Special service for Felpham to mark The Day Sussex Died

Graham Matthews, who organised a special ceremony for Felpham to remember The Day Sussex Died
Graham Matthews, who organised a special ceremony for Felpham to remember The Day Sussex Died

‘The Day Sussex Died’ will be remembered at a special ceremony in Felpham on Thursday.

Services have been planned in larger towns and cities across the county for the 100th anniversary of the day now known as The Day Sussex Died but it was felt the village should have its own ceremony.

June 30, 1916, was the day when three battalions of the Royal Sussex Regiment – the 11th, 12th and 13th – went over the top at the Battle of the Boar’s Head.

All three were pals battalions, which means they were made up of male volunteers who had enlisted together in local recruiting drives. Pals battalions were specially constituted by the British Army during World War One.

At the end of that day of fighting 100 years ago, 1,100 men were dead, missing or wounded. A number of these were brothers.

The following day, July 1, 1916, was the start of the Battle of the Somme and by the end of that day, 60,000 men were dead, missing or wounded. It remains the bloodiest day in British military history.

Graham Matthews, who was born in Bersted and now lives in Felpham, felt that these events should be commemorated in Felpham.

A ceremony is planned for 11am on Thursday in the grounds of St Mary’s Church, in Grassmere Close.

Ten students from Felpham Community College will be attending to read poems, drop poppy petals and plant a cross.

Some of these pupils have just returned from a visit to the Somme and work carried out by the pupils identified a number of men from Felpham who did not survive the war.

There will also be a bugler at the ceremony.

Crosses marked Somme 100 and commemorative pins are available to all from Felpham Post Office for a donation.

After the Felpham ceremony, Graham, who is president of the Chichester branch of the Royal British Legion, will be going to Portfield Cemetery for a similar event at 3pm.

Graham served with the Royal Navy for 24 years and has since been involved as a volunteer with the Royal British Legion at all levels.

He has been married to Jean for 56 years and they have two boys, one who served in the RAF. His father also served in the army during World War Two.

One of Jean’s uncles died on the Somme and one returned with was is now known as PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder).

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