Lest We Forget

5 October 2018

Please note: this news article is in our archive. Articles were correct at time of publication, but should not be relied on for accuracy after the passage of time.

WWI touched the lives of millions across the globe 1914 – 1918 and to mark the centenary East Grinstead Town Council has commemorated the war with a series of events and tributes.

East Grinstead was especially touched by the events of World War 1, as can be witnessed from the inscriptions on the War Memorial located in the historic High Street.  During The Battle of Boar’s Head, Richebourg, France in 1916, commemorated as “The Day Sussex Died”, over 360 men died over a five-hour period.

This year, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of war, a special service was held at East Grinstead’s War Memorial as well as a range of ‘living exhibitions’ were on display in the grounds of East Court Mansion, providing an insight into life at the time.

2014-2018 floral tributes High Street War Memorial flower beds

From recreating the ceremonial drums of the Royal Sussex Regiment, to displays of the poppy fields of Flanders, the Town Council has commemorated the anniversary of WWI with spectacular themed flower beds.

Roll of Honour

Each name from the East Grinstead war memorial has been remembered on the anniversary of their death with a post on the Council’s social media platform (@VisitEG) together with a mention on the Town Council web news under the headline “Lest We Forget”.

Edwardian Picnic; East Court Live!

3 August 2014: The town turned out to remember the last weekend of peace before war was declared on Tuesday, August 4 1914.

The East Grinstead Concert Band played popular tunes of the era and there were period games, Punch and Judy shows and have-a-go archery.  The ladies of the WI served up cream teas and many residents dressed in Edwardian costumes.

Lights Out

4 August 2014: East Grinstead Town Council and the East Grinstead branch of the Royal British Legion, held a candle-lit vigil 10pm – 11pm to mark the exact time Great Britain entered the ‘Great War’.

During the reading of war poems, members of the public were invited to place lighted candles around the War Memorial.

The inspiration for the event is the remark made by Sir Edward Grey, foreign secretary, on August 3 1914.

Knowing that war was imminent, he gazed out at gas lamps being lit in St James’s Park and said: “The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.”

The Sidney Godley V.C. plaque unveiling

23 August 2014: East Grinstead was the first town in the UK to unveil one of the nationwide series of specially commissioned, centenary anniversary plaques. The plaques were produced as a Government initiative, to honour each holder of the Victoria Cross from WWI. Pte Sidney Godley V.C, born in East Grinstead, was the first private soldier to be awarded the medal for valour during the war.

Despite being twice wounded, Pte Godley held Nimy Bridge at Mons, allowing his comrades to escape. He was subsequently captured and told of his award whilst a prisoner of war eventually receiving his medal from King George V at Buckingham Palace in 1919. Among the attendees of the ceremony were Rt. Hon. Eric Pickles MP, Pte Godley’s great niece Mrs Susan Hill, and representatives of the Royal Fusiliers, the successors to Pte Godley’s regiment.  Also among the guests was Charlie MacKeith the designer of the Memorial plaque.

The Mayor of East Grinstead, Cllr. Nick Hodges, read the address.

The Day Sussex died: The Battle of Boar’s Head

30 June 2016: The Battle of Boar’s Head, Richebourg, France 30 June 1916 was a diversionary tactic prior to the Battle of the Somme which started on 1 July 1916. It was intended to persuade the German Command that it was this area, rather than the Somme, that was to be the centre of the major offensive. The Sussex Regiment broke through the German line and held their position for 30 minutes before being forced to retreat.

The Town Mayor lit a candle at the War Memorial at 3.05, the exact moment, 100 years earlier, the men of the 11th, 12th and 13th Southdown’s Battalions went ‘over the top’.  In five hours 17 officers and 349 men were killed and over 1000 were wounded or taken prisoner.

The candle burned for the 5 hours of the battle.  A wreath laying ceremony with an honour guard took place at 7am and the candle was extinguished at 8.05am.

Armed Forces Day

30 June 2018:  A service of commemoration was held at the High Street War Memorial and was followed by a procession led by The East Grinstead concert band.

The band, dignitaries and members of the public processed to East Court where further activities, exhibitions and WWI & RAF100 displays took place.

Around the grounds of East Court Mansion were several displays of WW1, including a bi-plane, machine gun emplacement, recruitment tent and field blacksmith, as well as a large number of guns and artefacts from the period.

The whole event was lent an air of authenticity by the attendance of personnel in vintage military uniforms and on such a blisteringly hot day, gave a glimpse of what it must have been like, on a very personal level, to have lived during that time.

Remembrance Sunday and Beacon Lighting

11 November 2018: The roads in the centre of town will be closed for the Remembrance Day Service and Parade by the town branch of the Royal British Legion in East Grinstead High Street, following the traditional wreath-laying service at East Court.

Remembrance Sunday will be an opportunity for all the community to remember the Fallen, especially in the 100th anniversary year of the end of the Great War.