Demobilised Men’s Day

This is a transcription of a report on Bexhill’s Demobilised Mens Day reported in the Bexhill Chronicle.


“Bexhill’ s Welcome Home
Ex-Service Men Feted
Impressive Service for the Fallen
Full Sports Results

On Wednesday Bexhill welcomed home her serving sons.

In beautiful weather the whole programme for the day passed off with a smoothness and ease which spoke volumes for the patient care in arrangement bestowed by the organisers.

The proceedings commenced with a procession. This had evidently appealed to the ex-service men in the town for they responded to the invitation to participate in the proceedings in large numbers. The procession formed up on the Down, and then headed by the Springfield Brass Band, the Mayor and Corporation, the ex-service members of the Fire Brigade and the local clergy, proceeded to the Colonnade for the memorial service. The route was via Station Road, Sea Road, St Leonards Road, Devonshire Road and the Parade. Many of the buildings along the line of route were decorated with flags and bunting and in some cases there were streamers along the streets. Everywhere the returned men received the ovations of the large crowds. As they passed the Roberts Marine Mansions, which had been tastefully decorated, the crowds of guests on the balconies showered cigarettes on the men in the procession.

Shortly before reaching the colonnade the Band of H. M. Irish Guards, under the conductorship of Lieut. C. H. Hassell, met the head of the procession and lead them into the enclosure.

In Memoriam

There rises up before me,
As the morning lifts her head,
And the pearly mists of summer,
Over sea and moorland spread –
Oh! What crowds of happy faces
Who’d greet the day with me
But for a voice that called them –
The voice of chivalry.

With the silver-white mist on the Channel blotting out the horizon, and a sense of stillness in the air, we gathered in the Colonnade on Wednesday in a public, united act of remembrance.

We had seen the hundreds of returned men swing along in the procession to the strains, as they came in sight of the shrouded Channel, of “Sussex by the Sea” – seen them, and cheered them, and welcomed them. And now we gathered with them to remember those who, going out with them at the call of chivalry, passed on and will return no more.

In the enclosure were representatives of all the fighting forces of the Crown – soldiers, sailors, airmen. Those who had taken their stand amidst the horrors of the trench-scored battlefield; those who had braved the deadliest subtleties of the foe as they kept watch and ward on the high seas; those who had had us in their care as they met the foe as he flew in the darkness; those who had cared for the wants of the living and the needs of the dying; and

Those Who had Simply Waited

– “they also served.” So we gathered, men and women from all grades of society, from all forms of employment, with as many different creeds as Christendom will hold – for the moment welded together by a common desire – to remember those who fell at their side. Behind the bandstand the serried rows of mourning figures smote the onlookers with a grim reminder that war has two sides, and that to many Peace has brought nothing but a new and more poignant reminder of irreparable loss.

After the familiar strains of Elgar’s national hymn – played, as we have seldom heard it played, by the Band of the Irish Guards – had died away we sang “Ten thousand times ten thousand” and in imagination saw the vast throng of those who passed over in the execution of their task, victors in the strife, “throng up the steeps of light.” Then the Rev E. Mortlock recited the special prayers for the occasion, and as he remembered “our brothers and sisters . . . . . . who have laid down their lives for their country,” we too remembered that it was not only the manhood of our nation who answered the call of duty – it was the womanhood, too, and that “over there” many a white cross marks the last resting place of those in all branches of service. With these words still in our ears, how appropriate the lesson chosen: “These all died in faith, not having received the promises but having seen them afar off.”

The thought added a sense of completeness to the lives of men and women who, striving for peace and victory, passed on in the midst of war. The hymn “Peace, perfect peace” was very impressive with the tolling undertones of the Guards muffled drums.

Never happy in his choice of expression, restrained and dignified in his diction, the Rev was never more so than in his address, the burden of which was that there must be

No Broken Pillar

In our remembrance of those who died – there is no such thing as incompleteness in God’s ordering of any life. They have not died before their time but having completed the work He gave them to do, they wait in peace and rest for the final triumph and for the reunion of all the people of God.

