W2309 — Mr Isted Motor Bus, 1914

Box 61

‘Why “Lowther’s Lambs”?’ — Dr. Chris Kempshall, Project Officer for East Sussex County Council’s First World War Centenary Project

Audio transcript at bottom of page


‘Sussex Express 17 September 1914: Colonel Lowther’s Batalion’ — Richard Attlee, Actor.

Audio transcript at bottom of page


Henry Isted ran two carrier services between Lewes and rural areas not served by the railway — bringing agricultural produce to the town and goods from the town to rural districts. His two elder sons enlisted in the 11th Battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment. George, the eldest, survived, but James Henry was killed at the Battle of the Somme. Both were awarded Victory and British War Medals.


On 30 June 1916, 366 men of the ‘South Downs Pals’ (the 11th, 12th, and 13th Battalions of the Royal Sussex Regiment) lost their lives in an action at Richebourg L’Avoué as part of the Battle of the Boar’s Head. A further 1,000 men were either wounded or taken prisoner. The bravery of the men that day is shown by the award of one Victoria Cross, one Distinguished Service Order, eight Distinguished Conduct Medals, four Military Crosses, and twenty Military Medals. Known locally as ‘The Day Sussex Died’, the action has been overlooked nationally as it was a diversionary raid in preparation for the Battle of the Somme which began the following day. It does not even have a mention in the official ‘History of the Great War’


Why “Lowther’s Lambs”?


“Lowther’s Lambs were men who were recruited voluntarily during the First World War for East Sussex. Their name comes from two different places. Firstly Claude Lowther, was Conservative MP and the owner of Herstmonceux castle, and he took over the recruiting of men for the Royal East Sussex regiment at the outbreak of the war but also these men were known as the South Downs battalions which was a reference to a breed of sheep for the East Sussex area so the Lowther’s Lambs name comes partly from Lowther himself but also from the name of the breed of sheep.”


“Colonel Lowther’s Battalion


Bexhill has also been subject to a military invasion this week, but on a much smaller scale to that of the county town. The several hundred men quartered at Bexhill have enlisted in the Southdown Battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment, which is to be trained at Cooden, some two miles to the West of Bexhill along the coast. The men came from Eastbourne, Worthing, and other parts of the county, while some hail from the North of England. In a message to the men Colonel Lowther says: “If there is any delay in getting into camp, it will be due to the fact that I am studying your comfort, and do not want you to arrive in advance of camp equipment, for although I expect any sacrifice from my men when the moment comes, I see no reason to ask you to endure unnecessary hardships now.” Colonel Lowther further remarks: “It depends entirely upon the efficiency of the officers, non-commissioned officers and men, how soon we shall be afforded the priceless pleasure of taking our place in the field by the side of our gallant countrymen, whose prodigious feats of valour have earned imperishable fame. That this supreme honour may not long be withheld from us is my most fervent wish.”