Armistice centenary 2018 – Strike a Light attends memorial at Westminster Abbey

45284353_282863865696332_219482063005286400_nWe’re off to Westminster Abbey in London this Sunday 11th November for the special centenary commemorations of World War I along with the Royal Family, for our work with Strike a Light-Arts & Heritage on The Orange Lilies: Brighton & Hove in the Somme project from 2016 onwards.

We’re very honoured to have been invited and feel like we’re representing all the fantastic Great War focussed projects in Brighton and Hove on a national level.

Thanks to all our project partners – Brighton and Hove Libraries and Information Service, Fabrica Gallery and Gateways to the First World War, as well as our indispensible volunteers and participants who were involved in bringing this research to life during this time and helping remember the lives of the Royal Sussex Regiment during WWI.


Our final event!

20170630_170652-e1499443215907.jpgWe marked the end of our The Orange Lilies – Brighton & Hove in the Somme project with a big community history event on 30th June 2017 at Jubilee Library in Brighton.

It was a roaring success with a great variety of speakers and around 150 visitors to the drop in day, listening to presentations, visiting stalls and exhibitions at the venue, followed by the unveiling of a memorial stone to those who fell at The Battle of Boar’s Head on 30th June 1916.

Just to say a huge thank you for your support and delivery for The Orange Lilies project since June 2016.
Your time and expertise has really served to make the project happen and is so very much appreciated. I really can’t thank you enough for your involvement!
We are still uploading research to the project website, so things won’t end right away, but in terms of project delivery we are now complete.
I must say it’s come round far too soon and I feel in some ways like we’ve just got started, so am sad to finish, but on to projects new for now.
We’ve had great feedback from visitors for the day in general and also each specific session. The day was a real success and we had around 150 visitors ongoing through the day to hear your presentations. I hope you enjoyed it too!
‘I was glad to catch Geoffrey Mead’s talk. Fascinating!’
‘The speakers were of an extremely high standard’
‘Chris Kempshall’s talk was my favourite part’
‘A fascinating day, thank you!’
‘Really enjoyed it’
‘The speakers were all inspirational, amusing, entertaining, relevant and inspiring’
‘It was an illuminating and fascinating day of events’
‘All the presentations (including the Q+A) were of an extremely high standard’
‘Many congratulations on a superb project’
If you’d like to join the Strike a Light mailing list for future project activities and events, do let me know and I’ll add you to the newsletter. 
To keep up with us in other ways you can ‘Follow’ the Strike a Light website –
or on Twitter – @strikerlight



Put a date in your diaries for this FREE event next week on Friday 30th June 11am-4.30pm at Jubilee Library, Jubilee Street, Brighton BN1 1GE.

Book your free place here:

We have lots of speakers during the day including Dr Frank Gray (Screen Archive South East) showing Sussex in WWI film clips, Dr Chris Kempshall discussing East Sussex in WWI, Gateways to the First World War, Dr Alison Fellon Women Workers in WWI, and Dr Geoffrey Mead from the University of Sussex talking about Laundrey Maids and Fisherman in Brighton during WWI.

We’ll also have exhibitions in the main area, and a Q& A lunchtime session chaired by Dr Sam Carroll. You are welcome to drop in, or stay all day, and sit and eat your lunch whilst hearing more about this fascinating period of history with a Brighton perspective.

We are exhibiting our textiles from two projects  alongside a series of bespoke short films about the city in WWI (made by young filmmakers), for the BFESTBrighton Youth Festival starting on 28th May. This exhibition will continue until 4th July 2017.

Find out more about The Orange Lilies project here:

With support from project partners Fabrica Gallery, Brighton and Hove Libraries and Information Service, and Gateways to the First World War.

Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund

The Orange Lilies

The Orange Lilies project runs until July 2017, and we have free events and activities taking place throughout the rest of the project.

We have been uploading memories and research to our project website which we’d love you to view.

Visit and view our textiles banner about the impact of the Somme on the city, and a selection of films made by young people about the centenary of the battle in an exhibition of our work at Jubilee Library in the Youth area from now until 4th July.

