Regimental Association Reunion Dinner 2016 FOR MEMBERS NOT PRESENT AND A REMINDER FOR THOSE THAT WERE
Lewes Town Hall – 10th September 2016
Your Worship the Mayor, Vice-Chairman of Lewes District, other guests and gentlemen of the Royal Sussex Regiment.
It is a great privilege to welcome all of you to this year’s annual reunion dinner and to see so many old friends and comrades here tonight, and enjoying ourselves in the traditional Royal Sussex fashion. I would particularly like to welcome Ian Sutherland, who was part of our Royal Signals detachment when we were in Lemgo in the 1960s, and he has ventured forth for the first time since.
But first let us remember we’ve lost some old friends this year and some of their obituaries are well set out in the latest Roussillon Gazette. In particular, we would remember Stan Coombe, Robin McNish, Jimmy Lennox, Henry Green, Bert Gibbs, Bill Mabe, John Ranger and Malcolm Vine, amongst several others.
Our Great War commemorations this year saw us travelling to France again to commemorate the Battle of Boar’s Head on the 30th of June 1916, a battle that tends to be overlooked because of the Battle of the Somme that started a day later. The three Southdown Battalions, the 11th, 12th and 13th Battalions of the Regiment, lost very heavily in what was designed as a diversionary attack to relieve the pressure on the forthcoming Somme offensive. With over 11,00 casualties, there were few places in Sussex that were unaffected by the losses at Boar’s Head. We were back in time for the unveiling in Eastbourne of the Victoria Cross Commemoration Stone for Company-Sergeant-Major Nelson Carter, who was awarded the VC for his gallantry at Boar’s Head, and where he was killed-in-action. We also attended the unveiling in the afternoon of a second commemoration in Hailsham. We were delighted that Nelson Carter’s four grandchildren could join us at both Boar’s Head and in Sussex, with the grandson, Spyke, wearing his grandfather’s Victoria Cross.
The other fascinating thing about the Southdown Battalions – Lowther’s Lambs -was that coming from the South Downs they had a sheep as a mascot. It was called Peter and his grave was only rediscovered at Herstmonceux Castle earlier this year. We had a Commemoration for Peter in the refurbished Castle Garden, which was filled with orange and blue lilies, and we have the Eastbourne Branch to thank for discovering this and for presenting the Garden with a Memorial Seat.
Next year we’re planning to go to Passchendaele – the Third Battle of Ypres – but the details have not yet been finalised, although it will probably be in July. And some of you here this evening will have been with me at the 50th Anniversary of the battle in 1967, when we were in Lemgo. And it’s worth
recalling that all those who formed the Battalion’s Guard of Honour at Ypres in 1967, had lost a member of their family at Passchendaele in 1917.
Please also bear in mind that in 2 year’s time, in 2018, we will be going to France to commemorate the place where the last member of the Royal Sussex was killed in action in the Great War on 6th November 1918. We will be going in November but will be back in time for the Remembrance Commemorations on Armistice Day on the 11th of November, as well as our own Service on the 8th.
You will be aware of our problems with our Museum at the Redoubt, and we’ve now reached the stage where it is no longer fit for purpose, as Eastbourne Council has not maintained the building properly, and we need to move our Museum elsewhere. We are now looking, therefore, for an alternative site and in the meantime our Collection is being packed up and placed into safe storage for the moment. We have the possibility of moving our Museum to join that of the Queens and PWRR’s museums at Dover Castle, where there is sufficient room and the staff to run and administer it. The Castle also attracts a vast number of visitors, many of which spill over into the Museums, and help provide an income. The drawback, of course, is that it is not in Sussex. We are also exploring another possible option at an enlarged Record Office in Chichester, where the Collection could rest alongside our Regimental Archives. We are determined that a suitable site will be found and preferably one that will house the whole collection, rather than spreading it around in a number of smaller locations. But it will take time, and we will keep everyone regularly informed of our progress.
In closing, it is always of enormous pleasure to be able to thank the Mayor of Lewes, as it is great privilege for us to be able to hold our annual dinner in these magnificent surroundings, and we are extremely grateful for it.
Finally, on your behalf, I would like to thank the musical director, Mark Hurst, and the concert band of the Royal British Legion for their marvellous and inspiring music this evening, with a promise of much more to come. And also our thanks to the caterers and their excellent staff, for both producing such a first-class dinner and for serving us so superbly. Last but not least, I would particularly like to thank the cadets for all their excellent help and assistance throughout the evening.
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