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Guy ComptonBorn 11th July 1894 - Killed in action 27th July 1917
Guy Compton was the eldest of four sons born to George and Annie Gertrude Compton. The family lived at ‘Clevedon’, Chelmsford Road, Woodford and consisted of mother, father and in order of descending age Gertrude, Guy, Dora, Rex, Robert and George. Guy’s father was a tea blender and expert taster. Guy, Rex and Robert all went to Bancrofts School and made a considerable impression in their school days. Guy was keen on physical fitness and tall for his age. Together the boys dominated much of the athletic contests.
Guy was also to win the year’s drawing prize in the Upper IVth. Shortly after he left the school and embarked on a farming career. He was aged 16 years and was setting off in training for life on the land. In doing so he was in good company as a number of our boys took up the challenge in this country as well as overseas in Canada and Australia. Guy began his farming career at Applesham Farm an old manor house dating back to the 17th century in Shoreham-by-Sea Sussex. He loved the outdoor life and the farm gave plenty of opportunity to maintain his fitness situated as it was on the rolling chalk downland of the South Downs. Guy enlisted in the 11th Battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment within weeks of the outbreak of war on 26th August 1914. Around the same time he applied for a commission.
Herbert Playne, the then headmaster of Bancrofts School, was applied to as a referee for his application and duly endorsed the papers that Guy:
During training, Guy impressed, it appears, as leadership material and entered France on 4th March 1916. He had been promoted through the ranks of the battalion and been awarded the Military Medal for gallantry and devotion to duty in bringing back a wounded comrade while under constant fire. Guy’s comrades were virtually all new volunteers as he was further promoted and appointed Sergeant in the 13th Battalion the Royal Sussex Regiment.
By June 1916 the battalion had been moved to the Somme front. The countryside must have seemed slightly familiar to Guy and many others of his battalion, chalk farmland like the South Downs of Sussex where many had grown up or like Guy farmed the soil. The baptism for the battalion in the horrors that were to follow were not on the massed advances of 1st July 1916 but one day earlier, in a diversionary attack launched on 30th June in the vicinity of the small village of Richebourg l'Avoue, near Bethune. The fight became known as the ‘Battle for Boar’s Head’. A visit their today sees the landscape dotted with discreet small cemeteries where lie hundreds of soldiers from Brighton, Bexhill, Hove, Battle and many other towns and hamlets of the Sussex countryside.
At 3.05am on June 30 1916, the 11th, 12th and 13th Battalions went over the top following a 15-minute bombardment of German trenches. For many of the young soldiers it was their first and last time in action. Before the day was out 366 officers and men including 12 sets of brothers, were dead and more than 750 wounded. The Sussex men bombed and bayoneted their way into the enemy lines and beat off repeated counterattacks until they were forced to withdraw as casualties mounted and ammunition ran out.
In later months and years the three battalions became known as ‘Lowther's Lambs’. ‘Lowther’ was Colonel Claude William Henry Lowther, an English Conservative politician who had led the raising of the battalions. The association between lambs and slaughter is inescapable. Not that the Royal Sussex were to be denied the Somme Battle proper, battalions went on the serve at High Wood and elsewhere along the shell-pocked chalkland. In the course of the actions of that July Guy was wounded by a gunshot wound to his left arm and was removed from the front line.
Guy survived all this though very much in the thick of it. On the 19th August 1916 amidst column after column of the names of the dead the newspapers carried the following entry which announced Guy’s citation for the Distinguished Conduct Medal: Guy’s fellow Sergeant in this heroic act was Company Sergeant Major Edwin Green a 21 year old from Clapham, South London. As with all regiments, the camaraderie within the Sergeant’s mess was strong and in the month before arriving in France Guy had made his will in which he left everything to his parents. Sadly, within a few months, on 21st October 1916 Company Sergeant Major Edwin Green was killed in the fighting on the Somme. By January 1917, Guy, now recovered from his wounds was posted to Priory Park, Bath as part of the 18th OTC. Here following training he was awarded the rank of Second Lieutenant on 23rd May 1917.
In the summer term of 1917 he visited Bancrofts to witness the annual sports day in which as a boy he had taken such a leading role. Then in June he returned to France. Guy returned to his regiment in the field as a junior officer in the 9th Battalion. Around 24th July he was with his company in the front line. A few days later his Lieutenant Colonel wrote back to Guy’s parents to break the news of their son’s death.:
Throughout his service Guy had kept in contact with his younger brother Rex. Rex Compton was himself on the Western front a short distance from where Guy fell. Guy’s body was never recovered and the cross erected did not survive the conflict. Guy is now commemorated on the MENIN GATE MEMORIAL.
Also commemorated on the memorial is the death of Sergeant Oliver Brackpool a lad of 20 years of age from Brighton and the Sergeant killed that night by the same shell. Following the end of the Great War, Mr and Mrs Compton, Guy and Rex’s parents, presented Bancrofts School with the Compton Cup to be awarded in swimming competitions in memory of Guy and Rex.