NOSTALGIA: Discovering the last resting place of Peter the Lamb

Lowther's Lambs ... officers of the Royal Sussex Regiment pictured with their mascot at Cooden in 1915
Lowther's Lambs ... officers of the Royal Sussex Regiment pictured with their mascot at Cooden in 1915

A service of dedication and a laying of wreaths to the fallen soldiers from Herstmonceux and Sussex in the First World War was held at Herstmonceux Castle recently as the final resting place of a regimental mascot was also discovered.

The remains of Peter the lamb, the regimental mascot of the 11th, 12th and 13th Battalions of the Royal Sussex Regiment was found by gardener Fiona Wingfield who was working at the historic landmark.

Fiona researched the story of Peter and contacted David Lester, the Royal Sussex Regiment historian and together they organised the service to pay tribute to those who lost their lives in the Great War.

According to local historians Peter, a Southdown lamb, was born in April 1914 at Applesham Farm in Lancing but his mother died and he was bottle fed by a young girl whose elder brother, H L Frampton was engaged to the eldest daughter of the farmer, J Passmore.

In November 1914 Mr Passmore gave Peter to the 1st Southdown Battalion as a mascot and the sheep went on recruiting tours with the battalion’s band, which was mainly formed from Salvation Army musicians.

Previously Sir Claud Lowther MP of Herstmonceux in Sussex had formed a committee to raise a Southdown brigade of four battalions, 4,000 men.

In September 1914 the first recruits joined including Mr Frampton and 50 others from the Worthing area.

The men of the Southdown Brigade were soon known as Lowther’s Lambs and they went into camp at Cooden near Bexhill.

When the soldiers went to France with the 39th Division at the beginning of March 1916, Peter stayed at Aldershot with the 14th (4th Southdown) (Reserve) Battalion.

Historian R A Elliston, whose father was one of Lowther’s Lambs, said that although Peter the sheep did not share the hardship and danger of active service, he did his bit by helping recruiting.

He would “baa” on hearing Colonel Lowther’s voice, and scratch the castle door in the hope of attracting the colonel’s attention.

He lived on until 1928 when he was buried in a rose garden at Herstmonceux.

A sheep may seem an unlikely mascot for fighting men and ‘Lambs’ an unlikely nickname for them to be proud of, but ‘Lowther’s Lambs’ were not the first.

The Queen’s Royal Regiment (West Surrey), raised in 1661 to garrison Tangier, was known as Kirke’s Lambs, after Colonel Percy Kirke who brought them back from Tangier, and their badge is the Paschal Lamb.

The many gallant battalions of the regiments of Surrey, Kent, Sussex, Middlesex and Hampshire are represented in today’s army by The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment, ‘The Tigers’,.

Lowther himself was a Conservative politician and owner and resident of Herstmonceux Castle in 1914. He raised his battalions and although he temporarily held the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel, like many others who had raised battalions in this manner, he did not lead them to France himself. He returned to Herstmonceux Castle once his work was completed.

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