Remembering Worthing’s fallen

The Worthing men who died in May 1915 while serving their country in the First World War.

9999 Private William John Biggs

Canadian Infantry 3rd Battalion

Died May 2, 1915, aged 28

William John Biggs was born in Warlingham, Surrey, on October 20, 1886, the son of Harry and Clara, née Hacker.

His parents married in 1885 and by 1891 they were living at 128 High Street, Worthing, with Harry employed as a butcher.

William was their first child, to be followed by seven brothers and sisters.

By 1901 William was working as a grocer’s errand boy and ten years later he was still living with his parents and working as a house painter.

By 1914 William had emigrated to Canada, where, on September 22, 1914, he enlisted with the 3rd Battalion Infantry at Valcartier.

As a member of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, he was killed in action near Ypres.

He is commemorated on the Menin Gate memorial and is also remembered on the St Paul’s Church War memorial in Worthing.

1647 Private Percy James Parsons

Australian Infantry 16th Battalion Anzac Corps

Died May 2, 1915

Born in Clapham, Sussex, in 1891, Percy James Parsons was the son of Alfred and Alice Parsons – the fifth of six children.

By 1901 the family had moved to Jubilee Cottages, Worthing, and the census shows Alfred working as a gardener.

The 1911 census shows just Percy, by then working as a grocer’s assistant, and his younger brother Bernard still living at home.

Percy decided to emigrate to Australia and left Liverpool on May 21, 1913, aboard the White Star Steamship Belgic.

Settling in Perth, he found work as a teamster.

Percy to enlisted with the 16th Battalion of the Australian Infantry on the January 15, 1915.

Leaving Freemantle aboard HMAT Itonus on February 22, he was soon to be involved in the Gallipoli invasion, and, on May 2, 1915, he was wounded at Quinn’s Hill.

It is most probable he sustained a bayonet wound to his leg.

Percy is commemorated on the Lone Pine Memorial which remembers more than 4,900 Australian and New Zealand servicemen who have no known graves.

TF/2908 Private Johnson Albert Stacey

Royal Sussex Regiment 4th Battalion

Died May 2, 1915, aged 33

Johnson Stacey was born in Brighton in 1882.

He was one of eight children born to William, a journeyman baker, and his wife Eliza.

The family moved around Sussex with William’s work, ending up at 3 Brunswick Road, Worthing, about 1890.

Years later the parents moved to 10 Thorn Road, Worthing.

On November 16, 1914, he enlisted in the Royal Sussex Regiment.

The following year, on January 21, he was taken ill at Horsham and found to be suffering from lead poisoning, contracted from chemicals used in his former trade as a French polisher.

He was discharged from the army on April 29, 1915, after being dound unfit for service.

It was stated that he had been of good conduct and military character.

Three day after his discharge Johnson Stacey died on May 3. He is buried in Heene Cemetery.

107 Private Oliver Beaumont Taylor

Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry

Died May 8, 1915, aged 34

Oliver Taylor was born in the Gorbals district of Glasgow in 1880.

He was living with his parents in Glasgow, where he joined the volunteer Battalion of the King’s Own Scottish Borderers.

In 1899, at Dumfries, he then enlisted in the 3rd Battalion of this Regiment.

He served with the Regiment for 12 years and saw service in South Africa and India.

He was awarded medals for his service in the Boer War and also the Royal Humane Society medal.

The citation for the latter reads: “On the 12th Feb. 1900 Private Cusack while bathing in the Riet River got into difficulties 15 yards from the bank. Taylor at great risk, plunged in and bought him within 5 yards of the shore and he was saved.”

On July 14, 1911, Oliver left the army and sailed to Quebec.

At the outbreak of the First World War, at the age of 34, he joined Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry.

He was killed near Ypres on May 8. 1915.

He is remembered on the Menin Gate memorial.

G/1152 Private George Caplen

Royal Sussex Regiment 2nd Battalion

Died May 9, 1915, aged 21

George Caplen was born in Worthing in 1893 to David, who worked as a gardener in domestic service, and Fanny.

He had two brothers and a sister. One brother died as an infant and is buried in Broadwater Cemetery.

The Caplen family moved several times over the years.

George was born at 10 Becket Road. Ten years later they were living at Elm Grove and George was a pupil at Elm Grove School.

In 1911 they had moved to 2 Windmill Cottages, Cross Street (now 12 Cross Street).

On leaving school George worked for Potter Bailey & Co, family grocers of Worthing, perhaps as a delivery boy.

George enlisted with the Royal Sussex Regiment at Chichester in September 1914.

