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, September 1918
Click on the link: WWI Killed in Action Sept 1918
OR PDF version: WWI Killed in Action Sept 1918
To see all those from the HRFHS area who were lost during the month
Each month, one of those who gave their lives is researched in order to present a short biography. This is just one, representative of the many, not only in this little corner of the Country but across the World. They were ordinary men who had dreams and hopes and they left behind ordinary families whose dreams and hopes were shattered. This month it is:
Alfred Charles QUAIFE, Private G/3858, 2nd Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment, 1885-18 September 1918
Alfred Quaife was the eighth child of ten – seven girls and three boys – born to William Quaife and Emily (nee Austin). William was an upholsterer born in Frant near Tonbridge in 1853 although his roots were in the Hastings area. He moved to Hastings where he met and married Emily Austin in 1874. The children arrived in quick succession with Alfred making his appearance in the Spring of 1885.
Alfred grew up in the Manor Road area of Hastings, no doubt attending the elementary school at one end of that road which later became Mount Pleasant Infants School and other designations before being demolished to be replaced by a modern housing development. He was no more than 11-years-old when his father died, aged 42 years. Apart from the grief, Alfred’s widowed mother, Emily, was to struggle bringing up the children, the youngest being only 3-years-old. She moved the family from St George’s Road just around the corner to 42 Manor Road and earned a little money as a sick-nurse. The meagre income was supplemented by taking in lodgers which made the home very crowded.
Beginning his working life very soon after his father’s death, Alfred started as an errand boy in the town and continued this well into his teens, along with his slightly older brother, George. As the children grew into adulthood and the daughters each married and began families of their own, mother Emily made a dramatic move to Wales. She actually went to live with her daughter Selina and her coal-trimmer husband, still working as a sick-nurse.
In 1904, some time before his mother left the town and when he was 18-years-old, Alfred enlisted in the Royal Sussex Regiment. He no doubt saw this as a career move or at least a means of earning money as well as experience. This spell in the army did not last too long and he was out by the time of the 1911 Census which saw him back in Hastings, along with brother George living across the road in 77 Manor Road. The brothers lived with their sister, Sarah Jane and her husband, fishmonger George Brett. Alfred had found work as a dairyman. Dairies in towns at that time were very localised often with one or two animals kept in a yard which served a small community. In the days of poor or no refrigeration, milk had to be provided daily. Alfred’s work would have been arduous with very early starts and physically demanding.
When war broke out all three brothers enlisted. George and Alfred were into their thirties but the youngest Quaife child, Thomas was 22-years-old. Alfred once again joined the Royal Sussex Regiment. Young Thomas, who had gone off to Norfolk in search of work, was posted to the Norfolk Regiment. It was in November 1916 that the family were informed of Thomas’ death from wounds on 22nd October.
Alfred was in 2nd Battalion, Royal Sussex and in September 1918 was involved in “The Big Push”, forcing back the enemy lines in France. His battalion was working closely with other regiments including Canadians and Australians in generally successful attacks on enemy positions with heavy artillery support. It was during one of these attacks – around the area of Arras and Etaing – that he was wounded as September opened. He died from his wounds on the 18th.
The Quaifes were certainly not the only family to have lost two sons to the War. It was indeed not unusual for more brothers from a single family to have fallen.
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/