WW1 Centenary: Staff Stories, Private H P Pocock

To mark the centenary of the end of the First World War, staff at West Sussex Record Office have shared their stories of family members who were caught up in the conflict.

When the Worthing Gazette was published on Wednesday August 16th 1916 right at the bottom of page 7 was a four line notice under the heading Angmering – Missing Soldiers.  Three names are given Privates G L Horton, H P Pocock and F Punch.

Of the three men named two of them had died on 30 June 1916 at what became known as the Battle of the Boar’s Head. They were both serving in the 13th Battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment. Their names are listed together on the Loos Memorial in France.


Private H P Pocock was my great uncle, on my maternal side of the family tree.

Henry Peter Pocock was born on the 2 September 1893, one of 8 children born to my great-great grandparents Simeon and Kate Pocock (nee Clevett) who lived in Blaber Cottage, Church Road, Angmering.  Of the 8 children born to Simeon and Kate they had already lost one son in 1906 aged 2.

In the left hand column of the admissions register for Older’s Charity School, Angmering in 1899, it shows that Henry had been apprenticed to become a butcher’s boy

On the 1911 census Henry was lodging with the Smart family in Angmering and his trade is indeed shown as butcher.

Unfortunately no Service papers survive for Henry, but I do know he enlisted at Lewes, East Sussex and was assigned to the 13th Battalion in the Royal Sussex Regiment.

On 30th June 1916 at Richebourg l’Avoué in France the 12th and 13th Battalions, with the 11th Battalion as support, were involved in the final bombardment on Boar’s Head starting at 3.30 am.  The site of the Battle of the Boar’s Head owes its peculiar name to the network of trenches forming a salient in the shape of a boar’s head. The battle would last a mere 5 hours.

The battle aimed to distract the Germans and to make them believe that the Great Offensive would be launched in Richebourg and not in the Somme. The three Southdowns battalions lost 17 officers, with 349 men killed, including 12 sets of brothers, three from one family. Another 1,000 men were wounded or taken prisoner.  In regimental history, the battle is known as “The Day Sussex Died”.

Living in a world today dominated by instant news and images it is hard to grasp the lack of information available to families at the time. By researching local newspapers it is possible to imagine, to some small extent, the desperation and worry families must have felt waiting for news of their sons, husbands and brothers.

An entry in the Observer and West Sussex Recorder of the 16 August 16 1916 reports:

Sussex Regiment Casualties – Many wounded and nearly 300 missing were reported officially last week among the Royal Sussex Regiment…..

It then goes on to list some of the local men missing, including Henry. Seeing articles like this of the time you realise families must have been only too aware that something major had happened in France.  With the word ‘Missing’ giving a false hope that their loved one may be found, while realising as the war went on there was none and they were dead.

On 26 October 1916 the South of England Advertiser, under the heading Angmering, states that no news has been received of Henry Pocock and George Horton of the Sussex Regiment since the commencement of the “great push” whilst on the 1 November the West Sussex Recorder reports: news is anxiously awaited of G Horton and H Pocock.

I do not know when Kate and Simeon received the dreaded confirmation that Henry had been killed or how long they had to wait to hear. But like numerous families across the county and country their lives were forever changed.

This I think is borne out by the obituary notice in the Worthing Herald on 5 May 1939 for Kate Pocock, where it states she was a member of the Women’s branch of the British Legion.

Interestingly it states that Henry died at the Somme, which was always believed to be true by my family.

Whilst helping with our display of images here at the Record Office for the Armistice I remembered a photograph my mother had, taken in the late 1920s possibly 1930s. It is of the May Queen placing here spring bouquet on the war memorial in Angmering. When I scanned it I realised that the side of the memorial in the photograph includes Henry’s name, which touched me deeply.


Sarah Head, Technical Assistant

Uncover more First World War stories on the Great War West Sussex website and hear about the war in soldiers’ own words on the Military Voices website.

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WW1 Centenary: Staff Stories, Charles Wickers

I have recently started looking into my military family history and it has been a fascinating journey. I have discovered amazing stories of people I never knew existed. One of these people is Charles Wickers, my great great uncle. I would like to share just a little bit of his story with you.

Charles was born on 25th July 1884 in Bethnal Green, the eldest of eight children. He worked in the tailoring industry and lived his whole life in the same area; only moving a few streets away from the family home when he married Mary Ann Gibbons in 1908. His son and only child, also called Charles, was born a year later.