He was killed in action on May 9, 1915, on the first day of battle during a counter offensive at Richebourg.

He is remembered on the Le Touret Memorial and on the Elm Grove School memorial.

G/1135 Private Ernest Walter Crassweller

Royal Sussex Regiment 2nd Battalion

Died May 9, 1915

Baptised at St Mary’s Church, Broadwater, on June 20, 1881, Ernest Walter Crassweller was the son of Walter and Fanny Olliver.

Living at 6 Newland Road, they raised a large family – their first child, Harriet, was born in 1878, followed by Ada, Ernest, Dora, Albert, Harry and Walter.

In 1906, Ernest married Edith Mary Tugwell, setting up home at 21 Orme Road.

Ernest worked as a furniture labourer.

Ernest Walter, their first child, was born in December 1907, dying in August 1908. He is buried in Broadwater Cemetery.

Edith Dorothy was born in 1909, followed by Victor Dennis in October 1915, five months after the death of his father. Victor Dennis lived until 2000.

Ernest enlisted in Worthing September 2, 1914, with the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment, entering France on January 4, 1915, with the rank of Private 1135.

He was killed at Richebourg L’Avoue on May 9, 1915, and buried at Rue-Petillon Military Cemetery, Fleurbaix.

Ernest is commemorated on the Holy Trinity Church war memorial, Worthing.

G/1228 Private George Fuller

Royal Sussex Regiment 2nd Battalion

Died May 9, 1915, aged 20

George Fuller was born in Lewes in 1896, one of at least ten children.

In the 1901 census the children and their mother Elizabeth were all living in East Sussex at Paynes Place, Framfield, Blackboys.

Elizabeth and the two eldest sons were described as pedlars.

By 1911 George, his mother and two sisters were lodging with relatives at 34 Cranworth Road, Worthing, and George’s occupation was described as ‘hawker of fish.’

At the start of the war George enlisted at Worthing with the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment and went to France as part of the British Expeditionary Force.

He was killed in action at Richebourg L’Avoue on May 9, 1915.

He is remembered on the Le Touret Memorial, which lists 13,389 British and Commonwealth soldiers who have no known grave.

G/1295 Private Harold Frank Linfield

Royal Sussex Regiment 2nd Battalion

Died May 9, 1915, aged 21

Harold Linfield was born in Worthing on July 27, 1893, the fourth son of Arthur and Edith Linfield.

Arthur was one of the pioneer growers of fruit under glass in Worthing, starting from the 1880s.

The family home was The Laurels, Chesswood Road, Worthing.

On leaving school, Harold joined his father’s fruit growing business.

Harold and his younger brother Wilfred joined the 2nd Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment, on September 4, 1914.

After training at Dover they embarked for France on January 4, 1915.

Harold soon saw action at Givenchy where he was in the thick of the fighting.

The gallantry of his company was recognised in a Special Order by the Brigadier General.

Harold was again in action at the Battle of Aubers Ridge where, on May 9, 1915, he lost his life along with ten other Worthing soldiers.

His body was recovered and he is buried in the Rue-Petillon Military Cemetery at Fleurbaix.

G/1224 Private Alfred Stephen Muzzell

Royal Sussex Regiment 2nd Battalion

Died May 9, 1915, aged 22

Alfred Muzzell was born in Hove in 1893.

His father Stephen, born in Brighton, was working as a house painter, and his mother Amelia, née Osborne, had worked as an assistant in her father’s grocers shop in Newland Road, Worthing.

They married in 1892 and Alfred was their first of three children.

In 1901 the family was living at 68 Ashdown Road, Worthing.

Later they moved to 4 Stanley Road and Alfred’s father changed his job to that of a coach painter.

On leaving school, Alfred also found work as a coach painter.

At the commencement of the war, Alfred enlisted at Worthing with the Royal Sussex Regiment and entered France on January 4, 1915.

He was killed in action at the Battle of Aubers Ridge on May 9, 1915.

Alfred is commemorated on the Le Touret Memorial at Pas de Calais.

Alfred is also remembered on his parents’ grave, in Broadwater Cemetery, with the words: “We loved him and we miss him.”

L/8068 Private William George Neal

Royal Sussex Regiment 2nd Battalion

Died May 9, 1915, aged 30

William Neal was born in November 1885 in West Tarring, the eldest of eight children born to George, a market gardener, and Harriet Neal.

Their first home was at 2 High Street, West Tarring.

George Neal died in 1901 at the age of 30 and Harriet and her children moved to 5 Cranmer Road, Worthing.

On October 18, 1904, William enlisted at Worthing with the Royal Sussex Regiment.

