Private, G/1302, 2nd Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment
Killed in Action near Béthune, Pas-de-Calais, France, 9 May 1915, aged 21
No known grave. Commemorated on Le Touret Memorial, Panel 20 and 21.
Le Touret Cemetery and Memorial

Le Touret Memorial and Cemetery
(Click to enlarge)

Frederick Sylvester Edwards was born in Hartfield on 8 May 1894, the son of Sylvester (b.1859) and Sarah Ann (née Weeding) (b.1865) Edwards. Sarah Ann Weeding was listed as a servant in the 1881 census. In 1884 she married Sylvester Edwards at Withyham parish church. In 1881 Sylvester was recorded as a labourer and in 1891 as a railway platelayer, when he was working on the track as part of a gang of four as a labourer paid 3 shillings a day. By 1911 he was a farmer at Little Reeds Farm, Hartfield. Little Reeds Farm was near Chuck Hatch and part of the Buckhurst Estate. When he enlisted he was still living at Little Reeds Farm, but his pre-war occupation was recorded as gardener.

Frederick had six siblings in 1911. His younger sister, Ellen Amelia, served as a nurse at the City of London Union Infirmary Military Hospital in London E5 from 1914 to 1919. (The City of London Union workhouse in Clifden Road, Clapton, London E5, had been requisitioned in 1914 by the War Office for use as a military hospital. The City of London Military Hospital had 713 beds for wounded and sick servicemen, and 14 beds for officers with venereal disease. German prisoners of war were also treated at the hospital. The hospital closed in 1919.) Following the war, Ellen Amelia became a registered nurse in 1922, and was still nursing in South London in 1934. She died aged 92 in 1989. She does not appear to have married.

One of Frederick's brothers, Harry, served with the Royal Navy, and would have been 17 when he joined up. He served initially on HMS Victory (a training ship at Portsmouth) and later on the Zaria, from 21 September 1916 to 1919, as a boy servant. HMS Zaria had been requisitioned by the Admiralty for service as a stores carrier in 1914 and spent most of the war in Scapa Flow and Longhope (both on Orkney).

HMS Zaria, on which Frederick's brother Harry served
(Click to enlarge)

Frederick's younger siblings were Annie, Alice, Stanley and George.

Frederick enlisted in September 1914 at Tunbridge Wells and served as a private on the Western Front with the Royal Sussex Regiment. He was killed in action on Sunday, 9 May 1915, near Le Touret, Béthune, in the Pas-de-Calais region of northern France, the day after his 21st birthday, during the Battle of Aubers Ridge [1]. Frederick's battalion, the 2nd Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment, took part in the attack at Richebourg L'Avoué, which lies beyond Le Touret seven miles north-east of Béthune. The bombardment commenced at 5 am. It is not known which company or platoon Frederick was assigned to, but 'A', 'B', 'C' and 'D' Companies all went "over the top" that morning. The assault commenced at 5.30 a.m. but the regiment was unable to make any progress and was halted by the unbroken German wire. The order to withdraw was given at 6.30 a.m., but many dead and wounded still lay out in the open. The 2nd Royal Sussex Regiment lost 14 officers and 548 other ranks killed, wounded and missing.

Fredrick Sylvester Edwards has no known grave and is listed on the Le Touret Memorial, Panel 20 and 21, and on Hartfield War Memorial.

(It is incidentally striking that no less than four men who are commemorated on Hartfield War Memorial, three of whom were members of the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment, all died on the same day taking part in the Battle of Aubers Ridge. They are Pte. Frederick Sylvester Edwards, Pte. Thomas Edward Honeysett, Lt. William Woodfall Melville and Pte. Doctor Wheatley.)

Carol O'Driscoll

1)  For more information about the Battle of Aubers Ridge and the involvement of the Royal Sussex Regiment see
The Long Long Trail: The Battle of Aubers and 2nd Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment War Diary covering the Battle of Aubers Ridge (9th May 1915). [^]