Seaford's War Memorials
|The War Dead|
|With numerous anniversaries of the Great War and World War II occurring at the present time, memorials to the war dead are understandably topical. It may seem a little unfair to spotlight those who died in action, when doubtless many others who deserve recognition also lie within our graveyards. Given the prevailing interest in the victims of war, however, and their often separate memorials, we are nevertheless highlighting them in what we hope is an appropriate manner so as to enable their names and locations to be found fairly easily.|
There are, broadly speaking, two categories of "war dead": those given official recognition and those who, for whatever reason, were not. Among the latter are those who died either as bystanders (civilian casualties), or as more actively engaged but who did not qualify for official recognition. There are over a dozen known memorials which gather together the names of Seafordians (and visitors) who died as a result of war, whether buried in Seaford or elsewhere. Others have disappeared from public view.
|Some anomalies may be found between names on the Town War Memorials and commemorations on individual graves. Names to be included in The Great War and later combined wars Seaford War Memorial had to be submitted; some families chose not to have their relatives included, often because the memory was still too painful and they did not wish to see permanent reminders of their losses.|
Many memorials only identify individuals by their initials. The full names can usually be found on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. Where discovered the full forenames are gradually being included in the names index pages.
|The great majority of individual monuments to war dead are in Seaford Cemetery. As well as the striking Great War Cross of Sacrifice to the south of the Chapel, a visitor cannot fail to notice the ranks of uniform Commonwealth (formerly Imperial) War Graves Commission headstones in the Main Area. The Cemetery holds 254 World War I Graves, and 25 military casualties from World War II.|
|WWI: Seaford had had a military camp for some years; indeed, the first soldier buried in the cemetery was Trumpeter Albert Pink, killed at Seaford Camp while on manoeuvres here in 1906. With greatly expanded facilities, Seaford was extensively used as a training and embarkation base for British Empire (now Commonwealth) troops during the Great War. Its two camps - 'North Camp' in the then open fields between the cemetery and East Blatchington, and 'South Camp' on the lower rear slopes of Seaford Head - could hold 18,000 men. The World War I War Graves commemorate Canadians, Ulstermen, soldiers of the British West Indies Regiment (whose 1st Battalion was formed at Seaford) and soldiers from a number of British regiments which passed through. The majority died without reaching a battlefield, some due to accidents such as drowning, but more often due to sickness. The 1918-19 influenza pandemic took many who were awaiting repatriation, and - as elsewhere - a number died in Seaford while recuperating from wounds, including gas attack.|
Canadian Memorial: Although there are graves for some 191 Canadian servicemen who died in Seaford during the First World War, there is no Canadian War Memorial in Seaford. We have often been asked for its whereabouts by Canadian visitors, and had to disappoint them. Enquiries have established that there are no plans by the Government of Canada to erect an official memorial here.
|A number of private memorials across the Main Area commemorate individuals who died on active service overseas, but whose remains were not repatriated for burial.|
CWGC-listed graves are indicated in blue on the Cemetery Block Plans. The 2016 'guided tour' of the cemetery's war graves, sponsored by the CWGC and giving historical and other information, provides an excellent introduction to anyone interested in the relatively large number of war graves here.
|War Graves, Memorials and The Commonwealth War Graves Commission|
|The CWGC (formerly The Imperial War Graves Commission) operates out of six Commonwealth countries: UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India and South Africa. It is directly responsible for the graves and memorials, at home and abroad, relating to Commonwealth or Dominion military deaths during the First World War (4 August 1914 to 31 August 1921) and Second World War (3 September 1939 to 31 December 1947). It is not responsible for service casualties during non-Commonwealth conflicts (eg: the Korean War, Northern Ireland and Afghanistan) because they do not come under its Charter.|
The MoD: Non-Commonwealth casualties are the responsibility of the Ministry of Defence (MoD), currently its Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre (JCCC). Enquiries about casualties not listed by the CWGC should be directed to the Ministry of Defence. Depending upon circumstances the MoD might ask the CWGC to maintain its graves, but this is often difficult with such graves being scattered across numerous cemeteries, and frequently erected by relatives. For a nearby example, at Lewes the WWII memorials are in a tidy group ; the WWI headstones are somewhat scattered, but evidently looked after while the surroundings are maintained by the Council.
In the long history of British military involvement overseas, only recently has the UK repatriated the bodies of servicemen. Hitherto they would normally be buried in the country where they fell, which, in the case of those who died in such numbers in the World Wars, made it easier for the CWGC to purchase areas for use as cemeteries and/or memorials for those who fell in particular campaigns or battles. Overall it currently maintains some 23,000 sites in 154 countries worldwide.
Seafordians: Most of the Seafordians who fell in the World Wars are commemorated on the Seaford War Memorials. There are exceptions, a not uncommon reason being that the person was not officially a Seaford resident at the time, and may therefore be commemorated on another town's Memorial or Roll of Honour.
Private memorials: If a war burial has been in a private, family plot, it is not maintained by the Commission, but may still be classed as a "war grave" by the CWGC. Should it turn out that a private "war grave" falls into disrepair, the CWGC may decide to replace the crumbling memorial with a fresh headstone in its own style. While the World War I plot numbers recorded by the CWGC remain largely correct, the letters indicating areas were superceded by a later re-assignment of section names. If looking for a location, therefore, the Names Index here is likely to be more helpful.
CWGC headstones: The distinctive simple but dignified CWGC gravestones have traditionally been made of Portland Stone. The fact that most appear to have remained in good condition suggests this an enduring material, but being a sandstone it is not. The CWGC's inspectors routinely replace stones whose lettering is beginning to deteriorate, or which show signs of cracking or other damage. Some can be repaired by engravers in situ; others cannot, and the CWGC's engravers mainly work on the much larger war cemeteries in mainland Europe. Depending upon the site, a stone in somewhere like Seaford may last roughly 15 years in the pristine condition in which the CWGC aims to maintain all memorials. Few - if any - of those currently visible are originals, therefore. In recent years the Commission has been using an Italian limestone from Bottecino, but its quality has proved to be variable, and they intend returning to Portland or seeking an alternative again. It takes approximately 2 years between a headstone being noted as requiring replacement and a fresh stone arriving from their workshop at Beaurains, near Arras in France.
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