Arthur Henry Avis

 Arthur Henry Avis, was born on the 9th May 1889 in Rottingdean, Brighton, Sussex.


Family life

The Avis family appear to have lived in Rottingdean for several generations. Arthur’s parents are both from Rottingdean and despite a few years in London where they were both servants they returned to Rottingdean with young children.

1889 saw the birth of Arthur Henry Avis but unfortunately his father died the same year.

Home life

Arthur was the youngest of four children. He had 2 brothers and a sister. The children were brought up by their mother living on her own. At the age of 11 Arthur was a milk boy along with his 13 yr old brother according to the 1901 Census. By the age of 21 he was a Gardener living as a boarder in The Lodge, St Mary’s Hall, Brighton (1911 Census).

On 5th October 1914 Arthur became a Police Constable with the Brighton Borough Police Force.

Military career

Arthur Avis appears on both WW1 Plaques within The Old Police Museum Cells at Brighton Town Hall. They are shown to be with The Royal Sussex Regiment.
The exact location of where these memorials were originally hung is at this moment lost in time. It is known however that both were recovered from the Old Wellington Road Police Station by author and historian, Retired Police Constable David Rowland and safely deposited in store within the basement of Brighton Police Station, John Street.

Arthur Henry Avis received permission to join the Army from the then Chief Constable Mr William Gentle on 12th May 1915. He left the Police on the same and day attested to join the Army on 12th May 1915. He stated his age was 26yrs, a Police Constable living at Garden Cottage, Rottingdean.

Other Police Officers that had applied for permission to join the Army are shown below.

All are released on the same day as Avis;=.

Edward Eade, Edmund N Funnell, Christopher Gaston, Clifford Gaston, William Daniels, William J Berry, Frederick Stephenson, George Simmons, Samuel V Kitchener and Ernest Lynn.

Arhur Avis has a service number of GS/6822 which is consistent with joining The Royal Sussex Regiment between 2nd May 1915 and 1st June 1915. The “GS” signifies those that joined up for General Service but was not always prefixed on their records. He showed his next of kin as his mother Susan giving the address as Garden Cottage, Rottingdean.

Arthur was initially sent for training with the 10th Battalion on 25th May 1915 at Colchester where he also received training in Stretcher bearing and First Aid on 8th September 1915. Several other recruits were from Brighton Borough Police.

He was at Shoreham between 13th September and 29th October 1915.

On 29th October 1915 he went to Weymouth 8th Battalion Depot for Pioneer training.

The 8th Battalion was formed as a new army unit under the recruitment drive launched soon after the outbreak of the war by the Secretary of State Lord Kitchener and although initially formed as an Infantry unit it was converted to a Pioneer Battalion. The 8th played a less active fighting part in the war; its main role was to be one of support, involving hard physical work. That said the 8th Battalion were still fully trained soldiers and they were required to carry all the same equipment as a normal soldier and be prepared to fight.

On 19th November 1915 Arthur joined the British Expeditionary Force and disembarked at Etaples. The Battalion formed part of the 18th Eastern Division.

The war diary of the 8th Battalion contains a mass of detail concerning map references, geographical positions and an amazing amount of technical information on all aspects of the pioneering work carried out, but sadly contains very little information of the non-pioneering activities of the Battalion.

It is known that Arthur would have caught up with his Battalion in or around Albert, just North of the River Somme. The Battalion was committed to general work on defences, which included trenches, dugouts, shelters and billets and remained in the area for December and into 1916 enduring heavy snow at the end of February.

March 1917 saw the beginning of the preparation for the “Big Push” planned for the 1st July 1916. The 18th had started to dig “Russian Saps” from the divisional front line, beneath “No Man’s Land” The Russian Saps were shallow underground tunnels through which men could pass to the attack unseen by the enemy. Arthur would not have seen the completion of the Saps.

In 1916 Army Council instruction No. 1733 was issued with regards to The Military Police. The instruction is long and tedious but in short explains that the system of Policing such large numbers of Soldiers at home and abroad required trained Police Officers. As a result it would appear that soldiers who were Police Officers prior to the war were being transferred to either the MMP (Mounted Military Police) or MFP (Military Foot Police).

The General Duties of a Military Police Officer include:

(1) The detection of crime, and the arrest of offenders.

(2) The maintenance of order under all circumstances.

(3) The surveillance and control of all civilians and followers within the area occupied by their formations.

(4) Assisting in maintaining march discipline of troops and transport and in regulating traffic.

(5) The collection of stragglers.

(6) The custody of prisoners of war until their transfer to railhead or to a P.O.W. working company.

