Argus launches campaign to honour Sussex fallen heroes of First World War with memorial

John White with the Royal Sussex Regimental Association

John White with the Royal Sussex Regimental Association

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The Argus today launches its campaign to fund a memorial to the 7,302 soldiers of the Royal Sussex Regiment who died during the First World War.

The monument is set to be unveiled in the French hamlet of Priez on September 10 - the location of the regiment's first casualties 100 years ago.

But the Regiment Association, who are behind the memorial, now face a race against time to get the money together before they bus over a special contingent for the unveiling.

Colonel Roderick Arnold, regiment president, described the project as a “fitting tribute” to a “brave” and “heroic” group of men.

He said: “We had spoken about doing something for a long time. With the 100th anniversary this year we thought it was a good opportunity.

“The regiment was right in the thick of it from the very start of the war and played a role in just about every major battle.

“It was a bloody war for them and they suffered many casualties. Priez was the location of the first fatalities. That's why we chose the village for the memorial.”

The total estimated cost of the memorial, transport and taking members and veterans' families over is in the region of £60,000.

However their immediate target is to pay for the memorial, which stands at £33,000.

Over the last few years, the group has raised close to £24,000 through personal donations, fundraising events and gifts from businesses.

Among those who have already contributed are Harveys Brewery and Asda.

With the centenary fast approaching, they still need more than £9,000 to reach their target.

Colonel Arnold said: “We need to raise as much as we can and we would be appreciative of any money which people can spare.

“I think the important thing we have to appreciate is just how much Sussex gave to the Great War in terms of man power.

“We were there from the very beginning and our men kept on putting themselves forward and volunteering.

“Over in Eastbourne you could hear the gunfire. Our men wanted to protect England, they wanted to protect our green and pleasant land and that would have been a huge motivation for them.

“They knew they had a job to do and they went over there and did it.”

The Argus:

He added: “100 years may seem like a long time, but the men who died were people's grandparents and great uncles.

“They came from Eastbourne, Brighton, Lewes and Chichester, they were local men and in some cases boys who gave their lives to protect this country.

“This is a great opportunity for the people of Sussex to remember those who fought in the Great War.”

The design for the memorial has already been drawn up, with sculptor Simon Buchanan commissioned to complete the work in his Kingston upon Thames workshop.

Mr Buchanan will then transport the 3.5 tonne block of Portland stone out to the hamlet 60 miles to the north east of Paris.

On September 9, two coaches will leave Sussex to make it to Priez for the 100th anniversary of the regiment's first casualties the following day.

A special ceremony will be held in the tiny village, led by the Very Reverend Nicholas Frayling, Dean Emeritus of Chichester.

Major Brian Hudson, secretary of the association, said: “In organising this we have built up a relationship with those over in Priez.

“They have been incredibly supportive of everything and are looking forward to welcoming us in September.

“It is a tiny place with perhaps only 40 families, it's certainly very picturesque.

“It will be placed on a green patch next to the mayor's office.”

The memorial will feature the names of the 22 who died that day and in the following days from their injuries.

It will also carry an inscription in both English and French. It will read: “The Royal Sussex Regiment suffered its first casualties of the Great War on 10th September 1914. One officer, one Regimental Sergeant-Major and twenty men of the Regiment's 2ndBattalion died near Priez on or about that day.

“This Monument also honours the memory of the 7,302 Officers and Men who died while serving in one of the Regiment's twenty Battalions during the Great War.”

Donations can be made online at mydonate.bt.com/events/priez. Alternatively cheques can be sent in the post to Maj Hudson. Donations should be made out to “War Memorial Fund” and sent to Mr B Hudson, 29 Henry Avenue, Littlehampton, BN16 2PA.

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