New status for cemetery

Rye Cemetery entrance

In 2018, to mark the centenary of the first world war, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) offered to sign all those unsigned cemeteries in England which contained service burials marked by CWGC headstones.

Rye Royal British Legion, working with Rother District officers, bid to have Rye Cemetery (with dates from 1885) appropriately marked.

It has taken until this year to complete the process. There is now a familiar CWGC green sign fitted to Rye Cemetery fence on Rye Hill.

The justification for the bid was that there are twenty burials of servicemen marked by CWGC headstones, two unknown from the merchant navy who were drowned and one or two others with private headstones dating back to the world war years.

We hope that this will encourage people to visit the cemetery to view the CWGC headstones and contemplate the sacrifice made by these men.

War graves in Rye Cemetery

Although each stone represents a story, we know little of the first world war casualties, except that some would have been seriously injured at the front, evacuated to Rye and perhaps died at the Memorial Hospital.

For the second world war, we do know about those from 1940, when Rye was reinforced as a “defended locality” in anticipation of a German invasion (Hitler’s Operation Sea Lion). For instance, the Royal Irish, who had been evacuated from Dunkirk in May 1940, after regrouping, were deployed to an area covering Udimore Road to Saltcote on Rye Hill, to Rye Harbour and Pett Level. The Battle of Britain was raging above. Early radar was being developed on Romney Marsh. Around Rye, in addition to infantry, there were gunners, engineers, signallers, logisticians, all supported by the local defence volunteers (which became the home guard) and many other military and civilian organisations.

Troops and naval personnel were working at fever pitch to build defences which ran from the sea lanes and beaches to the high ground behind Rye. There were mines, tank traps, pillboxes, beach scaffolding, wire, road blocks and “dragons teeth” obstacles. On the Rye Harbour Nature Reserve there was a decoy system (Starfish) created to simulate a burning urban area to divert German night bombers and cause them to drop their bombs in the countryside. Signs of all this activity can still be found today around Rye.

Some of the 1940 casualties in the cemetery were killed during mine laying operations, others by ammunition accidents or traffic accidents and even drowning.

September 1940 was a bad month for the Royal Irish Fusiliers who lost three men: Fusilier Francis McNamee was “killed accidently” on 6 September. 2nd Lt. Ben Ryan was killed in a motorcycle accident near Rye on 14 September; 2nd Lt Maurice Johnson was killed laying mines on 16 September.

War graves in Rye Cemetery

The record is below but if anyone has any more to add, then Rye Royal British Legion would welcome it, so that it can be added. The detail will be added to the Rye Royal British Legion website.

CWGC armed service burials in Rye Cemetery total 20: seven from the first world war; 13 from the second world war. In addition there are two unidentified sailors buried side by side from the merchant navy.

The entries include: Service number, surname, forenames, age and date of death, any honours, rank and regiment, location, grave number and any known additional information.

2723804, COLLECOTT, WILLIAM ROBERT, 09/07/1942,
Gunner, Royal Artillery,198 Coast Bty.,
‘11002517’, Rye Cemetery. Sect. B.C. Grave 6370.,

2723806, DEEPROSE, ARTHUR GEORGE, 39, 23/02/1944,
Warrant Officer Class II,
Worcestershire Regiment,,9th Bn.,
6392594′, Rye Cemetery. Sect. B.C. Grave 6451.
Son of William Thomas Deeprose and Fanny Louise Deeprose; husband of Elizabeth Deeprose, of Rye.

2723808, HARRISON, ALBERT LESLIE, 58, 12/05/1943,
Leading Seaman, Royal Navy, H.M.S. Europa, P/J 211243′,
Rye Cemetery. Sect. A.B. Grave 6411.
Son of William Thomas Harrison and Hellen Harrison; husband of Ellen Harrison, of Rye.

