Sussex in World War I by Ian Everest

Wed 4th April 2018 at 19.00 - 22.00

Cooden Beach Hotel

Sussex historian Ian Everest was the club’s guest speaker on 4 April 2018. Ian gave a very informative talk about how Sussex was very much involved in supporting the war effort in World War I and illustrated the talk with pictures and posters from the time. Sussex was, of course, only a few miles from the trenches and the main theatre of operations. Conversely,  the German Army was also on its doorstep! Ian told of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, a Crowborough resident, setting up a local defence force which became the model for the Home Protection Brigade and of his digging protection trenches before the trenches were dug in France. He spoke of Sussex MP, Charles Lowther, who gained permission to recruit a Sussex Battalion. It was so successful he recruited three. The Newhaven area was fully involved with the war effort exporting 5 ½ million of hay for horses and 20 ships a day leaving port with supplies for the Western Front. Nearby were bases for flying boats and airships which provided protection for the shipping. Sussex played a major part in training new troops with a number of camps set up including one at Cooden. Wounded troops were treated in Sussex hospitals, including the newly opened Brighton Grammar School, while Indian troops – some 800.000 Indian troops fought in the war - were hospitalised in the Royal Pavilion. On discharge the wounded were rehabilitated in various convalescent homes around the county. 

Following the armistice fund raising committees continued but devoted their efforts to erecting war memorials to commemorate those local residents who had fallen during the conflict. Nationally, architect Edward Lutyens who had designed Little Thakeham near Horsham was asked to design a memorial to commemorate the fallen. He had just two weeks and in that time the cenotaph in Whitehall was designed and built - of wood. It was replaced the following year by a cenotaph constructed of Portland Stone

President Linda Fearn thanked Ian for such an interesting talk and telling most of us information of what we had not been aware.