West Sussex Record Office are developing an exciting new project to catalogue, digitise and provide access to the historic collections of The Royal Sussex Regiment dating back over 260 years. This will be a ground-breaking opportunity to use the combined collections to develop innovative ways for people of all ages across the UK and beyond to engage with their heritage.
The project will cover both the archive and the museum collections of The Royal Sussex Regiment (RSR). It is one of the most extensive collections relating to a county regiment in the UK and dates from 1701 to 1966.
The RSR Archive and Library are held at the West Sussex Record Office. They consist of more than 30,000 items, including nominal rolls, enlistment books, battalion orders, unit war diaries, service papers, personal diaries, correspondence, photographs, audio-visual material, newspaper cuttings, regimental journals and printed books. Notable material includes detailed recollections of the Napoleonic Wars, a diary of the ill-fated expedition to relieve General Gordon at Khartoum in 1884/5, 600 photographs taken during the Boer War in South Africa, and the illustrated diaries (see right) of Arundel artist Ralph Ellis who served in France during the First World War.
The RSR Museum Collections were formerly held at Eastbourne Redoubt and are currently stored in temporary accommodation with no public access. These collections contain over 9,000 items including paintings, medals, uniforms, badges, weapons, musical instruments and silver plate. The objects relate not only to the RSR but also to its predecessors, including the 35th Regiment of Foot, 107th Regiment of Foot and the Sussex Militia. Notable items include an early 18th century Sussex Militia coatee (jacket), an Indian knife, pipe and musket balls from the Seven Years’ War in North America (1756-1763), a watercolour of the Battle of Abu Klea during the Sudan Campaign of 1884-88/5, a rare Gold Medal from the Battle of Maida in 1806, the first time Napoleon’s forces were defeated, ten Waterloo Medals and three Victoria Crosses from the First World War.
The project will create a new RSR Catalogue enabling the combined collections to be searched together for the first time. An extensive preservation and digitisation programme will enable material from the collections to be made accessible online and to be used for digital displays and lifelong learning.
An RSR Heritage Website will be developed providing access to the new catalogue, digital images and archive film clips as well as a range of information and learning resources. The website will also host a new online database, listing every known soldier who served from 1701 to 1966.
An Educational Programme will be developed with the potential to involve schools and colleges from across East and West Sussex. Visits and activities will enable pupils and students to use original material at the Record Office as well as to access extensive online learning resources for ongoing work in the classroom.
Public Events will be held across the County including talks, community events and a travelling exhibition. This will be supported by a marketing campaign which will include leaflets, press releases, newspaper and magazine articles, social media and blogs to promote the project and engage with a wide range of audiences.
A key part of the project will be an Oral History initiative designed to encourage surviving RSR veterans to be interviewed about their experiences. Interviews would cover many conflicts from World War Two to Northern Ireland in the 1960s, encompassing places as diverse as Egypt, Jordan, Germany, Korea, Aden, Malta and Gibraltar.
Volunteers will have the opportunity to play a key role in the project with the potential to become part of specialist teams involved in listing and indexing, digitisation and preservation, oral history and research.
The project will also create opportunities to engage with military and civilian audiences across Sussex and beyond including the armed forces, service charities and local communities as well as RSR veterans and supporters. West Sussex County Council is an active member of the Sussex Armed Forces Champions scheme and has a Military Champion in the Cabinet:
The Royal Sussex Heritage Project will be a partnership project between the West Sussex Record Office, the Royal Sussex Regimental Association, the Royal Sussex Regiment Museum Trust, the Army Museums Ogilby Trust, the National Army Museum, West Sussex Library Service, Screen Archive South East, the University of Chichester and West Sussex Archives Society. An application will be made to the Heritage Lottery Fund to support the proposed work and we are seeking widespread views to inform the project.
We will shortly be submitting a major bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund and other funding providers to support a Royal Sussex Regiment Heritage Project. We are keen to gather your views to inform our project moving forward, so please have your say and complete a questionnaire at the Record Office, or fill out our online survey –