The heroic efforts of the men and boys that died in the Battle of the Boar’s Head were remembered yesterday in a ceremony outside Worthing Town Hall.
The Lord-Lieutenant of West Sussex, Susan Pyper, and relatives of the fallen soldiers attended the drumhead service.
Organised by Worthing Borough Council and the Worthing Combined Ex-Services Association, it was held at 5pm in conjunction with a similar service in Richebourg, France.
The two ceremonies honoured the 23 young men and officers from Worthing who were among 366 soliders in the Royal Sussex Regiment that died on June 30 1916 in Richebourg.
The mission was designed to distract the German forces from the Battle of the Somme which began the next day. It has become known as The Day Sussex Died.
During the ceremony, Worthing’s deputy mayor Alex Harman read a message from the mayor of Richebourg, and the Reverend David Farrant conducted the service.
Pupils from Saint Andrew’s High School laid crosses for the 23 Worthing soldiers, with Major Tom Wye reading out a biography of their lives.
Speaking before the event, Major Wye, 74, said this was to change the Worthing War Memorial from ‘a column of names to a column of people’.
“This ceremony isn’t just for my generation; everyone my age knows about it. This is for the younger generation.”
Earlier in the day, pupils from Chatsmore Catholic High School unveiled their memorial to the fallen.
The Lancing Brass Band of the Royal British Legion performed throughout the ceremony, and Grace Heath, 12, from Sompting played The Last Post.
Grace, who is the official bugler for the Combined Ex-Services Association, said she was nervous before the performance: “I was just thinking about getting the notes right”.
Lord-Lieutenant Mrs Piper spoke to the boys from Saint Andrew’s High School after the event, and said: “I can’t tell you how much this means to the people of Worthing.”
Deborah Gilbert and Melanie Berry both came down from Surrey to attend the ceremony, which commemorated their great-grandfather William Pannell.
He and his two brothers Charles and Alfred died in the Battle of the Boar’s Head, but his fourth sibling George survived and was sent home with compassionate leave.
Deborah said: “It is like Saving Private Ryan. For me, that movie could’ve been written about our family; it just resonates.
“Having the young boys carrying the crosses was very touching. One or two were very close in age to those who died. It was so symbolic – I hope it meant as much to them as it did to us.
“They have their whole lives ahead of them, but those boys who fought for us had theirs cut short for nothing really.”
At the ceremony, Deborah and Melanie met their cousin Ron for the first time, who was the son of George Pannell.
Ron, 90, said: “It was enough that I came down from Norfolk to commemorate my uncles that were killed. I didn’t know them, but my father used to speak about them. But now I’ve met quite a number of relations.”
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