2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the infamous Battle of Passchendaele which has become a symbol of the mud, madness and futility of the First World War.
The battle consisted of a series of failed British offensives against the German forces fought from July through to November near Ypres on the Western front. The battlefield quickly turned into a quagmire and over the three months of fighting, hundreds of thousands of men lost their lives on both sides and many thousands more were injured.
For most of us, fortunately, the horror of Passchendaele is something that we have only read about or seen stories of on the big screen. Because of this it is easy to forget that those affected were real people with real lives and real families. Several men from Henfield and the surrounding area were caught up in the misery of Passchendaele and we put a call out to see if we could find out more about them. We are massively grateful to local residents Julia Dew, Maureen Fletcher, Helen Loader and Alice Sayers who have very kindly shared with me their knowledge of four of the men who lost their lives.
Ernest Frederick Honey was born in 1889 in Brighton and was the son of Kate Honey. The 1901 census shows that, now called Ernest Frederick Parsons, he was living at Myrtle Terrace in Henfield with his mother who had married Henry Parsons and his two sisters: ten-year old Mabel and one-year old Christina. By the 1911 census Ernest (now called Honey again) was working as a labourer and still lived at 2 Myrtle Terrace with his parents and his sister Christina. Ernest enlisted as a Private (Service No. 25142) in the London Regiment, 12 Battalion Royal Fusiliers and he was killed in action on 31 July 1917, aged 28 years. He is buried at Ypres at the Menin Gate Memorial in Belgium.
Alfred Sturt was born in Shoreham in 1888 and was the son of Alfred and Louisa Sturt. The 1901 census shows that Alfred lived at Wisborough Green, with his parents. By the 1911 census, Alfred was working as a Market Gardener and living at Weavers Cottage in Nep Town, Henfield with his wife Kate (nee Malthouse) and their two-year old daughter, Kitty. He also has a daughter, Violet, who was born in 1915. Alfred enlisted in the 8th Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers (Service No. 40883) and he was killed in action on 16 August 1917, aged 29. He is buried at the Tyne Cot Memorial in Belgium. Alfred was related to the late Harold Sturt (a Henfield Postman) and is distantly related to both Julia Dew and Alice Sayers, both of whom live locally.
George Henry Field was born about 1883 in Crowthorne, Berkshire and was the son of Charlotte Price and George Field who later lived on Downsview Terrace in Henfield. The 1901 census shows that he was living at Groveland Cottage in Twineham with his mother. By the 1911 census he had married Mabel Louise Styles and they lived in Hove with their one-year old son William and he worked as an Assistant Grocer. George enlisted on 6 June 1916 (Service no 241488) in the 11th Battalion The Royal Sussex Regiment and he was killed in action at Ypres on 24 September 1917, aged 34 years. His commanding officer wrote of him: “Although he has not been with this battalion long, we had all learned his splendid qualities as a soldier and a man. He was popular with all and he was always bright and cheerful.” He is buried at Zantvoorde British Cemetery in Belgium.
George Thompsett was born in 1877 in Slaugham and was the son of John T(h)ompsett (a Gamekeeper) and Harriett. The 1901 census shows that George was unmarried, working as a Journeyman Baker and boarding in Henfield High Street. By the 1911 census, George was still a Journeyman Baker but was now living at 3 Park Road in Henfield with his wife Annie Jane (of Eastern Terrace, Henfield) and four daughters: Elsie, Winifred, Ivy and Margaret. George enlisted in the 21st Infantry Labour Corps, The Queens (Royal West Surrey Regiment), (Service No. C/44740) and he later transferred to 129th Coy Labour Corps (Service No. 77205) and he died of wounds on 6 November 1917, aged 40. He is buried at Dozinghem Military Cemetery in Belgium. Local Genealogist Helen Loader made contact with family member Alan Fulford who has the following memories: “I am one of George and Annie Jane’s great grandchildren and I can remember coming down to Henfield visit Great Grandma in the 1970’s where she lived with Arthur and Margaret Curd, above the hardware store.”
Henfield will honour its former residents George, Ernest, Alfred and George along with all the other names on the Henfield War Memorial on Cagefoot Lane at commemorations on both Armistice Day (Saturday 11 November) and Remembrance Sunday (Sunday 12 November) and everyone is welcome.