Visit our project site for further information

Funded by The Heritage Lottery Fund

Jack Cheesman

Jack Cheesman was born on 19th September 1889 in Watersfield, Pulborough, West Sussex. Jack is first found in the 1891 Census as a one year old boy living with his parents and his elder sister at Morley Farm, Bury, West Sussex.

Jack was the second child of his father Charles and mother Alice Beatrice Cheesman. His father was a Hay Tyer. Charles and Alice Beatrice Lee married in 1887. Lillian Cheesman is Jack’s elder sister who is two years his senior born in the last quarter of 1887.

The 1901 census found Jack, who is now 11 years of age as a schoolboy living with his mother at 1, South Street, Cold Waltham, West Sussex. His mother Alice is living on “Parish Relief”. Lilian is a 13 year old servant living in Finchley. Charles Cheesman, the father died in 1887. Three other children are born to the family prior to his death; Ethel, Laura and Elsie. Elsie died in 1910 at the age of 12 years old, the reason is unknown without purchasing the death certificate.

According to the UK Railway Employment Records 1833 to 1956, Jack is employed as a Porter at Warnham and Ockley Railway Stations between 3rd July 1906 to 24th September 1909 when he resigned his post.

The 1911 Census finds Jack at 21 years living with his mother at Laurel Cottage, Pulborough, West Sussex. Jack is a Hay Presser. His mother is a children’s nurse which is reflected in two child boarders at the property. Lilian has returned to live at home and is unmarried.

On 25th March 1912 Jack became a Police Constable with West Sussex Constabulary aged 23. On 1st April 1914 Jack became a Police Constable with the Brighton Borough Police Force.

Jack applied to the then Chief Constable of Brighton Borough Police William Gentle for permission to join the Army. Permission was granted to leave on 11th May 1815. Jack attested on the same day, 11th May 1915 at Brighton. He declared his age to be 25 years and 10 months. He declared his mother Alice Cheesman of Laurel Cottage, Watersfield, Pulborough, West Sussex to be his next of kin.

On 21st May, he was posted to 10th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment for training at Colchester until 13th September 1915. He was allocated service number GS/6814. His record shows the number prefixed with the letters “GS”, which was used to signify that the soldier was conscripted for “General Service”.

On 23rd September 1915 he was posted to France to join the 9th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment. The 9th “Service” Battalion was raised at Chichester in 1914. At the time the 9th Battalion was already in France and had been so since 1st September and had moved up to the battle trenches at Vermelles on 25th September. The 9th had joined up with other battalions to become part of the 24th Division.

The 24th Division was a completely untried unit and although it is unclear exactly what day Jack would have caught up with the Division he was probably thrown into “the thick of it” at Vermelles where they were ordered to advance on “Fosse 8”, a large and conspicuous mining slag heap. The Fosse was to be held at all costs despite several German attacks from heavy artillery and machine gun fire and a lack of food and water. The 9th Battalion held on until withdrawn to Sailly-Labourse during the night of 27th.

The following months found the 9th Battalion at Proven near Ypres after several day of marching, trains and lorry journeys. The rains were constant and the trenches were flooded. The Battalion was busy filling in excess of 200 sandbags daily, a total of 5000 were required to stem the flooding. The men were exhausted and were receiving little respite from the trenches and training.

The whole of December was spent in Houlle, some 35 miles west from the fighting zone. Intensive training continued. Christmas and the New Year was spent safely in that quiet area of France.

January 1916 found Jack still with the 9th Battalion in France.  It was at this stage that George Catt had joined the Battalion when they entered the trenches at Zouave Wood on the 18th where significant enemy shell and sniper fire was experienced for four days until relief arrived. The Battalion was so close to the enemy line that gas masks had to be worn day and night.

The Battalion Heavy shelling continued into February near Hooge where the 9th were still occupying trenches. On 13th February the Germans put down a tremendous bombardment over the British front line causing a great deal of damage. 30 casualties along with several fatalities were recorded.

On 14th February 1916 Jack Cheesman is promoted in the field to a Corporal. Jack is still 9th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment attached to the 24th Division.

March, April, May and June were relatively quiet until the 17th June when the Germans gas bombed the Battalions position. The Battalion was moved away after a tirade of shelling and enemy fire, only to return to the trenches on 20th June.

