Memorial is ‘right and fitting’ recognition for ‘son of Hastings’

THE bravery of a First World War solider has been marked with a permanent memorial a century after he was wounded in battle.

Claude Nunney died shortly after he was injured during an attack on a heavily fortified German defensive trench system, known as the Drocourt-Quéant Line, at Dury on September 1 and 2, 1918.

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The commemorative paving slab unveiled on Sunday.

He was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross and became the only Hastings-born soldier in the First World War to be given the highest decoration for valour from the British Army.

On Sunday a special paving stone was unveiled at the War Memorial in Alexandra Park, by the Lord Lieutenant of East Sussex, Peter Field, as a reminder of Claude Nunney’s bravery and sacrifice.

The Mayor of Hastings, Councillor Nigel Sinden, who delivered a reading at the ceremony, said: “I felt honoured to play a part in this event. Soldiers like Claude Nunney made the ultimate sacrifice for our country and its allies in the First World War, and it was right and fitting that we recognised this ‘son of Hastings’ with a permanent memorial in the town.”

Claude Nunney was born in 1892 and lived in Bexhill Road, St Leonards-on-Sea. Following the death of his mother, Claude and his siblings became ‘Home Children’ in Canada where, at the age of 23, he became one of the very first to enlist in the 38th Canadian Expeditionary Force.

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He was recognised several times for his bravery during the First World War – earning both the Distinguished Conduct Medal and Military Medal in 1917.

During the attack in Dury in September 1918, Private Nunney encouraged his comrades to victory under heavy enemy fire. His ‘fearless example’, being reported the London Gazette, ‘undoubtedly helped greatly to carry the company forward to its objectives’.

Tim Nunney, Claude’s great grand-nephew, made the journey from the Isle of Sheppey with his family to attend Sunday’s ceremony where he read In Flanders Field – a poem written by Canadian army physician and poet John McCrae.

Speaking after the unveiling, Mr Nunney said: “The Nunney family are all very proud and it has been a great honour to take part in such a moving ceremony.”

Readings were also given by Captain Yvan Shanks of the Canadian Defence Liaison Staff in London and Master Corporal Matty Ford, who had previously served in the Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa.

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In attendance were: l-r Trevor Foord, Hastings Royal British Legion, Master Corporal Matty Ford, representative of the Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa, Captain Yvan Shanks, Chief of Staff at the Canadian Defence Liaison Staff and representative of the Canadian High Commission, Father David Hill of St John’s the Evangelist, St Leonards-on-Sea, Councillor Nigel Sinden, Mayor of Hastings, Jon Bartholomew, Hastings Town Crier, Peter Field, Lord Lieutenant of East Sussex, Cadet Sergeant Ted Lewry, Cadet to the Lord Lieutenant, Major General John Moore-Bick, High Sheriff of East Sussex, Emily Mabbott, Police Cadet to the High Sheriff of East Sussex,  Councillor Peter Pragnell, Chairman of East Sussex County Council

The ceremony, organised by East Sussex County Council in partnership with Hastings Borough Council, was also attended by Major General Moore-Bick – the county’s High Sheriff and Councillor Peter Pragnell – Chairman of East Sussex County Council

Wreaths were laid by representatives of the Hastings branch of the Royal British Legion and the Royal Sussex Regimental Association.

The unveiling of the Victoria Cross (VC) paving slab was part of a series of commemorations of VC holders from East Sussex held to mark the centenary of the conflict.

Commemorative paving stones are issued by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government as part of the First World War centenary initiative.

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Claude Nunney’s great-grandson Tim Nunney read In Flanders Fields
In Flanders Field

by John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

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The Nunney family left their own wreath with a very special message for Claude.
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