He joined the City of London Regiment (also known as the Royal Fusiliers), 7th battalion between 5th June – 22nd July 1915; his service number denotes the period he joined. Through research on Ancestry.com I discovered that Charles had two service numbers, 5180 and 352170. Knowing that the first few numbers indicates when a soldier joined, I decided to see if I could find out when Charles did. I found an amazing resource called ‘Army Service Numbers 1881-1918’. This website holds a great deal of information about WW1 but more specifically, lists of battalion’s service numbers and dates that show when the men would have joined. Using the 5180 number, I saw that it would fall into the category of June – July 1915. When the Territorial Force was re-numbered in 1917, the 7th Londons were re-numbered 350001 to 370000, hence his second longer number.

Charles was assigned to the 2/7th Battalion where all volunteers were sent. He was now part of the ‘The Shiny Seventh’, so called as the soldiers had brass buttons on their uniforms instead of the standard black buttons that the rest of the City of London battalions had.

From 1914-1916 the battalion undertook training and were stationed along the Suffolk coast to help with defences. During early 1916 the battalion made their way from Suffolk to Southampton, and left for France on the 26th January 1917.  When the battalion arrived in France the men were trained in trench warfare on a “quiet” section of the front.

During my research, a story that I particularly remember reading is of gas attack training. The men put on their masks and the gas was released. Before it reached the men however, the wind changed and it avoided the men, who found the incident particularly amusing. There was no spare gas so the training could not be repeated!

After many months of fighting within France the 2/7th pushed into Belgium, past Ypres and ended up just north of St Julien. There was fierce fighting here with the German and English lines being only meters away from each other. The battalion made their way up the English line, or what remained of it as heavy bombing had destroyed it. On the 28th August 1917 the men ‘dug in’ and used shell holes as cover. The line was shelled often and the next day, 29th August 1917, Charles was killed. He was 33 years old.

Unfortunately Charles does not have a grave and I have no picture of him. Although I am very proud to say that his name is listed on the Menin Gate, Belgium.

Katie Bishop, Searchroom Assistant

Uncover more First World War stories on the Great War West Sussex website and hear about the war in soldiers’ own words on the Military Voices website.

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WW1 Centenary: Staff Stories, James Horace Wright

To mark the centenary of the end of the First World War, staff at West Sussex Record Office have shared their stories of family members who were caught up in the conflict.

My great grandfather James (Jim) Horace Wright was born in Hackney on 22nd April 1891, the son of James and Esther Wright, and brother to Ernest and five sisters.

James Horace Wright

After having worked on the Great Western Railway at Smithfield Market from 1905 to 1908, he joined B Company, (Duke of Cambridge’s Own) 1st Middlesex Regiment and after his training was sent to serve in India in 1910, not returning until 1913. It was the Christmas of 1913 that he met my great grandmother Rosanna for the first time.

He was called up to war on 4th August 1914 and told to report to Mill Hill Barracks. As an existing member of the Army, he became part of the British Expeditionary Force and as such, was one of the very first soldiers to be sent to France. We are fortunate enough to have a short diary he wrote between 1914 and 1915; although very sparing in detail, it does document the extreme hard work and difficult conditions the soldiers had to endure. The first few weeks of his war were spent digging trenches amidst gunfire, often after a 12 mile walk. Rather poignantly he writes in the front of his diary that it should go to his mother or Rosanna, ‘in the event of my death’. His position in the Army was a Drummer, which also meant he served as a stretcher bearer.

On the back of this postcard of Kings A1 ward, Graylingwell War Hospital, is written, ‘This is the ward I am in now. Love from Jim xxx’

On 25th September 1915, his company was actively involved in the first day of the Battle of Loos. My great grandmother wrote a brief account of what had happened to him, which my family never knew about until we received the diary after my grandfather (his son) had died. Whilst carrying out his duties as a stretcher bearer with three other soldiers (carrying a wounded comrade from the battlefield), a German sniper shot those three soldiers dead, with one of the bullets wounding my great grandfather in the shoulder. It was while he was attempting to find shelter in a shell hole that he was shot again, this time through the ankle.

This visit, by the occupants of Kings A1 ward to Shopwyke House (just outside Chichester), was on 8 October 1915. James is labelled as ‘Dad’

We will never know how he made it back to his trenches but at some point he was taken to a Casualty Clearing Station and then brought to England on 27th September. He was taken straight to Graylingwell War Hospital in Chichester, where he had a diseased bone removed and was on crutches for some time. I know that he was in Graylingwell until 15th October at least, but he was likely in there for longer. Around April 1916, he was sent to Grantham in Lincolnshire to join the Machine Gun Corps and sent to Palestine, from where he did not return until March 1919. He married my great grandmother Rosanna on 22nd April 1919, his 28th birthday. He died in 1959.

Holly Wright, former Searchroom Assistant

Uncover more First World War stories on the Great War West Sussex website and hear about the war in soldiers’ own words on the Military Voices website.

