On this day, eighty eight years ago, and with the end of hostilities a little over two weeks away, Frank Stevens of Chailey lost his life. This is his story.
He appears on the 1901 census of England and Wales as a three year old living with his family at Wapsbourne Garden Cottage, Sheffield Park, Chailey. The family comprised: James Stevens (head, aged 45, working as a farm labourer), his wife Ellen Stevens (aged 40) and their four children: Alice Stevens (aged ten), William H Stevens (aged eight), James Stevens (aged five) and Frank. There were other children too. The 1891 census notes Annie K Stevens (aged six) and Emily J Stevens (aged four).
By-passing the next address on the 1901 census – Wapsbourne Gate Cottage – Wapsbourne Farm Cottage was home to John Stevens (brother of James Stevens senior) and his family. This household comprised: John Stevens (head, aged 40, working as a thrashing engine driver), his wife Sarah (aged 41) and their four children: Albert Stevens (aged 13, working as a stock boy on a farm), Margaret Stevens (aged 11), William Stevens (aged six) and George Stevens (aged two).
Soldiers Died in The Great War states that Frank Stevens was born in Chailey, was resident at Sheffield Park and enlisted at Brighton. Chailey Parish Magazine first mentions him in July 1918 noting that F Stevens is serving with the 4th East Surrey Regiment.
He was killed in action on 25th October 1918 whilst serving with the 8th East Surrey Regiment and is buried at Preux-au-Bois Communal Cemetery, France; reference: A.3. His name is recorded on the same headstone as that of 48218 Private E F Short, also of the 8th East Surreys and also killed on the same day.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Debt of Honour Register notes that he was the “Son of James and Ellen Stevens, of Wapsbourne, Sheffield Park Station, Lewes.” In January 1919, Chailey Parish Magazine added his name to its roll of honour.
The parish magazine notes nine men with the surname Stevens who served their King and Country and it seems likely that his brothers James and William H Stevens and his cousins Albert Stevens, George Stevens and William Stevens, also served during the First World War.