christmas entertainment, and the 'day of perfect peace.' His service record states simply:

23/12/14 - Killed in action in the Field and buried near Chappelle d'Armentières.

At least he had the dignity of a funeral at that time, although he is commemorated on Ploegsteert Memorial and has no known grave. His body may now lie in a military cemetery in an 'Unknown Soldier' grave, or his original resting place may have been lost in the constant fighting that took place on that ground during the next four years of war. Because of his dismissal from the Police Force on the eve of war, his name does not appear on the memorial tablet at Horsham Police Station, neither does it appear on Chichester war memorial despite continuing family connections with the city post-war. I feel strongly that his long record of service to his country and his short time in Lancing entitles him to be mentioned on these pages.

Charles Prior's name on the Ploegsteert Memorial to the Missing



I've recently received good news from Bob Prior, a great-nephew of Charles Prior. He has been working towards some local commemoration of his great-uncle and writes:

Pondering on Uncle Charles's situation, a few months ago, thinking about what I considered to be a "Great historical injustice", I decided to do something about his omission from Chichester's WW1 War Memorial. I contacted the City Council, preparing for battle in a last ditch attempt , arguing that after almost 100 years the time was ripe for them to consider my plea.  The replies I received were almost unbelievable! The Town Clerk had been given the task to research & consider my request! The Mayor was fully behind it. Within a fairly short time, my request had been accepted & plans to add THREE OTHER names besides! (This included their only known VC!). The correspondence I received from the Town Clerk had been so kind & considerate all the way along.  Less than two weeks ago I was surprised to hear the work had been completed!  The Town Clerk sent me photos'.  I visited the Memorial & placed a cross near Charles's name on Saturday, in time for Remembrance Sunday. What a marvellous dream it has all seemed.

Well done to Bob for securing such a good outcome!

20 Jun 2010

PAGE Frank Arthur


Lance Corporal 52153, 26th Battalion Royal Fusiliers
Died on Friday 24th October 1919

Buried: St. James the Less Churchyard, Lancing, South of the Church Tower

Since the beginning of the nineteenth century the Page family have been one of Lancing's most prolific families. Although the parish registers are in poor condition it appears that by 1901 all Pages in the village were descended from the same great-grandparents, James and Sarah Page. They had at least seven sons who survived infancy, and Frank Page's grandfather is thought to be the eldest of those sons. Frank was born at the beginning of 1891, the seventh and youngest child of Matthew and Emily Elizabeth Page. Matthew worked for much of his life as a bricklayer, but by 1901 was in poor health and unable to work, the family being supported by the adult children still at home.

Frank Page's service record has not survived, but it's believed that he enlisted in the summer of 1915. The 26th (Service) Battalion, Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment) was raised in July 1915 predominantly from bank clerks and accountants, although there is no evidence that Frank came into either of these categories. His battalion went to France in 1916, and then on to Italy in mid-November 1917, and a report in the Sussex Daily News dated 5 April 1918 gives news of Frank and his brothers Sydney and Charles:

During the recent German onslaught Private S. G. Page, Royal Sussex Regiment, one of three Lancing brothers serving, received his second wound. It was in the woods near Albert that he was hit, a bullet entering the leg. He is now in hospital in Reading. Last June, near Ypres, he was hit in the arm. The two other sons of Mrs. Page, Ivy Cottage, are Private C. F. Page, Royal West Kents, who is in Mesopotamia, and Lance Corporal F. A. Page, Royal Fusiliers, who is in hospital in Italy suffering from the privations of campaigning. All three brothers were formerly engaged in the market gardening industry.

However, the newspaper was a little behind the times, as the papers often tended to be. 41st Division had already left Italy, and were back in France on March 18th 1918, and it seems likely from later reports, that Frank was injured as a result of the German Spring Offensive at the end of March. A further item in the Worthing Gazette adds to the information:

LANCE CORPORAL F. PAGE - LANCING - One of three Army brothers, Lance Corporal F. Page, Royal Fusiliers, of 2 Ivy Cottages, Lancing, has been very badly wounded and has had his left leg amputated below the knee. He sustained the injury after he had been transferred from the Italian to the Western Front only a week. His army service extends to nearly three years.

Eventually Frank came home, although no details of the next few months are known, and he died on 24th October 1919, eighteen months after his wounding. He is buried in the graveyard of St. James the Less, North Lancing, where he had been baptised, one of only two Lancing men named on the war memorial to be buried in the village. Frank's brother Sydney, who died on the 17th April 1944, lies alongside him in the same grave.


