Southwick stories feature in new First World War exhibition

The grave of the brothers Tom and George Uwins in Southwick churchyard
The grave of the brothers Tom and George Uwins in Southwick churchyard

The Southwick Society is staging a new exhibition at Manor Cottage Heritage Centre to mark the centenary of the end of the First World War.

Southwick’s Great War tells of some of the townsfolk caught up in it and some of the local events of the time.

HMS Hampshire hit a mine while carrying Lord Kitchener to talks in Russia

HMS Hampshire hit a mine while carrying Lord Kitchener to talks in Russia

Soldiers and sailors from Southwick served in some of the most significant battles of the war, including the Somme, Paschendaele and the Battle of Jutland.

One of the earliest Southwick fatalities was Tom Uwins, who served in the Royal Sussex Regiment and died following injuries sustained at the Battle of the Aisne in 1914.

He was a regular soldier who joined up before the war, having worked on a market garden for a while. He was among the first British troops to arrive in France and survived both the retreat from Mons and the Battle of the Marne.

After being wounded, he was evacuated to hospital in England but sadly did not recover. His body was returned to Southwick and buried in St Michael and All Angels’ churchyard.

Tom’s brother George was a merchant seaman on the SS John Miles and died in 1917 when the ship was sunk in the North Sea. They were en route to Southwick with a cargo of coal.

The Uwins were not the only brothers to die. In 1916, the Pettett brothers both went down with HMS Hampshire after it struck a mine off the Orkney islands when taking Field Marshal Kitchener to a conference in Russia.

The exhibition also remembers Southwick sisters Ada and Jessie Short, who joined the Women’s Royal Naval Service in 1918 and were based at Southwick Coastguard Station.

In 1918, Southwick was a hive of activity as thousands of Royal Marine engineers laboured night and day to build the Mystery Towers in Shoreham Harbour. These were huge concrete and steel towers intended to be floated to the Dover Strait and sunk as a defence against German submarines.

The Royal Marine engineers lived in a camp on The Green. Only one tower was completed and that was after the war. It is now the Nab Tower off the Isle of Wight.

After the war, a memorial was built on The Green using concrete slabs from the military camp which had been there. The memorial was designed by harbour master Alfred Catt and unveiled by General George Gorringe, a wartime divisional commander who lived in the area.

Nigel Divers, secretary of the Southwick (Sussex) Society, said: “These and many other local people are remembered in a large display of pictures at the Manor Cottage in Southwick Street, Southwick.”

The exhibition is open on Saturdays from August 4 to September 8, 10.30am to 12.30pm. There is no admission charge but donations towards the upkeep of the cottage are welcomed.

Manor Cottage is Southwick`s oldest house, dating from the 15th century. It has been restored and is run as a heritage centre by volunteers from the Southwick Society.

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