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.


9 May 2010

HILL Frederick William


Gunner 124708, 1st Siege Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery
Killed in Action on Tuesday 31st July 1917
Commemorated: Ypres Memorial (Menin Gate) Ieper, Panel 9

Lancing was home to more than one Frederick Hill, but it seems likely that it is this man whose name appears on the war memorial. Little is known about him, and 'Soldiers Died in the Great War' CD gives him as having been born in Hartfield, Sussex, and enlisting in Worthing while resident in Tunbridge Wells. He was the son of George and Emma Hill of Balcombe, Sussex, and the following item appeared in the Worthing Gazette on the 26th September 1917:

- News has been received at Lancing that Gunner F. W. Hill, of the Royal Garrison Artillery, has been killed in action. A single man about thirty-one years of age, Hill was for a year or two at Lancing where he occupied the position of gardener to the Rev. Edmund Peel at the Vicarage, and was highly esteemed. He was the son of a farmer at Coleman's Hatch, Forest Row, and three of his brothers are serving.

I have not been able to trace either a service record for Frederick Hill, nor the unit war diary for 1st Siege Battery during that period, but as his name appears on the Menin Gate, it must have been in that area that he died, the 31st July 1917 being the first day of the 3rd Battle of Ypres, more familiarly known as Passchendaele. I would be glad for any further information that might add to his story.

Menin Gate, Ypres, at sunset


GROVER Victor Henry


Private 10253, 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards
Killed in Action on Thursday 29th October 1914
Commemorated: Ypres Memorial, Menin Gate, Ieper, Panel 11

Victor Grover was born on the 5th May 1896, the eldest child of Frederick Grover, a labourer, and his wife Ada. By the time of the 1911 census the family were living at 10 Down Terrace [Downview Terrace], Ham Road, Lancing. Frederick Grover was a self-employed nurseryman, and Victor a garden labourer; there was also one daughter, Doris, a year younger than Victor.

Victor enlisted into the Coldstream Guards at Worthing on July 24th 1913, adding a year to his true age and stating that he was eighteen years and two months old. Another Lancing boy, Reginald Lisher, has a service number consecutive to that of Victor, and it seemed likely that they enlisted together, but the records now show that Reginald had joined five days previously in Brighton - perhaps his decision influenced Victor into accompanying him on life's great adventure, but sadly one that would see them both dead before the end of 1914. A year later the Coldstream Guards, as part of 1st (Guards) Brigade, 1st Division, were among the first British soldiers to enter France, and his battalion arrived there on the 14th August 1914 - these were the men of the British Expeditionary Force who became known as the 'Old Contemptibles.' It's likely that Victor Grover saw much action and suffered much hardship during those first few months of war as the battalion advanced, fought, retreated, marched endlessly and advanced again. His friend Reg Lisher died early on, in September 1914, and the two eighteen-year-olds must have been friends from childhood. On the 27th October 1914 the battalion arrived at Gheluvelt, south-east of Ypres. The battalion war diary of the 1st Coldstream Guards is brief and lack detail, but the entry for the day of Victor Grover's death is as follows:

October 29th 1914 - GHELUVELT
An attack by the Germans of which notice was received was beaten off at 5.30 a.m. in dense mist but was successful further S. at crossroads E.S.E. of GHELUVELT; the result being that the battalion trenches were almost immediately afterwards attacked from the right rear. A retirment appears to have been ordered and a small portion of the battalion re-formed covering a battery of the Royal Field Artillery. At night the battalion was withdrawn and bivouacked in woods W. of GHELUVELT in Brigade Reserve.

The diary is unclear on the number of casualties, with no mention of NCOs and other ranks, but among the dead was the Commanding Officer, Major The Hon. Leslie D'Henin Hamilton, MVO. However, an official history of the battalion is more explicit:

On August Bank Holiday 1914, Great Britain declared war on Germany and the Coldstream were immediately involved. The 1st Battalion, as part of 1st Guards Brigade, and the 2nd and 3rd Battalions, as part of 4th Guards Brigade, all moved to France immediately. The Regiment suffered heavily throughout the War; on 29th October 1914, at Gheluvelt, for example, the 1st Battalion suffered such casualties that it had no officers left and only 80 men. Four days later, after reinforcement, it had once more been reduced to no officers and 120 men only.

Victor Grover has no known grave, and is commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, which commemorates more than 54,000 officers and men whose final resting place is unknown.


