Bear Road, Brighton

GFHC1GFHC2 CWGC3Returning from a May bank Holiday trip to Brighton, it was only right to call in at the City Cemetery on Bear Road to view the resting place of one of the Summerstown182. Holding the fort on the south coast is George Francis Henry Colwell of the Royal Sussex Regiment. It was a glorious evening and the old victorian cemetery, perched high above the city on the edge of the downs, is a world away from the frantic activity beneath it. There are great views as the northern side of Brighton tumbles down towards the sea. It is also an enormous 44 acre site and finding the First World War plot was troublesome. We did though stumble upon a cluster of seventeen German graves, Luftwaffe pilots from three planes which crash-landed in the Second World War. It was the first time I have seen any in a UK cemetery and apart from their iron cross motif, they are almost indistinguishable from their CWGC counterparts. Many of the CWGC graves curiously dated from the fifties and sixties and then I noticed that they all bore the crest of St Dunstan’s and must have been blinded ex-servicemen from the nearby hospital. A man in a green truck advised that he was locking up so we had to leave and find somewhere to park the car. I wasn’t giving up, but getting back in involved scaling an eight foot high wall. This was easy enough but it was embedded with jagged shards of south downs flint which left a few holes in my palms. I soon found George’s grave. He’s on the left hand side of the middle photograph, looking out in the direction the sea. The Germans are higher up the hill behind him and facing west. I haven’t discovered yet how he joined the Royal Sussex or came to be buried here. He must have come back to England injured and died either on the way to, or in a hospital. But he is one of the 182 names on the St Mary’s war memorial and is mentioned in the parish magazine. In June 1918 Reverend Robinson writes ‘St George Francis Henry Colwell, Royal Sussex Regiment died of his wounds on Nov. 28th 1917’. The other member of the Summerstown182 in this regiment, Eldred Henden, was killed just a few months later. The eldest of three brothers and one sister, in 1911 George was living at 38 Hazelhurst Road with his widowed father Henry. All three boys worked as iron enamellers. George was 25 at that stage and at least one of his brothers followed him into the army, William being in the 21st Lancers. No38 was destined for destruction thirty years later when a V2 rocket landed on Hazelhurst Road and four members of the families who were living there at the time were killed. I’m not sure yet what battalion George was in, so can’t be sure what the action was which lead to his death. The date suggests the Battle of Cambrai in which his regiment were heavily involved. The Memorial Chapel of the Royal Sussex Regiment in Chichester Cathedral contains panels listing the names of the 6,800 of its ranks who fell in the 1914-18 war. George Francis Henry Colwell should be one of them. Thank goodness we’re not trying to find homes for all of them. http://www.royalsussex.org.uk/RSLHG_St%20George’s%20Chapel.htm

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