He signed on for three years’ service and nine years as a reservist.

On September 20, 1908, William married Catherine Brown at St Andrew’s Church, Tarring.

They set up home in Bethnal Green, London, and William, now a reservist, began working as a signalman.

William and Catherine had a son, William George Frederick, born on June 24, 1910.

As a reservist, William was called up in 1914 at the start of the war.

He was killed in action at Richebourg L’Avoue on May 9, 1915.

William is remembered on the Le Touret Memorial, and is also commemorated on the war memorial at Tarring Church.

L/10552 Private Edward Netley

Royal Sussex Regiment 2nd Battalion

Died May 9, 1915, aged 17

Edward Netley was born in 1898 to parents Edward, a market gardener and his wife Ada, née Lines.

His sister Eunice Winifred was born the following year and his brother Peter, born 1901, died in infancy.

In 1901 the family were living at 13 Orme Road, Worthing.

Edward’s mother Ada died in 1908 at the age of 33. She is buried in an unmarked grave in Broadwater Cemetery.

In 1911 Edward and his sister were living with their grandparents at Gardener’s Lodge, South Farm Road.

Edward’s widowed father married Mary Linfield in 1915.

Edward enlisted at Hove with the Royal Sussex Regiment and went to France with the British Expeditionary Force.

He was killed in action at Richebourg L’Avoue on May 9, 1915, aged 17.

He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Le Touret Memorial and the Broadwater Parish Church war memorial.

L/10214 Corporal Percival Corney Newman

Royal Sussex Regiment 2nd Battalion. 1st Division

Died May 9, 1915

Percival Newman was born in 1891 in East Preston, the eldest child in a family of eight, to Stephen and Edith Newman.

In the 1891 census Stephen, Edith and their newborn son were living with Edith’s parents at Sea Lane, East Preston, where Edith’s mother kept a general shop.

Stephen Newman was working as a paper hanger.

By 1901 and with two more children the Newmans had moved to Preston Street, East Preston.

Later they moved again to 6 Manor Road, East Preston.

By now Percival had left school and was employed as a nursery gardener.

Percival enlisted in Chichester with the Royal Sussex Regiment.

He was killed in action at the battle of Aubers Ridge and is commemorated on the Le Touret Memorial and on the East Preston village memorial (pictured right).

G/1355 Private Sidney George Nicholls

Royal Sussex Regiment 2nd Battalion

Died May 9, 1915, aged 27

Sidney Nicholls was born in the registration district of Thakeham in 1887.

His father Harry was born in Ashington and worked as a carter on Old Salts Farm, Lancing.

His mother Rosa, née Searle, came from of Storrington.

Sidney had one sister, Rosa, and the family home was at 3 Salt Lake Cottages, Lancing.

In 1910 Sidney married Ada Gilbert and their first home together was at 4 Hill View Terrace, Lyndhurst Road, Worthing.

In 1911 a daughter was born to them followed in 1914 by twin sons.

Sidney enlisted at Worthing with the Royal Sussex Regiment.

Ada thought that her husband was a prisoner of war, when in fact he had been killed in a bayonet charge at Richebourg L’Avoue.

Sidney is remembered on the Le Touret Memorial and also on the St Paul’s memorial.

C/1232 Private Ernest Boon Peerless

Royal Sussex Regiment 2nd Battalion

Died May 9, 1915, aged 19

Ernest Peerless was born at Laughton, East Sussex, in 1895, the youngest chid of Thomas and Caroline Boon.

The family home was at 96 Becket Road, Worthing, and Ernest was a pupil at Elm Grove School.

Aged 15, he was a baker’s assistant, and later he is said to have been employed at the Worthing Motor Bus Company.

Ernest enlisted at Worthing with the Royal Sussex Regiment in September 1914, and went to France with his battalion.

Ernest was a keen footballer and, during a rest from strenuous action, his battalion played a football match against the King’s Rifles Regiment, which ended in a 4-4 draw.

Ernest was killed in action at Festubert and is remembered on the Le Touret Memorial, West Tarring Church memorial and Elm Grove School memorial.

He is also remembered on the Peerless family grave in Broadwater Cemetery.

10065 Corporal Sydney Stubbs

Kings Royal Rifle Corps 2nt Battalion

Died May 9, 1915, aged 23

Sydney Stubbs was born in 1892 in Rustington, one of eight children born to Charles Stubbs and his wife Ellen Julia, née Cobby.

At the time, Charles was working as a coachman in domestic service and he and Ellen were living at Manor Farm Cottages, Station Road, Rustington.

They later moved to 3 Bridge Cottages, Rustington.

