The Boer War Soldiers
Cuckfield is no different to any other town or village in the country in being proud to honour those who died for their country in times of war.
The following excerpts from the parish magazines record the events of Cuckfield’s soldiers.
"Captain Sergison … wrote on Nov 17th from the Camp, Orange River…
A further despatch arrived from Captain Sergison on New Year’s Eve, in which he sends his remembrances to us all and his best wishes for the New Year. On Nov 29th he writes from the Modder River Camp …
Of Sir M Burrell we have no news save that his regiment is with General Buller. Captain G Faussett was heard of at De Aar. Ernest Bleach (Royal Scots) and William Ferguson (2nd Berks) are in General Gatacre’s division, probably at Sherkstrom. Ernest Cooper (2nd West Yorks) and Mark Gravett (2nd West Surrey) are with General Hildyard’s division of General Buller’s army. From Peter Mitchell, R.E., and Jonathan Gasson (Royal Am. Corps) letters have been received telling of their safe arrival at Cape Town, and from Charles Randell (H.M.S. Terrible) at Durban……
We have some more Cuckfield men on their way out:- Sergt. Rogers, Alfred Attwater, and Horace Clifford (14th Hussars) in the Victorian; George Blake (2nd Duke of Cornwall’s) in the Avoca; Edgar Hazeldean (2nd East Kent) in the Gaika; Arthur Morley, R.E., in the Ionic; Horace Stoner, R.M.C., in the Princess of Wales, which after three false starts is, we hope, safely on its way."
"Colonel Sergison writes on December 19th"….I don’t fancy Christmas in this dusty place, 105 degrees in the shade……"
Sir M R Burrel writes on December 16th, the day after Sir R Buller’s unsuccessful battle on the Tugela: We (the Royals) had a splendid view of the whole affair, but only as spectators, as we could do nothing to help in the attack on entrenchments. We were guarding the left flank…."
Mark Gravett (of the Queen’s Regiment) writes on Christmas Day, from Chieveley Camp, an account of the battle of Colenso on December 15th, his "first engagement"
Ernest Cooper (West Yorkshire) came unscathed out of the battle Colenso, and writes on New Year’s Eve that he is "in splendid condition,…"
A liveley letter from Peter Mitchell is printed in the Mid-Sussex Times of January 23rd. He was last heard of at Sterkstrom, with General Gatacre’s force. Ernest Bleach (Royal Scots) was there also. Bombardier J Gasson has written from De Aar. Our men in the 14th Hussars have arrived safely at Durban: some complain of the poor fare (tinned meat and Dutch cheese) provided for them on board ship. They were, however, able to buy orages at the rate of fifty a shilling in the half-hour they stopped at Las Palmas. William Bredin and Trayton Haylor sailed in the Kildonan Castle; Captain the Hon. J R Bailey sailed in the Gaul on January 20th; and Captain H Woodcock will start on the 30th in the British Princess."
"Letters have been received from Captain Sergison from Modder River, up to Feb 2nd…….
Our men in the 14th Hussars, Sergeant Rogers, A Attwater and H Clifford, are with General Buller’s Cavalry Brigade at Spearman’s Farm…..
E Bleach writes from Sterkstroom…..
We are sorry to hear that George Blake, after going with his Regiment, the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry, to the front with Lord Methuen, was attacked with pneumonia and is invalided home.
Bombadiers Bredin and Gasson write in good health and spirits from the Orange River.
Mark Gravett, who was reported wounded, writes on February 2nd from Pietermaritsburg, but, oddly enough, does not refer to his wound; we can only suppose that he is in the hospital at that place.
Peter Mitchell and Arthur Morley give a good account of themselves – the former at Loopersberg, the latter at Naauwpoort.
Our Sussex Regiment sailed from Malta on February 20th, and with it Harry Clark.
Lieut. Wilfrid Woodcock, of the Lancashire Fusiliers, has left Malta for AFrica with the mounted detachment of his regiment.
Frederick Cooper, R.E., started on February 25th, and Arthur Dancey, Oxfordshire L.I. on the 5th.