GREET Thomas Isaac Mockford

Rifleman 4256, 8th Battalion The London Regiment
Died of Wounds on Monday 24th April 1916
Buried: Le Treport Military Cemetery, Seine Maritime, Plot 1. Row N. Grave 2a

Thomas Greet was born in Brighton in 1878, the sixth of eight children of Bennet and Elizabeth Greet. They originally lived in Viaduct Road, Brighton, but by 1901 they had moved to Fuschia Cottage, Salt Lake, Lancing. Like his father, Tom worked as a market gardener, and was married in December 1903 to Maud Perham. Over the next thirteen years the couple had seven children, Elsie, Kathleen, Olive, Hilda, Richard, Phyllis and Ernest - the last of these he would never see. Tom became a Lancing postman, and the photograph, taken outside the Post Office in 1912, shows him as the small man on the left of the picture. The older man on the right is Robert Bartlett, the postmaster, and grandfather of Arthur Bartlett who also died during the Great War. It seems surprising that such a small village should need to employ three postmen at that time, but presumably their rounds were made on foot and it must have taken some time to reach some of the outlying farms.

Following the outbreak of war Tom enlisted into the 8th Battalion, the London Regiment (Post Office Rifles) which had been formed in Finsbury in August 1914. His service number signifies that he enlisted about the 24th July 1915,* and as he did not receive the 1914-15 Star he must have joined his battalion in France after the 31st December 1915. It has not been possible to determine when or how Tom Greet received the injuries that led to his death. Throughout the month of April the battalion was on the Somme, east of Albert in the Carnoy sector, and the battalion war diary held at The National Archives [WO95/2731] has the briefest possible entries during this period, the whole month being summed up in thirteen very short lines. It states that on 23rd April there was one other rank wounded, which is the only casualty since the 13th April. Although the 23rd was the day before Tom Greet died, it is not time enough for him to be transported to Le Tréport and for his wife to be by his side. That Maud was present suggests some time had elapsed since he was wounded, or alternatively he had succumbed to illness and was too weak to be transferred back to England. The Worthing Gazette reported his death on May 3rd 1916:

SOLDIER POSTMAN'S DEATH - Residents in South Lancing have heard with regret of the death, in hospital at the Front, of Private Thomas Isaac Mockford Greet, who, prior to the war, was engaged as postman at South Lancing. Private Greet, who was thirty-nine years of age, leaves a widow and seven children. Mrs. Greet was present when her husband died.

Maud Greet must have been a strong, resilient woman, travelling to France to be with her dying husband while heavily pregnant with their youngest child. That child, Ernest Patrick Greet was born just thirteen days after his father's death. Tom Greet is buried at Le Tréport Military Cemetery, one of 445 First World War burials.

*Thanks to Paul Nixon (keeper of the numbers!) - see comment below

Photo of Tom Greet's grave courtesy of George Whitehead

7 May 2010



Lance Corporal L/6927, 2nd Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment
Killed in Action Sunday 9th May 1915
Commemorated: Le Touret Memorial, Pas de Calais, Panels 20 and 21

John Green is one of the men named on the war memorial who remains a bit of a mystery - I started the research on him feeling that it would be very straightforward, but despite having many concrete facts, it has not been possible to establish who his parents were or find any family connections. The information given by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission includes the fact that he was thirty years old at the time of his death in 1915, and married to Mary E. Green of Myrtle Cottages, Lancing. 'Soldiers who Died in the Great War' CD gives his place of birth as Lancing, Sussex, but the parish registers show no evidence of a John Green being baptised in the village, and despite Green being a common surname, the census returns throughout 1841-1901 show very few Greens and none that have any apparent connections to John Green. His army service number and his date of entry into France - 12th August 1914 - indicate that he was a regular soldier before the war, and was either serving at the declaration of war, or had previously left the army but remained on the Reserve. Luckily this was one puzzle that the parish registers did solve, as an entry for 1st March 1914 shows the baptism of a daughter, Elsie Mary, to John and Mary Ellen Green, John's occupation being given as a carter. This proved that he was not in the army at that time, but had been a pre-war regular with the Royal Sussex Regiment, and had been recalled to his unit when war was declared.
[Information from Paul Nixon in the first comment below, shows that John Green joined the Royal Sussex Regiment on or very shortly after the 7th October 1902. Assuming that his term of engagement was for seven years 'with the colours' and five years on the reserve, his commitment would have ended in October 1914, two months after the outbreak of war. Even if he was no longer a reservist, could an ex-regular have chosen not to re-enlist? Probably not.]

