Sunday, 10 May 2015


The Committee of Crawley and Ifield Cottage Hospital having placed eight beds at the disposal of the authorities, the first batch of invalid soldiers arrived on Sunday, half a dozen being brought in a motor car from Brighton. Some had been badly wounded in battle, whilst others were cases of appendicitis and adenoids, for which operations had been performed prior to their arrival at Crawley.

The two most serious cases are those of Prvt. Berry, of the Kings own Royal Lancashire’s, and Srgt. Glover, of 2nd Cheshire Regiment, both of whom telling thrilling stories of their awful experiences at the Front. Srgt. Glover, who lives at Nantwich and is 35, has 17 years service to his credit. He served throughout the South Africa campaign and was wounded. He went to France in August and after various engagements was wounded in the mouth by a bullet in September. He was invalided home and returned to the Front in December, being again wounded in the ankle by shrapnel shell. Subsequently Srgt. Glover received terrible injuries to the eye and face and a piece of shell, an inch square, is still embedded in his left cheek.

Prvt. Berry has injuries to his legs, arms and chest, and most of his wounds were received while he was attending fallen comrades. He went to the Front early in August and took part in the battles of Mons, Marne, Aisne, Lys and other places, and was wounded at Le Touruet on December 26th, receiving a bullet wound in each leg and bayonet scratches in the arm and left side. He returned to England and again went abroad in February. In May he was wounded again, receiving a bullet in the arm, which smashed the bone, and another bullet, which entered his chest, went right through one of his lungs and came out at the back. These terrible wounds were inflicted at a moment when he was dressing the wounds of others. Both men can tell vivid stories of the battles and they can confirm the atrocities alleged against the Germans, but space forbids their recapitulation here.

Despite the severity of their wounds the men are extremely cheerful and full of gratitude for the kindness and consideration shown them by the Matron and her willing staff at the Cottage Hospital. Occasional motor rides are being provided for them and these are, of course, much enjoyed; and the remainder of time is spent in the garden at the rear of the hospital, where they sit and smoke and recount to each other their individual experiences.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Charlie's Letter Home from the Front

Prvt. Charlie Dumsday, of Crawley, sends us a letter from the Front, dated 12th inst. After referring to his passage over, Prvt. Dumsday says: “We marched to a rest camp in Rouen, which we left in the following morning, for the station, and where we entrained and travelled, via Amines, to Valenciennes. We then marched through Baray to Mons, where we found the British troops in action. Our ambulance and bearers left us to collect the wounded, the remainder of us having to retire. We found the dressing station just cooking dinner. We were expecting a good meal, when, just as it was served up, the order came for us to retire, as the Germans were upon us, so we were done out of our dinner. You may be sure there were very nasty remarks made about the Germans for that.

We retired again through Baray and saw a German Taube brought down, after a good deal of maxim and rifle fire at it. We still had to retire, marching day and night. We wondered why we were doing so at all, but the infantry could tell a tale, as they lost heavily, according to the reports we heard; but after the stragglers had been collected the losses were not so heavy as had first been the story. We halted for the night, but at dawn the next morning the Germans were on us again and we had to march off pretty quickly. Heavy firing was going on behind us. We saw a fight in the air that day, when one of our aviators brought down a Taube. The German Taube machine has curved back wings and looked exactly like a hawk after a swallow, but never really got above it. We heard a shot and the Taube staggered and glided down, when the wounded aviator was captured. It was a wonderful sight and looked like to great birds.

We marched on all day and about 4pm heard heavy firing and saw shrapnel. We thought it was a small cavalry action, but it soon developed into something worse, for the cavalry began to come in. We were very near the end of the column which had just passed through. We rattled along and afterwards had a meal and slept the night on the pavement. It was only an hours sleep, but the pavement was hard – like a feather bed, I don’t think.

Next morning we were told the Germans were on us again. Their high explosive shells make a fearful noise, one cannot imagine what it is like, but their bark is worse than their bite, I think. I am quite well and all the boys with me. I am hoping to see some Crawley boys before long. We have a few prisoners at times and they say ‘why don’t you give up? You know you are beat.’ That is what they think, but I don’t. We’ve got a few men this side yet and some more coming up. I am sorry I can’t say no more about the war; I don’t dare. The north of France is very cold yet. Well, I want to thank the ladies of Crawley for their parcel. It was indeed very nice of you. We all had a taste – the best cake out here yet from Crawley. So I must say goodbye to all at Crawley for this time. Hope to be home soon.”