Our Volunteer, Frank Bleach, will sail next week with the other Sussex Volunteers, and we feel sure that no one will better uphold the credit of our Cuckfield Company.
Our sailor, Charles Randell, writes from Durban, on February 3rd, that he is guarding the ammunition as it is landed…….
Sir M Burrell was again an invalid at Pietermaritzburg on February 3rd. His horses, too, are all on the sick list – "seedy or crippled"."
"We have been a in great anxiety this last month about Captain Sergison’s health. A serious attack of pneumonia at the end of February necessitated his being sent to the Field Hospital at Wynberg, near Cape Town….
Alfred Attwater, writing from Springfield on February 13th, says:- "We get pretty good living in camp, but have to go miles for water…"
The following lettter from Mark Gravett, the Queen’s Regiment, is so full of interest that we begged permission to print it. The date is February 17th, from Pietermaritzburg:-……"
A letter from William Fergusson, of the 2nd Berkshire, dated Cyphergat, 28th February, says:- "I thank you for your prayers for us; God has preserved me most mercifully, for I have been in some tight fixes, as I am a signaller, and when in action often have to attend the General…"
Arthur Morley, R.E. writes from Stynfontein, February 28th, that "the tobacco and chocolate came in very useful indeed in the march up country, and so did the clothing, as we were only allowed to take one shirt and a pair of socks, and blanket, and since we have been in this place we have had three wet days and nights. We are having it rather rough as regards food, having been on half rations for the last five days. Dysentry is prevalent, and I have had a slight touch of it myself."
Our Volunteers are having a most enjoyable voyage in the Tintagel Castle: "fine weather, sea calm, good provisions, plenty of amusement," so Frank Bleach writes.
H.M.S. Terrible has started with Charles Randell to China."
"Captain Sergison has probably returned to England by this time: he sailed from the Cape on April 7th in the Guelph, and has six months’ sick leave.
Frank Bleach, our own Volunteer, writes from Port Elizabeth on April 5th, that on their arrival at Cape Town on the Tintagel Castle they were transferred to the Urmston Grange, to sail for East London …..
Sergeant Fred Rogers is with Lord Dundonald’s Cavalry Brigade, and was with his regiment (14th Hussars) when it entered Ladysmith……
Alfred Attwater was sent to the hospital ship Orcana, at Durban, on March 21st, to get up his strength……
Edgar Hazeldean (Buffs) gives this account of the surrender of Cronje:- "……. The Buffs had thirteen killed and any amount wounded, but I escaped for a wonder; but, worst of all, my boss asked me to make him a drink of tea, and I got some wood and waterand made a fire: my boss and I were sitting by the fire talking, somehow a round got into it, and when I stirred the fire off it went and blew a lump off my heel, so I was carried to the hospital, where I have been for eight days; but I shall go up to the fighting line to-morrow……"
Horace Clifford (14th Hussars) wrote on March 17th of the relief of Ladysmith:- "It was one of the hardest four days going that has ever been fought; if you were here to look round these hills you would wonder how the Boers were got to shift. The morning after they retired we advanced, and got to the top of thirposition: we saw many laid out for burial, Boer women as well, in their own trenches……"
"H Clark, writing on Good Friday says "we are making a fort on a hill four miles from Bloemfontein…"
E Bleach, writes from Berthulie that he saw his brother and some of the Sussex at the station as they passed through to Bloemfontein.
F Bleach writes on April 26th on his way from Bloemfontein to Glen.
P Mitchell and E Cooper have sent home their Queen’s chocolate boxes, and the latter some specimens of Boer bullets.
J Gasson was at Bosholf with Lord Methuen’s force.
W Hendry in the Composite Household Cavalry, was at the terrible fight at Sanna’s Post, and escaped unhurt."
Sir M R Burrell, Cuckfield people will be rejoiced to hear, reports himself as "very well and fit," on the way to Van Reenan’s Pass.
Second-Lieutenant Erle (12th Imperial Yeomanry) is in hospital, having been shot in his left arm.
Alfred Attwater was still at the Depot in Pietermaritzberg in May, "enjoying good health".
Ernest Cooper writes from Newcastle on May 25th.
Arthur Dancy on May 30th had just come from Kronstaadt to Bloemfontein.