12 Jun 2010

NUTLEY George Albert Bernard


Private TF/201048, 4th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment

Killed in Action on Thursday 1st August 1918

Commemorated: Soissons Memorial, Aisne, France

George Nutley was baptised on the 4th October 1896 at the church of St. James the Less, North Lancing, the youngest of the three children of Charles and Mary Jane Nutley. Neither Charles nor Mary Jane were originally from the local area, but by 1901 they had settled at Salt Lake, Lancing, which now forms part of Freshbrook Road. By 1911 Charles Nutley and both his sons were working as market gardeners, in common with the majority of local working men.

As George Nutley's service record does not survive at The National Archives exact details are not known, but it is believed that George and his brother Arthur enlisted together at Horsham into the 4th Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment in early July 1915, and joined their battalion in Egypt in December of that year, where they were to stay for the next two and a half years. During that time their mother died, and the Sussex Daily News reported on the 31st January 1918:

PRIVATE G. A. B. NUTLEY - LANCING - It is a pathetic circumstance that while two Lancing brothers are fighting in Mesopotamia, their mother has recently passed away. Their home is at Salt Lake, Lancing. One, Private G. A. B. Nutley, Royal SussexRegiment, who was formerly in a market garden, has sustained a bayonet wound in the chest, but no further tidings have been forthcoming of him. The older brother is Private A. J. Nutley, also of the County Regiment, and in peace time an assistant to Messrs. Potter and Bailey, grocers etc. Both enlisted two and a half years ago.

By theh summer of 1918 the Battalion had returned from Palestine and were on the Western Front, and the unit war diary, held at The National Archives [WO95/2458] gives details of the action on August 1st, the day that George Nutley died:

4.45 a.m. The line advanced through the Bois de Beugneux. The enemy retired in disorder leaving many machine guns in our hands. A number were killed with the bayonet and prisoners were taken.
6 a.m
. The Beugneux-Cordoux Road was crossed and the objective occupied. The Battalion was now in touch with the Queens on the left and the 103rd Brigade on the right. The line was consolidated and the Battalion reorganised.

6.45 a.m
. Orders were received to advance the line for 600 yards.

7 p.m
. The Battalion advanced with Queens on the left and 8th Scottish Rifles on the right, and occupied the line with little opposition, capturing 6 machine guns. The new line was consolidated.

9 p.m
. Our artillery put down an intense barrage, but no enemy was observed by us.

Casualties during action: Other ranks - killed 10; wounded 28; missing 3.

George Nutley was among the casualties that day and a report in the Sussex Daily News on the 18th September 1918 told of his death, and also news of his brother Arthur, still in Egypt and now in the Royal Army Medical Corps:

LANCING MAN KILLED - After just over three years serving with the Colours, Private G. A. Nutley, Royal Sussex Regiment, son of Mr. C. Nutley, Salt Lake, Lancing, has sacrificed his life for his country on the Western Front. He had only been there about a month, having been transferred from Egypt after about two and a half years service in the Near East, during which time he took part in the victorious advance on Jerusalem. He was wounded once during the Palestine Campaign. Since he left this country for foreign service in December 1915, this young soldier, who was in his twenty-second year, had never been home on leave, and his mother died while he was away. He was formerly engaged in the Market Gardening industry. His elder brother Private A. Nutley, Royal Army Medical Corps, is in Egypt, where he has been in hospital twice since being home on leave.

George Nutley has no known grave and his name appears on the memorial at Soissons, in the Aisne region of France. The memorial commemorates 4,000 officers and men of the UK forces who died during the Battles of the Aisne and Marne in 1918 and who have no known grave.


11 Jun 2010

NORRIS Sidney Harold


Rifleman 6619, Rifle Brigade, attached 2/10th Battalion, London Regiment
Killed in Action on Sunday 31st March 1918

Commemorated: Pozières Memorial, Somme, Panel 81-84

Sidney Norris was not a Lancing man by birth and it has been difficult to trace his connection with the village, but the appearance of his name on the memorial indicates someone's wish that he should be remembered locally. He was born in Clapham, London, in 1893, the second child of Charles and Esther Norris. At the time of the 1901 census the family were living in Bramwell Street, Clapham, and the five children had all been born in Clapham or neighbouring Battersea. To go forward in time, the information given by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission shows that after the war, when information about those who died was collated, his father Charles was still living in Battersea.