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WW1 Centenary: Staff Stories, Edward Dare Evans

To mark the centenary of the end of the First World War, staff at West Sussex Record Office have shared their stories of family members who were caught up in the conflict.

Rowing tankard won by Edward Dare Evans, Bath College, 1893

Edward Dare Evans, my great grandfather, was born on 21 February 1875. He was the fifth child of six, and his father William owned Belgrave Mill in Leicester. After leaving school at Bath College (where he won a tankard for rowing in a coxed four) in 1893, Edward joined the family firm. In January 1900 he signed up as a volunteer for a short service commission in the Leicestershire Regiment so he could go to South Africa and fight in the Boer War. He kept a diary of his experiences (including dysentery, and no mentions of any fighting), but the final entry in August 1900 reads ‘I am tired of the war.’ He returned home in mid-1901.

In January 1903 Edward married Alice Mabel de Legh, the sister of a friend he had made in the Leicestershire Regiment. Mary Isabella Legh Evans, my grandmother, was born in July 1904. The marriage was not successful, and the couple divorced in January 1912.


The house at Brightwater in c 1913 (with Edward and Mary in the garden) and in 1996

Awarded custody of their daughter, as was normal at that time, Edward decided to make a new life in New Zealand. He took Mary with him, and they left Britain in August 1912 on a six week journey. Edward kept a diary, including mentions of the concerts he took part in, playing his flute, and that he gave Mary daily lessons and started teaching her French. He continued to keep the diary after arriving in New Zealand, recording his search for employment. He ended up in Brightwater, near Nelson, in the north of South Island, running a fruit farm.

Sgt E D Evans, January 1915

Over four months Edward built a wooden house – which still survives – and he created a garden. Not surprisingly, he found working and bringing up a daughter to be quite challenging. In December 1914 he left Mary in the care of a couple in Auckland, and joined up to fight in World War 1. He wrote to Mary (who had had her tenth birthday in 1914) about his training, and his sea voyage to Turkey.

Having landed on the Gallipoli peninsula, probably on 8 May, in the company of many other Anzac troops, Sergeant Evans was shot several times. He was taken by sea to hospital in Alexandria, Egypt, from where he sent a letter to Mary although he was unable to write it himself. He died on 30 May 1915, and is buried in Chatby Military and War Cemetery. His name appears on memorials in Bath Abbey and Brightwater church.

Mary stayed in New Zealand until 1920 when she returned to England by boat to finish her schooling.

Katherine Slay, Archives Assistant

Uncover more First World War stories on the Great War West Sussex website and hear about the war in soldiers’ own words on the Military Voices website.

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First World War Centenary Poppy Display

In a previous blog post we shared our plans to create a display of poppies in our reception area to mark the centenary of the end of the First World War. We appealed to staff, volunteers, researchers, friends and relatives to contribute handmade poppies to be part of this display.

We received an overwhelming response, with over 600 poppies becoming part of this amazing display, commemorating those who fought and fell in the First World War. It represents a very personal memorial to all those who lost their lives in the First World War.

We wanted to say thank you very much indeed to everyone who contributed poppies, and give particular thanks to Record Office colleagues Clare and Sarah who are the architects of  this moving display.

The poppies, along with a small exhibition of original documents, will remain in the Record Office reception until Monday 19th November. Everyone is welcome to come in and take a look.

 ‘Then as though nature had remembered suddenly how all of this land had been bought, came laden with deep red poppies, massed them together and let them dribble out into the green like the blood that had been so freely spilt here.’

Ralph Ellis, 7th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment, Summer 1916 (Add Mss 25006)

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Great War West Sussex: those who returned and those who were left behind

By Emma Worrall

Men returning from the war faced many problems, financial, mental, and physical, issues which affected their families too. Others did not return at all, creating a new set of challenges for their wives, children, and parents.

Some servicemen were fortunate enough to return to jobs kept open for them, such as International Stores’, Shippams’ and West Sussex County Council (WSCC) employees. WSCC even reinstated wounded soldiers as police constables. Others found new work through local schemes, such as Horsham Post Office employing invalided soldiers. Others began new occupations or found other ways to supplement their disability pensions or income. The post-war Middleton Orchestra, based near Bognor, consisted of discharged soldiers.

International Stores was one business which actively encouraged solders to re-join the company

For those who couldn’t return to their previous lives, new ways of caring for and supporting these veterans was needed. Training programmes and other projects were set up. A Worthing area scheme involved retraining men to be caretakers, gardeners, lift attendants, motor-vehicle drivers and shop assistants. In 1917 a WSCC scheme trained disabled ex-servicemen in agricultural jobs and market  gardening and by July 1919 the Council was leasing 800 acres to ex-servicemen for smallholdings.