24, 13/01/1944,,
Second Lieutenant, Royal Artillery, 59 (Newfoundland) Heavy Regt. 289501′,
Rye Cemetery. Sect B.C. Grave 6446.,
Son of Frank and Caroline Lewis; husband of Mollie Noreen Lewis, of Rye and Newfoundland.
Also recorded in Canadian records.

2723813, PULLINGER, ALBERT CHARLES, 34,, 11/01/1947,,
Corporal, Royal Sussex Regiment,10th Bn.,6396820′,
Rye Cemetery Sect. B.C. Grave 6610.,
Son of James and Mary Ann Pullinger, of Rye; husband of Margaret Mary Pullinger, of Rye.

22, 14/01/1941,
Private, Royal Sussex Regiment, 2nd Bn.,’6401084′,
Rye Cemetery. Sect. B.C. Grave 6283.,
Son of Alfred and Ada Avis; husband of Ivy R. Avis, of Burgess Hill.

27, 15/01/1941,
Lance Corporal, Royal Sussex Regiment, 2nd Bn,’5617050′,
Rye Cemetery. Sect. B.C. Grave 6284.,
Son of Alfred and Nellie Cannell, husband of Alice Vera Cannell, of Dunstable, Bedfordshire.

2723805, COTTERILL, JAMES (JIM), 36, 01/10/1943,
Gunner, Royal Artillery,”433 Bty., 131 Lt. A.A. Regt.”, 4910031′,
Rye Cemetery. Sect. B.C. Grave 6430.
Son of Samuel and Charlotte Elizabeth Cotterill, of Clowne, Derbyshire; husband of Nellie Cotterill, of Clowne.
Killed in a minefield accident.

22,. 15/10/1941,
Bombardier, Royal Artillery, 109 (The Westmorland and Cumberland Yeomanry) Field Regt.,904880′,
Rye Cemetery Sect. B.C. Grave 6321.,
Son of Matthew and Marie Golightly, of Stanwix, Carlisle.
Died of gunshot wounds.

26, 10/06/1940,
Private, Royal Sussex Regiment, 5th (Cinque Ports) Bn.,’6400565′,
Rye Cemetery Grave 6247.
Son of George Wallace Hedgler and Jane Hedgler, of Rye.

20, 06/09/1940,,
Fusilier, Royal Irish Fusiliers, 1st Bn., ‘6980075’,
Rye Cemetery. Sect. B.C. Grave 6261.
Son of James and Mary Jane McNamee, of Londonderry, Northern Ireland.
Fusilier Francis McNamee died on 6 September, “accidentally killed”, according to a newspaper report. Aged just 20, he was a Dunkirk veteran.

20 14/09/1940,
Second Lieutenant, Royal Irish Fusiliers, 124277′
Rye Cemetery. Sect. B.C. Grave 6262.
Son of Dennis O’Neil Ryan, and of Eileen Elsie Ryan of South Lambeth, London. Killed in a motorcycle accident.

2723810, JOHNSON, MAURICE GORDON, MC. 16/09/1940,,
Second Lieutenant, Royal Irish Fusiliers,,1st Bn. ‘85698’,
Rye Cemetery. Sect. B.C. Grave 6263.,
On 26 May 1940 at Bethune, France, 2nd Lt. Maurice Johnson extracted a platoon that was surrounded, leading them to fight their way out “at close range with grenades, Brens fired from the hip and the bayonet.” He was immediately awarded a Military Cross. 4 months later he was killed laying mines on Winchelsea Beach.

Hitler’s plans for Rye Bay

660125, BELL, J, 06/10/1915,,
Private, King’s Own (Royal Lancaster Regiment), 41st Bn., ‘2284’,
Rye Cemetery , 4737.
Buried alone in the former site of the Rye Workhouse.

660126, BLACKHALL, HUGH BERT 29 04/11/1918,,
Engineman, Royal Naval Reserve
,”H.M. Drifter “”Seaflower.””
A hired drifter, Admiralty No 1062. Built 1906, 80gross tons, Lowestoft Registered LT.522. Armed with: 16pdr AA, 12pdr. In service 1.15 1919 as net vessel.
3790/ES’, Rye Cemetery. 4940.,
Son of Thomas Blackhall, of Rye; husband of Agnes E. Blackhall, of 4, Lower St.(High Street) , Rye.