The closing hymn was the great Christian pean of victory and gratitude, “For all the saints,” and as we sang “But lo! There breaks a yet more glorious day,” the sun, hidden by the shimmering mist, broke through, flooding the scene with golden splendour. Instinctively we looked across the Channel spreading calm and silvery at our feet, towards the land of France, and saw in memory its war-scarred face and desolated homes, and those innumerable clusters of white-crossed mounds, sacred to the dead.

Then the dread and awful chords of Chopin’s “Marche Funebre” – restless, stirring, anguished: then growing peaceful, finally swelling into triumph. And the Last Post – poignant with memories to the serving men.

As the service closed we paused a moment in mute salute of the “Army of the dead” – the brave spirits who “went west” with a smile in their eyes and a jest on their lips, and never a thought of heroism –

We’ll never forget that you suffered and died
For a cause that was noble and true;
We’ll never forget this land lives on
Through the death of such men as you.

The Memorial Service

At the service in the Colonnade there was a very large and representative gathering. Those taking part in the service included the Rector of Bexhill (the Rev H. W. Maycock, M. A.), The Rev E. Mortlock M. A. (Vicar of St Barnabas Church), the Rev J. Osborne, M. A. (Minister of the Station Road Congregational Church), and the Rev E. H. Leale, B. A. (Vicar of St Stephen’s Church). The civic party present included the Mayor (Alderman Geo. Herbert Gray, J. P.), The Mayoress and Miss Gray; the Deputy Mayor (Mr Counsellor F. W. Vane, I. S. O.),, and Mrs Vane; Mr T. E. Rodgers, LLB. (Town Clerk), Alderman Frank Bond, M. A., Alderman J. B. Wall, Alderman J. A. Paton, J. P., Councillor J. Rodgers, Councillor J. E. Stevens, Councillor T. Bodle, Councillor S. Baker, Councillor R. H. Burstow, Councillor W. Brown, Councillor Capt. F. S. Dunn, Councillor R. C. Sewell, etc. Others present included the Rev Prebendary Carlisle, the Rev L. R. Tuttiett, the Rev M. B. Stuart-Fox, etc.

In front of the bandstand was a laurel wreath, over a draped Union Jack, with the words picked out in white flowers “Our Glorious Dead.”

The proceedings opened with “Land of Hope and Glory,” rendered by the band of the Irish Guards, followed by the hymn, “Ten thousand times ten thousand.” The prayers were read by the Rev. E. Mortlock, and the lesson by the Rev J. Osborne. After the hymn “Peace, perfect peace,” an address was given by the Rector.

The Rector’s Address

It was a happy thought, said the Rector that we should make a united acknowledgement and expression of gratitude to those who laid down their lives in the service of their country. It was a privilege which he felt very deeply that he should have been asked to put into words, what they were all feeling, the thankfulness and pride that not for the first time in their history, Englishmen were found ready to sacrifice every interest and every inclination in the service of that grand old country which had given them all they possessed and which had made them all that they were. A service such as that was the least that they could do; it was a consolation to those friends and relations who had offered them so willingly and gladly, and who now suffered the inevitable sense of loneliness and desolation. He knew there were people still who spoke of a life cut short, and they marked such an event with a broken column. They knew nothing of a life cut short – there was no such thing in the family of God. These men had passed on to a higher, better, and more joyous life and service. Had they remained with us, they might have made many friends, gained many honours, amassed some wealth, but they would have won nothing so lasting or glorious as that which they now appreciated, as in peace and rest they wait for the final triumph for the reunion of all the people of God. Speaking to those who remain, Mr Maycock said that there were changes today undreamed of before – changes which they would have thought impossible. The stages had been shortened by generations and things would never be as they were before. Under the pressure of war, the nation had learned

Unity, Corporation and Unselfishness

They who had remained at home had read of the things done in the trenches, of the sacrifices made and conditions endured, and they felt that they could not live self-centred here, whilst those things were being done by the men in the field. That had all been learned under the pressure of war, and surely the lessons remained now that war was passed. They recognised that they were all part of one community. In a country that was room for all sorts and sizes, but the one thing necessary was that all should do their part. The selfish advantage of one could only be secured at the expense of another. There was no use for idleness in a nation. They had learned, and please God they would remember, that the keynote of a happy life was Unity, Corporation and Unselfishness. A distinguished foreigner who had recently left the shores of Britain after a short stay had well said, “as a result of the war, from now onward, no man can claim special considerations simply because he is an employer of a working man. He must rest his rights on the fact that he is a man, and rights have no value except in so far as they are sanctioned by his duties.”

