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14th JANUARY 1917, AGED 22


Photo with kind permission of Pierre Vandervelden

JOHN BULBECK was born JOHN KNIGHT in Hurstpierpoint, in 1895, the son of John Walter and Louisa Knight, and brother of Laurence Knight (born Hurstpierpoint, 1892).

Alfred Bulbeck had married Louisa Knight in Brighton in 1897 and together they had four further children, Alfred Charles Bulbeck*(born Hurstpierpoint, 1898), William Pelly Bulbeck (born Albourne 1902),  Albert Edward Bulbeck (born Albourne 1902) and Winnifred Grace Bulbeck (born Albourne 1909).  At the time of the 1901 Census, when Alfred and Louisa were living in Albourne Green, where Alfred was a blacksmith.

By 1911 Laurence and John, living with Alfred and Louisa at Albourne Green, were employed as carters on a farm. The family moved to Bucks Green in 1911-13 where Alfred was blacksmith to the Lynwick Estate. He worked at the forge built at Greathouse, alongside the new carpenter's shop, and lived at Cousens (an estate house).

John enlisted in Haywards Heath, becoming Private G/4219 of the Royal Sussex Regiment. His personal records appear to have been destroyed in the Blitz of the Second World War, examination of surviving service records of men with similar regimental numbers to John indicates that he enlisted in the week of November 1914. Following attestation at the Chichester Depot of the Royal Sussex Regiment he was posted to the regiment's 9th Battalion, which was in camp at Shoreham, on 12th November 1914 . Also from Rudgwick and posted to 9th Battalion was Private George James Birchmore.

The 9th (Service) Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment (9/Sussex) had formed in Chichester in September 1914 as a part of Lord Kitchener’s New Armies, manned by men answering the call for volunteers. The unit was designated a K3 battalion, indicating that it was part of the third 100,000 men to volunteer for service. It was an element of 73rd Brigade of 24th Division. Within the Division, training initially was somewhat chaotic; there were very few trained officers and NCOs, no organised billets or equipment. Basic uniforms were not received until March 1915 and rifles were not issued until July.

John and his colleagues trained on the Sussex Downs near Shoreham until 29th June 1915, when they moved to Woking in final preparation for their move overseas. Lord Kitchener inspected the Division at Chobham ranges on 19th August, followed the next day by King George V. Orders were received on 19th August to move to join the British Expeditionary Force in France.


The battalion proceeded to Southampton in three parties, embarked upon the SS 'La Marquerite', and sailed for Havre, disembarking on the morning of 1st September 1915. On 3rd September the battalion moved by train to Embry and Rimboval (approx 6 miles east of Etaples) where training continued, before commencing a march towards the forthcoming Battle of Loos on 21st September. On 25th September, the battalion received it's first experiences of the trenches, and it's first casualties as it was thrown into action on the first day of the Battle of Loos and by nightfall 65 men of the battalion had fallen.


On 14th February 1916 John Bulbeck was wounded in the arm by shell shrapnel. Following it’s removal in France he was returned to England to recover. On 29th February John was quoted in an article in the Sussex Daily News (see below). After recovery it appears that he returned to France but did not rejoin the ranks of 9/Sussex, being allocated instead to 13th (Southdown) Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment (13/Sussex), which had landed in France on 5/6th March 1916 (See notes below on 13/Sussex) . Also from Rudgwick and serving with this battalion was Private John Beacher and Private Leonard Heasman.

On 14th January 1917 the 13/Sussex were operating near Boesinghe (now Boezinge), north of Ypres, Belgium. The weather had turned very cold two day previously and there had been a heavy fall of snow. The battalion moved up to relieve the 14th Battalion Hampshire Regiment in the front line, completing the relief by 9pm. There were no casualties mentioned in the battalion war diary, but it appears that John was killed during this relief. At this time the British front line was formed by the west bank of the Yser canal, with the German front line holding the eastern bank.

As can be seen by the trench map below, the area of Artillery Wood was firmly in German hands for the first half of 1917, and indeed the cemetery was not opened until post July 1917. The cemetery was enlarged after the end of the First World War and graves were incorporated from several smaller burial grounds in the Boezinge area, one being located in Boezinge Chateau grounds (the Battalion Headquarters was also in the grounds of the chateau when the unit held the front line). It is probable therefore, that John was initially laid to rest in the grounds of Boezinge Chateau, and subsequently moved to Artillery Wood Cemetery.

Trench Map dated 01/04/1917, showing British & German front lines along the Yser canal, north of Ypres. The cemetery at Artillery Wood and Boesinghe Chateau are highlighted.

Private John Bulbeck was posthumously awarded the 1915 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

13th (Southdown) Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment
The South Downs battalions were raised commencing September 1914 after Colonel Claude Lowther, of Herstmonceux Castle received permission from the War Office to raise units of local Sussex men. Three battalions, the 11th, 12th and 13th Royal Sussex Regiment (occasionally referred to as 1st, 2nd and 3rd Southdown Battalions, or ‘Lowthers Lambs’) were raised by the end of 1914.

The 13th Battalion was formed on 20th November 1914, with its main recruiting office at Bexhill-on-Sea. Training commenced at Cooden Camp, near Bexhill but the battalion was not up to strength until July 1915. It remained here until July 1915, when it moved to Detling Camp, near Maidstone, before proceeding to North Camp, Aldershot, on 29th September 1915. In October 1915 the battalion, together with 11th & 13th Battalions Royal Sussex Regiment, became part of 116th Southdown Brigade, 39th Division, which had formed in Winchester in August 1915. The Division assembled at Witley in October and November, the 13th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment remaining in Witley Camp until March 1916.

On 5/6th March 1916, John and the battalion departed Southampton to land at Havre, France. In the following months John and the South Downs battalions served in the Fleurbaix and Festubert sectors of the British line before moving to the Richebourg area.
On 21st June 1916 the Battalion War Diary notes that the unit was in the front line trenches at Ferme du Bois, near Richebourg having entered the trenches on 16th June. This position opposed a protrusion in the German front line known as the 'Boars Head'. Ten days later the three South Downs battalions would attack this position with heavy losses in an attack designed as a diversion from the forthcoming Battle of the Somme, that was to commence the following day.

*Family Information
ALFRED CHARLES BULBECK served as Private SE/15648 in the Army Veterinary Corps (Absent Voters List 1918). He was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

Personal Service Record of H C Blattman G/4231,9/Sussex, enlisted 07/11/1914, KiA between 26-28/09/1915
Personal Service Record of Walter Findlay, G/4262, 9/Sussex, enlisted 06/11/1914, KiA 25/09/1915
1901,1911 Census Returns
Battalion War Diary 9th Bn Royal Sussex Regiment
Battalion War Diary 13th Bn Royal Sussex Regiment
Soldier's Medal Record Card
Free BDM
Soldiers Died in the Great War
Commonwealth War Graves Commission.