(7) The protection of the local inhabitants against acts of violence on the part of soldiers or followers.

In addition there were numerous special duties they were expected to see to, amongst which were :—

Taking measures to prevent troops getting into contact with undesirable characters—prostitutes, enemy agents, provocateurs, etc. Ill-treatment of animals. Civilians found within the lines without passes or identity cards. Plundering, marauding and looting. Ill-treatment of inhabitants. Soldiers and civilians trafficking in rations or Government property. Unauthorized cameras and photography. Collecting and returning of horses. Careless talk and the apprehension of anyone giving military information. Arrest of suspicious individuals. The shooting of dogs found unattended near the forward lines, and search of the bodies for messages, etc. Seizure of carrier pigeons. Surveillance for means of communication with the enemy.

On 23rd April 1917 Arthur was temporarily transferred to the Military Foot Police for the duration of the war. He is promoted to Lance Corporal and his new service number is P10428.

On 9th May 1917 he joined up with the 1st Army at Pernes in France until 6th July 1918 when he was transferred to the 5th Army “in the field”. He was still serving with the 5th Army on 15th May 1919. On 6th July 1919 Arthur was sent to Boulogne for transfer to England for demobilization via Wimereux, France.

On 8th July Arthur is at the Crystal palace dispersal unit along with the Gaston twins where he is granted 28 days furlough. (Leave)On 4th August 1919 Arthur is transferred to Class Z army reserve. His address is 67 Bates Road, Brighton.

Arthur would have been awarded the British War Medal and Victory Medal and most likely the 1914-1915 Star although the army records do not show this. A medal card cannot be found.


Victory Medal


British War Medal

Post war

Arthur rejoins Brighton Police on 14th August 1919, having served the Colours for 4yrs and 3 monthsAt the age of 36 in 1925, Arthur married a probable divorcee (not a widow) Ethel Frances Maud Nickolls nee Finbow. Ethel already had two children from her previous marriage to Christopher George Nickolls. Harry Joshua Charles Frederick Nickolls aged 15 years and Bernard James Nickolls aged 11yrs. On 31st August 1926 Ethel gave birth to a daughter Gwendoline.

The 1939 Register shows Arthur, still a Police Officer, living at 13 Gerrard Street Brighton with his wife Ethel and their daughter Gwendoline.

Arthur died in Brighton in 1946 aged 57 and Ethel died 17 years later in 1946 aged 75.

Research problems- The only research problem was a lack of Medal Card. Copyright Researched and reported by Ian Borthwick 2017, Retired Sussex Police Officer AB579, Served between Nov 1976 to March 2007.

Patrick Francis Langton – A Hove Private Remembered

20161108_110128.jpgPatrick Francis Langton , born in 1897 in Teddington Surrey, was a bricklayer living at 6 Hove Street in Hove, East Sussex, before becoming a Private in the  Royal Sussex  12th Battalion  39th Division (service number SD/2370).

He died at The Battle of Boar’s Head at Ferme Du Bois France,  the deadliest battle for the Royal Sussex Battalion, on the 30th of June 1916, also known as ‘the day that Sussex died’. Patrick Francis was 19.

George St HoveFAMILY  LIFE

At the time of the 1911 census, Patrick Francis’ parents, John Langton (50 years old), a Cycle Engineer, and his Mother Ada E. Langtono (37 years old) are recorded to have been married for 14 years with three children.

Patrick Francis was the eldest at 13 years of age at the time of the census, followed by his sister Madge at 11 years and brother Fredrick at 9 years.

The family is recorded to have worshiped at All Saints Church Hove Sussex (parish records not available). Patrick Francis is not recorded to have married.

All Saint Church, Hove circa 1910

All Saints Church, Hove, circa 1910


Private Langton was posthumously awarded The Victory Medal and The  British War Medal. He enlisted in the British Army on 15 March 1915 in Hove Sussex.

Soldiers at one of the many camps accross sussex

Soldiers at a Sussex Camp

On 1st November 1915 the 39th Division moved from Aldershot to Whitley Camp to complete its training. Rifles were issued in January 1916 following which the infantry began musketry courses and during February the artillery carried out gunnery practice on Salisbury Plain. (War Records)

Royal Sussex Regement in Training

Sussex Regiment in Training


The following extracts depict the events of The Battle of Boar’s Head that lead to Patrick Francis’ death.

The  12th battalion war diary reads:

‘On 29th June 1916 ‘Two companies marched for Richburg and Vielle Chapelle and joined the  rest of battalion in  the front line  at Ferme Due Bois.  (The Battle of Boar’s Head)  Artillery bombarded enemy trenches from 2pm to 5pm. 12th Battalion attacked enemy front and support  lines and succeeded in entering same. 