Sidney Norris enlisted in Worthing while resident in Lancing, but as his service record does not survive, no date can be given for this. He originally joined the Army Service Corps as a driver, with the number T/36004, and then later transferred to the Rifle Brigade with the number 6619. The move from the Army Service Corps to a fairly elite regiment such as the Rifle Brigade was a major one, and may have been one of personal choice rather than reorganisation of personnel. He arrived in France on 24 February 1915, relatively early in the war, but his movements cannot be traced until the time of his death, when he was attached to the a battalion of the London Regiment. On 21 March 1918 the Germans had launched a major offensive along much of the southern section of the British front line, and they had pushed forward, re-taking much of the ground they lost in the previous two years. By the 31st March the 2/10th Londons were just south of Chauny and the main area of attack, and seem to have escaped the worst of the fighting during the previous week. Their unit war diary held at The National Archives [WO95/3009] shows that on the whole their sector was fairly quiet, although they could hear heavy fighting to their north and see enemy transport and troops advancing. The entry for the day that Sidney Norris died states:

BUTTES DE ROUY shelled. Direct hit on OP [observation post]. Casualties 1 OR killed. Situation otherwise quiet.

A check of 'Soldiers Died in the Great War' CD, and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website show that three men of the battalion were killed in action that day; one man, in common with Sidney Norris, is commemorated on the Pozières Memorial, while the other is buried in nearby Chauny Communal Cemetery Extension. I have found no reports of his death in local papers, and I have no knowledge of his Lancing connections. The 1915 Blue Book of Worthing gives one entry for that surname in Lancing, an Edwin Norris who was living at Dairy Cottage, one of the outlying residences, and it's possible that this was a relative or perhaps Sidney's home address. I would glad of any further information that could shed light on his life and work in the village.


31 May 2010



Private 26156, 5th Battalion King's Shropshire Light Infantry

Killed in action on Wednesday 22nd August 1917
Commemorated: Tyne Cot Memorial, Zonnebeke, Belgium, Panel 112/113

William Monnery was baptised on 9th November 1884 at St. Mary's Church, Sompting, the third son of William and Mary Monnery. The family settled in Sompting in the 1850s and most of the Monnery men worked in market gardens. By 1911 he was one of two brothers still living at home with their mother, now widowed, at Malt House Cottage, North Lancing, and he worked as a market garden labourer.

William Monnery had seen service as a regular soldier at some time before the war with the Sherwood Foresters (Notts and Derby Regiment), but as his service record does not survive at The National Archives details of this are not known. It seems probable that he was on the Army Reserve at the outbreak of war and went back to his original regiment, later being transferred to the King's Shropshire Light Infantry. Annette Burgoyne, who researches the KSLI has information that shows 150 men of the 1/6th and 1/7th Battalions Notts and Derby Regiment were transferred to the 5th Battalion KSLI in August 1916. It seems likely that William was among these men, forty-three of whom later lost their lives.

Unlike his brother Harry, whose death cannot be explained by the unit war diary entries, William Monnery was killed on a day when his battalion were in action at Hooge, east of Ypres. Extracts from the war diary held at The National Archives [WO95/1902] give some idea of the action that day:

Immediately on ZERO going, 'A' and 'B' Companies advanced in small section columns through the wood and quickly obtained their objective throughout the line with the exception of the RIGHT flank which was 'refused' in order to obtain connection with the 43rd Brigade whose progress was held up by machine gun fire from 'L' Farm. Within 5 minutes of the advance, all the officers of the RIGHT Coy. became casualties and only one junior officer remained with the LEFT Coy. Considerable opposition was encountered during the advance, especially by machine gun fire. 'D' and 'C' Coys. carried out their instructions for action on ZERO, and on my being informed of the officer casualties, I ordered Captain Lloyd forward ...

... I realised that at least a fourth of my Battalion had by this time become casualties, and wished to be prepared adequately for any counter-attack which might follow.

... On the morning of the 23rd inst. at about 4.30 a.m. a heavy counter-attack was launched against 43rd Brigade, and it was only on my extreme RIGHT that our Lewis Gunners were able to participate in repelling it, and considerable execution was done by them in the enemies ranks, firing half-right ...