The Royal Sussex Regiment, as part of 1st Division, were among the first battalions to set foot in France, and were involved in much action as the division worked its way to Mons, the Marne, the Aisne, and back up to Ypres. The action that became known as the Battle of Aubers Ridge took place on May 9th 1915, and the 2nd Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment were in the first wave of troops to leave the trenches at Richebourg L'Avoué. The issue of tea and rum at 3.30 a.m. was probably the only good part of the day, as from 5.30 a.m. when the first men advanced over the parapet, the day became an unmitigated disaster. Many were killed or wounded even before they got clear of the parapet, or were hit within a few yards of their first-line trench. The battalion war diary, held at The National Archives [WO95/1269] gives a controlled, descriptive account of the day, and rarely even hints at the chaos and difficulties that must have been encountered. The total casualties for the battalion that day were 14 officers and 548 other ranks, of whom 101 were killed and 118 'missing' - men whose whereabouts were not accounted for. Among those men was John Green, regular soldier, Lancing carter, husband of Mary and father of Elsie. Like so many of his comrades he has no known grave and is named on the Le Touret Memorial to the Missing, which commemorates more than 13,000 men who died in that area before the 25th September 1915, and whose last resting place is unknown.

Le Touret Cemetery and Memorial




Private G/101553, 43rd (Garrison) Battalion Royal Fusiliers
Died Thursday 31st October 1918
Buried: Pont-de-Nieppe Communal Cemetery, Grave II.H.6

Valentine Glasspool was born on St. Valentine's Day, 14th February 1895, in Hunston, West Sussex, the son of Thomas and Mary Glasspool. At that time Hunston was a rather remote village a few miles south of Chichester, but by the time of the 1901 census they had moved to 35 Whyke Lane, Chichester, where Thomas worked as a builder's labourer. By the outbreak of war the family were at 12 Salt Lake, Lancing, now part of Freshbrook Road. It was a row of cottages full of young families - at least five of those families would lose a son to the Great War, and later the cottages would become the most concentrated area of despair in the village.

Salt Lake Cottages, now Freshbrook Road, Lancing

Valentine Glasspool enlisted in March 1917. He worked as a market garden labourer and the evidence suggests that health problems excluded him from being conscripted into military service prior to this. He initially joined the Royal Fusiliers, then transferred to the Labour Corps, but finally he returned to the Royal Fusiliers and a non-combatant battalion, part of general headquarters' troops. The battalion war diary shows that in the autumn of 1918 there was a daily procession of men admitted to hospital, Val Glasspool among them, and it seems likely that many were suffering from the outbreak of influenza prevalent at the time. A newspaper item dated 20th November 1918 reports his death, and although we lack information about his war service it is fortunate that the report carries a tribute from his colleagues:

FOUR LANCING BROTHERS - Four sons of Mr. and Mrs. Glasspool of 12 Salt Lake, Lancing, enrolled in the Service during the war, and news has recently come that one has succumbed to pneumonia. This is Private V. Glasspool, Royal Fusiliers, aged twenty-three years, who enlisted in March 1917, being engaged in agriculture at the time. His medical category did not permit him to go into the firing line, but he was engaged in work right up at the front and, as the Major commanding the Company said, writing home to the bereaved parents - 'Private Glasspool has given his life for his country in the hour of its greatest need and should be equally honoured as his fellow soldiers who fell in action.' The gallant Major also said that Private Glasspool had been a member of his Company since its formation and his conduct had always been excellent. A Corporal in his Company writing of him said 'He had such a cheerful smiling disposition in the face of every little and big difficulty which he had to encounter.' Of the other sons, Ernest joined the Royal Navy and was invalided out for Rheumatic fever contracted in the Dardanelles. The other sons of Mr. and Mrs. Glasspool, namely Alfred and Cecil, were in New York when war broke out and they proceeded to Canada and enlisted in the Forces of the Dominion, being still on Service.

Valentine Glasspool died on the 31st October 1918, and is buried at Pont-de-Nieppe Communal Cemetery, three miles north of Armentières. Ernest Glasspool emigrated to the USA in November 1919 to be with his brothers, and was soon joined by his parents Thomas and Mary. There must be many Glasspool descendants in the USA today.

Pont-de-Nieppe Cemetery, Nord, France


FIELD George


Sapper 536315, 432 Field Company, Royal Engineers
Died Friday 22nd March 1918
Commemorated: Pozieres Memorial, Somme, Panel 10-13

George Field was born about 1890 in Brighton, the fifth of six sons of Joseph and Martha Field. Both his parents were 'Brighton born and bred' and at the time of the 1901 census the family were living at 11 Foundry Street, Brighton. By 1914 George was living at 11 Myrtle Terrace, Lancing, at the home of his brother William and his wife Sally, and just a few doors away from another Lancing man Herbert Cozens.

By trade George was a metal worker, employed by Banfields, the Brighton scale-makers, and he enlisted in Brighton in 1915, originally into the 2/3rd Home Counties Field Company, Royal Engineers, with the service number 4334. He was twenty-five years old and described in his service record as 5ft 6ins tall, weighing 140 lbs, with a chest measurement of 38 inches fully expanded. He saw service in Italy before being transferred back to the Western Front with 432 Company Royal Engineers. While in Italy he was awarded the Medaglio Al Valore Militare, although it has not been possible to ascertain the exact reason for this.

