1892: The Battle of Cuckfield ends in 'stalemate'

Mid Sussex Times - Tuesday 19 April 1892

THE BATTLE OF CUCKFIELD.


Favoured with fine though cold weather this battle of the local Volunteers took place on Easter Monday in Cuckfield Park, kindly lent for the occasion by Mr. Sergison, Scots Guards.


The plan of battle was as follows: —A supposed enemy having landed on the south coast pushed on as far as Ansty, near Cuckfield, wishing to obtain possession of the town to quarter in. This force was composed of the “K” Company (Hurstpierpoint) Second Volunteer Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment, under the command of Captain Helme, assisted by Lieutenant Campion, and the Cadet Corps of St. John’s College, under the command of Lieutenant Rev. H. S. Milner.

Aerial view of Cuckfield Park where mock battle took place

With their band the invaders numbered about 60. The “A and “B” Companies (Cuckfield), under the command of Captain Lister, Captain Bevan, and Lieutenant Messel, having intimation of the approach of an enemy, mustered to defend their homes in the picturesque Park, where the enemy was expected to concentrate their attack.


The fall-in sounded at 1.30, and soon the red-coats were en route for the Park and distributed so as to guard the main road from Brighton on the left and the Wyllies lane on the right. A signal station was thrown out at the back of the Rifle Butts, and soon information was forthcoming that the enemy had sent a small party down to the left, while the main attack was to be made on the right. Captain Bevan took up position in Walks Wood and soon was engaged by the enemy, who had approached by way of Ansty-lane.


The defenders being in small force had to retire before Captain Holme’s rapid advance. The extreme left was no trouble, but the centre pushed on and a severe struggle took place to obtain the bridge at the lower pond. In the meantime the enemy’s left pushed on over the upper bridge and outflanked the defenders’ right, but this party should have been put out of action, as a small force occupied some trees and poured in good fire while they were crossing the open, to which they did not reply.


The “cease fire” sounded, and the umpire (Captain B. T. Hodgson, of the "B" Company, Horsham), gave the battle in favour of the attackers. Captain Lister’s men numbered about 70. After a half-hour’s rest s new battle was arranged, the idea being to drive out the enemy who had taken possession. This was done by a feint attack on the right, while the stronger party worked round in the rear, and being harassed had to retire. They were surprised to find a line in waiting for them, so they had to surrender, the fight thus ending one to one.


The Companies were then formed up in review order on the football ground (where the numerous spectators had already taken up a position), ready for the march past. Captain Lister was the officer at the saluting point, the band of the Hurstpierpoint Company providing the “quickstep.”


The “K” Company led the march, followed by the St. John’s College Cadets. The “A” and “B” Companies brought the rear, the marching of the troops being most creditable. The troops then left the Park, headed by the band, marching to the Drill Hall, to partake of refreshments kindly provided by Captain Lister.


Altogether a very instructive afternoon was spent. Other manoeuvres of the class in Sussex yesterday were the 1st Sussex (Brighton) field day Chailey and those of the Middlesex Yeomanry Cavalry (Brighton Troop) at Ditchling Hostel.