660131,VIDLER, DOUGLAS WESTON, 18, 19/03/1918,
Private, Reserve Cavalry Regiment, 3rd, ‘44461 Rye Cemetery. 4903.,
Son of Mr. and Mrs. W. F. Vidler, of 14, Downs Rd., Enfield, Middx.

660130, TOMSETT, 18/05/1918
Sapper, Royal Engineers,,”G” Depot Coy.”, 212702′, Rye Cemetery. 4916.,

660129, SNAGG,, B ,27/02/1919,
Captain, Royal Marines, HQ Royal Marines, Rye Cemetery. 4972.,

660128, MOORE, F C, 25,. ,26/04/1915, Driver, Royal Engineers, 102nd Field Coy., 90333
Rye Cemetery. 4722.
Son of William and Matilda Moore; husband of Rosetta Lily Moore, of 22, Church Path, Fulham, London. Born in Fulham.

660127,DUNK, P W, 29,, 29/12/1917. Sergeant, The Buffs (East Kent Regiment),”C” Coy. 1st Bn.”,’9332’. Rye Cemetery. 4890.,
Son of Philip William and Emily Dunk (nee Swan); husband of Catherine Stack (formerly Dunk), of “Glenmore,” Killester Villas, Howth Rd., Dublin.

Image Credits: Anthony Kimber , A. Kimber .


  1. Rye British Legion, together with the Royal British Legion, work tirelessly for service personnel. Much of these efforts are discretely done, but have far reaching benefits for individuals, their families and the wider community. It’s for the past, present and future, not just Remembrance Sunday. Thank you

  2. Not all those who died in the war have the familiar war grave, some have ordinary family headstones, time spent walking round the cemetery can be very rewarding and interesting, my grand father is one who died through enemy action and is buried in Rye along with my grand mother who joined him in the 60’s
    The entry from the British Legion roll of honour.
    It says he was wounded at Clifton Place but it was on the Ypres steps while returning from getting his newspaper.

    EDWARDS William Civilian. Kings Corporal. 11 Clifton Place, Rye. Husband of Minnie Ethel Edwards. Injured 6 December 1942 at Clifton Place and died in the Rye & District War Memorial Hospital on the 9th. Aged 54. Buried in Battle Rural District Cemetery (Rye)

    • Thanks and noted. We will amend the roll on our website. The CWGC list focuses on those serving in the Armed Services or support services who were killed by enemy action. I would be interested to hear of the status of your grandfather.

      President Rye RBL

      • I know very little of my grandfather’s war record, he like many of his time came back and rarely spoke of his time in Belgium, he only ever told one person and that was an old opo he drank with in the Bedford Arms.
        He was promoted Kings Cpl in Ypres after being involved in bayonet charges but it’s all hearsay.
        The circumstances of his death are fading into the mists of time but as far as I know he was making his way home having been to get his paper from the shop in Church Square so it would have been in the morning, he was walking down the steps past the pub when a stray marauding German flight came over the marsh, across the fish market and straffed the town.
        He died from his wounds three days later and is buried in an ordinary grave in the cemetery, his name is on the war memorial at St Mary’s Church.

  3. What a great bit of news, and fitting recognition. The ‘starfish’ emplacement is rotting modestly away not far from Camber Castle, as is at least one Home Guard Auxiliary bunker in not far from
    Rye Foreign. Quite moving to see it and appreciate what the men inhabiting that subterranean world had in store for them if the Germans invaded… There’s a comparatively new memorial to one of the many Canadians who gave their lives for Britain too – a crashed airman. His large stone memorial is close to the fishing lake. Worth a pilgrimage, and return via the ‘starfish’. The war is everywhere around us in Rye, a reminder that the town was truly in the frontline.


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