George Field was killed in action on 22 March 1918, the second day of the German Spring Offensive or 'Kaiserschlacht,' and his service record shows that he did have a proper burial somewhere between Herbecourt and Jeancourt. The fact that he is commemorated on the Pozières Memorial indicates that his grave was either lost in the fighting that followed, or that he now lies in an 'Unknown Soldier' grave in one of the military cemeteries in the area. His death was initially reported in local newspapers in May, together with the news that his younger brother William had been badly gassed in Italy, and then in October 1918 the Sussex Daily News carried the following item:

POSTHUMOUS HONOUR - LANCING - Sapper G. Field, Royal Engineers, of 11 Myrtle Terrace, Lancing, did not live to know of the honour bestowed on him of the King of Italy's bronze medal for valour, his death having already been reported on the field of battle. He was one of six brothers who entered the service, members of a Brighton family. Two of them have already lain down their lives. Sapper G. Field was unmarried, and before the war was in the employ of Banfields the scalemakers.

It is not known whether the two brothers referred to by the papers as having 'lain down their lives' included George, or whether three brothers in total died. Charles Field, a corporal in the 1/6th Warwickshire Regiment was killed in action on 30th April 1918, shortly after George, and of the other four I have confirmed that Harry, William and James were all alive in February 1920, so if the family did lose three sons, it would have been Sidney, the youngest, who made up the trio. By 1920 both Joseph and Martha Field had died, and William Field and his family continued to live at 11 Myrtle Terrace. George Field's name does not appear on Lancing War Memorial, but he is included here as a resident of the village who died during the course of the war.

Pozières Cemetery and Memorial, Somme


6 May 2010

ELBOROUGH Alfred Charles Ernest


Captain, 6th Battalion King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
Killed in Action on Friday 30th July 1915
Buried at Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, Poperinge, Belgium, Grave I.A.6

Alfred Elborough was born in the 4th May 1878 at 2 Shardeloes Road, London, the eldest child of Alfred Louis and Mary Ann Elborough (formerly Eames). By 1901 Mary Ann Elborough was widowed and living at 3 The Terrace, Lancing, with one son and one daughter at home, but Alfred was a bank clerk, living and working in London. Immediately prior to the Great War he was employed by the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank, having worked for them in London, Siam [Thailand] and Hong Kong.
He enlisted in the 28th Battalion, County of London Regiment (Artists Rifles) on August 31st 1914, and was commissioned in early December into the 6th Battalion King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, with the rank of temporary 2nd Lieutenant. He gained his Captaincy later that same month, an unusually short time for a man with no previous military experience. In less than four months he had gone from being a city gentleman, to commanding men in a battle situation - barely time enough to learn all he would need to equip himself for war. He went to France in May 1915, and by the end of July the Battalion were in Flanders, at Vlamertinghe. The battalion war diary held at The National Archives [WO95/1906] records the events of July 30th 1915:

4.30 a.m. Message from Brigade ordering us to 'stand to' owing to attack on 41st Infantry Brigade at Hooge.
9 a.m. Men were allowed to turn in but were not allowed to leave camp.
12.30 p.m. Ordered to move up to the redoubt and dug-out at H11.d.7.6.
1 p.m. Left our bivouac and arrived at our destination at 3 p.m. We were informed on the way that 41st Brigade, supported by the 6th Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry and the 42nd Brigade were to make a counter-attack on the lost trenches at 2.45 p.m. The Durham Light Infantry went forward to the ramparts in Ypres.
3 p.m. Just as we were reaching our dug-outs a shell landed in the head of the column just behind the C.O. It killed the C.O.'s second horse and Sergeant, and wounded 11 men. Shortly after having moved into the redoubt, another shell pitched just over the parapet. There being no parados, it unfortunately wounded Capt. A. C. E. Elborough, 2nd Lt. C. E. M. Knapp-Fisher and twelve men. The two officers afterwards died of their wounds - after about 4 p.m. the bombardment quieted.

On August 1st 1915, Mary Ann Elborough received the telegram that all families dreaded - a copy of it survives at The National Archives in Alfred's service record:
Regret to inform you that Capt. A. C. E. Elborough Yorkshire Light Infantry reported No.10 Casualty Clearing Station with shell wounds chest and left leg - serious - it is regretted that permission to visit cannot be granted.

The following day, August 2nd, the second telegram arrived at the house in King's Road:
Deeply regret to inform you that Capt. A. C. E. Elborough, K.O.Y.L.I. died of wounds on 30th July. Lord Kitchener expresses his sympathy.

