Brighton soldier tells of his brave escape

The original newspaper account

The original newspaper account

First published in Past Views

A century ago today, Argus readers got a glimpse into the terror of war through the eyes of a Brighton soldier.

Readers found out about the brave escape from German troops by Corporal Charles Gess, who was trapped behind enemy lines after running for his life (see cutting below).

Cpl Gess wrote to his mother, who lived at Vine Street in Brighton, to tell her he went straight to France after meeting up with the Infantry Regiment of the Expeditionary Force and was immediately sent to the front.

He told his mother he and his regiment “very nigh all got cut up” by enemy fire but he and five others managed to escape and were forced to live in a forest for a week, going three days without food.

The survivors then swam across a river and made their way through a forest in a bid to get back to their regiment, only to discover to their horror they were surrounded by thousands of German soldiers.

Another terrifying night sleeping out in their sodden clothes followed before villagers gave them civilian clothes, which helped them to evade capture.

Cpl Gess’s mother, a widow, certainly endured a horrifically stressful war with all three of her sons seeing action including her eldest, who was invalided out of the navy with consumption and her youngest, aged only 18, a trooper with the 15 Hussars.

Compared with what was happening on the front, stories in the paper about life at home seemed quaint and almost insignificant by contrast.

Yet every effort was being made to help the war effort where possible.

Wadhurst Miniature Rifle Club met 100 years ago this week to discuss proposals to reduce the membership fee for the club to 3d and to offer free ammunition to members.

The club reasoned that with so many men in the local area going to war, it was a good idea for as many as possible to get training and experience in handling firearms.

It was agreed that all members should have 200 rounds of free ammunition.

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