The support  line was occupied for about half hour and the front line for four hours. The withdrawal was necessitated by the supply of bombs and ammunition giving out  by heavy enemy barrage on our front line and communication trenches preventing reinforcement being sent forward.’

12th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment

12th Bn Royal Sussex Regiment (image credited to Paul Reed)

Operation orders were  attached to  the diary. The battalion was relieved by the 14th Hants at 10am and marched to Les Lobes after resting at Richburg.

Battle of Boars Head

Lieunant Frank Walter Moyel wrote on the ICRC INDEX CARD for Private Langton: ‘At 3am on June 30th June 1916 some minutes before the attack. The bay Private Langton occupied with [text illegible] was blown in with bombs and heavy artillery – this I  saw myself, as I was  in the next bay. We had to go forward. I did not see him after.’

The concentration report attached to Private 4975 Earnest Leonard Mepham  states: ‘The British uncovered a mass grave containing 84 Unknown British Soldiers and 5 Unknown British Officers who all died on 30th June 1916′

An unnamed soldier of  12TH Battlalion from Eastbourne  gave an eye witness report:

We paraded  to go over the top the next morning. We said the Lord’s Prayer with our chaplain who addressed a few words to us and gave us a blessing. All night we  were hard at work cutting the barbed wire in front and carrying out bridges to put over a big ditch in front of our parapet. 

The time we went over,   guns started a terrible bombardment of the enemy’s trenches..  As soon as this  started the enemy sent up a string of red  lights  as a signal to his own  guns. I got a fragment of shell on the elbow about five minutes before our men went over… They blew our trenches right in, in several  places’


Patrick is Commemorated alongside the other Hove Residents who Fell during The Great War on The Hove War Memorial, the Hove Library Great War Memorial, and the All Saints Church Memorial plaque, the same church his family is recorded to have frequented.


P. F. Langton All Saints Church Hove Memorial

WW1 Memorial Plaque from All Saints Church, Hove, East Sussex

Patrick Francis is also commemorated on The Loos Memorial:

‘Private Langton SD 2370 12TH Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment. 39th Division. Killed in action on the RUE De Bois 30th June 1916 son of John and Ada Langton of 6 Hove Street Hove. Born Teddington and enlisted in Hove.’



Every Man Remembered  writes:

‘Patrick was one of the many casualties in the unsuccessful attack by the 116th. Brigade on The Boar’s Head, near the Rue De Bois at Richebourg. It was a hastily planned action designed to distract the Germans from the main Somme Offensive on 1st. July 1916. A staggering total of 135 of Patrick’s Comrades from the Battalion also Fell on this day’.

In more recent times the following post on the ‘Great War Forum’ in January  2016  records the discovery of Patrick Frances’ ‘death penny’:

‘A very surprising discovery for me at the Ankara Antika Pazari today.  I discovered a ‘death penny’ for Private Patrick Frances Langton. CD 2370. This is the first example I have ever seen here. The only  information from the dealer was that he picked it up some years go on sale in Ankara. I don’t collect these, but I found that could not simply walk by and accept the idea of it just sitting there, and so I bought it…’

This research was completed by Veronica Wright of The Orange Lilies project.















WWI archive research session – The Orange Lilies project

FREE: Research training session at The Keep archive with Research Coordinator Ross Hammond for The Orange Lilies- Brighton and Hove in the Somme project.

Not everyone is able to attend the whole day, so welcome to come along when you can, or leave when you need to. If you’re attending for the whole session, please bring a packed lunch.

This will be a chance to become a member of The Keep and some more advice about using the services there. There is no pressure to stay the whole day but I will be there from 11am – 4pm to offer any help.
The Keep is a world-class centre for archives that opens up access to all the collections of the East Sussex Record Office (ESRO), the Royal Pavilion & Museums Local History Collections and the internationally significant University of Sussex Special Collections. It is also a centre of excellence for conservation and preservation and represents the new generation of archive buildings in the UK. 
The Keep is situated near the Amex Stadium. The easiest way of getting there is via Bus:
By bus
The following Brighton & Hove buses stop just outside The Keep car park at the Brighton Academy bus stop:
Number 23 (Brighton Marina – County Hospital – Queens Park – Lewes Road – Universities)
Number 25 (Palmeira Square – Lewes Road – Universities),
Number 28 (Brighton – Lewes – Ringmer)
This is a link with more information on how to get there.
If you have NOT visited the keep before please bring two forms of Identification:
  1. A photo ID such as Passport, Bus Pass, Driving licence
  2. A letter with your Address and Name

This is so you can get a reader card and get items from the Archive! This card is free for first time members.