William Ferguson writes from Sands River on May 27th, "by the light of our camp fire"..
Charley Randell is on H.M.S. Terrible at Hong Kong."
Mark Gravett:- of "The Queen’s" writes from Ingogo River on June 3rd.
Frank Bleach, Volunteer:- wrote …"We left Pretoria to go Boer hunting, and found a lot at Diamond Hill,
"W Bredin, R.A.:- has returned home for a few weeks with the officer, Major Duff, whom he has been attending.
H Clark was last heard of at Heidelberg, in good health…
E Cooper writes from Standerton, on July 27th.
Our invalided heroes are, we hope, doing well. Everyone is congratulating Captain Sergison on his improved appearance. G Blake, though obliged to be very careful, is better, and the same may be said of W Hendry. His friends will regret to learn that H Clifford has been in bed over six weeks with enteric fever…….A Morly, R.E. has had a slight attack of enteric fever at Kroonstaadt, but is now out of hospital. P Mitche;;, R.E. writes in his usual bright spirits from Brug Spruit…."
"Sir R M Burrell has been in command of a patrol on the Buffalo River…
Our Scots Guardsman, Haylor, writes from Hazeldean, Pretoria….
Ferguson writes on August 28th from Vredefort Weg."
"Sir M Burrell writes on 24th September from Rooi Pynt.
M Gravett writes …… "I remember so well when I was a boy how we used to march through Cuckfield waving little flags and carrying the school banner; well, I am still helping to keep a little flag flying – the Union Jack of Old England, and now there is no mistake about its flying out here now."
"Sir M Burrell is again in hospital suffering severely from dysentery.
……. A Attwater, whose squadron 14th Hussars is in General Fench’s Brigade:- "We had to bring a valuable convoy to Pretoria,.." ……"
"Sir M Burrell is on his way home on board the "Dunera."
"Sir M Burrell is safe at Knapp again….
Mark Gravett (the Queen’s) writes from Paarde Knop…
Our Volunteer has sent home No 1 of The Soft-Nose, a weekly paper published by the Sussex Regiment in Bloemfontein. We gather from it that our friends are in capital spirits….
Edgar Hazelden (The Buffs) had a narrow escape …
Peter Mitchell has been ill at Koomati Poort, but is recovering …."
"Our Militia are to sail for the Cape in the Kildonan Castle on March 14th; with the Regiment will go Major S R Clarke and Private T Box."
"Frank Bleach. "Our Volunteer," died at the Hospital, Bloemfontein, of enteric fever, on March 14th, the day before his thirtieth birthday…….
We have good news of our other soldiers, save of Lieutenant C Erle, who after an attack of fever is sent back to England."
"Our Sussex Militia. After many tiresome put-offs, saled on March 29th fore the Cape in the City of Cambridge a fine ship of nearly 4,000 tons. Seventeen officers (among whom are Colonel C B Godman and Major S R Clarke) and 480 men (among whom Thomas Box) embarked at the Albert Docks."
"The Whereabouts. Of some of those for whom we are praying.
ATTWATER, A. Kitchener’s Kop, Newcastle, has been escorting convoys: sharp frost at night.
BLEACH, E. In Hospital with enteric fever since April 1, now in Convalescent Hospital, Bloemfontein.
BOX, T. At the Hospital, Wynberg, in attendance on a sick officer.
BROOKSHAW, B. Krugersdorp, with Dickinson’s column……..
CLARK, H. Springfontein, has been in hospital.
COOPER, E. Pretoria, resting after hard marches and several small engagements.
GASSON, J., R.A. With Pom-poms at Mafeking.
GRAVETT, M. Paarde Kop Camp, has been very useful as cook for his company at Elands Laagte, the regular cook being disabled…..
HAZELDEAN, E., writes in excellent spirits, but does not metion his whereabouts……
MITCHELL, P. Barberton, has been laid up with fever.
MORLEY, A. Kroonstadt, flourishing.
ROBINSON, A. Edenberg, flourishing.
ROGERS, F. Newcastle, flourishing.
STONER, H. Wynberg Hospital; owing to having put out his right shoulder he has been unable to write."
