On the 100th anniversary of the death of the above, the Brighton Branch of The Royal Sussex Regimental Association laid on a small commemoration to the life of Bernard. The ceremony was attended by the Mayor of Brighton and Hove and Councillor Amanda Grimshaw along with the Association’s Chairman and other Directors, three Branch standards and members of the public. The Branch had not only put in a lot of work organising the commemoration but also cutting the grass around the grave and tidying up, a wonderful band of brothers!
Bernard Norris Butcher was born in 1889 in Hove, and enlisted into 2nd Battalion The Royal Sussex Regiment in1910, with the regimental number 6391201. He was the husband of Mrs A. L. Butcher of the Trafalgar Hotel, Portslade. In the Regimental Archive there is a photograph of the Battalion Hockey Team in 1914 which lists a Cpl Butcher, but unfortunately, he cannot be positively identified.
War against Germany was declared on 4th August 1914 and by the 10th the Battalion had been brought to war strength by reservists and all wagons were loaded and ready to move. Two days later they were transferred from Inkerman Barracks, Woking to Southampton in two trains. Less than nine hours after leaving Woking the Battalion left Southampton for Le Havre in two steamers, the SS Olympia and SS Agapenor.
Following the great retreat, Bernard was engaged in all the early battles from the counterstroke on the Marne, on the River Aisne, Vendresse and the First Battle of Ypres. In late January 1915 the Germans exploded six mines and attacked the trenches held by the British, pushing them back. The 2nd Battalion was rushed forward to plug the gap, with Bernard, now an acting Company Sergeant Major (CSM), being awarded the DCM. His citation reads: ”For conspicuous gallantry on the 29th January 1915 at Cuinchy. During an attack on the Keep, he, while under heavy machine gun fire, bombed the enemy, and was largely instrumental in defeating the attack”.
It was announced in the London Gazette on 27th September 1916 that the now substantive CSM Butcher had been awarded the MC for conspicuous and consistent gallantry during the Battle of the Somme. His citation reads: ” On one occasion after all his officers had become casualties, he kept his company together, so that it rendered fine service later in the day”. Unfortunately, during the fighting at Thiepval he had been badly wounded and was invalided back to the UK on 6th September 1916.
He recovered from his wounds and re-enlisted on 23rd March 1918 and was posted on 21st April 1918 to the 9th Battalion, back in France. He survived the war and after the armistice was posted to the Caribbean, where he contracted meningitis and invalided home. He died at home on 16th August 1921, aged 32 and was one of the last men to be granted a WW1 Commonwealth War Grave headstone as the war officially ended on 21st August 1921. Anyone who died from their wounds, or illness, after this date was not granted a CWG. He lies in Brighton and Hove cemetery almost opposite the Cross of Sacrifice amongst his comrades.