Search for relatives of Brighton war hero

Ernest Beal VC (Credit: Royal Pavilion and Museums, Brighton & Hove)
Ernest Beal VC (Credit: Royal Pavilion and Museums, Brighton & Hove)

A commemorative stone will be laid in Brighton, to honour a World War One hero who was awarded the Victoria Cross after being killed in action in March 1918.

The council is now hoping to trace the relatives of Ernest Beal, to see if they wish to attend a memorial service ahead of the stone being laid at Old Steine War Memorial on March 16.

A display featuring a portrait of Ernest will go on show at Brighton Museum from March 6 until January next year as part of the museum’s 1918-2018: 100 years Remembrance Season.

Val Bundy, the great niece of Ernest’s fiancée May Bundy, will be attending the ceremony and hopes members of the Beal family can be traced. She will be giving a short talk about Ernest at the museum on March 13.

Val said: “It is wonderful that Ernest’s bravery is being honoured in his home town. I have childhood memories of my auntie May who wore a beautiful engagement ring. She regularly visited Brighton Museum to see a portrait of Ernest there.”

Council leader Warren Morgan, who is chairman of the city's Civil Military Partnership Board, said: “The commemorative stone will provide a lasting memorial to Ernest’s bravery and we hope to trace members of the Beal family so that they can be there to see it unveiled. Local residents and anyone else interested in paying their respects are also very welcome to attend.”

Ernest was born in 1883 and lived in Lewes Road. He attended Brighton Grammar School before working at Beal’s, his father’s stationery business in East Street.

He enlisted in the Sussex Yeomanry at the outbreak of war and went on to join the 16th Royal Sussex Regiment and the 3rd Yorkshire Regiment, serving in the Balkans and on the Western Front.

Ernest was awarded the posthumous VC for conspicuous bravery on 22 March 1918 at St Leger. Later the same day he died from wounds suffered when saving the life of one of his men under fire. He was 35.