Uckfield six raise funds to help with World War 1 burials

Six Uckfield men who toured World War 1 battlefields last year are now fund-raising to help ensure soldiers still being found in Flanders fields are given a proper burial.

Kevin Martin, Mark Wren, Paul Wright, Kenan Bilal, Tommy Benneyworth and Keith Shankster were moved by stories told them by a Belgian man who has made it his life’s work to recover the bodies of fallen soldiers.

The Uckfield six with Johan Vandewalle. From the left are Kenan Bilal, Keith Shankster, Kevin Martin, Johan Vandewalle, Mark Wren, Paul Wright, and Tommy Benneworth.

Johan Vandewalle told how he had exhumed the bodies of hundreds of men, of all nationalities, but many more still needed to be recovered and given a dignified burial.

Johan is an amateur archaeologist and has worked on television documentaries such as The Underground War/Zero Hour, Vampire Dug Out, Lost in Flanders, and several Belgian documentaries.

The Uckfield six met him on a day he had attended the burial of 80 German soldiers recently recovered from the battlefields.

Graves

He told them about his work and in particular how he helped excavate the graves of the Zonnebeke Five – five Australians discovered in 2006 as a new pipeline was being laid in the hamlet of Westhoek in Belgium.

Johan’s research revealed that one of the bodies was that of John Hunter who died in the arms of his younger brother Jim and was buried by him in a temporary cemetery.

When Jim returned in 1918 to take the remains of his brother back to Australia the terrain was so badly destroyed by artillery shelling that he couldn’t find the grave. He died in 1975 long before his brother was found.

Statue

Johan determined to build a memorial to all brothers lost in World War 1 and has been fund-raising to complete it with a bronze statue of John and Jim Hunter.

The monument will be called Brother in Arms which is the same name as Johan’s bar/pub can be found nearby.

Kevin, Mark and Paul said they were totally amazed and full of respect for the work being done by Johan and wanted to help him continue. They will start by holding a collection as Mark celebrates his 50th birthday and continue from there.

Battlefields

Kevin had already visited the World War 1 battlefields and memorials many times. He is ex-Army and said it meant a lot to him to remember The Fallen.

When his friends planned last year’s trip he was pleased to be involved too and now all six of them share a passion for spreading the word about what is being done to preserve the memory of those lost during World War 1.

“Everybody, particularly the young, should try to visit the battlefields, Lest We Forget,” agreed Kevin, Mark and Paul. 

Research

Before their tour Paul researched Uckfield’s lost soldiers and they were able to find the names on memorials as they visited Vimy Ridge, Menin Gate, Thiepval, Lochnagar Crater,  Arras, and the Tyne Cot Cemetery.

“That made our visit personal,” said Kevin. “We were able to find the names on Paul’s lists at each memorial and pay our respects.”

If you would like to help the Uckfield six with their fund-raising please visit their JustGiving page.

Uckfield’s Fallen named on memorials

These are the names of Uckfield World War 1 soldiers found on battlefield memorials by the Uckfield six, following research by Paul Wright.

Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres, Belgium

Cornford, Horace: Private 3528 30th Battalion, The Australian Infantry 8th Brigade. 5th Australian Division. Killed in action at Ypres 29 September 1917. Aged 23. Son of Horace & Ruth Cornford of Harlands Farm, Uckfield. Born in Mayfield Emigrated to Australia. Enlisted in Manley, Australia Commemorated on The Menin Gate Memorial Ypres, Belgium.

West, Richard Charles: Private 71969 1st Battalion, The Sherwood Foresters (Notts & Derby Regiment) 8th Division Killed in action at Ypres 31 July 1917. Aged 17 Born in Uckfield and enlisted in Eastbourne. Commemorated on The Menin Gate Memorial Ypres, Belgium.

Menin Gate.

Tyne Cot, Belgium

Mockett, Herbert John: Private 39511, 11th Battalion, The Essex Regiment, 6th Division. Killed in action, 28 May, 1918. Aged 36. Son of Alfred and Ellen Mockett of Mountfield Lodge, Uckfield. Husband of Florence Muriel Mockett, of 7 Hampstead Gardens, Uckfield. Enlisted in Chichester. Formerly RASC. Commemorated on The Tyne Cot Memorial.

Richardson, Henry (Harry): Private TF.203970, 1/7th Battalion, The Middlesex Regiment, 56th Division. Killed in action, 16 August, 1917. age 31. Son of Mary Anne West (formerly Richardson), of 15 Alexandra Road, Uckfield. Born in Alfriston and enlisted in Uckfield. Uckfield resident. Commemorated on The Tyne Cot Memorial.

Simmons, Charles Frederick: Private TF.260136, 1/6th Battalion, The Royal Warwickshire Regiment, 48th Division. Killed in action near Ypres, 4 October, 1917. Aged 39. Eldest son of Thomas and Mary Simmons of West View, Uckfield. Born and enlisted in Uckfield. Formerly served with the Suffolks and the Essex Regiment. Commemorated on The Tyne Cot Memorial.