Support groups were set up for veterans and for bereaved families, such as the ‘Comrades of the Great War’ who were very active in Horsham. By March 1920 the group had a membership of 563.

Agricultural training scheme for ex-servicemen (WOC/CM83/5/1)

A pension for many disabled and discharged men was the main form of income until employment or training could be found. Pensions for disabled ex-servicemen put a huge financial strain on the state, given that a quarter of those who returned were entitled to these. The application process, therefore, was particularly robust, resulting in some difficult cases.  Mrs Atfield, mother of 9 children, from Durrington, whose husband George returned wounded and died of flu at home, was initially refused a proper pension until a local and national campaign remedied this.

Those on the Home Front, anxiously awaiting news of their loved ones, also felt the strain of the war upon them. Local newspapers report many inquests into the deaths of those who could take no more. John Johnson, a father from Crawley killed himself in 1916, having already lost one son, another badly wounded and a third just conscripted. Ex-servicemen also suffered. In February 1919 ex Artillery officer Arthur Frankham shot himself at Worthing railway station, having suffered from gas attacks and shell shock in France.

The final burden was provided by the influenza pandemic in 1918-19 which killed millions. West Sussex suffered 387 deaths in 1918. Bombardier Jack Smith from Horsham lost his leg whilst fighting in France. He survived and was training to become a hairdresser, only to succumb to double pneumonia following influenza.

The challenges of life in post-war West Sussex for returned ex-servicemen and for the bereaved were many and complex but generally in West Sussex the financial challenges were met, governmental organisations helped with grants, allowances and job creation schemes, and some non-governmental organisations also played a key role.

Emma will be talking about the legacy of the First World War as part of the Record Office’s series of Tuesday Talks. Find out more about forthcoming talks and other events on WSRO’s website: website

Find out more about the First World War in West Sussex on the Great War West Sussex website

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Historic baking – Little almond cakes

Like most people I like baking and cooking, so when Lauren (our Searchroom Archivist) set the challenge to try some historic recipes from the archives, I jumped at the chance to have a go.

One thing I noticed when going through the recipe books held at the Record Office was that over the centuries, there appeared to be a few of the same recipes in all of them, some passed down through the generations or some recipes that have become classics – like the Victoria Sponge or Lemon posset.


20th Century Cookery; How to Cook by Electricity (AM1156/1)

For my attempt I chose a recipe from the 20th Century Cookery Book: How to Cook by Electricity (AM 1156/1), as I liked the familiarity of the recipes (which features items such as Gingerbread and Fruit Scones), and how easy it was to read and interpret. The book dates from the late 1930s, and was an instruction booklet for cooking with electric ovens produced by the Borough of Worthing Electricity Department. Various sources have suggested that most households would have been wired for electricity by then, and indeed the business address for the Borough Electrical Engineer shown on the first page of the volume is listed in the 1938 Worthing directory.

The recipe I decided to bake was for Little Almond Cakes, which were compared to macaroons when the staff at the Record Office tried them.  Indeed when looking up a recipe for macaroons it’s amazing how similar the two were. My initial view of the recipe was that they could be a version of the more colourful macaron and therefore likely to be easy to adapt, especially with adding colour or substituting ingredients such as coconut.Recipie

Interpreting a recipe can be one of the hardest things to do, so what do you do when is says ‘whisk egg whites slightly’? Modern technology intervened here and assuming it was to whisk them like meringue or colourful macarons, I whisked them using an electric mixer to a point when they were not quite white and silky, but light and airy. I then added the sugar (113g) and Almonds (200g), which immediately turned the mixture into a thick paste. I was then asked to place in a forcing (piping) bag and pipe into fancy shapes, which I was unable to do as my mixture was too thick, so placed them on the baking sheet using a teaspoon.

A lot of the recipes in this book asked us to bake at a high heat and then a low heat using Fahrenheit. Which when baking in Celsius all my life seemed a bit odd. Until you realise that as a country we haven’t been using Celsius for that long. The UK met office started to officially report the weather in Celsius from 1962.


The final ‘Little Almond Cakes’

Because the method of baking was using Fahrenheit temperatures; I worked out that to bake these in a modern electric oven it’s about 175°c for the higher temperature and 150°c for the lower temperature. I did two batches with slightly different methods. For the first batch I baked at the higher temperature for 15 minutes and as my oven is very efficient I halved the second baking time (approx. 7-8 minutes). The second batch I baked once at 160°c until golden brown not really noticing the time it took, but rather watched the oven much like the do on ‘Bake Off’. While both methods seemed to go down well it appears that the first batch was the favourite. And even one member of staff asked for the recipe!

A successful bake in all.

Imogen Russell

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