The 6th July brought the Battalion out of the trenches for a period of rest only for them to return on 11th where on 20th they were relieved and moved by buses and trains away from the Ypres area and travelled to Montagne.

August continued to see the 9th Battalion in the thick of it, and was involved in hand to hand fighting in the village of Guillemont where over the course of two days casualties amounted to 7 officers and 183 other ranks. After 7 days rest they were again in the trenches where they were attacked by the Germans after heavy bombardment on 31st August. The 9th managed to hold on and repulsed the attacking party. 30 men were killed and 80 injured. The problem was exasperated by the complete lack of food and water during continued attack.

September saw the Battalion moved by trains and lorries to Camblain-l’Abbe and finally on 24th to Villers-au-Bois.

On 27th October 1916 The London Gazette published the following in a special supplement. “His Majesty the King has been graciously pleased to award the Military Medal for bravery in the field to the undermentioned non-commissioned Officers and men:-

Page 10477 6814 Cpl.J Cheesman R. Suss. R.

The Sussex Daily News on 1st November 1916 published the following

Honors for Brighton Policemen: In the list of NCO’s and men of the Royal Sussex Regiment awarded the Military Medal which appeared in Saturdays Sussex Daily News, the names of Corporal R Lintott, Corporal J Cheesman, and Lance Corporal W Clinch were included. It is interesting to learn that these gallant men were all in the Brighton Police Force.

It can now be proved that the Trio of Cheesman, Clinch and Lintott were together at the time of an amazing act of bravery between the three of them, which earned them the Military Medal each. Copied below is a newspaper cutting taken from the Observer and West Sussex Recorder dated 22nd November 1916.

The Military medal.

The beginning of 1917 found Jack on leave during 10th January to 20th January. He did not return to England and the destination of his leave is unknown.

February was also relatively quiet. The Battalion was at Hesdigneul, where they had “moved out” to rest. March found the 9th Battalion back in the thick of it, returning to the line in the area of Arras where an enemy attack was thwarted. The German bombardment caused several casualties.

April came in with a blast of cold weather, snow blizzards and fighting. In full action on 12th and 13th the British attacked the German positions in Bois-en-Hache. At the cost of 60 Battalion casualties, through a snow blizzard, the enemy’s first and second lines were taken. The ground had been churned up through shelling activity and snow into a sea of mud. The Battalion finally was given a well-earned rest falling back to Estree Blanche for a week of reorganisation which ended with a forced march to Houchin where during may they rested, trained and integrated new men.

June 1917 saw one of the most successful British attacks of the war at the Battle of Messines Ridge. The 9th were fully involved on the 7th despite gas attacks and shelling. The battalion suffered 134 wounded with 3 men missing. This action was the prelude to the 3rd Battle of Ypres.

On 13th June 1917 Jack was transferred as a Corporal to the Military Foot Police under Army Council Instruction No. 1733. 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).

Military foot police badge.

The General Duties of a Military Police Officer include:

  •  The detection of crime, and the arrest of offenders.
  •  The maintenance of order under all circumstances.
  •  The surveillance and control of all civilians and followers within the area occupied by their formations.
  •  Assisting in maintaining march discipline of troops and transport and in regulating traffic.
  • The collection of stragglers.
  •  The custody of prisoners of war until their transfer to railhead or to a P.O.W. working company.
  • 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, among 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. 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.

Jack was temporarily transferred to the Military Foot Police for the duration of the war.

On 9th May 1917 he joined up with the 2nd Army at the Adjutant-Generals Office in Rouen, probably for training. Jack is promoted to Lance Corporal on 17th June. He remains until 8th December 1917 where he joins the 3rd Army in the field.

At some stage Jack is in hospital, although no details are available. He is shown in his Army Records having been sent on leave to the UK 10th to 23rd February 1918.

On 30th April 1918 he is transferred to 1st Army he appears to have been discharged from hospital. On 14 December 1918 Jack is again discharged from hospital and rejoins the 1st Army. On 10th January 1919 Jack is sent on leave to the UK until 24th January 1919. He returns to the 1st Army in France and remains until 14th July 1919 when he returned to UK for demobilisation.

