EVERY DAY scores of shoppers wandering up and down Hailsham High Street pass by a formidable landmark which has rested unhindered by the ever changing town landscape for years.
Hailsham War Memorial was unveiled by Lord Leconfield, the Lord Lieutenant of Sussex, on November 28 1920, for ‘the gallant sons of Hailsham who were faithful unto death’.
For the 90th anniversary of the memorial instalment, a new indepth book has been published bringing to life the personal stories of the hitherto unknown 123 men remembered by name on the structure.
David Dyer, aged 68, of Fairisle Close, who has lived in Hailsham for 40 years, has just written ‘The Heroes of Hailsham [subtitled] . . . 88 men in World War One. . . 35 men in World War Two’, in aid of soldiers’ charities, to find out more about the men behind the names.
The amateur historian has spent the past two years painstakingly researching their lives, using sources including past copies of the Sussex Express – and he has been humbled at what he has learnt.
Mr Dyer told the Express: “They were all brave men. And the ones who survived also have a right to be called heroes.
“Dozens of people pass the memoral each day and don’t give it a second glance.
“I hope residents take their stories on board as part of our town’s history. The names on that memorial really are of men who have sacrificed everything.”
Mr Dyer said there were other armed forces personnel buried in Hailsham Cemetery who are not remembered on the war memorial.
He suspected families at the time had not wanted a painful reminder of what had happened.
The research shows many interesting facts such as that a lot of the deceased, who could include several members of the same family, formerly worked as farmers or in the rope making industry.
Military records were elusive for one memorial man called Herbert Funnell, Mr Dyer said, who died in 1920. Some 12 of the men inscribed died of wounds after the war, he added.
Those honoured include a Victoria Cross winner, two distinguised conduct medal holders (although only one of them shows on the memorial), and one military medal man.
Four Hailsham men died on June 30 1916 at the Battle of the Boars Head, known as ‘the day Sussex died’.
It was a military tactic to distract attraction away from the Somme which tragically failed, according to Mr Dyer.
Paul Reed, the former chairman of Sussex Western Front Association, and a military historian, will be reviewing the book for his internet blog, and said: “As we are now almost a century from the Great War, many of the names engraved on our war memorials are sadly forgotten.
“Books like this bring them back into sharp focus, tell us who they were, what they did and remind us of the sacrifice that generation made.”
David Dyer will be signing copies of the ‘Heroes’ book (cost £9 with 50 per cent of net profits going to the Royal British Legion and 25 per cent to Thank the Forces charity) at Hailsham Town Council offices, Market Street, Hailsham, from 10am to 1pm this Tuesday, November 1.