Seaford Museum and Heritage Society are hosting an illustrated talk this evening (Friday) at the Little Theatre in Steyne Road, Seaford.
Local historian Kevin Gordon will be talking about Sussex in the Great War, putting particular emphasis on Seaford and Eastbourne.
These towns were closer to the action of the First World War than most places; the sound of naval battles could be heard from the coast and when the wind was in the right direction the rumble of artillery from France bought the front line to the streets.
A century ago the relatively small population of Seaford – under 4,000 – was increased by men from around the Empire who were billeted in two massive camps. The town was the venue for training, parades, fighting, murder and even rioting. Nearby Newhaven became an important port in which equipment and provisions were transported to the front. Conscientious objectors, some under threat of the death penalty, worked in the docks and on nearby roads.
Mr Gordon will also be launching his new book entitled Seaford and Eastbourne in the Great War and copies will be available at this evening’s event. It tells the story of how the conflict affected not only these seaside towns but also the soldiers (many of whom were teenagers) who answered the call to battle.
It is a story of spies, schoolchildren and sacrifice; a story that, for many, ended in the cemetery at Seaford, which today is one of the largest Commonwealth War Graves in the South of England.
Violent and tragic death on the Home Front became a grim routine during the war. Poor George William Wilson, 34, a Sapper with the 99th Field Company of the Royal Engineers stationed at Seaford, died of heart failure while on a route march near the town.
The summer of 1915 saw heroism from Driver Thomas Pollock, of the 253rd Company of the Army Service Corps, who drowned in the sea at Seaford in a vain attempt to save a comrade.
The 36-year-old former ship’s firemen went to the rescue of Driver Robert Wilson, 19, a former waiter, but sadly both men lost their lives.