You can find more information here:

Venue – The Keep, Woollards way, Brighton BN1 9BP

The Orange Lilies project is delivered by Strike a Light

In Partnership with the following organisations:

Brighton and Hove Lbraries and Information Service, Gateways to the First World War and Fabrica

Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Image of Cyril Flower Martindale of the Royal Sussex Regiment used with kind permission of Patricia Reed


Free WWI events this week!

Free Heritage Open Days events – Brighton & Hove

Thursday 8th, Friday 9th & Saturday 10th September

Keep the Home Fires Burning event –
Heritage Open Days (Free)

Thursday 8th September 1-4pm (Drop in): 

A creatively curated drop-in daytime event, with free workshops, exhibitions, talks, and cafe.

We’ll be hosting songstrels The Close Shaves, creative workshops from artist Fiona Edwards, tea and cakes, WWI era bicycles from the Royal Sussex Cycling Battalion, exhibitions from Gateways to the First World War on cinema and theatre, and also from Royal Pavilion and Museums Brighton and Hove.

The event taking place is part of national Heritage Open Days events. During this special drop-in event, Fabrica opens its doors to the public for an afternoon of stimulating and engaging activities and exhibits.

Book your free place here 

WWI Walking Tour – Friday 9th September:  

Dr Geoffrey Mead will lead an early evening tour for The Boys on the Plaque project, looking at the stories from soldiers on a WWI memorial plaque (based at Fabrica gallery), who with connections to this area of the city.

 The tour runs from 6-7.30pm and starts from Fabrica gallery, 40 Duke Street, Brighton BN1 1AG. The event is free but booking is necessary here.

Friday 9th & Saturday 10th September:

Friday 9th from 1-7pm & Saturday 10th from 1-5pm    

An exhibition specially for Heritage Open Days which focuses on the history of brewing in Lewes, East Sussex and its related industrial and agricultural links from the 18th Century to the present day, a period of some 200 years. The exhibition looks at working life in relation to Breweries, agricultural workers and rural life and trades.

Find out more here

A project in partnership with Harveys Brewery.

Friday 9th & Saturday 10th September:

The Orange Lilies – Brighton and Hove in the Somme exhibition

Friday 9th from 1-7pm & Saturday 10th from 1-5pm

FREE Exhibition and Drop in at Strike a Light, Studio 8 (Mezzanine), Open Market, Marshalls Row, Brighton BN1 4JU

Strike a Light showcases its WWI themed project The Orange Lilies – Brighton and Hove Soldiers in the Somme.

The project focuses the city’s legacy of the Somme and a significant event on the eve of this (where huge numbers of Brighton soldiers fell), The Battle of Boar’s Head (also known as The Day that Sussex Died), as a key part of WWI, and its subsequent impact on Brighton.

In partnership with:

Fabrica gallery, Gateways to the First World War project, and Brighton and Hove Libraries and Information Service.

These are funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Volunteer Research Group starts – get involved!


TOL logoOur new Volunteer Research Group will be meeting next week for the first time, along with Ross Hammond, the new Research Group Coordinator for The Orange Lilies project, to go through training, events and activities as well as exploring our research approach. All welcome!
We will be meeting at Jubilee Library in Brighton from 10.30am-12.30pm on Friday 5th August in the community meet space which is just to the left of the graphic novel section, behind the check out desk on the ground floor.
Do RSVP so we know if you’re able to attend –
Please bring a note book and pen with you too.
Looking forward to seeing you!
With thanks to QueenSpark Books for the image of the postcard from 1916 from their Letter in the Attic project.


Seeking project researchers

The Orange Lilies Project is seeking Volunteer Archive Researchers to support knowledge and history throughout this project. If you’re interested in getting involved then do get in touch. Training will be given.

Archive Researchers will receive support and training to:

  • Visit and work in The Keep archive in Brighton on a number of occasions.
  • Visit the Rare Books Archive at Jubilee Library and other related venues
  • Attend events, exhibitions and outings related to The Orange Lilies project
  • Copy and write up the material gathered so that it can be used by the project and on the website

Skills Required:

  • Learn new skills and think creatively about material in archives
  • Persistence – to find information in archives
  • An interest in local history
  • A positive and imaginative approach to volunteering
  • Good interpersonal and team working skills

For more information, please contact:

Nicola Benge

The Orange Lilies Project Manager

Tel: 07727 006538