“If,” said the Rev gentleman, in conclusion, “we can remember that and act up to it, the question will no longer be asked, ‘Was it worth fighting for after all?’”

After the closing hymn, “For all the saints,” the Rev E. H. Leale pronounced the Benediction, and the band played Chopin’s “Marche Funebre,” after which the “Last Post” was sounded by Mr G. H. Crowhurst, formerly band sergeant of the Bexhill V. T. C. The National Anthem concluded a memorable service.

Sports in Egerton Park

Soon after 1 p.m. the general crowd made its way to Egerton Park, where the second chief feature of the day was to take place. This took the form of athletic sports, and in the afternoon the sun was shining with a power and brilliance that greatly added to the gaiety of the scene. The eastern lawn of the Park had been arranged in admirable manner for the carrying out of the events. Several special enclosures were provided and the spectators formed a dense cordon right round the circle of the turf. The spectacle was one of the brightest one could wish to see, and the interest displayed in the prowess of our men was whole-hearted and sincere. The “Springfield” Band occupied the bandstand and provided lively music from time to time. During an interval the Band of the Irish Guards from the Colonnade played selections.

When the afternoon was well advanced the waterplane belonging to the Eastbourne Aviation Co. flew over and films were taken from it for Mr J. F. Ash, of the St Georges Cinema. Great excitement was caused by a message that was dropped from the air which, when read out, proved to be from Mr Ash as follows: “God bless the boys who made this day possible.” This graceful tribute to our gallant fellows was received with considerable applause. Amusement was caused in the Band race when at the conclusion the “Springfield” Band struck up “Sussex by the Sea,” while the Irishmen played “Tipperary.” Owing to the slight similitude of the tunes quite an effective harmony was made, which was greeted with prolonged applause.

It would be impossible to deal with the various events in description, but we may truly say that every competitor made an excellent showing. Perhaps the “favourite” of the afternoon was a well-known young local athlete, Mr H. F. Steniford, who managed to secure three first prizes; in the open 100 yards, 440 yards, and the obstacle race. Besides winning in three races Mr Steniford ran in several other events. The spectators were amused by the pillow fighting which was well carried out. One of the finest events was the tug-of-war between several very strong teams. The various “pulls” provided great interest.

The judges and other members of the committee worked most assiduously all the afternoon, and most valuable assistance was rendered by Miss Muriel Gray, the Mayor’s daughter, who was incidentally responsible for the cover design of the programme.

The members of the Committee were as follows: President, His Worship the Mayor, Alderman G. H. Gray; Chairman, Mr R. C. Sewell; Messers H. Baker, E. F. Bond, A. Burton, R. S. Challis, E. Gillham, P. Heath, E. Hughes, H. Makin, H. A. Long, D. B. McGregor, H. E. Marsh, A. Morris, W. H. Sanders, A. G. Wells, G. Stanbridge, E. E. Moody, W. A. H. Barnes, Rev. L. R. Tuttlett, R. H. Burstow, P. Webber, C. S. Parker, A. Whicher, Hon. Secretaries.

A notable feature of the afternoon sports was the fact that the programme was adhered to scrupulously as regards time and everything went off without the slightest hitch. Refreshments were to be secured on the ground, and everything was done to add to the pleasure of the day.

