A fascinating walk looks back at Bexhill during the Great War

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On Sunday an intrepid group set off on Bexhill Museum’s latest guided walk, Stepping Out To Bexhill In The First World War.

They were told about various aspects of our town during that war. Muriel and the Canadians loomed large.

Muriel was a tank, an armoured fighting vehicle that was presented to the town in 1919 as a reward for our successful wartime fundraising.

She stayed a week in the goods yard [now Sainsbury’s car park] before a formal presentation in Town Hall square before trundling off under her own steam to her resting place at the war end of West Parade, where the toilets are now.

As for the Canadians, they arrived in the Spring of 1917 and cropped up everywhere, taking over the Metropole Hotel as their billet and The Kursaal as their lecture hall, apparently a good place to doze off in the hothouse atmosphere after a morning’s drill.

Their leisure centres were shown at the corner of Sea and Jameson Roads and also in Sackville Road at the premises where the Observer office was until recently.

The Canadians threw pennies at an enthusiastic eight-year-old Harry Foster who imitated their drills near Egerton Park and used bath chairs on the front as chariots.

The town as a fashionable resort was touched upon, with the effects of the outbreak of war on the Sackville Hotel, with guests and staff departing back to Europe.

The chef Gilbert Chazottes went to the French Army, but returned after the war to his family in Windsor Road.

The cellerman, George Bryant who was a reservist died of wounds in September 1914. The third Bexhillian to lose their life.

In 1917 a German dugout was captured and amongst the items found was cutlery marked Sackville Hotel Bexhill.

The story of the war memorial was explained as being complicated and fundraising was not as enthusiastic as had been the case with War Bonds.

In the time available for its completion names were submitted after the name panels were cast.

One person not on the memorial was George Hammond, a gardener from Sidley, who after a long war, including the award of a Military Medal, was engaged after the Armistice in the recovery of bodies from the battlefield.

This gruesome task may have caused him to commit suicide by shooting himself in February 1919. There is no complete record of those Bexhillians who served.

An analysis of addresses shown in the newspapers of the time list Cornwall and Chandler Roads, each with 187. Windsor Road 118, Station Road [now mostly London road] 94, Reginald Road 86 and Salisbury Road 71.

Whilst named roads in Sidley dip below these numbers, they will be part of the general listing of ‘Sidley’. Of those Cornwall Road residents we have images of 41.

The Stevens, Felton, Gaylor and Freeman families had several members serving.