Alfred Elborough was buried at Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, Poperinge, Belgium, and on the 12th August the following obituary appeared in 'The Times':

CAPT. A. C. E. ELBOROUGH, 6th Yorkshire Light Infantry, was the eldest son of the late Mr. Alfred Louis Elborough and Mrs. Mary A. Elborough, of Kingsmead, Lancing-on-Sea, Sussex. He was educated at Blair Lodge School, Scotland, where he was head boy and captain of the cricket and football teams. He entered the service of the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank, serving in London, Siam and Hongkong. Captain Elborough had been at the front for about two months. He was 37 years of age.

A memorial service for Alfred Elborough was held locally at the parish church of St. James the Less on August 16th 1915, together with the unveiling of a brass plaque in his memory. His service record contains a lot of correspondence about his estate, the total value being £1,162. 1s. 5d. Mrs. Elborough was awarded a pension of £100 a year as she was considered financially dependent on her son, who she lived with and was in 'distressed circumstances.'


DYKES William Albert


Private G/7784, 7th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment
Killed in Action on Monday 10th July 1916
Commemorated: Thiepval Memorial, Somme, Pier and Face 7c

William Albert Dykes was born in London, the eldest of four sons of William and Elizabeth Dykes. In 1911 the family were living in Greenwich, where William senior was employed by the local council as a tram driver, and William junior was a draper's assistant. By the outbreak of war the family had moved to Lancing and were living at Fairfield, Penhill Road.
William's army service record has not survived, but it is known that he enlisted into the 7th (Service) Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment in August 1915, while his brothers Percy and Charles joined the Royal Garrison Artillery later that year.

There is some confusion about the actual date of his death, as although the official date is given as the 10th July 1916, the evidence suggests that it is more likely he died three days before. The battalion war diary held at The National Archives [WO95/1856] shows that the battalion was involved in heavy action on the 7th/8th July 1916 at Ovillers, the account running to eight pages, with 20 officers and 508 other ranks as casualties, while by the 10th they were out of the line and bivouacked north of Senlis before marching to Forceville. Newspaper reports can, at times, be misleading and inaccurate, but a report in the local paper on 1st November 1916 gives more weight to the suggestion that William Dykes was killed on the 7th July:

LANCING MAN'S FATE - First reported missing, and then gazetted among the dead, Private W. A. Dykes, Royal Sussex Regiment, was one of the three sons in the Army of Mr. and Mrs. W. H. Dykes, Fairfield, Penhill Road, Lancing. He joined a year ago last August, being at that time a carman in the employ of Potter, Bailey and Co. of Lancing, and was in his 25th year. His parents last heard from him by letter dated 29th June, and then came a field card dated the 3rd July. Nothing further was received from him, but in the meantime his brothers, who were home on leave, were sending him letters, cigarettes, etc. Towards the end of July, between the 20th and 30th, a communication was received from a comrade that he was missing after a charge on the 7th July. Other communications, including one from his Captain, written in August, and one subsequently from Hounslow, confirmed the news. Three months after the occurrence came the tidings that he had been killed on the 10th.

As part of 36th Brigade, the 7th Royal Sussex were alongside the 8th and 9th Battalions, Royal Fusiliers on the 7th of July 1916. The following extract is taken from the Royal Fusiliers Regimental History:

Ovillers. On the 7th, two other Fusilier battalions were also engaged in the battle. The 8th and 9th Battalions of the 36th Brigade with the 7th Royal Sussex between them, made another attempt to capture Ovillers, and few more costly actions were fought in the whole of the battle of the Somme. The weather was bad, and though no rain fell during the night, the fumes of the gas shells were blanketed in the hollows of the ground, and formed a death trap for the many who fell wounded ...
The Prussian Guards who held these battered positions were worthy foemen, and though the first and second trenches were captured, the cost was very terrible.

My own great-uncle, Jack Cox, 9th Battalion Royal Fusiliers, was killed at Ovillers on this day, and it was the search for him that started my interest in the Great War. The picture on this page is the view from Ovillers Military Cemetery across Mash Valley where the men had advanced. Neither William Dykes nor Jack Cox have a known grave, and may still lie buried beneath the now peaceful fields. They are both named on the nearby Thiepval Memorial to the Missing, which commemorates more than 72,000 officers and men who died on the Somme and who have no known grave.