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Two Crawley Lads at Letouret Memorial

A LOCAL SOLDIER KILLED. - We regret to announce the death of Private W. G. Wright, of the County of London Rifles, who was wounded sometime since during action. The sad news has just been officially conveyed to his mother; and for her the utmost sympathy will be felt in the loss of her only son. Private Wright was an old Blue Coat Boy, but his home was at Waverley, Crawley. Wright was 25.

A CRAWLEY MAN WOUNDED. – Bomb. George Miller, 58th battery RFA, has been unfortunate enough to sustain a very severe wound. On 7th December Bomb. Miller was in a house which came under shell fire, with the result that a piece of shell stripped the tips of his fingers, and, travelling upwards, ripped open his arm and finally lodged in the muscle. The wounded man is hoping to shortly arrive in England.

DEATH AT THE FRONT. – News has reached Crawley last Saturday – a month after if happened of the death of Private. R. Hilder, of 2nd Royal Sussex, who was killed in action. The deceased soldier formerly lived at Crawley, and with the relatives, who still reside in Malt House Road, much sympathy will be felt in their bereavement.

Then on 16th February 1915 Private Frederick Hedger also of 2nd Battalion Royal Sussex was killed in action near Cuinchy at the age of 25. It was reported in the local newspapers that – News has come to hand, though not officially, of the death in action of Mr Hedger, of Albany Road, Crawley, a reservist, who was called up at the commencement of the war. The deceased was a baker in the employ of Messrs. Newport, and he leaves a widow and two children. A soldier friend has communicated the sad news, he having attended Private Hedger’s funeral in France. Much sympathy will be expressed for the bereaved.

The soldier friend mentioned above may have attended Frederick Hedgers funeral but his grave must have been lost in the subsequent fighting as his name appears on a panel of the Letouret Memorial. By one of those very strange coincidences his name appears on the same panel, two names above that of Roland Hilder.

Two brave Crawley men who made the ultimate sacrifice for their home and their country, who must have known each other in Crawley as well as serving in the same battalion their graves lost for all time have the small crumb of comfort that their names are together on the same panel of the Letouret Memorial.  

Sunday, 8 February 2015




Not for years has the death of a local person occasioned so much sorrow, and drawn forth such profound sympathy, as has characterised the passing away of Charles Kenneth Mitchell, the only son of Mr and Mrs C. J. Mitchell, of Post Office Road, Crawley. The deceased was a popular son of a popular family, was known by everybody and loved by all, and the news of his death came as a great shock.

Soon after the formation of the Southdown Battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment, Kenneth joined that body with other Crawley friends and had been spending a happy time at Cooden Camp, near Bexhill, and only a few weeks ago he secured his first stripe, giving him the rank of Lance Corporal.

Suddenly he was stricken with an illness which developed cerebro-spinal meningitis and, despite the best medical attention and nursing, he breathed his last on Friday February 5th in a hospital near the camp. Naturally his parents, who were with him to the last, were broken hearted and in their great and unexpected bereavement they have received the heart felt sympathy of all their friends. This, to some extent, has lightened the burden, but the blow has indeed been a terrible one and Mr Mitchell was so ill that he could not attend the funeral.

Kenneth Mitchell was a thorough sportsman and he was a member of all the local cricket and football clubs, both at Crawley and Three Bridges. He was an active member, too, and one whose play, whether at football or cricket, was watched by many enthusiasts. It was his close association with all the sporting clubs with the district that made Ken, so well known and popular, and that popularity had spread far beyond the immediate district of Crawley. He was equally enthusiastic as a soldier and was keen at having a pop at the Germans. This opportunity to do still greater service for his Country has been nipped in the bud by his untimely death, but his life has nevertheless been sacrificed in his country’s cause.

The body was brought home to Crawley in a motor hearse on Monday and the funeral took place on Wednesday afternoon in the Crawley parish church yard. There was a very large and sympathetic crowd, the largest seen for many years at a local funeral. Military honours were accorded and the ceremony was of the most impressive character. The polished oak coffin was practically covered with a union jack and was borne from the house to the church on the shoulders of uniformed comrades, preceded by a firing party with arms reversed.

