Society of Bexhill Museums

THE latest illustrated lecture, given by Hugh Miller, chairman of Pevensey and Westham History Society, had the mysterious title of Four Brothers And A Friend Called Dan.

Friday, 6th February 2009, 11:11 am
Updated Thursday, 7th June 2018, 7:59 pm

It concerned the catastrophic impact of the First World War on the lives of four brothers from a working-class Sussex family of twelve children.

Born between 1890 and 1896, the boys went to their village school where they received a basic education which included emphasis on individual responsibility, patriotism, and national pride in the British Empire.

Leaving school aged 13 or 14, the eldest, became a telegraph boy and later a postman, while the other three became farm workers, one being particularly drawn to looking after farm animals.

Mr Miller described, with the aid of maps and plans, the political and military situation on mainland Europe which resulted in Great Britain declaring war on Germany on August 4, 1914, after the neutrality of Belgium was infringed.

Suddenly, the extent of the German invasion of France, resulting in 450 miles of trenches, made a need for an extra 100,000 infantry to man them.

Haig's famous poster appealed to the patriotism of all young men, and the brothers, like countless others, flocked up to enlist with excitement and enthusiasm. Their employers approved of their action.

The local gentry, in the person of Lt Col Claude Lowther, of Herstmonceux Castle, recruited men for three battalions, eventually over 3,000 men from Sussex later to be known as 'Lowther's Lambs'.

They were trained at the Cooden Camp. Horses, too, were very much in demand by the military, and Dan, one of the farm horses was taken to the front.

Mr Miller continued his talk with illustrations and maps of the course of the war and described the atrocious conditions in many of the trenches, knee- and sometimes waist-deep mud and flooding with slippery duckboards for paths. In a few short months the brothers' lives were changed irrevocably.

He also reminded of the frightening loss of life incurred, sometimes in a single day of battle. One of the brothers was wounded and repatriated for hospital treatment in Eastbourne but was later to return to the front and was killed. Another had been killed earlier in the war, and a third had been invalided out with TB. The 'Friend called Dan' survived.

Mr Miller concluded his excellent with pictures of the many cemeteries created and maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in France and Belgium.

Large and small, with their simple headstones, they serve as a permanent reminder to us and to succeeding generations of the sacrifices and waste of this most terrible of wars.

Heather Morrey thanked the speaker for his excellent talk, and reminded she will be leading more guided walks in the Spring related to the Great War.

The first, on Sunday, March 29, meeting 2pm at the Colonnade, is entitled Stepping Out To Bexhill In The First World War.

The second, on Saturday, April 18, and repeated on the 25th, meeting at 2.15pm at Cooden Beach Railway Station, is entitled Stepping Out To Find Lowther's Lambs - further details are on the Diary of Events.

The Museum afternoon lecture on Wednesday, February 4, was entitled Barcombe Roman Villa and will be given by David Rudling.