I really enjoy the voluntary work I do as a steward at Seaford Museum.
The old Napoleonic building is a fascinating place to spend a couple of hours but I also like to meet visitors.
Last weekend I met Keith Brain who is also a museum volunteer, although he works at the Newhaven Fort.
Keith specialises in researching the Great War and was at the Seaford archives to research a local resident Private William Henry Broad.
He found a small memorial card in the archives at the fort which showed that William had died in 1919 of wounds received during the Great War.
I am particularly interested in this period as I have been commissioned to write a book “Eastbourne and Seaford in the Great War” for Pen and Sword Publishing.
Also over the last few years I have been compiling a Roll of Honour for Seaford.
I have been researching the Seaford victims of war and have been gleaning information from a number of different sources, starting off at the names on the War Memorial.
If you visit the War Memorial in Sutton Park Road you will see Henry’s name just above Cuthbert Bromley VC.
Unfortunately when Keith tried to find out more information, he found that William was not included in the massive data-base of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
25 year old William was buried at Seaford Cemetery under an ordinary grave and is not afforded a war-grave despite his epitaph clearly showing that he died of “Wounds Received in France”.
Keith was intrigued and found out more. William Henry was born in Seaford in 1894 to Mary and Henry Broad. His father remarried in 1906 and when he left school Henry got a job as a milk-carrier. Soon after the First World War started William joined the Royal Sussex Regiment like so many local lads.
He was posted to the 11th Battalion and on 4th March 1916 was posted to France.
In September 1916 William was wounded when he received a gunshot wound to the right ankle and left leg.
He was returned back to ‘Blighty’ where he gradually recuperated in hospital in Hampshire.
In January 1917 he was back in France, this time attached to the 7th Battalion.
In July 1917 William was badly injured when he was struck by the searing hot shrapnel from a shell which penetrated his chest and caused further wounds to his legs and also his arms.
Again he returned to England and was in hospital in London for 72 days before he was released and returned back to Sussex. His parents by this time were living in Brooklyn Road, Seaford.
Whether William was able to return to work is not known, he was obviously still suffering from his war-wounds and on 20th February 1919, ninety four years ago this week he died at home.
William was buried at Seaford Cemetery and the following month the family applied for the commemorative brass plaque given to all the families of soldiers who lost their lives on war service during the Great War.
They sent off the death certificate that clearly shows that William died of wounds received in France and also “influenza-meningitis” but due to some administrative error this was overlooked and according to the authorities William did not die of war wounds.
As a result his name was not forwarded to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and he did not get a war grave. This must have been so upsetting for Mr and Mrs Broad who made it clear on his grave and the memorial card, that he had died as a result of service to his country.
Seaford Council, however, did accept that William had died of war wounds and his name was included on the town’s War Memorial, which was unveiled on 3rd August 1921 in Dane Road (it was later moved to its present site).
Today, as we are approaching the centenary of the start of the Great War, you may think, like me, that the exclusion of Private Broad name from official records is wrong.
We are lucky to have good researchers like Keith Brain around. Thanks to his dogged determination he has managed to get William included on the database of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission who will place a pedestal marker on his grave at Seaford Cemetery. A happy ending to a sad story.
If you have any information about Private William Broad of Seaford, Keith would be pleased to speak to you. Also if you have any information about Seaford or Eastbourne in the First World War please let me know. I can be contacted on 01323 491707 and would be happy to pass any relevant information on to Keith.