Following the coffin walked N.C.Os carrying beautiful floral tributes, and behind them four of the deceased’s comrades carried a bier, which was completely covered with wreaths and other lovely floral tokens of sympathy and sorrow. Major the Hon. Neville Lytton and Lieut. Page walked next and behind marched the Crawley boy Scouts these being followed by he family mourners. The rear was brought by a contingent of the Manchester Regiment (now stationed at Three Bridges), under Sergeant Gale, these being followed by the general body of mourners – amongst whom was my great grandfather Herbert Cook. On the coffin was the inscription, ‘Charles Kenneth Mitchell, Born 1st Oct 1889, died 5th February, 1915.’

After the rendering of the final hymn the usual three volleys were fired over the grave and the Last Post was sounded by the buglers, this ending a ceremony which was extremely impressive and full of sadness.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Christmas at Crawley 1914 - Part Two

In December 1914 war had become part of daily life in Crawley. R. Cook & Sons building business continued being run by Herbert and Chris as elder brother Ted is on military service. Chris has attended a meeting of the newly formed Crawley Civil Guard and young Eddie Cook is into his second full year at Brighton Grammar School with cousin Don just having completed his first term.

Sergeant Ted Cook spent Christmas day 1914 away from home on guard duty at Newhaven.

CHRISTMAS FESTIVITIES AT NEWHAVEN – In many hundreds of Sussex homes families were thinking on Christmas day of their loved ones in the Fourth Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment (T) and wondering whether they were having a good time. No great anxiety need to have been felt, for “Tommy Atkins” has the happy ability to adapt himself to almost every sort of circumstance. Had his Christmas dinner been on dry brown bread and water he would still have shown a happy resignation. But such a contingency did not arise. Instead, generous friends and well-wishers in his own town and village sent him plenty of seasonable fare that he might once again enjoy himself in the old fashioned way. His own relatives, of course, forwarded him presents, Christmas cards and affectionate letters, and the Officers of his Company and their friends also made a liberal provision of good things for him. In such circumstances even a pessimist would have been jolly, much more our light hearted, happy-go-lucky Territorial of whom we are all so proud.


‘C’ COMPANY ON GUARD – Most of the men belonging to ‘C’ Company (East Grinstead and Crawley) were on guard from 10am on Christmas day until the same hour on Boxing Day. The nature of their thoughts during those 24 hours may be left to the imagination. However, the Christmas dinner lost none of its attractiveness by being postponed for a day. The menu was a sumptuous one, comprising turkey, goose, pork, brussel sprouts, cabbage, potatoes and plum pudding. The toast of Colonel Mostyn who attended was heartily honoured, and other officers were also toasted. Plenty of dessert, tobacco and chocolate was provided and the Company passed the afternoon in a jovial manner. After tea a concert took place.


Mrs Beale (wife of Major S.W.P. Beale, who formerly commanded the Company) visited the camp on December 23rd and presented each man with a pipe, gloves, socks, and either a cardigan or a slip on given by friends at East Grinstead. Tobacco was sent by the ‘Buffs’ of the same town. The ‘Boys’ were very grateful for all the kindness shown to them. The hut in which they dined was lavishly decorated, various mottoes and greetings being worked out in cotton wool on the Company’s blankets, which were hung around the building. The Sergeants of the entire Battalion also dined together on the night of the 28th.


War Broke: and now the Winter of the world

With perishing great darkness closes in.

The foul tornado, centred at Berlin,

Is all over all the width of Europe world,

Rending the sails of progress. Rent or furled

Are all Art’s ensigns. Verse wails. Now begin

Famines of thought and feeling. Loves wine’s thin.

The grain of human Autumn rots, down-hurled.

1914, Wilfred Owen.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Christmas at Crawley 1914 - Part One

Christmas at Crawley in December 1914 was a Christmas like no other. The newspaper columns were full of war news both at home and from the Front.


DEATH AT THE FRONT – It is with much regret that we announce the deaths at the Front of two Crawley men in the persons of Corpl. Edgar Gorringe who lived in Ifield Road, and Prvt. Edward Gregory Sangster, whose parents, formerly of Crawley now live at Povey Cross. Both belonged to the Royal Sussex Regiment, and were killed in action, the former being thirty years of age and the latter nineteen. The sympathy of many friends will be extended to the bereaved relatives, who are widely known and greatly respected in this district. Corpl. Gorringe was killed on October 31st and Prvt. Sangster fell on the 6th of November but the news was not officially communicated to the parents until this week. Fortunately both were single men.


