This year marks the 110th birthday of Sussex by the Sea, considered to be the unofficial county anthem of Sussex and often heard being played throughout the county at sports and social events. However, the tune has far-reaching appeal far beyond Sussex including in Jordon, Singapore and Queensland in Australia.
Written in 1907 by William Ward-Higgs, Sussex by the Sea is also known as A Horse Galloping which has gone on to play a major role in Sussex life. It has been adapted by Brighton and Hove Albion and Sussex County Cricket Club as well as featuring at some of the county’s world-famous bonfire celebrations.
During the First World War, having been adopted by the Royal Sussex Regiment as an unofficial march it grew in popularity in Sussex and beyond, but it was in Sussex that the song took seed. The writer, Ward-Higgs was originally from Lancashire but settled in Sussex, living in the county for five to six years.
There are three versions of the tune’s origins – the first is that Ward-Higgs grew to love his adopted seaside county of Sussex so much that he produced a marching song in its honour and so it was that the tune was born in celebration.
However, some musical historians argue that the song was composed by Ward-Higgs for the wedding of his sister-in-law Gladys when she became engaged to Captain Roland Waitham
of the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment.
Finally, another explanation for the tune’s genesis is it may well have come from a poem written by Rudyard Kipling in 1902, entitled Sussex in which the phrase is coined ‘Sussex by the sea’ to later be picked up by Ward-Higgs.
Captain Waitham would go on to perform it in concerts in Ireland where the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment were then stationed, although the song never became the regimental march – The Royal Sussex continued as such.
Sussex by the Sea by contrast was the first march used by the Royal Air Force as their officer’s training school no. 1 was in St. Leonards-on-Sea and during the liberation of Singapore in 1945, cruiser HMS Sussex played the track as the ship entered into the South East Asian’s city harbour to awaiting crowds.[box type=”shadow” align=”” class=”” width=”600″]Chorus Line
For we’re the men from Sussex, Sussex by the Sea.
We plough and sow and reap and mow,
And useful men are we;
And when you go to Sussex, whoever you may be,
You may tell them all that we stand or fall
For Sussex by the Sea![/box]
Enthusiasm for the tune goes far beyond Sussex – King Hussein of Jordan would insist the tune be played whenever he visited the military academy at Sandhurst and the march continues to be played worldwide and it is even the regimental march of the 25th Battalion, Royal Queensland Regiment in Australia.
By Jacob White