The casualties for the action were one officer and 19 other ranks killed, while a further 4 officers and 107 other ranks were wounded, with 12 other ranks missing - somewhere among these was William Monnery. An entry in the Worthing Gazette, dated 10th October 1917, reports his death:

PRIVATE W. MONNERY KILLED - An intimation has been received within the past few days that Private William Monnery, whose relatives live at Malthouse Cottages, North Lancing, was killed in action in France on the 22nd August. Prior to his enlistment Monnery was employed by Messrs. H. and A. Pullen-Burry, his father having worked for the same firm for many years. Private Monnery, who was thirty-five years of age and unmarried, was in the Shropshire Light Infantry. Four of his married brothers are now on service.

William Monnery's age is given incorrectly by the newspaper, and again by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission who give it as twenty-eight years. He was approaching his thirty-third birthday, and died just six weeks after his brother Harry. Both brothers are commemorated on Tyne Cot Memorial, 5 miles north-east of Ieper, the modern name given to the town of Ypres. The memorial bears the names of 35,000 officers and men who died in the area and have no known grave.


30 May 2010


Private 55915 Machine Gun Corps
Died: Tuesday 26 March 1918
Buried: Worthing (Broadwater) Cemetery, Sussex, Grave A9.I.18

Stephen Monnery was born in May 1887, the son of John and Kate Monnery. John originated from Henfield, and his family moved to Sompting at some time in the late 1850s. By the time of Stephen's birth the family were in Worthing where John worked as a market garden labourer, and in 1901 were living at 2 Jessamine Cottages, Thurloe Road, Broadwater. Stephen joined the Post Office as a thirteen year old telegraph messenger and stayed with them in a variety of jobs until he joined the Army.

On 16th March 1915 he enlisted into the 8th Battalion City of London Regiment (Post Office Rifles) as Rifleman 3327 and transferred on 12th September 1916 to the Machine Gun Corps, being posted to France on 26th October 1916. Initially it was difficult to determine which company of the Machine Gun Corps he was attached to, but thanks to information received from St. Dunstan's Archives it is now known that he was with the 23rd Company. He was wounded on 17th November 1916 during the last days of the Battle of the Somme, and suffered gunshot wounds to his head, both eyes and right arm, injuries which resulted in him having both his eyes removed. Stephen Monnery's war was over.

On his return to England he spent some time in hospital and then went home to recuperate. As there was no possibility of him ever being fit for service again, he appeared before a medical board in London on 5th March 1917, and his details on discharge were as follows:

Discharged: 5th March 1917
Place of Discharge: 91 York Street, Westminster
: 29 years 282 days

: 5ft 9ins

: Fair

: Light brown
Eyes: Both excised
Occupation: Postman
: 9 Victoria Terrace, Penhill Road, South Lancing

Tattoo marks
: Right and left arms

Military character
: Good
Suffered gunshot wounds to head, both eyes and right arm - both eyes excised. No longer fit for military service.

He was transferred for rehabilitation to St. Dunstan's Home which was then in Regent's Park, London, with an annexe in Brighton, where he was training to be a masseur - the forerunner of the modern day physiotherapist. In March 1918 he developed meningitis, and he died at St. Dunstan's on 26th March 1918. The Worthing Gazette reported his funeral which took place four days later at Broadwater Cemetery:

MILITARY FUNERAL - Former Postman Blinded in the War
Military honours were accorded at the funeral, at the Cemetery on Saturday, of Stephen Monnery, a former member of the Post Office staff.
The deceased, who was thirty years of age, and whose home was at Penhill-road, Lancing, was blinded in both eyes in the War. He became an inmate of St. Dunstan's Hostel at Brighton, where he was being trained for massage work, and his death occurred at that institution a few days since, from meningitis, due to a fragment of shell which had lodged in his head. In 1900 Monnery entered the Post Office as a telegraph messenger; in 1905 he became a postman at Lancing; three years later he was transferred to the Angmering district, and in 1915 he came back to Worthing. Then he enlisted in the Post Office Rifles and went on active service, with the result recorded.

Mr. G. Stacey, the local Postmaster, and several members of the staff joined the relatives at the graveside on Saturday, thus showing their regard for a conscientious and useful member of the service. The bearers and firing party were supplied by one of the Battalions of the Coldstream Guards from Shoreham.
There were several floral tributes from, among others, his mother and father; Edie and Percy (sister and brother); Walt and Mary (brother and sister); Edie, Micky and Jacky; Kitty, Aunt Alice, Uncle Harry and Ally; his cousin Ted, Nance and Jessie; Sir Arthur Pearson, Bart.; his comrades at West House, St. Dunstan's Annex; the Blind Boys of Queens Road, St. Dunstan's Annex; the Boys of St. Dunstan's; the Postmaster and Staff of Worthing Post Office; Hector and Mr. Genatt; Mr. F. Bartlett and children; Mr. F. Howell; Miss Gilbert; Mr. and Miss Hobbs; Mr. and Mrs. C. Evans; and Mr. Lisher and Marjory.

