In September 2017, the Association was approached by Elisa Funnell, a Canadian sculptor and Great Niece to Joe Auckett of the 7th Battalion The Royal Sussex Regiment, who had been killed on 3 May i917 during the Third Battle of the Scarpe. As the 100th anniversary of Joe’s death approached, she had completed a sculpture in Indiana Limestone of a lone soldier, standing unbowed, to represent all the fallen and was looking for a suitable home for the sculpture.
The Association had recently assisted Michelle Pollard of the Langney Primary School with a project on Nelson Carter VC, so we invited them to become custodians of the sculpture and to start a new research project on the life of Joe Auckett. This invitation was enthusiastically taken up and contact was made with Elisa. The sculpture was duly shipped to the UK and the Eastbourne Branch kindly funded a polished granite base for it, finally being unveiled by Elisa in a mock trench setting created by the children at a ceremony during Remembrance week 2017.
Since then the research project has continued with the Association supporting several workshops with relevant items from the museum collection, and an annual Art Award in his name from work created by the children on a WW1 subject. It has culminated in an book on Joe’s life produced by the school.
What has been amazing from the outset of this project has been the enthusiasm of both staff and children at the school to find as much about Joe’s life as they can, and ensure that his memory lives on. Joe was just an ordinary soldier from humble beginnings and one of many Eastbourne soldiers who lost their lives during the Great War, and this project has ensured that these soldiers have not lost their anonymity by the children studying an individual soldier from their home town.
The Association has two copies of the book, one will go into The Royal Sussex Regiment library at The West Sussex Record Office, the other will go into the Regimental Collection.
It has been a privilege working with Elisa, Michelle and the school on this ground breaking journey, and is surely what teaching history is all about, and Joe will live on through their efforts.