Jack was medically examined whilst in Valenciennes, France on 7th Jult 1919 where he signs that he has no disabilities. Jack is transferred to Class Z reserves at Aldershot on 11th August 1919 having arrived at the dispersal unit Crystal Palace on 18th July 1919. His address on demobilisation is Laurel Cottage, Watersfield, his mother’s home address.

Jack was awarded the Military Medal along with the 1914-1915 Star, The British War Medal and Victory Medal. The medals below are not the actual medals issued to Cheesman.

1914-1915 Star

British War Medal

Victory Medal


Post war

It is known that Jack rejoined the Brighton Borough Police after returning from the War. The Chief Constable of Brighton Borough Police, William Gentle reported to the Brighton Watch Committee that Jack Cheesman reported for duty on 14th August 1919.

The 1939 Register is our next insight to Jack and finds him living at 68 Mackie Avenue, Brighton. Jack is shown as being born on 19th September 1889 aged 50yrs. He is shown as a retired Police Officer and a Police 1st reserve.Jack is living with wife 47 year old Laura Ellen Berry who he had married in 1919 at Ipswich. It is not known at present how they met.Also living at 68 Mackie Avenue was his daughter Elsie Davey (nee Cheesman born 28th February 1921 along with a son Denis Cheesman 20th April 1923.

Jack died on 9th May 1961 at 71yrs of age. His death is registered in Brighton. Laura Cheesman died 16 years later in 1977 aged 84yrs.

Arthur Edgar Virgo

Arthur Edgar Virgo was born in Portslade in 1885,  his parents had been married for two years and had a daughter called Minne. Arthur’s fathers side came from a long line of Portslade residents dating back to around the late 18th century.

At the time of the 1891 census the family were living at 9 Elm Road. Today, it is listed as a three bedroom house however with the seven occupants at the time Arthur was living there it would have been cramped. Minnie was joined by brothers: Arthur and Lewis. They were joined by their widowed grand mother Charlotte and her son Edgar.

Arthur enlisted as a Private in Eastbourne  with the Royal Sussex Regiment- 12th Battalion. He died on the Rue de Bois on the 30th of June 1916. It is unclear if he was killed in action or died from his wounds. In the UK Army Registers of Soldiers’ Effects  there is a handwritten entry in the ‘When and Where died’ sections states death presumed. This suggests his body and remains are unknown. 


Loos Memorial- Pas de Calais France.

Arthur is commemorated at Loos memorial (Panel reference 69-73 Stone number 72) and at the Church of St Nicholas in Portslade.

Brighton & Hove in WWI – Free event day: Friday 30th June 2017

We welcome you to a free event day exploring Brighton and Hove during WWI and showcasing two related projects The Orange Lilies – Brighton & Hove in the Somme (Strike a Light – Arts & Heritage), and The Boys on The Plaque (Fabrica gallery).
We’ve got a great series of speakers throughout the day, and a lunchtime Q & A session, so bring a packed lunch, grab a cup of tea from Temptations cafe in the library, hear some fascinating tales, and watch archive film footage of Brighton and Hove a hundred years ago.
There will also be a book launch for The Boys on the Plaque project, and an exhibition based at Jubilee Library for The Orange Lilies project.
The event is a drop in event, but welcome to come all day!
Free to attend, but please book a place: Brighton & Hove in WWI – Free event day

B&H in WWI event 30th June 2017

Brighton & Hove in WWI – Free event day

Free WWI Community history event marking the end of both The Orange Lilies – Brighton & Hove in the Somme, and The Boys on the Plaque projects; exploring Brighton & Hove in WWI.