"….all well when last heard of, except Ben Brookshaw, Royal Sussex Mounted Infantry, who was in hospital at Krugersdorp.
A. Attwater was at Ladysmith, taking care of sick horses.
A. Morley was building blockhouses near Kroonstadt.
W. Fergusson writes from the Diamond Mines, 23 miles west of Kroonstadt.
"We regret to report that Ben Brookshaw was still in Hospital a month ago, and though he writes regularly and in good spirits he is recovering but slowly from his serious attach of fever.
Edgar Hazeldean was in the fight of Colonel Benson’s column, but was unhurt, thank God. He was at Crocodile river when last heard of.
Lance-Sergeant Herbert Bennet, Royal Scots, is in chargeof a blockhouse at Balmoral."
"B Brookshaw died on New Year’s Eve in the Hospital at Elandsfontein. He had been suffering from enteric fever for a long time, but in a letter written to his mother from his bedside by the Chaplain the day before he died, every hope of his recovery was expressed; it also said that he had won the affection of all about him. Our Volunteers, one of whom he was before he enlisted in the Sussex Regiment, wished to have a Memorial Service on January 26th, and attended in good numbers. The men kindly allowed it to take the place of their special service.
E Cooper has been in Hospital at Charlestown, and is now returning home to recover from the effects of an attack of fever.
E Bleach has left the Hospital at Bloemfontein and returned to duty at Winburg. He was going on picquet duty at night, and ran into a donga full of Boers; his rifle was struck by a bullet, and the "splash" caught the fingers of his right hand.
T Box spent his Christmas at Laings Nek, having had to take prisoners to Ladysmith; he is now doing Blockhouse duty."
"We are anxious about F Moody, Royal Scots, whom many of us remember in the Horsgate Gardens – he is in hospital at Pretoria with fever.
Of the others we can only say that we hope "no news is good news." Even of Mark Gravett, whose name is now added to the list of Cuckfield soldiers who have laid down their lives for their country: he was a good lad, and we all liked him: he was wounded at Colenso, and lay for hours on the field of battle praying with the help of a book our Vicar had given him."
"We are thankful to receive good accounts of them all. Another, Albert Cooper, 20th Hussars, has returned from India, and we hope in a few days to welcome Harry Clark from Africa. Captain Thicknesse, and Joseph Brigden, 12th Lancers, are on their way to the front. Sergeant Bennett was at Balmoral, Trsyton Haylor at Bloemfontein, P Mitchell at Harrismith, when last heard of. Arthur Morley writes from Kaffirsdorp that he had seen Gravett recently, well and in good spirits, and was much shocked to hear of his death. Corporal Robinson, at Vlaksfontein, gives an interesting account of a night attack by the Boers, who surprised our men and shot them down as they woke up: his coat, which served him for a pillow, had several bullets through it. Sam Mitchell, 4th Rifle Brigade, writes from No 10 Blockhouse on the Kroonstad to Lindley line, that he gets a good view of the country from the hill on which his Blockhouse is built: it is barer than our South Downs, except for rocks sticking out here and there: the flowers and birds are very pretty, and he amuses himself with getting eggs and drying bulbs to send over: he had just killed a snake over 5ft long."
"A letter has come from E Dann (whose uncle, Edwin Dann, some of us recollect as the first photographer in Cuckfield), in which he says that he saw Mark Gravett two days before he died, and that he and A Morley were making a cross for his grave. A comrade writes "Mark was looked up to and liked by all in our company."
Another volunteer has come forward: Ernest Lingley started on April 16th in the Nubia for the front. His friends here presented him with firstrate field glasses, a useful knife, and a small purse. The amount was chiefly owing to the energy of Bugler F Hounsell. God bless him and bring hime safe back to us.
S Mitchell, at Randjesfontein, was busy digging trenches and fixing barbed wire, and had seen E Bleach and W Ferguson, and the 14th Hussars on the march.
Lieutenant C A Maberly writes from Victoria Road West – "Really this part of Cape Colony is awful – all stone and rock and sand. It is called the Caroo desert, and it is desert indeed. I am in Bethune’s column. We are going after Malan, who has 700 men close to us, so we ought to see some fighting soon. I am so glad to hear that Ted Secker has passed first class."
