First World War research project about Sussex’s railway workers leads to award nomination for Arundel station employee

An Arundel railway station ticket office employee has been shortlisted in the Community Rail Awards for her painstaking research into railway workers from across Sussex who served in the First World War.

Station sales clerk Laura Lee spent hours combing through records to collate the names, ages, roles and fates of those who served to ensure their sacrifices are not forgotten – and she has now been shortlisted in the Outstanding Volunteer Contribution category in this year’s awards.

Laura, 50, said: “I’m delighted to be recognised in the Community Rail Awards.

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“What started out as a personal project grew and grew and I became engrossed in the research.

Laura Lee

“I’m glad that it has now been made into an official account of history because it’s very important that these people are not forgotten.”

The Littlehampton mum-of-two initially only looked into the fates of those who had been based at Arundel railway station, but it quickly snowballed as people encouraged her to extend the research to neighbouring stations.

For railway workers that did not make it home, Laura included locations of where they were buried after checking and cross-referencing details with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

The extensive research covers 27 stations across Sussex and Hampshire and has now been handed over to the West Sussex Record Office in Chichester as official reference documents.

Laura Lee

Last year, seven members of the Royal Sussex Regiment thanked Laura for her sterling work and presented her with a certificate, framed regimental mementoes and a Royal Sussex pin in recognition of the years of work she has put into her research project.

Howard Clear, Arundel station manager, said: “We were all really impressed by the amount of work and effort Laura put into her research – it was truly above and beyond her day job.

“We felt it only right to display her work on the concourse at Brighton station with regimental flags for all to see.

“It’s even better to see that Laura is now getting official recognition for her work, we’ll have our fingers crossed for the results.”

Govia Thameslink Railway is also up for three other awards, including in the Diverse Groups category where its ‘Good to talk – Even better to share’ project with Sussex Community Rail Partnership has been shortlisted for the support work and activities prepared for County Care and the Aldingbourne Trust during lockdown.

The Community Rail Awards 2020 will take place virtually on Wednesday, December 9.

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The stations Laura researched as part of the project were: Angmering, Arundel, Barnham, Billingshurst, Bognor Regis, Boxhill and Westhumble, Brighton, Chichester, Christ’s Hospital, Crawley, Dorking, Emsworth, Ford Junction, Goring by Sea, Holmwood, Horsham, Hove, Lancing, Littlehampton, Ockley, Portslade, Pulborough, Shoreham by Sea, Southwick, Warnham, West Worthing and Worthing. Her records for these stations will be lodged with West Sussex Records Office, where they will be treated as official reference documents. Arundel Museum also has a copy of the Arun Valley Stations (Crawley, Horsham, Christ’s Hospital, Billingshurst, Pulborough and Arundel).