Remembering The Day That Sussex Died, June 30, 1916
The Battle of the Boar’s Head, which took place during the First World War at Richebourg-l’Avoué in France, went down in history as The Day That Sussex Died.
It was planned for June 30, 1916, as a diversionary action to make the German command believe this area of the Pas de Calais was the one chosen for the major offensive of the year, rather than the Somme, 50km to the south.
Soldiers from the Royal Sussex Regiment were asked to lead the attack, with the 11th Battalion (1st South Downs) in the centre, the 12th (2nd South Downs) on the right and the 13th (3rd South Downs) in reserve.
On hearing the plans, concerns were raised by Lieutenant Colonel Harman Grisewood, commanding officer of the 11th, as these were untried troops, being asked to attack over unfamiliar ground. He feared it could result in disaster.
The attack went ahead regardless but the 13th and 11th Battalions were swapped, in case these concerns had been passed down to the men.
The front line trenches were in the outline of a boar’s head, which gave the name to the battle, and our Sussex men fought bravely. The battle lasted less than five hours.
The South Downs Brigade lost 17 officers and 349 men, the 13th Battalion being all but wiped out. More than 1,000 more were wounded or taken prisoner.
Company Sergeant Major Nelson Carter of Eastbourne was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for his outstanding courage, his selflessness and for the love of the men he led.
During the battle, CSM Carter, among the mayhem and killing, used his revolver to capture a German machine gun, and used the machine gun to cover the 12th Battalion’s retreat.
Carter later carried several wounded men back to British lines.
Tragically for CSM Carter, he was hit in the chest by a German bullet while going out to carry another wounded soldier back from No Man’s Land.
CSM Carter has been commemorated with a blue plaque, unveiled in 2007 to mark his home in Greys Road.
He had served in the Boer War and when he came out, he married and became the doorman at the Old Town Cinema.
When the First World War came, he signed up again and was one of the first soldiers in the South Downs Battalion.”
Among the dead were 21 Worthing men, including three brothers. After the end of the war, under the leadership of the then indomitable mayor of Worthing, Mrs Ellen Chapman, the people of Worthing raised funds to help in the reconstruction of the shattered town, funding the rebuilding of the town school.
Gifts of a practical nature, such as clothes, were also given.
The school has now been replaced by a new and spacious modern building, opened earlier this year, but the people of Richebourg have remembered and marked this association with Worthing by naming the new road leading up to the school Allée de Worthing, or Worthing Lane.
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