Presentation of Prizes

The prize giving took place from the bandstand, those present being the Mayor (Alderman G. H. Gray), the Mayoress, Miss Gray, Councillor F. W. Vane, I. S. Oh., And Mrs Vane, Lady Francis Legge, Councillor R. C. Sewell, Lieut. C. S. Parker, Mr A. Whicher, and Captain W. Barnes. The prizes, which were most handsome, and consisted of useful articles, were handed to the winners by the Mayoress. At the conclusion of the ceremony Councillor Sewell expressed to the Mayor and Mayoress the appreciation of the committee and all who had been connected with the sports, for the gracious and kindly way in which she had presented the prizes. Those on the committee were already aware of the vast amount of work the Mayor had put into the arrangements and he would also express the intense admiration of the great amount of work Miss Gray had done. It was the feeling of the Sports Committee that Miss Gray throughout had been the mainspring of all their actions and efforts (applause). He expressed to His Worship, the Mayoress and Miss Gray not only their thanks for being present but for the support Miss Gray had given to the great Bexhill demobilized men’s day (applause).

The Mayor’s Tribute

The Mayor replied, and said speaking on behalf of the Mayoress, that it had been a great pleasure to associate herself with the glorious day. The work the committee had put into the arrangements had been remarkable. For months they had been organising those sports, and the results were well shown that afternoon. When it was first decided to arrange a day to welcome home their sons and brothers from the wall they decided that the best plan was to let the lads themselves organised details, and so the committee was formed with results absolutely admirable.

They were grateful for the immense amount of time everyone had given up and were thankful to all who had contributed to the prizes so liberally. They were of excellent quality, and that represented the quality of their affections for they who had answered the country’s call. The prizes were given in a most open-handed manner, and his daughter could bear testimony to the way in which they had been given. He was proud to be associated with the great and glorious day, and he hoped that after the day all would feel more united than ever before (applause).

Three cheers were given for the Mayor and Mayoress with another for Miss Gray.

Just before the ceremony commenced a bouquet was handed to the Mayoress by little Miss Fisk (the youngest competitor in the sports).

The children’s prizes were distributed by Miss Gray after tea had been served to them.

A very merry party sat down to the excellent spread that was provided for them.

Later in the evening the “Poppies” provided the children, parents and others with a special performance, which was greatly enjoyed.

Full Sports Results

A specially remarkable feature of the sports was the large number of entries, 776 being recorded. The following are the full results: –

Slow bicycle race. – 1st heat; C. Dallaway, G. Edwards; 2nd heat: C. S. Harris, A. Hemsley: 3rd: W. Swaine, A. Owers; final: 1, W. G. Dimmock; 2, C. G. Harris; 3, A. Owers; 4, C. Dallaway.

High jump (6ft. 10ins.) – 1, W. Adams; 2, A. Hemsley; 3, Ramdin; 4, F. Scrace

100 yards, men over 35 – 1st heat: G. Bates; 2nd heat: R. Bressey; 3rd heat: S. Carey, 4th heat: A. Hollands; 5th heat: H. A. Long; 6th heat: H. Read; final: 1. H. Read; 2, A. Hollands; 3. H. A. Long; 4, S. Carey; 5. R. Bressey; 6, G. Bates; special prize to oldest competitor, Q. M. S. Collins.

Open 100 yards, – 1st heat: 1, P. Flatt; 2, T. Collier; 3, A. R. Evenden; 2nd heat: 1, H. F. Steniford; 2, L. Nansen; 3. F. Sanders; final 1. A. F. Steniford; 2, P. Flatt; 3, L. Nansen; 4, F. Sanders.

Pillow fight. 1, G. Shoesmith; 2, W. C. Greed; 3, P. J. Brown; 4, C. Dallaway.

Half mile.- 1st heat: 1, A. Mullins; 2, C. Damm; 3, G. Edwards; 2nd heat: 1, J. Wood; 2, G. Munn; 3, H. Reed. Final: 1, A. Mullins; 2, J. Wood; 3, C. Damm ; 4, G. Munn; 5, G. Edwards.

Tandem race. 1st heat: 1, W. G. Dimmock and partner; 2, A. Gillham and partner; 3, D. Clark and partner; 2nd heat: 1, Bradfield and partner; 2, H. N. Suter and partner; 3, W. H. Stacey and partner. Final: 1, A. Gillham and partner; 2, H. N. Suter and partner; 3, W. H.. Stacey and partner.

