East Sussex First World War – 4th Anniversary

On 4 August 2018, the East Sussex WW1 project celebrated its fourth and final anniversary. Here we look back upon the fourth year of the project.

We launched our website on 4 August 2014 (to coincide with the centenary of the start of the First World War) and, in the firstsecond, and third years of the East Sussex WW1 project we delivered substantial achievements. During the first three years of the project we published 218 stories and events. Of these 62% came from the general public. We released digitised copies of the local newspapersEastbourne GazetteEastbourne ChronicleHasting & St Leonards Observer, and the Hastings & St Leonards Pictorial Advertiser covering the First World War period. For our 2nd anniversary we followed this up with digitised copies of the Sussex Daily News. Alongside this we released a number educational resources for students and teachers, and, last year, newly digitised First World War posters that are all downloadable.

Barbara Bodichon portrait by Samuel Lawrence

Barbara Bodichon portrait by Samuel Lawrence

We created and held ceremonies to unveil three new war memorials in honour of East Sussex soldiers (Cuthbert BromleySidney Woodroffe, and Nelson Carter) who were awarded the Victoria Cross during the war.

For our fourth year, we aimed to continue the progress we had already made, introduce exciting new material, and also reflect on some of the stories we have featured in the past.

Stories, Events and Statistics

During the final year of our project we published 16 new stories and 13 new events to the website. 82% of this new content was submitted by members of the public. The project also chalked up a number of notable milestones regarding visitors to the website during our final year, receiving our 250,000th and 300,000th total views in this period. In total 68,191 number of users visited our website 114,002 times during the last year.

Encompassing much of the final year of the First World War, there were less key anniversaries to commemorate than there had been previously. However, there were a few notable centenary moments for both the home and war fronts during this time period. We marked the 100th anniversary of the Representation of the People Act with a week of engagement activity on our twitter account. We also nominated Barbara Bodichon a local suffrage campaigner as a Suffrage Pioneer to the Women’s Local Government Society. We published a story on Muriel Matters, a campaigner from Hastings who was also selected as a Pioneer, and another on the campaign for women’s suffrage in the Crowborough, Uckfield and Heathfield area

In March, we marked the beginning of the German Spring Offensives of 1918. These attacks by the German army on the Western Front nearly brought defeat to the allies but, once checked, would provide the opportunity for France, Britain, and America to counter-attack and eventually being the conflict to a conclusion.

Old Hastings House Entertainers – Image by Kieron Pelling

For experiences in East Sussex during the conflict, we published a story marking the 100th anniversary of the Willingdon Airship crash and another marking the life of Flight Sub-Lieutenant Richard Swallow who died in the disaster.

We also continued our quest to record any activities within the county to commemorate the centenary of the war. To this end we published stories on the torchlight procession through Lewes, the plan to mark the end of the centenary with bell ringing, and an exhibition by the Wadhurst History Society.

We were also able to publish two further collections of Kieron Pelling’s ‘Then and Now’ images, one on images from April – December 1917 and the other on July 1917 – February 1918.

Supporting projects and the community

One of the key aspects of our project has been our role of facilitating and supporting other ongoing projects around the First World War centenary. With this in mind over the last year we have acted to support ongoing centenary commemorations around the county.

Our Project Officer gave a talk on women’s experience of the war in East Sussex at the Bridge Cottage Museum in Uckfield. We have also written several letters of support for projects applying for money from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

On an individual level we have answered numerous requests on matters ranging from the location of soldiers’ obituaries in our digitised newspapers to providing advice on planned activities to mark the end of the centenary.

Whilst the end of the project and the centenary is now in sight we will continue our work until the end of November.

The future

With only a few months of the centenary and our project remaining we still have forthcoming plans.

There is one final Victoria Cross Paving Stone to be laid in East Sussex and it will commemorate Claude Nunney in Hastings. The ceremony to unveil this memorial will be held at Alexandra Park on Sunday 2nd September and will be open to the public.

As we know there has been a good deal of excitement and interest in the final months of the war, we have released all of our remaining historical newspapers online for the end of 1918. You can now read about how the local press covered the end of this conflict and its impact on the East Sussex front.

We also have a last few stories planned that will examine the conclusion of the First World War following the allied offensives during the summer and autumn of 1918, and we will continue to publish any stories submitted to us before the end of November.

We will also publish a final story looking back on the entirety of the project and our many achievements.

Our project will end in November 2018, and we are already exploring the options for the archiving of our website to ensure as much of its content as possible will remain as a resource for studying the First World War in East Sussex for years to come.

We’re very proud of all the achievements that this project has produced. We hope you will continue to participate in it up until the end of November.