Claude’s sacrifice to be remembered ‘for generations to come’

Hastings-born Claude Nunney has been described as a ‘fearless’ soldier and his valour will be commemorated next Sunday at a special ceremony in Alexandra Park.

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Claude Nunney whose valour in wartime will be remembered next Sunday in Alexandra Park.

A permanent memorial is being unveiled to the man who bravely charged through a barrage of gunfire during a First World War battle and was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross – the highest decoration for valour from the British Army – for his actions in battle on September 1st and 2nd, 1918.

To mark the 100th anniversary of his actions, at a ceremony organised by East Sussex County Council in partnership with Hastings Borough Council, the Lord Lieutenant of East Sussex will unveil a Victoria Cross paving stone at the War Memorial in Alexandra Park.

The event is part of a series of commemorations of VC holders from East Sussex held to mark the centenary of the conflict.

Councillor Keith Glazier, leader of East Sussex County Council, said: “Claude Nunney is one of only four soldiers from East Sussex, of the many that fought and lost their lives, to have received the Victoria Cross during the First World War.

“He showed great bravery in inspiring his comrades to victory despite coming under heavy fire in a battle that ultimately claimed his life. It is only right that the sacrifice he made be remembered for generations to come.”

Nunney was born on July 19, 1892, and lived at 42 Bexhill Road as a child. After his mother died, he and his siblings were passed into the care of the Catholic Church and eventually became ‘Home Children’ in Canada.

He became one of the very first to enlist into the newly authorised regiment in Ottawa, known as the 38th Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) and was recognised several times for his bravery – earning both the Distinguished Conduct Medal and Military Medal in 1917.

But it was for his part in the attack on the heavily fortified German defensive trench systems, known as the Drocourt-Quéant Line at Dury, on September 1 and 2, 2018 that earned him the Victoria Cross.

During the attack Private Nunney encouraged his comrades to victory under heavy enemy fire. He was wounded in the face and neck and eventually died of his wounds on September 18, 1918.

The London Gazette reported his actions, saying “his dash continually placed him in advance of his companions, and his fearless example undoubtedly helped greatly to carry the company forward to its objectives”.

The memorial VC paving stone in Alexandra Park will be unveiled at a ceremony which will include the reading of ‘In Flanders Fields’ by Claude’s Great Grand Nephew Tim Nunney. Members of the public are welcome to attend to witness the ceremony and pay their respects following the unveiling.

Claude Nunney was the mostly highly decorated ‘other rank’ in the Canadian Army in the First World War and was the only man born in Hastings to be awarded the Victoria Cross.

When his battalion was in the vicinity of Vis-en-Artois and came under heavy attack Private Nunney, was at company headquarters. The citation, published in the London Gazette on the December 14th 1918, described Nunney’s actions on that day, it says: ” Immediately, on his own initiative (he) proceeded through the barrage to the company outpost lines, going from post to post and encouraging the men by his own fearless example.

“The enemy were repulsed and a critical situation was saved. During the attack on the September 2nd his dash continually placed him in advance of his companions, and his fearless example undoubtedly helped greatly to carry the company forward to its objectives.

“He displayed throughout the highest degree of valour until severely wounded.”

It was not only on this occasion that Nunney showed what he was made of, he was gassed during German shelling on the night of  July 28th and 29th 1917 and spent two months in hospital. He returned to his unit at the end of September 1917…and remained with them for the next few months. By the middle of April 1918 Nunney faced a field court martial for striking a superior officer. He was found guilty but while waiting to be transported to prison, he attempted, with several other soldiers, to rescue the pilot and observer from a German Aeroplane that had been shot down nearby. He suffered burns to his face and hands. For his bravery he was to have his sentence suspended, however, he did lose his Sergeant’s stripes.

Next Sunday’s ceremony will begin at 11am but organisers expect people to gather from 10.30am onwards. The ceremony should last around 30-40 minutes.

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