Long march through Sussex during the Great War calling men to join the fight

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In November 1914, the men of the Reserve Battalion of the 4th Royal Sussex Regiment set out on a countywide march to look for recruits.

Led by Captain Mathews, who was supported by Captain Kenderdine, Lieutenant Campbell, Lieutenant Maples and Lieutenant Rowden, some 205 men marched for seven days calling on young men to step up and fight for King and country.

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The Sussex and Surrey Courier, dated November 14, 1914, ran an account of the march, written by a man who signed his work JGW.

Whether he was a soldier, an officer or simply a reporter too old or unfit to join up, is unknown.

His account stated: “The march from Arundel and Chichester was broken at Tangmere and midday refreshment was partaken of in the grounds of the residence of Capt Kenderine, who kindly provided beer, ginger beer and cigarettes.

“On leaving loud cheers were given for the Captain and Mrs Kenderdine.

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“Chichester was reached about four o’clock, and in the evening the Battalion, headed by the Chichester Brass Band, paraded the streets of the city to Eastgate Square, where a recruiting meeting was held, the result of which was that about 30 more names will be added to the Chichester Roll of Honour.

“The Battalion paraded at 9 o’clock on Sunday morning and marched to St Paul’s Church, where a special service was conducted.

“The 9th Battalion of the Hampshire Regiment occupied the right of the building, and our own Battalion sat on the other side.

“The subject of the sermon was the life of Daniel, to whom the preacher applied the words: ‘He feared man so little, because he feared God so much’.

“The sermon was an earnest plea to the men to live a fearless life. After the Blessing, the National Anthem was sung.

“During the day we had the opportunity of viewing the old cathedral and other places of interest in the old city, and in the evening we were entertained to an excellent tea by the Chichester Ladies’ Recreation Committee.

“Midhurst was visited on Monday, and on the journey a few recruits were obtained at the village of Singleton.

“There was a large attendance in the Village Hall in the evening.

“The proceedings commenced with God save the King, followed by the Belgian National Anthem, in honour of two wounded Belgian officers who were present on the platform.

“Col Wyndham, who presided, extended a hearty welcome to the Battalion and to the two wounded officers of the Belgian Army, our allies to loud and prolonged cheers.

“‘We came into the war,’ continued the Colonel, ‘for the purpose of supporting our ally – Belgium – and to show we were not going to tear up our obligation to that noble little country like a scrap of paper’.

“Admiral Holland, who followed, said he thought that Germany had given up the idea of invasion, but they were not free from the risk of raids.

“He continued: ‘I am standing here to ask young men to prepare to defend England from such raids. We know what a raid from the Germans is. It is not a

soft thing. They come with an iron heel.

“Everybody must take part to defend England. I appeal to young men to come forward and show what they are made of and show that they are true Sussex men’.

“Brigadier General Hay drove his points home with several anecdotes. Said one officer to another in a battle in the war with Napoleon: ‘The French have got through your lines.’ ‘Yes,’ was the reply, ‘but they did not get out again.’

“They must see that if the Germans ever landed on these shores they should never get out again.

“Captain Mathews thanked the inhabitants for coming out in such large numbers to welcome the Battalion and the band for “heading the procession.

“Some form of conscription might come soon, and he personally would not hesitate to give the dirtiest work that was to be done to those who had only joined through being forced to do so.

“Lieutenant Gunter, who has come back from the front wounded, received an ovation on rising to address the meeting.

“He said he had seen towns in France three times the size of Midhurst with not a stone standing on another.

“Unless they had a Territorial Force in England that could meet and overcome any German raiding force, they would give them a great inducement to come to England.

“At the close of the meeting 29 young fellows volunteered to join, and a smoking concert followed, at which refreshments were provided.

“On Tuesday morning Mrs Maples kindly presented each man with a pipe. Capt Mathews in calling for hearty cheers for Mrs Maples, said he hoped that no more cigarettes would be smoked.

“The day’s march was through Cowdray Park, Petworth, Fittleworth, Stopham to Pulborough. A short stop was made at Petworth, where several recruits were enrolled.

“The chief speaker at the evening meeting was Mr Paddan, who in the course of an eloquent appeal referred to the Indians who are fighting for the Empire.

“He said they were splendid fellows. He had camped with them and served with them, but he trembled at what these men would feel in their hearts if they knew that Englishmen were hanging behind.

“Capt Mathews said that they set out to get at least 200 men on the march and they would be disappointed if they did not get 150.

“They wanted Pulborough to break the record of any village or town they had visited.

“In the course of the march they had come across men of varying degrees of patriotism. Some were very keen to join. Others, he was sorry to say, who were not worthy of the name of Englishmen, said they would not give up their jobs.

“The Battalion were recruiting both for home service and for foreign service, and they still wanted 350 men to bring the Battalion up to its full strength.

“The Captain did not appeal in vain, for Pulborough broke the week’s record with 49 volunteers, 37 of whom passed the medical examination.”

Pictures courtesy of {http://www.westsussexpast.org.uk/West Sussex Past|website}.

The pictures show:

Territorials, probably the Royal Sussex regiment 4th Battalion, marching southwards down South Street on their way to Chichester railway station and then on to France in August 5, 1914;

Pay day for the 4th Royal Sussex;

and The Royal Sussex Regiment badge.

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