& Launch of The Boys on the Plaque book

Venue: Jubilee Library, Brighton, 11am – 4.30pm – 30th June 2017


11 – 11.20am: Introductions by Nicola Benge, The Orange LiliesProject Manager & Clare Hankinson, The Boys on the PlaqueProject Manager

11.20am – 12.10pm: Dr Frank Gray – Director of Screen Archive South East shows vintage film clips & discusses Brighton during WWI

12.15 – 1.30pm: Brighton & Hove in WWI Q & A – chaired by Dr Sam Carroll + Speakers: Dr Chris Kempshall, Dr Alison Fell, Dr Geoffrey Mead & Dr Frank Gray

1.35– 2.25pm: Dr Alison Fell – First World War Women workers and strikes

2.35 – 3.25pm: Dr Chris Kempshall – Brighton, The Boar’s Head, and the Somme

3.30 – 4.20pm: Dr Geoffrey Mead – Laundry maids and Fishermen – Aspects of work in WW1 Brighton

4.45pm onwards: Unveiling of new Battle of Boars Head memorial at The Steine War Memorial, Brighton


Battle of Boar’s Head exhibition courtesy of Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove; The Boys on the Plaque project resources, WWI exhibitions and resources from Brighton & Hove Libraries, Gateways to the First World War, and The Royal British Legion.

Venue – Jubilee Library, Jubilee St, Brighton BN1 1GE

Queries to:


The Orange Lilies project is delivered by Strike a Light – Arts & Heritage

The Boys on the Plaque project is delivered by Fabrica gallery

Both in Partnership with the following organisations:

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

with support from

Heritage Lottery Fund

Performance of a new score + screening of 1916 film ‘The Battle of the Somme’ – Hastings

20161108_110128.jpgHastings Sinfonia is proud to be part of Somme100 FILM, an international project bringing together 100 live orchestral performances of the IWM film The Battle of the Somme to mark the 100th anniversary of the Battle.

The original restored 1916 film, by Geoffrey Malins and John McDowell, with our live performance of Laura Rossi’s new score, lasts approximately 74 minutes. It is not recommended for children under 12.

We are delighted that our performance will be introduced by two special guest speakers: Dr Toby Haggith from The Imperial War Museums, and the composer Laura Rossi.

For more information about the project go to

Venue and booking: St. Mary in the Castle, Hastings, England

Minnie Turner – Suffragette talk at Brighton Museum this week

The free talk we have organised for both The Orange Lilies project and The Boys on the Plaque WWI project is this Friday 12th May at Brighton Museum. 
Meet at the entrance to the museum
The Orange Lilies project is lucky to be having an illustrated talk at Brighton Museum this week about the famed Minnie Turner, a Brighton suffragette in the lead to and during WWI.
This will include looking at original suffragette local Brighton objects from a 100 years ago, as it will be a private event for us, with gallery enactor Karen Antoni.
This is a great way for  project researchers to find out more about the home front in Brighton and Hove during our project period (1916 and the Somme). you can read more about Minnie here:
The talk takes place at Brighton Museum on Friday 12th May 1-4pm. FREE. Meet at the museum entrance.
Please RSVP to

Lewes History Group talk on the Southdowns Battalions in WWI: Monday 8 May 2017

Chris Kempshall: Lowther’s Lambs and the Boar’s Head

The nature and events of the Battle of the Somme have seen it become a byword for loss and tragedy in regards to the First World War.
However, the planning and implementation of the assault, then the biggest effort the British army had ever undertaken, began in the counties and towns of Britain in 1914. The disastrous first day of the Somme also overshadowed other tragedies in the lead up to zero hour.
Dr Chris Kempshall will discuss the route men from Lewes and East Sussex took from joining the Royal Sussex Regiment as ‘Lowther’s Lambs’ to the moment they went over the top on the 30th June 1916 at the Boar’s Head.
He will place the events leading up to the Battle of the Somme in both local and international context. Through this he will show how, to try and ensure success on the first day of the Somme, many soldiers gave their lives on ‘The Day that Sussex Died’.

Lowther's Lambs
Image courtesy of the East Sussex WW1 Project
All are welcome from 7.00pm for free refreshments and updates on the Group’s activities. The talk will begin promptly at 7:30pm and will finish by 9.00pm.
There is an entry fee for these meetings, payable at the door, of £2 for members, and £3 for non-members.
Venue: The King’s Church building on Brooks Road, Lewes, BN7 2BY. (Between Tesco car park and Homebase)
See the Meetings page for a list of  forthcoming monthly talks organised by the Lewes History Group.