3 May 2010

DANKS Charles


Corporal G/1756, 6th Battalion, The Buffs (East Kent Regiment)
Killed in Action Friday 10th March 1916
Commemorated: Loos Memorial, Pas de Calais, Panel 15 to 19

Charles Danks was born in south-east London in 1880, the son of Charles and Annie Danks. Charles senior started out as a journalist, but did well, and by 1901 was a newspaper proprietor with a large house in Rottingdean, Sussex, where the family lived for sixteen years before coming to Lancing in about 1908. Charles junior's connection with Lancing is less clear - he certainly appears on the war memorial, but probably only because of his family connections and the social standing of his father in the village. The family were wealthy, and at the time of the 1901 census Charles junior and his sister Maud were living in a property owned by their father at 118 Ashley Gardens, Westminster, which must have provided them with a comfortable foothold 'in town.' Charles' occupation is given as 'Journalist/Author' while his sister is rather glamourously described as 'Actress and Vocalist.'

Charles Danks enlisted into the 6th (Service) Battalion, The Buffs, while living in Battersea. His army service record has not survived, but information regarding his service number from Paul Nixon in the first comment below, suggests enlistment during the first fortnight of September 1914. He did not go overseas for some time, and his medal index card gives his date of entry into France as 24th September 1915. He must have been an intelligent, responsible soldier to reach the rank of Corporal by March 1916 when the battalion were in trenches west of Hulloc, between Béthune and Lens. The war diary held at The National Archives [WO95/1860] describes the events of the 10th March 1916:

10 March 1916
TRENCHES - Relieved the 6th Royal West Kents in same trenches. Relief started at 8.30 a.m. and completed by 1 p.m. 'D' and 'B' Companies in KAISERIN TRENCH. 'A' Company in CRATERS No. 1 and 2 and 'C' Company in CRATER A, with 'A' Company of the 6th West Kents continued on the right of 'D' Company, and 'C' Company 6th Queens on the extreme right of all. At about 2 p.m. one of the enemy appeared from the TRIANGLE CRATER, apparently intending to come into our lines. He was fired at, but put up his hands and came on, then suddenly he evidently changed his mind and dropped back into the trench. Reports vary concerning this incident - some witnesses state that he shouted 'All right Buffs' when fired on! Night fairly quiet except for bombing in Nos. 1 and 2 CRATERS and our own rifle grenade and trench mortar fire. Brigade on right exploded 3 mines at about 9.30 p.m. and shortly after a big red glow was visible in the direction of HULLOCH.

There is little in this report to identify any particular event that could have caused the death of Charles Danks on the 10th; he was one of only two men in his battalion to die that day, but like so many others, he was probably the victim of shell fire or a sniper's bullet. There are no local newspaper reports of his death, and he has no known grave - he is commemorated on the Loos Memorial, Dud Corner.

Dud Corner Cemetery, with the Loos Memorial on the surrounding walls

COZENS Herbert James


Corporal 2607 'B' Company, 2nd Battalion Rifle Brigade
Killed in Action on Saturday 25th September 1915
Commemorated: Ploegsteert Memorial, Comines-Warneton, Belgium, Panel 10

Herbert Cozens was born at 19 Peel Place, Brighton, on the 14th September 1887, the son of Archibald and Caroline Cozens. By the time of the 1901 census the family were living in the village of Coombes, Sussex, where Archibald Cozens worked as a gardener, and Herbert was the second of four sons. It's not known when the family moved to Lancing, but their house in Myrtle Terrace was built about 1910 at the western edge of the village, adjoining the brickfields.

Herbert Cozens army service record has survived in part and it shows that he joined the army on 16th January 1908, and enlisted in the 2nd Battalion the Rifle Brigade. There is little evidence of illness or bad conduct during his pre-war service - one admission to hospital with 'traumatic cellulitis' and on one occasion a spell of fourteen days confined to barracks for being 'drunk on duty and using obscene language to a Warrant Officer.' At the outbreak of war the battalion were in Kuldana, India [now part of Pakistan], and returned immediately to England, arriving in Liverpool on October 22nd, 1914. They were attached to 8th Division, 25th Brigade, and quickly set out for France and the Western Front, arriving on the 7th November, to reinforce the British Expeditionary Force which had suffered badly in the previous three months. Herbert Cozens was promoted to Lance Corporal on 10th May 1915, and to full Corporal on 12th September 1915, probably a reflection of the high number of NCO casualties during the costly actions of the spring and summer.

A major offensive was planned for the area around Loos on 25th September 1915, and the 2nd Battalion Rifle Brigade were part of an attack at Bois Grenier, one of three subsidiary attacks that day designed to divert the Germans away from Loos. The Battalion War Diary [The National Archives WO95/1731] shows that even on the preceding day things were not going smoothly:

September 24th 1915. Paraded 9.30 a.m. for inspection by G.O.C. and Church parade, but owing to shelling, parade was dismissed ... billets burnt, but only a few articles of kit were lost.