Wheatley, Sydney Hoad: Private 42765, 2/10th Battalion, The Manchester Regiment, 11th Division. Killed in action near Ypres, 9 October, 1917. Aged 26. Son of Mr and Mrs George Wheatley, of 36 Eridge Road, Tunbridge Wells. Husband of Lilian Daisy Wheatley, of 113 Framfield Road, Uckfield. Born in Tunbridge Wells and enlisted in Hove. Formerly East Surreys. Commemorated on The Tyne Cot Memorial.

Thiepval Memorial, France

Bean, George: Private 33276, 2nd Battalion, The Ox & Bucks Light Infantry 2nd Division. Killed in action on the Somme 13 November 1916. Aged 23. Son of George & Emma Elizabeth Bean of Uckfield, (Hotel Proprietors). Born in Heathfield and enlisted in Hilsea, Hants. Former RFA. Commemorated on The Thiepval Memorial.

French, Charles Edward: Private 30327, 58th Battalion, The Machine Gun Corps. (Infantry) Former Royal Sussex Killed in action 12 March 1918. Aged 22. Son of Peter and Harriett French, of 33 Alexandria Road, Uckfield. Born and enlisted in Uckfield. Commemorated on The Thiepval Memorial.

Potter, Harry: Lance Corporal G.824, 2nd Battalion, The Royal Sussex Regiment 1st Division. Killed in action on the Somme near Ginchy, 9 September 1916. Aged 23. Son of Mr and Mrs Frederick Potter, of 10 Church Street, Uckfield. Born in Arundel and enlisted in Chichester. Commemorated on The Thiepval Memorial.

Walker, Albert Edward: Private 41321, 9th Battalion, The Royal Fusiliers 12th Division. Killed in action 7 October 1916. Aged 30. Son of Mr and Mrs H, Walker of Northampton. Husband of Mrs E W Walker of 59 Fords Green. Nutley. Born in Cudle, Hants, and enlisted in Uckfield. Uckfield resident. Commemorated on The Thiepval Memorial.

Wickens, Thomas Martin: Rifleman 2574, 1/9th Battalion, The London Regiment (Queen Victoria’s Rifles) Killed in action on the Somme 9 September 1916 age 25. Son of Mr and Mrs Wickens of Uckfield. Born in Crawley Down and enlisted in London. Commemorated on The Thiepval Memorial.

Wickens, George Edward: Rifleman 2576 1/9th Battalion, The London Regiment (Queen Victoria’s Rifles) Killed in action on the Somme 1 July 1916. age 22. Son of Mr & Mrs Wickens of Uckfield. Born in Uckfield and enlisted in London. Commemorated on The Thiepval Memorial.

Thiepval.

Arras Memorial, France

Bateman, Sidney George: Private SD. 2861, 7th Battalion, The Royal Sussex Regiment, 12th Division. Killed in action near Arras, 25 July 1917, age 32. Born in Cucklington, Dorset, and enlisted in Uckfield. Formerly with the South Downs Battalions. Commemorated on The Arras Memorial.

Earl, Harold: Gunner 163545, “C” Battery, 315th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery. Killed in action 4 April 1918. Aged 21. Son of Charles and Emily Florence Earl, of 3 Framfield Road, Uckfield. Born and enlisted in Uckfield. Commemorated on The Arras Memorial.

Potter, Lionel: Private G.43890, 17th Battalion, The Middlesex Regiment, 33rd Division. Killed in action at Arras, 28 April 1917. Aged 27. Born in Uckfield and enlisted in Ealing. Resident of Hayes, Middlesex. Commemorated on The Arras Memorial.

Searle, John: Private G.6710, 2nd Battalion, The Royal Sussex Regiment, 1st Division. Killed in action at the Crassiers, near Loos, 30 June 1916. Aged 22. Son of Harry and Sarah Searle, of Uckfield. Born in Wishaw, Lanarkshire, and enlisted in Uckfield. Commemorated on The Arras Memorial.

Deadman, Sydney Herbert: Private G.8369, 7th Battalion, The Royal Sussex Regiment, 12th Division. Killed in action near Monchy, 3 May 1917. age 26. Son of Francis John and Mary Anne Deadman of Uckfield. Born in Towersey, Oxon, and enlisted in Uckfield. Commemorated on The Arras Memorial.

Divall, Edward: Private 46126, 7th Battalion, The Royal Fusiliers, 63rd Royal Naval Division. Killed in action near Arras, 29 April 1917. Aged 41. Son of Thomas and Hannah Divall, of Hurstland Cottages, Hartfield. Husband of Ellen Divall, of 37 New Road, Ridgewood, Uckfield. Born and enlisted in Uckfield. Commemorated on The Arras Memorial.

More about Uckfield’s World War 1

The story of Uckfield in World War 1

World War 1 love letters to be part of Uckfield exhibition

Uckfield World War 1 soldier remembered by Yeomanry association

An exhibition on World Wars 1 and 2 at Bridge Cottage

• See also: Uckfield Roll of Honour – Lest we Forget

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