PRVT. W. WRIGHT, of the County London Rifles, son of Mrs Wright, of Victoria Road, Crawley, has been wounded at the Front, though happily not dangerously. – Prvt. Hibberd, who returned to Crawley wounded a short time since, is mending splendidly; but Prvt. Allen, of Ifield, is, we regret to hear, in a serious condition.


Meanwhile in Crawley itself there was a - DANCE AND SOCIAL held at the Railway Hotel last week that resulted in upwards of £5 being sent to the fund to form a Christmas present for the King of Belgium. There was also a RECRUITING MEETING held at the George Hotel Hall on Saturday December 12th, when an appeal was made for recruits for the Southdown Battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment, but there was an extremely disappointing response, only two young fellows giving in their names at the meeting, one of whom subsequently failed the medical examination. The Chairman of the meeting Mr Lehmann expressed its sorrow with the relatives of Corpl. Franks, Corpl. Gorringe, and Prvt. Sangster, who had laid down their lives in that sacred and noblest of all causes – the defence of their country; and he assured the relatives that they had the profound sympathy of the whole neighbourhood.


The German song of hate, from which the Chairman quoted, showed how this war had been carefully planned and eagerly awaited by our enemies. Germany’s one objective had been this country, and if she could she would inflict upon England the fate which had befallen Belgium. He therefore appealed again to the young men to join the Colours in defence of our country, impressing upon them the words of Nelson’s glorious message.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

The Increasing Toll of War

In November 1914 local casualties began returning home. Pte. Gravely of Malthouse Road is reported at home with a poisoned foot after an encounter with barbed wire entanglements and was expected to return to his regiment the following week.


The parents of Corpl. Ralph Charman, of the 1st Lifeguards, who live at Spencer’s Road, Crawley, have received intimation that he is a prisoner o war in Germany. Fortunately, he is quite well.

Pte. Ben Eggleton, 2nd Sussex, whose home is a Crawley, was wounded at the Battle of the Aisne, getting shot through the forefinger of the right hand. The bone was shattered, and the digit has had to be amputated, the operation being performed by Mr F. Wood in the Crawley Cottage Hospital. He is, happily, going on alright.


Pte. Parker, of Ifield, was badly wounded in the arm last week, and is now in Chelsea Hospital.

Pte. Pullinger, previously wounded, is now, we are glad to say, well on the way to recovery.


Meanwhile the Civil Guard for Crawley and Ifield, formed from the Crawley Rifle Club, was being re-branded as part of the West Sussex Civil Guard and had set up their headquarters at the Picture Hall at East Park. Appeals were made for suitable recruits aged 16-60, unless eligible for the army.


Ted Cook was promoted from Sergeant to Colour Sergeant on 28th November and his service record shows that he was now serving with the 2/4th Royal Sussex Regiment.


Elsewhere new is reported of –


DEATH AT THE FRONT.- This week the war has cast a deep shadow on Mrs Masson and her many friends in Crawley, by the death in action, of Lieut. Col. Kelly, to whom Mrs Masson was engaged, and would, had not fate interposed, have been married on the very day upon which the sad news of his death reached her.

The gallant officer fell in North France, during the 24 hours fight for the trenches on November 23rd. The action had been raging furiously all day with uncertain results, when about 10:30pm the Army Corps Reserve arrived on the scene, and British and Indian regiments side by side, wholly undeterred by two unsuccessful assaults, renewed the attack. For a long time the issue was in the balance, but about 6:00am on the morning of the 24th it became evident that the assailants could no longer be denied, and by 6:15am they were once more masters of the trenches, for the possession of which such bloody controversy had been waging for nearly 24 hours.  


Col. Kelly was shot on the very verge of the trenches, but he lived long enough to have the happiness of knowing that the brave Indians who he led so valiantly had once again proved their worth in this kind of work. His loss is deeply felt and deplored by the whole regiment, to which he had greatly endeared himself.


Lieutenant Colonel George Henry Fitzmaurice Kelly was 44 and was commanding the 34th Sikh Pioneers when he was killed. He was buried in Beuvry Communal Cemetery.