Stephen Monnery is buried in a family grave in Broadwater Cemetery, Worthing, joined in later years by his parents John and Kate Monnery in the adjoining grave. He is also commemorated on Worthing town war memorial and on the memorial plaque to post office employees at Worthing main post office. Harry Monnery and William Monnery also mentioned on these pages as having lost their lives during the Great War were the sons of John Monnery's elder brother William, and were first cousins to Stephen.

With thanks to Mary Monnery for the images of both Stephen Monnery's grave and also the memorial plaque at Worthing main post office.


29 May 2010



Private 18431, 3rd Battalion Coldstream Guards
Died Tuesday 9th October 1917

Commemorated: Tyne Cot Memorial, Zonnebeke, Belgium, Panel 9 and 10

Harry Monnery was born in Sompting on August 8th 1882, the son of William and Mary Monnery, and baptised on September 10th of the same year at St. Mary's Church. His father had been born in Henfield and the family came to Sompting in the 1850s, most of the Monnery men working in market gardens. The family lived first in Sompting Street, then moved to Pullenburry Cottages in Grinstead Lane, Lancing, but in April 1908 Harry married Jessie Saunders and for a short time the couple moved to Ashurst where they ran the Fountain Inn. In 1911 they were back in North Lancing, living at Bay Tree Cottage, and Harry was working as a 'market gardener's salesman.'

As a married man with a business to look after Harry Monnery did not volunteer for military service immediately, but on 10th December 1915 he attested under the Derby Scheme, and it was on 7th June 1916 that he joined the Coldstream Guards at Caterham, and Jessie returned to stay with her family. After a period of training Harry joined the 3rd battalion in Flanders, who were, at that time, deeply involved in the 3rd Battle of Ypres. On the day he died the battalion were attacking positions in the Houthulst forest, north of Ypres, beyond Poelcapelle. A few lines in the Worthing Gazette of 14th November 1917 report his death:

A GUARDSMAN KILLED - An official report of the death of still another local soldier has been received. This is Harry Monnery, of Bay Tree Cottage. Prior to his enlistment in the Coldstream Guards he was employed as a salesman by Messrs. H. and A. Pullen-Burry, and he was also at one time a licensed victualler at Ashurst.

There is a higher than expected incidence of local men enlisting in the Coldstream Guards, and this could be because of the close proximity of Shoreham Camp where, for many years, a battalion of the regiment were based. As an elite regiment of the British Army they may have been an attractive proposition for men contemplating enlistment. However, when examining the battalion war diaries for this regiment, they are disappointing in content, with a bare minimum of information and often no indication of the number of casualties. Of five Monnery brothers, two died during the Great War; Harry's younger brother William died just a few weeks before and is also commemorated on Tyne Cot Memorial. Stephen Monnery, also named on Lancing War Memorial, is not the brother of the same name belonging to this family, but a first cousin.

Tyne Cot Cemetery and Memorial

21 May 2010



Private 306908 2/5th Battalion Sherwood Foresters (Notts and Derby Regiment)

Killed in Action on Thursday 21st March 1918

Commemorated on Arras Memorial, Pas de Calais, Bay 7

Robert Mitchell was born on September 21st 1880 and baptised at the parish church of St. James the Less on November 7th of the same year, the youngest son of Frederick and Sarah Mitchell. At the time of the 1911 census he was still single, and living with his parents at North Road Cottages, Lancing, while working as a market garden labourer.

Robert Mitchell did not enlist until the first half of 1916; many of the market gardens were badly affected by losing so many of their workers to the military forces, and often tried to prevent them from being called up, attending local tribunals to plead their case. But by the summer of 1916 he had joined the Sherwood Foresters, enlisting in Worthing. As part of 59th Division, the battalion were in Ireland from April 1916 until January 1917, and the following month they left for France and the Western Front. The German Spring Offensive of 1918 was a disastrous time for the men of Lancing, and few battalions were more badly affected by the events of March 21st than the 2/5th Sherwood Foresters. Many soldiers all along the British front line were killed and injured by the earth shattering five hour artillery bombardment which preceded the attack, and many of those uninjured were left numb and frightened by the time the German advance started that morning. The battalion war diary did not survive that German advance, but a retrospective account of the events is held at The National Archives [WO95/3025] - the first paragraph sums up thus:

In writing the account of the above action, difficulty is at once encountered, owing to the fact that all records including War Diary, Defence schemes and Operation Orders were lost. Indeed the only information available is that afforded by messages sent to the Brigade HQs during the action, and the statements of the four men who were the only survivors.