Lance-Corporal Peter Mitchell has been reported as "dangerously ill" of dysentry at Harris-smith – a healthy place with a good hospital. Let us beseech God that he may be spared to return home to his mother."
Letters from Fergusson tell us of a meeting of Cuckfield men at Harrismith………found E Bleach, Sam Mitchell, and Callow, and also Peter Mitchell, who had just gone to the base Hospital.
Tom Box writes from Laing’s Nek to tell of his promotion to be Lance-Corporal.
Once more we have to chronicle the death in hospital of one of the best of our lads, Richard Peter Mitchell, who died at Harrismith on May 1st, aged 24."
" ‘How good and joyful’ it was to hear that peace was proclaimed at last……Our Militia, under Major Clarke, are at S. Helena guarding Boer prisoners, but T Box has been left at Charlestown laid up with influenza. Edgar Hazeldean has been on a Hospital ship at Delagoa Bay…
Colonel Graham Mitchell. R.E., writes that he saw Peter Mitchell in Hospital nearly every day and hoped that his plucky way of taking his illness would have pulled him through. He is putting a cross on his grave. The Nurse, one of the Canadian nursing staff, writes that Peter died peacefully and without suffering."
"Trayton Hayler, Scots Guards, has arrived home safe and well, looking none the worse for the hardships he has undergone, …..he has a medal with five bars.
Photographs have come to hand of M. Gravett’s grave at Kronstadt, with the cross put up by E.H. Dann.
Major Clarke’s names is mentioned in Lord Kitchener’s last despatch. We hope that we have him and T. Box home before the end of the month."
"Jonathan Gasson, Arthur Dancy and Trayton Haylor have returned safely home from South Africa, and Major Stephenson Clarke and Tom Box are shortly expected. Arthur Robinson has been made a sergeant…….Ernest Bleach writes from Winburg that he is quite well, and that Moody is all right again and back at duty."
"This month our Militia have returned, and Major Clarke had a grand reception at Haywards Heath. Private Box, who was detained in Hospital, arrived a fortnight later. Major Godfrey Fausett, Lieut. C A Maberly, Horace Stoner and Edgar Hazeldean are on their way home. Joseph Brigden has gone to India with the 12th Lancers, but we hope to have him home before long."
"Captain Sergison unveiled on May 7th a tablet erected in our boys’ schoolroom bearing the following inscription:-
To the honour of those educated in this School who served in the War in S. Africa, 1899-1902.
Randall, Charles, H.M.S. Terrible
*Died for their Country."
"Our Soldiers’ Memorial Cross. Has been set up in the Churchyard. The design is most beautiful and graceful, and the workmanship excellent. We cannot thank Mr Kempe sufficiently for the trouble he has taken to give us a design worthy of the sorrow and joy it commemorates, and Mr Hounsell for the careful and skilful manner in which he has carried out Mr Kempe’s directions. On one side of the base is the inscription:
For our four brothers resting in South Africa,
And for those who have returned in peace,
Thanks be to God."
On the other,
"Frank Bleach, Benjamin Brookshaw,
Mark Gravett, Peter Mitchell.
Mr Hounsell’s estimate for the cross was £59, to which £3 had to be added for extra work on the base, and £6 for the cost of the foundation, which had to be made solid and deep. For this extra £9 the Committee will be glad to receive more subscriptions; those of us who have not yet subscribed will rejoice to find that the list is not closed. These are the names of those who have as yet contributed:- Mr E Anscombe, Mr Bevan, Mrs Bleach, Mr J Brookshaw, Lady Burrell, General Campbell, Major Clarke, Mrs Everest, Mrs Godfrey Faussett, Mrs Hayler, Sergeant James, Miss Maberly, Mrs C Mitchell, Miss Otter, Mr Pierce, Mr Randle, Captain Sergison, Major Schreiber, Mr Kay Shuttleworth, Mr Vander, Mr Webber, Mr J Wood, Mrs Woodcock, Mrs and the Misses Wrightson.
More information about the soldiers can be found on the Roll of Honour website