Rye Old Scholars


 By John Breeds.

I’m sure that readers will remember the two boards commemorating Rye Old Scholars who died as a result of fighting during WWI.The one on the left, from Rye Grammar School, has 24 names on it and the rather grander one, below right, from Rye County School has 97 names. This seems a huge number of young men lost from such a small town.

Each individual loss was devastating to the doting parents whose ‘babies’ had been at school only a very few months or years before. The first name on the RGS memorial is that of Joseph Adams whose father started Adams of Rye in the late 19th century. He was a 2nd Lieutenant In the 2nd Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment, 1st Division and was killed in action on the Somme 23rd July 1916. He is commemorated on Thiepval Memorial. Joseph Adams’ father was Mayor of Rye from 1908-1911, so would have been Mayor ‘at the opening of the School at its current site in 1908. The business of Adams of Rye was carried on by the younger son, Arthur Adams until the early 1950s when the Fosters took over.

The second name on the, larger, RCS memorial is that of Sydney Axell who was of my paternal grandmother. Private S. Axell G14638, 2nd Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment, 1st Division was killed in action at Richebourg L’Avoue 9 May 1915 Aged 20. He was the son of Mr & Mrs John Axell. He is buried in Rue De Bois Military Cemetery, Fleurbaix.

His mother had taken her own life whilst still very young. After Sydney’s death, John Axell sought consolation in drink and was subsequently shunned by his family. I met him once during his last days in Battle Hospital when I was about 5. His eldest daughter Beatrice, my paternal grandmother was, eventually, left to bring up her three younger sisters on her own. It is hard to imagine how awful this period in our history was. Many parents lost more than one of their sons. Of the five Tiltmans listed on the RCS memorial, three of these are the sons of William and Fanny Tiltman of S West Cliffe, Rye. The Tiltmans are still a prominent Rye family.

Roll of Honour 1914 - 18
Roll of Honour 1914 – 18

I am pleased to see these two memorials still treasured and affixed to the wall of a stairwell in the centre of Rye College. You will see many familiar Rye names on them, many of whose descendants attended the Rye Schools through the last century and, indeed, some still do to this day. We must never forget them.

“Rye’s Own” January 2015