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Family’s journey to trace story of Great War hero

Nelson Victor Carter, of Hailsham, awarded the VC posthumously. August 2014, Bexhill Observer. Image from: www.findagrave.com SUS-140508-150406001

Nelson Victor Carter, of Hailsham, awarded the VC posthumously. August 2014, Bexhill Observer. Image from: www.findagrave.com SUS-140508-150406001

The fatal bullet struck when Sergeant Carter was just yards from safety, carrying a wounded soldier on his back in pitch dark night on a French battlefield.

In 1916, with shells exploding all round, and under heavy German machine gun fire, Nelson Victor Carter, of Hailsham, made six trips into No Man’s Land to recover injured men: this was his last.

Sgt Carter, who trained in Cooden, died at around 4am on June 30, 1916; one of 366 soldiers from the Royal Sussex Regiment who gave their lives at the Battle of Boar’s Head in Richebourg L’Avoue, in northern France. He was 29, and married.

Sgt Carter was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross for his heroism - earlier in the battle he smashed through the German front line and took a machine gun post before fighting on into the German reserves.

And last week his granddaughter Jackie Brittain, of Hooe Road, Bexhill, lead a family pilgrimage to rediscover her brave relative’s story.

“After all these years I feel closer now to my grandfather,” she said. “And not just his picture.

“I’m still not able to come to terms with my mother’s emotions - he died when she was just six months old, but our footprints got closer to the story that we all read about in letters and newspaper cuttings as we grew up.”

Jackie set off from Cooden on Friday (August 1) with her sister and two sons. The family trod an emotional path to the battlefield in France where Colour Sergeant Nelson Victor Carter, VC, died.

Under bright sun Jackie walked along the indentations of trenches and visited the nearby war museum, where a picture of her grandfather hangs on a wall of remembrance - the same picture that hung in her dining room beside his VC.

“We grew up with the VC on the wall,” she said. “But it was never spoken about. I was always very proud, but it felt distant. Now I feel even more proud, and have more of an understanding of a person, rather than just a picture. We will never forget our family hero.”

The family returned to Cooden on Sunday with renewed respect for their history. Sgt Carter’s citation for “most conspicuous bravery” praises his “magnificent conduct”, and command of an impossibly difficult battle situation.

 

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