Men under 35 (100 yards). 1st heat: P. Collier; 2nd heat: J. W. Davies; 3rd heat: C. Lennox; 4th heat, A. Mullins; 5th heat. J. R. Skirth; 6th heat: H. F. Steniford. Final: 1, J. W. Davies.; 2, P. Collier; 3, C. Lennox; 4, A. Mullins; 5, J. R. Skirth.

Band race (“Springfield” Band and Irish Guards) – 1. F. S. Harmer (“Springfield”); 2, H. E. Wall (Irish Guards); 3, G. Melhuish (Irish Guards).

Ladies egg and spoon race, – 1, Mrs Ancock; 2, Miss Ransom; 3, Mrs McCall; 4, Miss Harris.

440 yards, open – 1, F. H. Stentiford; 2, F. Sanders; 3, P. Flatt; 4. L. Nansen

Sack and boot race, – 1st heat; 1, W. Barker; 2. R. Clerk; 2nd heat: 1, G. Edwards; 2, W. J. Farnfield; 3rd heat: 1, A. Hemsley; 2, W. Jones. Final: 1, W. Barker; 2, A. Hemsley; A. W. Jones; 4, W. J. Farnfield.

Open mile – 1, F. Sanders; 2, P. Flatt; 3. L. Nansen; 4, A. Mullins.

Obstacle race – 1, H. F. Stentiford; 2. A. Hemsley; 3, W. Swaine; 4, F. Tughill; 5, J. Wood.

Special “lucky” number prize; Mr Millwood (cheque for £20, presented by Mr John F. Ash).

Tug-of-war – 1. Mr S. Carey’s team; 2, Royal Engineers (B) team; runners-up, Mr. R. Leaney’s team and R. E. (A) team.

Children’s Events

Boys under 10 who lost father – 1, J. Clark; 2, P. Whitehead; 3, A. Adams; 4, Benford

Boys under 10 who have lost fathers; 1. Arthur Honiset; 2, W. Reade; 3, L. Clifton; 4, E. Clifton.

Girls under 10 who have lost fathers; 1, Evelyn Clark; 2, Mabel Southgate; 3, May Filmer; 4, Florrie Hunnisett; 5, Winnie Morley.

Boys under 10 – 1, D. Hyde; 2, J. Jones; 3, K. Gray; 4, I. Sullivan.

Boys over 10 – 1, B. Stenniffer; 2, C. Andrews; 3, R. Richardson; 4, L. Grace.

Girls under 10 – 1, Doris Harris; 2, Elsie Clifton; 3, Violet Allen ‘ • 4, Edith Barker.

Girls over 10 – 1, N. Gray; 2, D. Hart; 3, N. Offen; 4, L. Gray.

Girls over 10 who have lost their fathers: 1, Elsie Chrisp – 2 and 3 (dead heat), Emily Clark and Evelyn Clark; 4, P. Fisk.

The Evening Carnival

The final item of the day’s proceedings was the Carnival which was held on the West Parade by the clock tower and the bandstand. As darkness came on a charming effect was produced by strings of coloured fairy lamps, and under the light of the big full moon a gay party of revellers danced and made merry. There was a pierrot with a gay pierrette. A lady of Turkey all in bright colours, clever character impersonations and novelty costumes. The “Springfield” Band provided some excellent selections. Confetti battles were a feature of the merriment and fireworks were let off every now and again. Coloured flares gave mysterious effects as they lit up the dense crowd, and above it all the Coronation clock marked the passing of time. When 11.30 struck out all was over and the revellers made their way home in cheerful parties.

The day, looked at generally, was an effort to welcome our men back well worthy of our town. None of the helpers spared labour in any respect; it was due to their wholehearted efforts that the proceedings went off with such éclat.

Special prizes were given for the best fancy costumes, the winners being as follow: Best ladies, Miss Massey (searchlight); most original ladies, Miss Ransom; best gentleman’s, Mr Leo Wells (Red Indians); most original gentleman, Master Bristow (sailor and bride).

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