Numerous Christmas cards sent by British troops during the First World War years express two main themes: on the one hand, triumph over their enemies in battles fought during the previous months and years; on the other, victory in the coming year. Keeping spirits up was important, both for the soldiers of all sides and for their anxious relatives back home. For many though, Christmas would be etched with worry and for others, the pain of wounds or the grief of recent loss.
Four men with Chailey connections lost their lives during December.
Ernest Whitcomb of the Labour Corps and formerly of the Middlesex Regiment had died in December 1918, almost a month after hostilities had ceased. Gunner George Emery of the Royal Horse Artillery had died of wounds in England on 15th December 1915 and Private Frank Peacock of the Grenadier Guards and Lieutenant Harold Macculloch of the Seaforth Highlanders had both died five days later on 20th December 1915. For their immediate families, Christmas must always have been a time of sadness rather than celebration.
Other men would always remember Christmas as a time when wounds gave them a reprieve from the miseries of trench warfare. Private W H Baddock of the 3rd Grenadier Guards and Private Edward Burnage of the 2nd Royal Sussex Regiment were both wounded on Christmas Eve 1915 - Baddock by a rifle grenade at Neuve Chappelle and Burnage possibly also by a rifle grenade at Givenchy. Both men would end up at Hickwells, Chailey; a world away from the horrors of the Western Front.
Happy Christmas 2006 - Remember those who gave so much.