During the last 4 years, a number of activities have been undertaken by organisations at home and abroad to mark the 100 years since World War I, 1914-1918. To commemorate the final landmark of that century, Hastings Museum & Art Gallery have launched a major project which will look at the conflict and its aftermath with particular reference to the people of Hastings. HRFHS has joined in this Project along with Hastings Borough Council and a number of other local historical groups.
The culmination will be an exhibition at the Museum in Johns Place, Bohemia Road, in November to coincide with the annual commemoration which will no doubt be rightfully exceptional this year.
Several activities are planned as contributory to get the preparation for November under way, including an invitation to Hastings residents to share their family stories of the Great War and the years that followed. This society would also like to extend the invitation beyond Hastings itself to our wider, Rother, area to include Rye, Bexhill, Battle and all the villages and hamlets between. Even if you no longer live in the area or your relative was not actually from here, we would still like to hear your story.
And although those who gave their lives are the central part of the commemoration, this is not just about them alone. Very many survived the horrendous conditions and returned to pick up the pieces of shattered families who had struggled back home. A return that brought with it a devastating flu epidemic which took more lives than the bullets and shells of the field. Life would never be the same. A whole new social order emerged with so many demobbed servicemen still suffering debilitating injuries and trauma. Those relatively untouched found they had saved a broken, almost bankrupt, country.
Women had just begun to find a voice and they, too, had their stories. The shortage of eligible husband material is well-documented as is the struggle to achieve the respect and rewards deserved for carrying out so-called “men’s” jobs. But there were other brave women also. The thousands who set off to the “New World” of Canada and America with the soldiers they had met in transit to the killing fields.
What is your family’s story?
The Society would like to gather all of these and present them for others to share.
To find out how you can join in or for more advice, get in touch with us through the contacts page
We shall be offering a Writing Workshop at the Ore Centre on Weds 11th July – open to all
HRFHS Area Servicemen Who lost Their Lives in WWI, March 1918
Each month, one of those who gave their lives is researched in order to present a short biography. These few brave servicemen are representative of the many not only in this little corner of the Country but across the World. They are ordinary men who had dreams and hopes and they left behind ordinary families whose dreams and hopes were shattered. This month it is:
Private Lionel George Henry BRITT, 200842, Royal Tank Corps
Lionel Britt was born in 1892, the second child of George Britt and Mary (nee Eldridge). His older sister, Rosamund, died when she was only 6-years-old so from then on he was treated as the eldest of the four surviving children. George and Mary lost three of their seven children altogether.
Born in Hollington, Lionel was well-educated and followed his father from an early age into the craft of monumental mason. Father, George, was actually the publican of the Victoria Inn, Battle Road, Hollington, whilst developing his masonry skills and craft. Lionel would no doubt take on the family business and continue to provide the headstones and monuments for local churches and the Borough Cemetery which remain evident to this day.
War was imminent as Lionel reached his twenties and he met Ada Marchant. The couple married in Hollington in the Summer of 1914. The following year saw the arrival of a daughter, Laura but Lionel had already gone off to France. He would never meet his child.
Originally, Lionel enlisted as Private Lionel George Henry Britt, 32031, in the Machine Gun Corps. In 1915, the development of the first armoured vehicles was well under way. Troops from the Machine Gun Corps volunteered – or were chosen – to train in the use of these tanks. Lionel became Private 200842 in the Royal Tank Corps. Each vehicle would contain a subaltern, 3 drivers and 4 gunners. Conditions were clearly cramped and unpleasant. The early machines could travel at only 4mph on good ground which was much reduced over rugged terrain. It was not until the later versions arrived in the field that anything like infantry speed could be achieved. By 1918, they were beginning to prove themselves with greater efficiency and improved armoury but the Tank Corps were often “sitting ducks” for enemy fire.
Lionel became one of the many casualties in France on 21st March 1918. He left £160 in his will but all of his potential on that battlefield.
Ada, his widow, was left to raise their little girl on her own. She later got together with an unmarried sister, Rose Marchant, and they lived at 14 Vale Road, Silverhill. It is also likely that Lionel’s grieving parents received and gave mutual support. Father, George, must have often dreamed of the time when he would pass on “Britt and Son” to his son but it was not to be. The monumental mason business continued until George Britt’s death in 1926 only to be taken on by others.
The full list for the duration of WWI can be found in the Members’ Area. If you are a member simply log in and scroll the Resources section. If you are not a member why not consider joining? Go to: http://www.hrfhs.org.uk/details-rates/