First World War hero remembered - 95 years on

Members of the Royal Sussex Regimental Association pay their respects
Members of the Royal Sussex Regimental Association pay their respects

A TRUE Eastbourne hero who was awarded the Victoria Cross for bravery was remembered 95 years after his death on a bloody First World War battlefield.

A large contingent from the Eastbourne and District Branch of the Royal Sussex Regimental Association made a pilgrimage to the grave of Company Sergeant Major Nelson Victor Carter VC in northern France. The soldier was born in Eastbourne and grew up in Hailsham.

Company Sergeant Major Nelson Victor Carter VC

Company Sergeant Major Nelson Victor Carter VC

Five years ago the town honoured his achievements with a blue memorial plaque at his former home in Greys Road and his Victoria Cross is also pride of place at the Redoubt Fortress.

He served with the 12th Battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment and was killed at Richebourg on June 30, 1916, in a battle which became known as the Boar’s Head.

The ceremony, on June 18, took place at the Royal Irish Rifles Cemetery in Laventie where a wreath was laid and a small service was taken.

Hailsham historian Alan Cooper joined the trip and was honoured to play the Last Post at the service,

He said, “After his company commander was killed Nelson Carter took charge and led his men forward armed with a revolver.

“But when he reached the German lines he found they were still intact. Despite this he and just a few men managed to penetrate the enemy lines and inflict heavy casualties.

“After heavy counter attacks by the enemy they had to retreat but not before he captured an enemy machine gun and killed its crew.

“On arriving back at his own lines he then proceeded to go into No Man’s Land to collect men who had been wounded and carried them on his back. He rescued six men but on his seventh venture he was shot and killed.”

He was recommended and awarded a Victoria Cross for conspicuous bravery. He had previously been recommended by company commander for the Military Cross for carrying a man over 400 yards under intense machine gun fire but together with his actions on June 30 it was thought the Victoria Cross was the appropriate award.

The battle at Richebourg took place on the eve of the Battle of the Somme and 100 soldiers from Eastbourne were killed, wounded or recorded as missing in action after a short, but very bloody, military action.

The men were from the Royal Sussex Southdown Battalion, which was made of volunteers who were almost entirely from Sussex.

David Lester, from Barcombe Walk, has researched the Royal Sussex Southdown Battalion for 17 years. )He told the Herald, “It was intended as a diversionary attack to distract the enemy from the Battle of Somme, which was due to start the next day 100 miles South of Richebourg.

“But sadly, security was virtually nonexistent in those days and the Germans knew exactly what they intended to do.

“As they came out of the trenches they were mowed down by machine gun fire, row after row of them. What happened that day was horrific.”

“Virtually every village in Sussex lost somebody that day, and it seemed everyone knew someone who was wounded or killed in Richebourg.”