Sydney’s mother Ellen died in 1904 and by 1911 his widowed father and the children had moved to 26 Western Road, Littlehampton.

Surprisingly Sydney and his younger brother Charles were both pupils at Sussex Road Boys’ School in Worthing.

The family may have lived for a time in Dagmar Street between 1901 and 1911.

On leaving school Sydney found employment as a gardener.

His father and younger brother Harry were also working as gardeners at that time.

At the commencement of the war, Sydney enlisted in London with the King’s Royal Rifle Corps. He attained the rank of Corporal.

He was killed in action at Richebourg L’Avoue and is commemorated on the Le Touret Memorial.

He is also remembered on the war memorial at St Paul’s Church and on the Sussex Road Boys’ School Memorial (below), now at the Sydney Walter Centre in Sussex Road, Worthing.

L/10330 Private Walter Message

Royal Sussex Regiment 2nd Battalion ‘C’ Company

Died May 10, 1915, aged 19

Walter Message was the eldest son of William and Caroline Message who, at the time of his death, lived at 40 Cranworth Road, Worthing.

He had one brother, William Frederick, who was nine years his junior.

Walter’s parent were both born in Brighton but had moved to south east London by the time Walter was born on October 20, 1895.

Walter went to Hither Green School and, later, Holbeach Road School, when he was five years old.

The family had moved down to Worthing by 1911 and Walter’s father, William, was working as a labourer for Worthing Borough Council.

Walter was an errand boy for an iron foundry and they lived at 29 Archibald Road, Worthing.

Walter was a Private in the 2nd Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment, when he died of wounds on May 10, 1915.

He is buried in the Bethune Town Cemetery in France.

G/1380 Private William Henry Pelling

Royal Sussex Regiment 2nd Battalion, 1st Division

Died May 15, 1915 aged 19

William Pelling was born in Worthing in 1896 to William, a market gardener, and Jane, who worked as a laundress.

He had one sister, Daisy, who was born in 1899.

William attended Sussex Road School and, at 14 years of age, he was working as a baker’s errand boy.

In 1911 the Pelling family was living at the laundry in Southdownview Road where Jane Pelling worked, and her husband William was assisting in the laundry business.

This laundry, the Northbrook Laundry, was continued well into the 1920s by the Pelling family.

William enlisted at Worthing in the Royal Sussex Regiment and was sent to France on January 1, 1915.

He was wounded in action at the battle at Richebourg L’Avoue and died the following day.

He is buried in the Rue-Des-Berceaux Military Cemetery and is remembered on the Broadwater Church war memorial Sussex Road School memorial, now in the Sidney Walter Centre in Sussex Road, Worthing.

2679 Rifleman Charles Thomas White

Rifle Brigade 4th Battalion, The Prince Consort’s Own 27th Division

Died May 10, 1915, aged 23

Charles Thomas White was born to Charles James White and his wife Annie, née Slater, in 1892.

Charles and Annie had married in Broadwater Church January 17, 1891.

In April 1900, Annie gave birth to another son, Thomas, but this baby survived for only seven hours. He was buried in Broadwater Cemetery on April 9, 1900.

Just three days later Annie herself was buried in Broadwater Cemetery. Burial records give the family’s address as 61 Newland Road.

The 1901 census shows Charles Thomas White, aged 9, still living with his father at 61, Newland Road, together with two lodgers.

By the time the 1911 census was taken Charles Thomas was a member of the 4th Battalion Rifle Brigade.

Charles died from wounds received while fighting in Flanders. He is buried in the Bailleul Communal Cemetery Extension, Nord, France.

3187 Company Quartermaster Sergeant James Lawton

Scots Guards 2nd Battalion

Died May 17, 1915, aged 35

James Lawton was born in Newport, Shropshire, in 1880, the son of George, a blacksmith, and his wife Elizabeth.

James joined the Scots Guards and in 1901 he was a Private, aged 21, based at the Wellington Barracks in Bird Cage Walk, Westminster.

In 1903 James married Annie Miria Robinson at Rochford, Essex, and they had two sons, Francis James Edward and Frederick George Samuel.

In 1911 James, now a Sergeant with the 2nd Battalion The Scots Regiment of Foot Guards, was at the Chelsea Barracks in Chelsea Bridge Road, Pimlico. The 2nd Battalion was among the first troops sent to France, landing at Le Havre on August 24, 1914.

In May 1915 James was in action at Festubert, where he was wounded. He died on May 17, 1915 and is buried in the Bethune Town Cemetery.

His widow and children were living at 15 Warwick Road, Worthing, at the time of his death.