T2/12286 Sergeant Claude Foord Ireland was born in Burgess Hill, Sussex in 1892, his birth registered at Cuckfield in the June quarter of that year. He was the eldest son of Ernest & Elizabeth Caroline Ireland and appears on the 1901 census as an eight year old boy. The home address is given as Post Office, Junction Road, Keymer and Ernest Ireland appears to have been the postmaster. The 1901 census records him as a 36 year old grocer / shopkeeper working on his own account from home. Ernest had been born in Balcombe while his wife, 37 year old Elizabeth Ireland, was a native of Brighton. Completing the Ireland family in 1901 was Winifred Ireland (aged 13 and born in Lindfield, Sussex) and Cecil Ireland (aged 5 and also born in Burgess Hill). Like Claude, Cecil would also serve in the Great War.
Also appearing on the 1901 census are 17 year old Ernest Scott, a stone labourer born in Haywards Heath, and Frank Cotten, a 22 year old grocer’s assistant born in Reigate. The relationship of both men to the head of the household is recorded as “Assistant”.
In October 1914, Chailey Parish Magazine (CPM) notes that Claude Ireland is serving his King and Country and Soldiers Died In The Great War records that Claude had enlisted at Hove, Sussex and that his residence was Lewes. One year later, in October 1915, the parish magazine notes that Sergeant C Ireland in France serving with the Army Service Corps (ASC), attached to the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC).
Claude was killed in action on October 12th 1917, this information being reported in the December 1917 issue of the parish magazine at Chailey.
On 30th October 1917, The Mid-Sussex Times reported his death as follows:
SERGEANT CLAUDE IRELAND, RAMC, a native of Burgess Hill, and eldest son of Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Ireland, of North Common, Chailey, has been killed on the Western Front. Sergeant Ireland, who was 25 years of age, was home on leave only six weeks ago. For three years he had done his duty to his country. Captain A G Phillips RAMC, wrote:
"Dear Mrs. Ireland, - I deeply regret that I have to inform you of the death of your son, Sergeant C F Ireland. He was killed while on duty near the front line by a shell, and he died immediately. It will be a consultation to you to know that he did not suffer any pain at all. From what I saw, he must have dropped practically without knowing he was hit. As officer in charge of the transport section of the field ambulance to which your son was attached, I should like to tell you how very much all of us officers, his own colleagues and the men who worked under him feel his loss, and how deeply we sympathise with you in your bereavement. Your son was respected and loved by all of us, both for his personal charm and his sterling value as a soldier and a non-commissioned officer, his place will not easily be filled by anyone. We asked for volunteers to get his body down the line, and we succeeded in bringing him back to Headquarters and giving him a decent military funeral in a Cemetery behind the line. I am not allowed to tell you the exact place in this letter, but you will be told the exact spot and we are getting him a cross put up. His Sergeant-Major has arranged about that. I know that nothing I can say can possibly diminish you grief, but the greatest consolation I can give you is that your son died a man’s death in a great cause. Please accept the expression of our deepest sympathy."
Mr. and Mrs. Ireland wish to thank all friends for their kind sympathy.
Three days later, The East Sussex News also carried the news:
SERGT C F IRELAND KILLED IN ACTION
Sergt Claude Ireland RAMC, eldest son of Mr and Mrs Ernest Ireland of North Common, Chailey, has been killed on the Western Front. Sergt Ireland who was 28 years of age was home on leave only six weeks ago. For three years he had done his duty to his country.
According to the Commonwealth War Graves’ Commission (borne out by the 1901 census returns), Claude was 25 years old when he died, not 28 as reported in the East Sussex News. He was serving with the 151st Company of the ASC, attached to the 56th Field Ambulance, RAMC.
Claude Ireland is buried in Bard Cottage Cemetery, Ypres, Belgium (ref V.A.32.). The inscription on his tombstone reads: JESUS WEPT / HE IS NOT DEAD BUT SLEEPETH. He is also commemorated on the war memorial on Chailey Green and on St John’s Church War Memorial board in Burgess Hill. A photo of his grave appears on my website: www.chailey1914-1918.net