WWI memorial in France pays tribute to Royal Sussex fallen

Royal Sussex Regimental Association
Royal Sussex Regimental Association

The Royal Sussex Regimental Association has unveiled the first Great War memorial to their forebears on the battlefields of France.

A public appeal was launched in 2012 and successfully raised £60,000 from members of the Regimental Association veterans, corporate sponsors, members of the public and county, town and parish councils throughout Sussex to enable a monument to commemorate all officers and men who died while serving in one of the regiment’s 20 battalions during 1914-1919.

The monument, erected in Priez, in the Picardy region of France, marks the location of the regiment’s first losses of the war and engraved on one of the panels are the names of the 22 men who were killed or died of wounds received on September 10, 1914.

The memorial was unveiled to mark the centenary of those losses.

The regiment wants the new monument to eventually commemorate all of its 7,302 soldiers who died in the First World War, and two of the names set to appear are those of soldiers James Frank Ballard, 28, of Grove Road, and 22-year-old John William Kember, of Castle Hill Road, who both died on September 14, 1914.

Paul Ballard, Pte Ballard’s great-great nephew, has researched the history of his ancestor extensively and chronicled the soldier’s life history.

James Frank Ballard was born on May 1, 1886 at 216 Harold Road, and was one of 12 children born to William Albert Ballard and his wife Mary Ann who came from the old Hastings fishing family of Stonham.

He initially worked as a stable helper. Later he joined the 1st Cinque Port Voluntary Rifles and then signed up as Private L/8245 with the Royal Sussex Regiment on July 12, 1905.

Following basic training he served in the UK but was quickly posted with the regiment to Malta in October 1905 and then Crete in April 1906 and finally on October 17, 1907 he shipped out to India. Pte Ballard was recorded in the 1911 census as a company cook of the 1st Royal Sussex Regiment, aged 24.

He received two Good Conduct Badges, one in 1907 and one in 1910.

Pte Ballard’s service in India saw him stationed on the north west frontier at Rawalpindi, a location to which three of his brothers, William, George and Harold, would be posted in the First World War.

He was released to the reserve on March 21, 1913 at Gosport, Hampshire. Pte Ballard had very little time to enjoy civilian life and was recalled to active service at the outbreak of war in August 1914. He died on September 14, 1914 at the Battle of the Aisne, Troyon, France, aged 28.

He was wounded in action and died of his wounds after being taken to a field hospital. Pte Ballard’s grave was lost as a result of subsequent war activities. His name is commemorated on the memorial at La Ferte-sous-Jouarre in France.

Colonel Roderick Arnold, president of the Regimental Association, said: “We have marked the Great War centenary with an emotional and fitting tribute to our forbears 100 years to the day we suffered our first casualties. I can’t thank all those people enough who donated funds at the personal, corporate and regimental levels.

This monument is not only a legacy for our regiment but is also a future place of pilgrimage for those related to the men who fell during the war. We have also had the privilege to meet descendants of some of the men who died on September 10, 1914, as well some who died subsequently in the September to December period of 1914.”

The Regimental Association is compiling a list of descendants concerning service in the Royal Sussex in the First World War. For more details call Nigel Taggart on 01243 699881 or email nlpmtaggart27@talktalk.net if you have any details or photographs relating to the fallen.