Resting place of comrades in arms in Lewes

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Peaceful St John sub Castro churchyard in Lewes is the last resting place of men from opposing armies who fought in the Crimean War.

As the town prepares to welcome the Ambassadors of Russia and Finland to the re-dedication of the so-called Russian Memorial there, it has emerged that a British cavalryman lies buried not 50 yards from it.

He was Richard Davis, a sergeant in the 11th Hussars, who was wounded in the immortal Charge of the Light Brigade in October 1854.

He lived in Park Cottages opposite The Elephant and Castle, and died there on December 29, 1897.

The grave of Sgt Davis was located in undergrowth some years ago by local historian Roy Mills, who leaves a small remembrance there around Armistice Day each year to honour the Lewes soldier.

Embassy dignataries will assemble in the churchyard tomorrow (Saturday) for the re-dedication ceremony of the Russian Memorial. The Grade II Listed obelisk has been repaired and cleaned at a cost approaching £9,000 and paid for by the Russians and organisations based in the Aland Islands of Finland.

It honours the 28 Finnish soldiers who died as prisoners in Lewes during the Crimean War and are buried in the churchyard.

They were from the Aland Islands and serving in the Russian Army as conscripts of the Tsar. Finland was part of the Russian Empire at the time.

The ceremony is due to start at 12noon and all are welcome to attend.

Historian Mr Mills edits a large archive of material assembled over a 50-year period by another Sussex man, EJ Boys, dedicated to researching and perpetuating the memory of the brave men – the “Noble 600” seared on Victorian imaginations in Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem – who took part in the ill-fated charge at the Battle of Balaclava. It can be found at www.chargeofthelightbrigade.com

Mr Mills said: “Because this is a gargantuan task, it is not a fully functioning interactive resource yet, but we are continually updating it and are able to answer queries and correspond with many descendants globally of these men. As both a genealogical and social history resource, it’s value is immense and, unlike published books, one that is continually evolving. I have many details and (unknown) stories about these men.”

He added: “It would be nice to think that Richard Davis might be honoured, too, in some way one day by having his delapidated headstone restored. Until then, however, it will be down to nutters like me to make sure he’s not forgotten!”