Burgess Hill funeral directors’ emotional tribute to WWI soldiers

Staff at P&S Gallagher Funeral Directors with their WWI window display. Pic Steve Robards SUS-140819-193129001
Staff at P&S Gallagher Funeral Directors with their WWI window display. Pic Steve Robards SUS-140819-193129001

A funeral directors in Burgess Hill is paying tribute to local soldiers who died in the First World War by sharing moving accounts of their lives during combat.

P&S Gallagher on Lower Church Road, Burgess Hill has created a double window commemorative display including two banners with the Roll of Honour for Burgess Hill, Wivelsfield Green and Plumpton Green.

Some of the names on the banners do not appear on the local war memorials, whilst a book with all the names can also be seen in the foyer of the funeral directors.

The book has details, obituaries and letters explaining the circumstances of how many of the men made the ultimate sacrifice.

Sue Vickery, from P&S Gallagher, said: “They can be a very emotional read.”

There is a copy of the ‘Gospel According to St John’ which soldiers in WWI were issued to be kept in their top pocket to help the men in times of need.

There is a framed Christmas card which was sent to Matthew Gallagher’s grandmother by her cousin, Joseph Tompkins, who was later killed on the Western Front.

The display will be up throughout August.

One account is of John William Dale.

The report of his death appeared in the Mid Sussex Times on May 22 1917.

It states: “Died of wounds: Many will be sorry to hear that Mr J. W. Dale has passed away. He was terribly wounded whilst serving on the Wester Front, particularly about the legs, amputation being necesary. Deceased was a wholesale and retail tobacconist, of 5 Church Road, Burgess Hill. He was formerly in the Company of Volunteers, and has been a good player for Burgess Hill Football Club.”

An account of Arthur Downer, from Burgess Hill, who died December 1915 aged 41, also appears.

A letter to Arthur’s sister appeared in the Mid Sussex Times that read: “I spoke to Corporal Downer five minutes before he was killed.

“He was at work in the trenches in charge of a very urgent and important pumping operation to keep the trenches clear for reinforcements in case of imminent attack.

“I saw the work had been well done, and as he was about to be relieved I said ‘Well done, Downer; you have done well to get this water under’. I added ‘You are tired, and your relief is coming.’

“He replied ‘Yes, Sir, I am rather tired now.’ I said ‘Ah well, Christmas is near. We go out of the trenches to-day for Christmas and then we go down country for 16 days’ rest.’

He said ‘That’s good. I can do with a long rest.”

Arthur was then killed instantly by a shell.

A letter from a machine gun officer to the mother of Mervyn George Jupp, who died aged 22 on August 31 1916, read: “He was one of the most unassuming and yet at the same time one of the most gallant fellows I have ever met, and although he has now been taken from us his memory will never fade.

“His loss has been felt by the whole battalion and personally I feel it very much. But how much more must you, his dear mother, and all his relatives feel it! If it is difficult for us to realise he has gone it is heartrending for you. May God be with you all and bless you and comfort you in your irreparable loss.”

Information about those who lost their lives in the war is also available at www.roll-of-honour.com/Sussex/BurgessHillNames