The total casualties laid out in the document show that 31 officers and 624 other ranks were unaccounted for at the end of the day, including the Commanding Officer, Lt. Colonel H. R. Gadd, MC, with just four 'survivors' to answer roll call. 'Soldiers Died in the Great War' CD shows that in fact 4 officers and 104 other ranks died on that day, the remaining men either wounded, taken prisoner, or having lost temporarily lost touch with their unit. Also among the dead was their chaplain, the Reverend Alan Judd. Colonel Gadd survived as a prisoner of war, and months later was able to give more information about the day's events. Robert Mitchell was not so lucky; the Sussex Daily News reported on 20th May 1918:

LANCING MAN IS MISSING - Private R. Mitchell, Sherwood Foresters, son of Mr. and Mrs. Mitchell, North Road, Lancing, is officially posted missing on the Western Front. His parents have not heard from him since the first week in March. He has been in the service about two years, and was in the employ of a market gardener on joining up.

Robert Mitchell has no known grave and is commemorated on Arras Memorial, Faubourg-d'Amiens Cemetery, Arras, and is also remembered on his parents' grave at St. James the Less, Lancing.


16 May 2010

LOWER Henry Charles


Ordinary Seaman J/33102 Royal Navy
Died on Wednesday 2nd January 1918
Buried at Mikra British Cemetery, Kalamaria, Greece, Grave 1746

Henry Lower was born in Burgess Hill, Sussex, on 15th February 1899, the son of Henry and Mary Ann Lower. His parents were married in Lancing in March 1895, and moved away to Burgess Hill, but by the time of the 1911 census, Mary Ann was widowed, and the family were living with her father and adult brothers at 9 Salt Lake, Lancing, with Mary Ann employed as a dressmaker.

On leaving school Henry worked as a market gardener, but in November 1913 at the age of fourteen he joined the Royal Navy, and on February 15th 1917, his eighteenth birthday, he moved from Boy Service to a permanent twelve year engagement. His service did not go unnoticed by the local papers, and this account was carried in the Worthing Gazette on December 20th 1916:

SERVING HIS COUNTRY - The Gazette is informed that Henry Lower, only son of Mrs. Lower of Salt Lake, Lancing, has been in the Royal Navy more than two years, and is now only seventeen. He went to Devonport on H.M.S. Impregnable in November 1914, and was home on leave at Christmas that year. In the following May he went out to the Dardanelles on the Endymion, and has not been home on leave since that period. The several vessels on which he has since seen service are the Cornwallis, the Europa, and the Edgar. Two of his friends also joined the Navy. One of them, William Burtenshaw, died of spotted fever two months after he joined; whilst Ernest Glasspool, who also went out to the Dardanelles, has been discharged. The correspondent who supplies the Gazette with these details thinks it very desirable that the public should know what our young lads are doing, whilst there are older ones idling their time away at home.

By this time in 1916 conscription had been introduced, so those 'older ones' may have had good reasons for still being at home, but many of these reports were initiated by families wanting to make public the fact that they had sons serving their country - this seemed to give them status in the community and a feeling of unity with others in a similar situation. Some of the details of service in the newspaper do not fully agree with the service record. The official record shows his movements as follows:

17 November 1913 - 4 February 1915: Boy 2, H.M.S. Impregnable 5 February 1914 - 17 June 1915: Boy 1, H.M.S. Impregnable 18 June 1915 - 16 August 1915: Boy 1, H.M.S. Cornwallis 17 August 1915 - 8 September 1915: Boy 1, H.M.S. Europa 9 September 1915 - 14 February 1917: Boy 1, H.M.S. Edgar 15 February 1917 - 2 January 1918: Ordinary Seaman, H.M.S. Edgar Report 31 December 1917: Character: Good Ability: Good

The last entry in Henry Lower's service record comes just two days after the last report on his character and ability:

Date of Death: 2nd January 1918 Cause of Death: Pneumonia

So Henry Lower succumbed not to enemy action, but to illness, as did so many men during the course of the war. He is buried at Mikra British Cemetery, Kalamaria, Greece. I've been able to visit and photograph many of the graves and memorials of local men. Unfortunately Henry Lower's grave, as one of the furthest away of all the Lancing men, may be more difficult than many of the others.


