‘The day Sussex died’ ... 100 years ago

Nelson Victor Carter ... posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions at the Battle of the Boar's Head on June 30, 1916
Nelson Victor Carter ... posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions at the Battle of the Boar's Head on June 30, 1916

One hundred years ago the men of Sussex belonging to the 11th 12th and 13th Southdowns Battalions of the Royal Sussex Regiment went over the top at the Battle of the Boar’s Head at Richebourg l’Avoue in Northern France.

Within five hours more than 1,300 of these men were either killed, wounded, missing or taken prisoner.

Of the 366 dead more than 70 per cent came from Sussex. It bacem known as ‘the day Sussex died’.

On Thursday, June 30, at 5pm a commemoration will take place at the St Vaast Post Military Cemetery Richebourg to remember these men.

Organised by the Royal Sussex Living History Group, in conjunction with the Commune of Richebourg, the ceremony has taken place each year since 2006 but this year commemorates the centenary and will therefore be especially important.

Those attending at Richebourg include the representative of HM Lord Lieutenant of West Sussex, relatives of the soldiers who took part, including the family of Nelson Victor Carter who won a Victoria Cross there, and the mayors of Richebourg, Aubers and Worthing.

Schools across Sussex are learning about this battle and Eastbourne’s Bishop Bell School is bringing some students to Richebourg to pay their respects.

Although there is understandably much focus on the Battle of the Somme, which commenced on July 1, 1916, the county of Sussex is making sure the centenary of The Battle of the Boar’s Head will not pass unnoticed with a handful of events also taking place.

On June 22, a group was due to cycle from Richebourg to the Eastbourne Redoubt Fortress collecting a fragment of the bell from Richebourg Church which was destroyed during the war.

The mayor and deputy mayor of Richebourg will be presented with the bell piece and on June 26 there will be an inauguration in Richebourg.

Also on June 26, the Royal British Legion is taking part in the Evensong in Chichester Cathedral at 3.30pm.

On June 30 churches across Eastbourne and the surrounding areas are being asked to join in a bell ringing session.

Between 1.45pm and 5.15pm, Chichester Cathedral will be ringing a peal of bells – a massive three and a half hours and more than 5,000 changes.

The Sussex County Association of Change Ringers has asked as many churches as possible across Sussex to join in and ring their bells too from 5pm to 5.15pm

St Mary’s Church at Westham will ring at 4pm, Christchurch Eastbourne at 11.30am, and St Mary’s in Hailsham around 5pm with Alfriston’s St Andrews is also a possibility.

On Saturday July 2 at noon, the unveiling of the Nelson Victor Carter VC Stone will take place at the Eastbourne Redoubt Fortress.

Nelson Victor Carter was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for the courage he displayed in the battle, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.

Carter was born on April 6 1887 to Richard Carter, of Hailsham, husband of Kathleen Carter, of 33 Greys Road, Old Town, Eastbourne.

He was 29 years old and a Company Sergeant Major in the 12th Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment, British Army when he was killed in action.

He is buried in the Royal Irish Rifles Churchyard, Laventie, France.

On July 9 between 10am and 2pm, Langney Primary School is hosting a Family Funday which will also feature all the work the children have been doing to celebrate the life of Nelson Victor Carter.

The Redoubt Fortress is also staging an exhibition up until November called Hearth, Home and Honour, which tells the story of the men from Eastbourne who joined the Southdowns and fought at the Battle of the Boars Head.

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