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Rottingdean’s Great War
This morning I received a delightful surprise as glimpses of sun broke through the heavy winter grey and old Rottingdean revealed itself around its war memorial and pond. I parked next to the war memorial with its Roll of Honour to both wars, with Rudyard Kipling’s home of five years behind off the green – somewhere he abandoned as it became a popular destination for tourists seeking him out.
A short walk took me onto the South Downs behind Saltdean – a walk that could be greatly extended when doubling back you see to the sea, the iconic old windmill on the hill and in contrast the vastness of the massive Rampion Offshore Wind Farm on the Channel horizon.
The return through the edges of the town showed off the many bedroomed ‘executive homes’ of the last century with their Jags and Range-Rovers, as well as the apparently older properties along Tudor Close by the church and cemetery which turn out to be cottages created out of the 1920s Tudor Cottages Hotel. The Manor House dates back to the 15th century, the Black Horse pub to the 16th century whilst The Elms where Kipling lived is 18th century and the Grange and North End House (where Burn Jones lived and worked) are 19th century.
Much occurred in the late 19th century with Burn Jones and Rudyard Kipling residents and the boarding prep-school St.Aubyns which saw many of its students graduate to the likes of Eton.
My First World War interest saw me visit the exterior of the school (closed for five years and being developed into apartments and houses). Its abandoned and trashed interior can be seen online courtesy of an old boy who broke in a few years ago to take a look. The journalist, author and Scots Guards subaltern Wilfred Ewart was here 1900-1905 as was his friend George Wyndham.
My First World War interest also took me into the churchyard of the quirky St Margaret’s of Antioch with its nativity display still out in late January.
I spotted a dozen or so CWGC graves, mostly the class Portland stone, some private memorials. These include:
|Fireman H Bateman, died 20 May 1917 on the SS Tycho. Mercantile Marine. Steamer sunk by a U Boat off Beachy Head. Body recovered and buried here. (Initial detail from the headstone and the Roll of Honour compiled by Chris Comber).|
|267153 Pte William H Chatfield, Royal Sussex Regimentand 458331 Labour Corps died 14 February 1919 ‘of sickness’ (age 20) Son of Mr and Mrs Herbert Chatfield of 9, The High Street, Rottingdean. (Initial detail from the headstone and the Roll of Honour compiled by Chris Comber).|
|2nd Lieut. David Dennys Fowler, RFC |
Born 20 June 1897, Seawall, Glenelg, South Australia
Son of James Fowler of Dyxcroft, Rottingdean and and Mary Harriet (née Morgan), both were born in south Australia.
In 1898 David’s six year old brother died. At some point in the next year or so the family moved to England.
1901 Albert Gate, Knightsbridge with his parents. His father was a ‘merchant grocer’ (employer) from south Australia. In 1909 a younger brother James was born (the family was by then living in Surrey).
At the 1911 Census, Dennys, age 13, as he is known, was at school, Wavetree House, Furze Hill, Hove, Brighton, the census sheet showing 20 boys ages 12 to 13, of whom two were born in India, and Dennys in Australia. He then went to Harrow, was part of the OTC, leaving in December 1914. Although war had broken out to he took up at place at Trinity College, Cambridge. He had only just matriculated when his mother died on 14 November 1915 in Wimbledon. On 13 January 1916 he applied to become a flying officer. He gained his Aero Certificate in a Maurice Farman Biplane 29 May 1916 at Military School, Catterick Bridge.
Second Lieutenant David Dennys Fowler reported from England and posted to No. 1 Squadron, A.F.C. (Australian Flying Corps), at Heliopolis on 4th September, 1916.
Fowler was wounded on 5 October when his BE2c was hit by anti-aircraft fire while on reconnaissance with 2Lt J Hutchins as his observer, who escaped unhurt, but Fowler was sent to hospital in Tigne, Malta on 5 October 1916 with gsw to left foot. In December 1916 he was invalided back to England and attached to No. 78 Squadron, R.F.C.
Text supplied by Chas Schaedel and the South Australian Aviation Museum History Group
On the night of 17 March 1917 he was flying a B.E.2s Serial number 7181 on a Zeppelin patrol after an air raid. He was turning too near to the ground, causing the left wing tip to touch and the plane crashed about one and a half miles from Telscombe Cliffs Aerodrome and was killed.
He was buried in St.Margaret’s of Antioch Church, Rottingdean on 20 March 1917.
Grave inscription: In His Twentieth Year With Every Promise Of Happiness Before Him He Gave His Life To His Country
Sources: Australian Birth Index; UK, Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919; British World War I Medal Records. Died in Salonika; England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1995; Great Britain, Royal Aero Club Aviators’ Certificates, 1910-1950; 1901 England Census; The Street of Brighton and Hove; Virtual War Memorial, Australia.
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|67450 Pte Reginald W King, The Labour Corps formerly formerly G/3064 with Royal Sussex Regiment died at home 3 November 1918 (age 32) Son of Henry and Lottie King of 29, Quebec Street, Brighton. Husband of Mrs Daisy King of 2, Rifle Butt Road, Rottingdean.|
|Lieut. William Oliver Redman-King (special list) Born in Brighton. Died of pneumonia at home 28 February 1919. Son of Dr. J. B. and Mrs Annie Louise Redman–King of Weetwood Hall, Leeds, Yorkshire. (Initial detail from the headstone and the Roll of Honour compiled by Chris Comber).|
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|Serg.Maj. J H Rose, RFC, died 28 January 1916|
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|Maj. Cuthbert R Rowden RAF/Worcestershire Regiment 78th Sqdn. Formerly with the 5th Worcesters. Died at home 20 April 1918 (age 21) Son of Arthur Roger and Blanche Mary Rowden of Eastnor, Ledbury, Herefordshire. Husband of Mrs Frances Rowden of ‘Halcyon’, Redhill, Surrey. (Initial detail from the headstone and the Roll of Honour compiled by Chris Comber).|
|Fire Engineer J Short, Mercantile Marine S S Tycho died 20 May 1917. When the steamer was sunk by a U-boat off Beachy Head. Body recovered and buried here. (Initial detail from the headstone and the Roll of Honour compiled by Chris Comber).|
A ninth unnamed WWI Mercantile Marine is also remembered here.
I’ll return to Rottingdean to seek out the graves I failed to spot this time round. I will also slowly complete short profiles for each man who served and died. My starting place will be the Roll of honour for the Rottingdean War Memorial produced by Chris Comber in 2004. Where I can find a photograph of the person being remembered and a Pension Card and further family and service details I will feature these in a commemorative post to the ‘Remember on this Day’ pages of The Western Front Association.