By 6 a.m. the following day, the battalion's first objectives were reached without too many casualties, but they then found that they were not able to join up with the Berkshire Regiment who had failed to reach the German trenches. The diary continues:

At about 6.30 a.m. owing to strong German bombing attacks, [and] to the impossibility of joining up with the Berkshires and to difficulty in getting bombs up for our side, it was found necessary to abandon the German 2nd line trench.
By 10 a.m., however, a firm position had been established in the German front line trench, blocks being made to our right and left ...
At about 3 p.m. a fairly determined counter attack on our left was easily repulsed, and our artillery bombarded heavily.
At about 3.45 p.m. information was received that the Lincolns and Berks had withdrawn from the German captured trenches and orders were given for our companies to withdraw ...
Our losses were 6 officers killed, 3 officers wounded, 32 other ranks killed, 173 other ranks wounded, and 29 other ranks missing - total 243.
They were due to German rifle fire and to the really hard hand to hand fighting in the German first and second line trenches, the enemy being on both our flanks, and in their second line trench during practically the whole day. Many Germans were killed and wounded, and about 15 captured, including 11 who were shot by German machine guns ...

Herbert Cozens was among those many casualties - one of the killed or missing. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Ploegsteert Memorial, 8 miles south of Ieper [Ypres].

I would like to thank Kenny Hart for supplying information on his wife's family

COLBOURNE Bernard Barton


Lance Corporal G/7083, 13th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment
Killed in Action on Thursday 19th October 1916
Commemorated: Thiepval Memorial, Somme, Pier and Face 7c

Bernard Colbourne's name does not appear on Lancing War Memorial, but he is included here as a man born in the village, and a member of one of the large extended families of Lancing. He was born on March 10th 1881, the sixth son of John and Mary Jane Colbourne. Neither of his parents were local, but they moved to Lancing in 1870, soon after their marriage, and set up in business as grocer, baker, and later on draper, and built the shop which was to be home for many years for their family of eleven sons. John Colbourne died in 1890 at the age of 41, and Mary continued to run the family business with the help of her family, including Bernard, who was employed there until he joined the Royal Navy on the 19th August 1899. His naval service record is held at The National Archives in ADM188/472, and includes the following details:

292813 Stoker
Date of Birth: 10th March 1881

Occupation: Grocer's Assistant

Date of engagement: 19 August 1899

Period of engagement: 12 years [later cancelled by purchase]

Height: 5ft 7½ inches

Hair: Dark, Eyes: Hazel, Complexion: Fresh, Marks: Scar on palm of left hand

During his time in the navy he was on several different vessels including Australia, Warrior, Duke of Wellington, Exmouth and Prince of Wales, his conduct reports throughout stating 'Very Good.' In August 1905, while on duty in the Mediterranean, he paid twelve pounds to buy his discharge, leaving the Royal Navy on November 20th 1905. He returned to Worthing and by the outbreak of war in 1914 he was married and in business as a butcher at 114 Montague Street, Worthing. I was pleased to find recently that this address, in an area of the town much changed over the past one hundred years, is still trading as a butcher's shop.

Bernard Colbourne's army service record does not survive at The National Archives, but he enlisted in Worthing in the first week of June 1915 [see first comment below] into the Royal Sussex Regiment. By the autumn of 1916 he was with the 13th Battalion, but his service number shows that this was probably not his original battalion - he may have been transferred at some time, perhaps after being wounded, or simply to replace the losses sustained by the 13th. By mid-October fierce fighting was still a daily occurrence on the battlefields of the Somme, and the Battalion War Diary for that period [TNA WO95/2582] shows that they were preparing for an attack on Stuff Trench, scheduled for October 21st. The diary makes no mention of casualties on October 19th, but 'Soldiers died in the Great War' CD shows that two men of the battalion were killed that day, one of whom was Bernard Colbourne. Two extracts taken from the Worthing Gazette give conflicting views about what was happening at the time; first from the 8th November 1916, a personal tribute from a comrade:

Brief announcement of the fact that Lance Corporal Bernard Colbourne has been killed in action was made in the last issue of the Gazette. The date of his death was about the 22nd October. Lance Corporal Colbourne quitted his business as a butcher in Montague Street and joined the Royal Sussex Regiment on the 1st June last year and went to France last August. Mrs. Colbourne has received a letter from Lance Corporal E. J. Belsey, an intimate friend of her late husband, expressing the heartfelt sympathy of himself and his comrades. He was with Lance Corporal Colbourne at the time he was struck on the battlefield, death being instantaneous. A cross marks his grave. In his younger days Lance Corporal Colbourne was in the Royal Navy, and this explains the further reference in Lance Corporal Belsey's letter:

'He was a great friend of mine. We were together on HMS Prince of Wales and before leaving England we pledged our faith to each other, should anything happen we would write to our friends.'