LISHER Reginald


Private 10243, 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards
Killed in Action on Monday 14th September 1914

Commemorated: La Ferté-sous-Jouarre Memorial, Seine et Marne

Reginald Lisher was baptised on January 5th 1896 at the parish church of St. James the Less, North Lancing, the second son of James and Ellen Lisher. At the time of the 1911 census the family were living at Mafeking, Penhill Road, Lancing, and James and Reginald, together with elder brother, Lennox, worked as gardeners.

Reginald Lisher enlisted into the Coldstream Guards at Brighton on 19th July 1913, giving his age incorrectly as 18 years and 8 months, and his occupation as garden labourer. Five days later his childhood friend, Victor Grover, also enlisted, and the two boys later went together to the 1st Battalion. A year later they were among the first British troops to enter France shortly after the outbreak of war - two very young 'Old Contemptibles.' The battalion left Aldershot for Southampton on August 13th 1914 on board the Dunvegan Castle, arriving in Havre the following day. After a short period of rest they spent much of the next four weeks marching, retreating, marching and advancing, until on September 14th they were engaged in heavy action at the Battle of the Aisne. This action resulted in 11 officers and 342 other ranks becoming casualties, with more than half of the other ranks dead or missing, among them Reginald Lisher.

Some of these soldiers have graves in the local area, many at Vendresse and Chauny, but the majority have no known grave and are commemorated on the Memorial at La Ferté-sous-Jouarre. At first, the only reference I could find in the local papers about Reg Lisher was a brief sentence in the Sussex Daily News of 27th November 1914:

LANCING CASUALTIES - Sapper Chas. Morley, Royal Engineers, 3 Bessborough Terrace, has been home, having sustained a flesh wound in a thigh at the Aisne River, but has gone back to Chatham again, recovered. Private Reginald Lisher, Coldstream Guards, whose home is at South Street, is missing.

But searching newspapers for a later period, I came across this item in the Worthing Gazette of the 17th December 1919, which solves not only the puzzle of how Reginald Lisher died, but also explains what may have happened to many other Coldstream Guards on that day.

The village of Cerny was one of the objectives of the battalion that day, and an officer's account of the action is contained within the battalion war diary held at The National Archives [WO95/1263]:

The other portion of the Bn. numbering about 150 composed of Nos. 2 and 4 Coys. under Lt. Col. Ponsonby became divided from the remainder at the factory, which was originally occupied by the M. Gun section of the R. Sussex. When the Chimney fell this party pushed forward under very severe shell fire to a sunken road running N. into CERNY which was found to be unoccupied. Major Grant was ordered to go round E. side of the village, while Col. Ponsonby pushed through with the remainder, but touch was never regained, Major Grant eventually rejoining Maj. Hamilton's party (6 p.m.). When Col. Ponsonby's party reached the N. edge of the village, 3 Coys. of German Infantry were seen on the ridge half a mile N.E. of village and other Germans on the ridge N.W. of village. Col. Ponsonby and his party pushed on and 6 M. Gun limbers were surprised, the horses of 4 which were shot. They afterwards pushed on into a small plantation (shown on the sketch map of Capt. Warde Aldam's) which was reached about 10.15 p.m., where the Col. was wounded, the party then remained hidden till midnight when they rejoined ...

Another report states simply that the battalion had reached and taken Cerny-en-Laonnois, from which a retirement was ordered after dusk. Left behind at the time of that retirement were many dead and wounded including Reginald Lisher. It will never be known whether he was taken prisoner while still alive, or whether the Germans simply buried the British dead that they found. In Cerny today there is a German cemetery where fifty-nine burials took place in 1914, and it is probably here that Reg Lisher's body was buried, maybe alongside his comrades. After the war the British bodies were recovered from this and many other cemeteries and battlefield sites, and re-interred at Vendresse British Cemetery, this being the most likely last resting place for Reginald Lisher.

