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  THE STORY OF SHOREHAM                            
                LETTERS FRO-11 FRANCE          
                                   
Stores had gone astray, provisions were lacking and much hardship was experienced. The resources of the town were taxed to the uttermost for no chance had been given to prepare for this invasion.                          
  The Division left Shoreham in June, 1915, and marched to the neighbourhood of Blackdown, where they were stationed for some weeks before their final departure for the front.
            Then came a time of suspense, the circulation of rumours of disaster to the 24th Division, which had been terribly "cut up," and all too soon came the tidings of this one and that one, who had gone under. Many, too, were reported missing. A sergeant, writing of one with whom he had formed a firm friendship during the period of training at Shoreham, said :   " We slept together under a haystack the night before the battle. Our duties necessarily separated us when the fighting commenced and I have not seen or heard anything of him since," and, in a later letter, " I cannot hear anything of C. ; he is officially reported as missing."   One of many-alas that it has to be written.
The thousands who thronged the streets of Shoreham that night were hungry, cold and wet, but many of the townspeople extended a ready welcome to numbers of the men and gave them shelter for the night.  
The following days witnessed the arrival of thousands more, and the daily routine of camp-life began in earnest, and with it there arose something of a holiday-making atmosphere, and our somewhat dull little town took on a new garb, as its streets were thronged with these light-hearted warriors in the making.  
Those were the days when battalions of men marching through the High Street and over the Norfolk Bridge to take their morning or afternoon dip, would lustily sing " It's a long way to Tipperary," and " Who's your lady friend ? " or other popular song.   Who, remembering what followed a year or two later, can look back on those fair autumn days of 1914 and remain unmoved ?   In the eloquent words of Mrs. Himiphrey Ward " Before the inward eye rises the phantom host of these boys, part of that great army which sprang to England's aid in the first year of the War and whose graves lie scattered in an endless series along the Western Front and on the heights of Gallipoli. Without counting the cost for one moment, they came at the call of the Great 2NIother from near and far-these boys and their officersboys like themselves, of nineteen or thereabouts-laughing, eager, undaunted, as quick to die as to live, carrying in their hands the fate of England."  
  Another wrote of his experiences and related how he helped to " cart a dixie of stew to the trenches," and how, before this was safely accomplished, the firing commenced. " Shells dropped all round us and snipers, too, were at work," but the stew was taken to the trenches and, " while it was being dished out, fellows were strolling along the parapet as though they were walking down Buckingham Lane.   Then the order to get out and attack. With f ull pack on we scrambled up, doubled away, and getting into line, the fellows went forward as though attacking Cissbury Ring or Lancing Clump.   Not the slightest heed was paid to the hail of bullets absolutely raining upon us, but one saw the awful r6ality of it all when our chums fell beside us, either fatally struck or wounded, and only 73 of the 240 who went into action in this particular attack returned."
  These letters from " somewhere in France " recall to memory the following lines which appeared in an issue of the London Daily News during the War :
Then followed the building of the hutments, during which time the camp was pitched in Buckingham Park and the Oxen Field, which became a tented plain. Meanwhile this immense influx of visitors was accompanied by a great increase in the trade of the town.   Many new businesses made their appearance and such establishments as " Dimity Dining Rooms" and "Tasty Tea Rooms," springing up like mushrooms, catered well for the inner man.  
        CHANCE MEMORIES.            
                         
    I can't forget that lane that goes from Steyning to the Ring In Summer time, and on the Downs how larks and linnets sing High in the sun, the wind comes off the sea, and oh the air !      
    I never knew till now that life in old days was so fair. But now I know it in this filthy rat-infested ditch, When every shell must kill or spare and God alone knows which; And I am made a beast of prey, and this trench is my lair    
                 
During the winter of 1914-15, the soldiers were:billeted upon the inhabitants of Worthing, Shoreham, Southwick, Portslade, and Brighton, returning to camp as the 24th Division when the huts were completed.        
    101y God ! I never knew till now that those days were so fair. And we assault in half an hour, and-it's a silly thing,        
    I can't forget the lane that goes from Steyning to the Ring. PHILIP JOHNSOLM.  
               
                                   
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Copyright © Martin Snow 2002 All rights reserved
Revised 27 February 2002