The second report, in the Worthing Gazette of 22nd November 1916, includes part of a letter sent from an officer in the battalion to Mrs. Colbourne:

An Officer of the Company to which the late Lance-Corporal Bernard Colbourne was attached in the Royal Sussex Regiment has written the accompanying sympathetic letter to Mrs. Colbourne, at 114 Montague Street:

Dear Mrs. Colbourne - It is with deepest sorrow I have to inform you of the death of your husband. He fell whilst gallantly leading his section into action. His death was instantaneous. His bright and cheery manner won him many friends, and his death is sadly felt by his comrades. He at all times proved himself a brave and efficient soldier, always willing and with a very high sense of duty. May God comfort you, and the knowledge that he died a hero's death help you to bear your sad bereavement.

In addition to his commemoration on the Thiepval Memorial, Bernard Colbourne is also named on Worthing War Memorial. His parents John and Mary Jane Colbourne are buried at the parish church of St. James the Less, North Lancing, and the inscription also remembers their son, killed in France:

In loving memory of L/Cpl Bernard Barton Colbourne who was killed at Thiepval, France, on 19th October 1916 aged 36 years, his duty nobly done.

Thanks to Christine Colbourne for supplying details of her husband's family

2 May 2010

CHAMPION Leonard John


Lieutenant Northern Rhodesia Police
Killed in Action on Friday 4th October 1918

Buried at Dar-es-Salaam War Cemetery, Tanzania, Grave 5.D.3.

Leonard Champion was born in 1885 in Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset, the son of John Isgar Champion and his wife Caroline. By the time of the 1901 census the family were settled in Plumpton, Sussex, where John worked as a gardener and two of their three sons, Thomas and Claude were at home and still at school. At that time, Leonard, who was sixteen, was living in Bermondsey, London, where he worked as a draper's assistant. All this seems a fairly humble beginning for a man who would go on to have a rather unusual life, and the few facts that I have about him come from a newspaper report and from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Roll of Honour. First, a report from the Sussex Daily News of 20th November 1918:

LANCING OFFICER'S DEATH - The death of Lt. Leonard Champion, of General Northey's Force, in German East Africa, is reported. Thirty-two years of age, he was one of three soldier sons of Mr. and Mrs. J. Champion of Coogee, Penhill Road, Lancing, and formerly of Shoreham. A member of the South African Mounted Police, he was home on leave when war broke out, and being recalled, he joined the military forces of the Crown, taking part in the hostilities in the East African theatre of war until he was wounded fatally within about a month of the signing of the Armistice. Another son, Claude Champion, Royal Field Artillery, is at present in hospital recovering from the effects of gassing sustained at the Western Front. He had been wounded in the Dardanelles. A third son, Thomas, is in the Royal Field Artillery, and was at Mons when the Armistice was signed.

The CWGC Debt of Honour Register also adds the information that at some time he had been awarded the French 'Medaille Militaire.' This decoration, for gallantry in action, was only for NCOs and other ranks, and must have been awarded to him prior to being commissioned. So the son of a gardener, who worked in Bermondsey as a shop assistant, is buried in Dar es Salaam War Cemetery following a varied career in uniform in Africa - unfortunately it is probably we shall never know the steps that took him there.

Leonard Champion's name does not appear on Lancing War Memorial, but we know that his family lived in the village, and although they moved away after the war, at some point they returned and are buried in the churchyard of St. James the Less, North Lancing.

BURTENSHAW William Henry


Stoker 2nd Class K/27218, HMS Victory, R.N.
Died on Sunday 19th September 1915
Buried at Haslar Royal Naval Cemetery, Hampshire, Grave E23.18

William Burtenshaw was born in Lancing on the 24th March 1897 and baptised on the 5th June that year at St. James the Less, North Lancing, the son of John Burtenshaw, a market garden labourer and his wife Ellen. John Burtenshaw had been born in Sompting, while Ellen came originally from Thakeham, but by the time of the 1901 census they were living at 7, Salt Lake, with William and his older sister Lucy. On leaving school William worked as a gardener, but when he reached eighteen in 1915 he decided to join the Navy.

He joined at Portsmouth on the 28th June 1915 for a period of twelve years, and was described as 5ft 6ins tall, with brown hair, hazel eyes and a fresh complexion, and he was posted to 'Victory II' a shore establishment, as a Stoker 2nd Class. But less that three months later he became ill, and he died from bacterial meningitis on September 19th at Haslar Naval Hospital. William Burtenshaw is buried at Haslar Royal Naval Cemetery, Hampshire, a mile from the hospital where he died. The cemetery is unusual in that the WW1 graves are marked by Admiralty pattern headstones which were in use before the war, and before the standardisation of stones by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. He was one of the youngest of the Lancing men to lose their lives, and a first cousin of Percy Burtenshaw whose name appears on Sompting War Memorial.