Editor: Keith Grieves
Volume: Volume 84
ISBN: 978 085445 056 5
This volume draws on a wide range of sources to paint a vivid and comprehensive picture of Sussex attitudes and experiences in the Great War for Civilisation.
The landed gentry’s assumption of responsibility for local recruiting, and the willingness of most volunteers, make a contrast to the proceedings of a tribunal dealing with a conscientious objector.
Men from farms and factories found themselves in situations far removed from their normal lives. This is reflected in their letters home, some of which were published in their parish magazines.
Whilst such local publications were careful to encourage a `business as usual’ impression, the threat of invasion was surprisingly strong – provoking a radical range of precautions.
The logistics of wartime supply, for the forces and for the civilian population, made a major impact on the county. They included the monopolising of ports for transportation of supplies to the front and, at a local level, the control of rabbits to protect food crops.
Comforts for the troops ranged from the practical to the fantastic – such as Lord Brassey’s luxury yacht `Sunbeam’ in which, with a crew of 24 and the Dean of Hereford, he took a group of six wounded officers on a cruise. For some of the injured and disabled there would be care and retraining – in country houses or among crippled children at Chailey.
Any record of the Great War would seem incomplete without some mention of its poetry. The selection here ranges from `The County Enlisting Championship’ which epitomises the patriotism at the outbreak of war to nostalgic front-line memories of home and the Downs, and Blunden’s enduring recollections of his comrades.
Finally, when the war was over, there were peace celebrations for those returning, and the question of how best to commemorate the dead. Formal memorials and more practical ideas such as community halls each had their supporters. A decade later Sergeant Boutwood of the Royal Sussex Regiment was among the first to revisit some of the French battle sites in 1930 and wrote an account for the Regimental Journal.
Appendices give information on military matters, including the movements of each Battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment.
Dr Keith Grieves is Reader in History at Kingston University and has published extensively on the impact of the Great War both nationally and locally.
Cover illustration: Rotherfield recruits recruits leaving Eastbourne for Lord Kitchener’s Army, 9 September 1914. (WSRO RSR PH 7/1; reproduced by permission of the Royal Sussex Regiment Trust)