When Bexhill chose to honour its dead

Bexhill War Memorial
Bexhill War Memorial

Bexhill Museum’s Summer Lecture season in support of the First World War exhibition got underway on Wednesday when Claire Eden delivered a talk on commemoration and memorials.

Remembrance started during the First World War being an annual event on the 4th of August, the day Britain had entered the war.

Memorial services were held in churches to honour those serving and still living, and a roll of honour was a list of those serving, rather than the way we use the term today to indicate a list of dead.

Traditions that we know today began; the observance of a two minute silence and the Haig Poppy Appeal.

As a national symbol a cenotaph was erected in Whitehall.

It was intended as a temporary structure and was replaced with the permanent structure we know today in 1920. Village memorials became commonplace.

The scale of losses was such that only 52 villages had no dead to commemorate.

The decision not to repatriate bodies lead to a mass movement of pilgrimages to war graves in the 1920s.

In Bexhill churches lead the way in providing memorials. St Barnabas being the first in 1917.

From our community numbering something in the order of 17,000, sixty people attended the first public meeting to consider a civic commemoration of the dead.

Many ideas were put forward such as a fund for the 200 children left without a father, a cricket hut and a cottage hospital.

A memorial was decided upon and a fund sent up hoping to raise £3,000.

All the way through the process there was dissent and criticism.

The public’s taste of commemoration altered as the memory of the war receded and there was even a petition to remove the town memorial in the 1930.

The next lecture in this series is on Wednesday evening 21st May, 7 pm, at Bexhill Museum when Peter Cole of the Bexhill Hanoverian Society will present a slide show portraying Bexhill during the First World War.

There is limited seating, so booking is advised on 01424 787950. £3 members, £4 non-members.