Parents James and Ellen Lisher are buried together in the churchyard extension at St. James the Less, North Lancing, the inscription reading:

In loving memory of my dear husband James Lisher
Who passed away 15th January 1932 aged 76
Also of Reginald, his son, killed in action in France September 1914 aged 18 years

Also Ellen, wife and mother of the above, died 5th March 1934 aged 73

Peace, perfect peace

14 May 2010

KNIGHT William George


Sergeant 52203, 7th Battalion Leicestershire Regiment
Killed in Action on Wednesday 23rd October 1918

Buried: Amerval Communal Cemetery Extension, Solesmes, Grave B.19

William Knight is one of the mysteries of the war memorial. Despite looking at many sources I remain unclear about his identity and his family connections. On this page I'm presenting the facts that I've accumulated, but am heavily reliant on guesswork and supposition - I'm more than happy to stand corrected on any of it.

The name carved on the memorial says 'W. C. Knight.' I have traced my finger around that 'C' trying to turn it into a 'G' without success, although I now strongly suspect that the mason was wrong and the middle initial should stand for 'George.' The Lancing parish registers show just one instance of the surname Knight within the required period - the baptism of a William Knight, son of William and Charlotte Knight, on 27th March 1882, but I have no other evidence to confirm that this is the right man.
The Worthing Street and Trade Directory of 1911-1912 shows a William George Knight living at Lancing Farm Cottages, one of the outlying residences of the village, and the same entry is there in the edition published in 1919. The information contained in the book was gathered over the eighteen months prior to publication, so may well have included those who had died or had moved since 1918. However, the 1911 census does not give any likely William Knights in Lancing or the surrounding areas of Sussex.
The admission register for North Lancing School shows a Henry Knight, born 15th March 1903, admitted to the school in June 1914, presumably on moving into the village. There is no reason to suppose this is relevant, but is an indication of another Knight family living locally.

Possibly the most important piece of information I came across was found at the West Sussex Record Office. Among the items held there are two scrapbooks of newspaper cuttings relating solely to Lancing which were collected by someone in the village during the Great War. Many of the cuttings are casualty lists and reports of Lancing men, and they come mostly from the Sussex Daily News, and while much emphasis is on the Royal Sussex Regiment, any Lancing man who was wounded or killed is likely to be included. On one page I came across a list from the Sussex Daily News dated 6th August 1916, loosely stuck in by its top edge on top of other items, almost as if it had been added as an afterthought, but obviously containing some news relevant to Lancing. At first sight none of the entries seemed particularly local, but right at the bottom, under the heading 'Wounded' was

Knight 8815, Sergt. W. G. (North Staffs) (West Grinstead)

the town being the home of his next of kin. I feel strongly that this could be the right man, and a search of 'Soldiers Died in the Great War' CD showed that he was born in Horsham, Sussex, was formerly in the 1/6th Battalion North Staffordshire Regiment, and transferred later, probably after his wounding, to the Leicestershire Regiment.

I cannot be sure that this is Lancing's William Knight, but I think there's a good chance that it's the right man. Unfortunately I've been unable to trace any service record that might prove or disprove the theory. I hope that more information will come to light, or some family member might be able to add to the story in the future.


HOLDEN Albert Edward


Private SE/1306 Army Veterinary Corps
Died on Wednesday 16th December 1914

Buried: Boulogne Eastern Cemetery, Grave III.B.66

Albert Holden was baptised on the 19th May 1872 at Steyning, Sussex, the son of George Holden, a labourer, and his wife Jane. Albert was a middle child in a large family and also part of a large extended family, as at that time Steyning was full of Holden relatives. By the time of the 1901 census he was living at 3, Littlecroft Cottages, North Road, Lancing, where he boarded at the home of Edward and Mary Comper, and worked as a carter, delivering coal locally. His details from the 1911 census are identical, so this single man spent a long time before the war living and working in Lancing, and must have been a well-known character in the village.

He enlisted early in the war, and maybe it was his experience working with horses during his employment as a carter that encouraged him to join the Army Veterinary Corps. His medal index card shows that he arrived in France on the 8th December 1914, and joined his unit which was No.10 Veterinary Hospital. Within a week he had succumbed to illness, and he died on Wednesday 16th December 1914 at the age of forty-two. He is buried at Boulogne Eastern Cemetery - just a footstep into France.

Albert Holden's page on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Debt of Honour Register carries the additional information:

Brother of Harry Holden, of 3, Hill Side Terrace, Steyning, Sussex

Harry Holden was one of the eldest of Albert's brothers, and having been born in 1864 was too old for military service in the Great War. However his son, Harry William Holden, Albert's nephew, also lost his life, being killed in action in 1917, and his name appears on the memorial plaque at St. Andrew's Church, Steyning.