Sussex by the Sea
by Conor Shipsey
This marching song was composed in South Bersted in 1907 by William Ward Higgs, a solicitor from Birkenhead who had spent much of his working life in London, but then moved to live for a number of years in Hollywood House in South Bersted. The jaunty rhythm drew inspiration from Kipling, and was adopted by the Royal Sussex regiment as its unofficial anthem and popularised as a marching song during the First World War.
Since then, the lyrics have been adapted and adopted for a number of different purposes: as sporting anthems (Brighton and Hove Albion, Sussex County Cricket Club); being turned into a protest song in 1939, (forming part of the Sussex Peoples March of History.).
In the past fifty years, its popularity has remained undimmed. The name Sussex by the Sea is now used as the official tourism site for Bognor Regis, and many local music bands continue to use the song to this day it as their unofficial anthem.
William Ward Higgs, died in tragic circumstances, by taking his own life at the age of 70 in 1936. A grave commemorates his life in South Bersted. But his ashes are kept in South Norwood crematorium.
The song in its entirety is too long to reproduce here. A flavour of the lyrics (the fifth verse) can be found below.
Far o'er the seas we wander,
Wide thro’ the world we roam;
Far from the kind hearts yonder,
Far from our dear old home;
But ne'er shall we forget, my boys,
And true we'll ever be
To the girls so kind that we left behind
In Sussex by the Sea.