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Relatives praise Cowfold’s World War 1 exhibition

Relatives of Cowfold residents who served and survived in World War 1 praised the exhibition staged in the village hall.

More than 300 people visited the extensive and painstakingly researched displays that featured detailed information and memorabilia about the lives of some of the soldiers who returned from battle, as well as recording those who did not.

Chimney sweep David Parker, from Kirdford, showed the District Post reporter a 1918 picture of his grandmother Dorothy and three uniformed Jefford brothers in the West Sussex family and said: “It is a good show the organisers have put on. They have done really well.”

Mr Parker, dressed as a wartime sergeant major, has given talks on World War One for about three years and said: “I had been doing World War 2 talks for a while. I got interested in doing them on World War 1 when I found some medals in a bin.”

Pensioner Mary Waller (nee Matthews) looked at a display about her old St Peter’s School Cowfold school teacher the late Reginald J P Quick, a Royal Naval Air Service survivor, and said: “He was really strict, he knew how to use the cane, but he was well respected.” Mr Quick was head teacher at 27 before the war and returned afterwards, living until 92.

John Barton, from Lancing, saw displays on several relatives including the Stoner brothers and his grandfather Coldstream Guard George Barton who survived his wounds and a gas attack but did not collect his medals and was said to have set fire to his uniform after seeing the horror of trench warfare at places like Cambrai.  He said: “They have done a great job. I supplied some of the information but what I did not realise was that they had picked up the war diaries. They did really well to find all the information out.”

Letters of love, longing and desperation were sent by Private George Buxton to his wife Mary in Cowfold, one saying with massive understatement : “I am so sorry not to have written more often, but life here is not all honey.” He survived  the carnage and died in 1951.

Sue Crofts, who organised the exhibition for the Cowfold Village History Society with Karen Macauley said:  “It took us quite a time. In fact it’s fair to say it has taken over our lives. I think some of the military stuff can be a little too dry so we tried to focus more on the men. Everyone does stories on those who died and their names are on memorials but not everybody does stories on those that returned and they have valid stories to tell.”Information is still coming in, and some was volunteered at the session on Saturday, and the group hopes to publish a book eventually. Horsham District Council gave £500 towards the exhibition project.

At the same session on Saturday a new book on Cowfold’s history compiled and edited by Michael Burt was launched and this will feature in next week’s District Post. Cowfold  The History of a Sussex Village (ISBN 9781785890178) is available at £9.99, publisher Troubador, from local outlets.

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