Hailsham remembers when Britain went to war

Hailsham commemoration SUS-140608-151629001
Hailsham commemoration SUS-140608-151629001

A commemoration event to mark the centenary of Britain’s entry into World War One was held in Hailsham on Sunday (August 3).

As the country came together to mark the 100 years since Britain joined the war on August 4 1914, which saw millions killed, a parade and memorial service was held in the town involving more than 100 people.

Organisations such as the Royal British Legion, Royal Air Forces Association and Hailsham Town Council members, including the town mayor Cllr Jo Bentley, were in attendance.

The parade gathered at the Charles Hunt Centre and the 1066 Pipes and Drums Marching Band led the parade of ex-service and serving local personnel, cadet forces and emergency service personnel.

The parade moved north along Vicarage Lane, down the High Street to Hailsham War Memorial where a service and wreath laying ceremony took place.

Crowds gathered around the memorial for the moving service.

Residents described the service as ‘touching’ as they stood for a two minute silence to remember those who sacrificed their lives.

They then sang war time songs Tipperary and Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag.

Mayor Councillor Jo Bentley, who took part in a wreath-laying ceremony at the war memorial said: “The centenary of World War One marks the anniversary of the beginning of the conflict that shaped the world as we know it and is of huge local, national and international importance.

“We must all remember the efforts of service men and women who sacrificed their lives during the First World War, and in other conflicts.

“Most people will have some connection to the First World War in some way, in most cases through family history. This remembrance event is an extremely emotional and very fitting service to those who made the ultimate sacrifice. What they did and went through will never be forgotten.”

Councillor Bentley added: “I am proud to represent the people of Hailsham at this service of appreciation and would like to thank everyone for their support for the Royal British Legion’s Centenary event.”

Sussex lost hundreds of men and women from its towns and villages during the first world war.

But none was so bloody as the Battle of the Boar’s Head, a diversionary assault just hours before the Battle of the Somme, where Hailsham man Nelson Victor Carter lost his life and was later awarded the Victoria Cross.

Nelson, who grew up in Hailsham, was awarded the Victoria Cross after leading the big push on the Somme on June 30 1916.

The Allies’ plan was to take the Germans’ position in Richebourg which had been dubbed the Boar’s Head and confuse them as to where the attack would happen. Hundreds of men from the Southdowns battalions readied themselves with the aim of beating the enemy in a bid to slow their reinforcements getting to the Somme. The Royal Sussex regiments 11, 12 and 13 were to lead the line but the battalion consisted of volunteers with little or no experience of fighting. And tragically, a smoke bombardment designed to mask the soldiers advancement, instead covered the Allies so they could not see, causing confusion. The enemy, seeing their predicament, opened fire and after fierce fighting for more than five hours, killed 17 officers and 349 Sussex soldiers. Around 77 Sussex towns and villages lost men at the Battle of the Boar’s Head.

It came to be known as ‘the day Sussex died’.

Picture above by Peter Hibbs.