Ernest Beal was the only Brighton man to have been awarded the Victoria Cross in the First World War. He showed immense bravery in holding a section of trench, capturing machine guns and looking after a wounded man.

Ernest Beal was born on 27 January 1883, his family were renowned in Brighton for the stationary shop they ran in East Street near to the seafront, a shop that Ernest worked in and where he met the love of his life May Bundy. Ernest and his family attended the Congregational Church close to the family home in Lewes Road on a regular basis, and it was here in 1908 that 13th Brighton Company of the Boys Brigade started. The Boys' Brigade had been formed in the same year as Ernest had been born however, Ernest didn't attend the organisation as a boy.

When war broke out in 1914, he was 31 and he enlisted as a trooper in the 21st Sussex Yeomanry. By the 11 June 1915 he was promoted to sergeant and was posted on 10 September 1915 to the Sussex Yeomanry serving at Gallipoli and in Eqypt. Ernest was transferred to the 16th Royal Sussex Regiment in 1916 and served with his new unit on the Western Front. He was recommended for a commission and was finally transferred to the 3rd Battalion Alexandra, Princess of Wales' Yorkshire Regiment in September 1917 and was posted a month later to the western front. Second Lieutenant Ernest Beal was awarded the posthumous Victoria Cross for conspicuous bravery on 21st March 1918 at Saint- Leger. On the following day, he was hit by a shell and died of his wounds, aged 35. Ernest was awarded the VC when saving the life of one of his men under fire. His name is listed on the Arras Memorial to the Missing in Pas-de-Calais, France. The announcement was made in The London Gazette from HM King George V on 3 July 1918 at Buckingham Palace. The citation was:- 

‘For most conspicuous bravery and determined leading when in command of a company detailed to occupy a certain section of a trench. When the company was established, it was found that a considerable gap of about 400 yards existed between the left flank of the company and the neighbouring unit, and that this gap was strongly held by the enemy. It was of vital importance that the gap should be cleared, but no troops were then available. Organising a small party of less than a dozen men, he led them against the enemy. On reaching an enemy machine gun, 2nd Lt. Beal immediately sprang forward, and with his revolver killed the team and captured the gun. Continuing along the trench he encountered and dealt with another machine gun in the same manner, and in all captured four enemy guns, and inflicted severe casualties. Later in the evening, when a wounded man had been left in the open under heavy enemy fire, he, regardless of danger, walked up close to an enemy machine gun and brought in the wounded man on his back. 2nd Lt. Beal was killed by a shell on the following morning.’

The list of Winners of the Ernest Beal VC Watch

1919 C/Sgt S.Hope 3rd
1920 Sgt J.B.Voller 13th
1921 Sgt A.Hope 3rd
1922 C/Sgt E.P.Slater 19th
1923 C/Sgt S.Cox 13th
1924 Sgt L.Tyler 13th
1925 Sgt S.Voller 13th
1926 Sgt W.Bristow 14th
1927 Sgt L.Surman 13th
1928 Sgt E.Holden 10th
1929 C/Sgt L.Westgate 3rd
1930 Cpl L.Harris 3rd
1931 Sgt C.P.Voller 13th
1932 Sgt F.Barber 3rd
1933 Sgt H.Cowley 1st
1934 C/Sgt E.House 12th
1935 C/Sgt A.Moss 3rd
1936 Not Awarded
1937 Sgt C.Taylor 3rd
1938 C/Sgt A.Howard 20th
1939 Sgt J.Pratt 3rd
1940 Sgt D.Hitchins 14th
1941 Sgt T.Crump 9th
1942 Cpl D.Atkinson 19th
1943 Sgt D.Elphick 19th
1944 Sgt J.Winton 13th
1945 Sgt D.Elmer 13th
1946 Sgt E.Hitchins 14th
1947 Sgt R.Virgo 4th
1948 Sgt E.Niblett 6th
1949 Sgt G.Brown 14th
1950 Cpl K.Thomsett 21st
1951 Sgt G.R.Holkham 16th
1952 Cpl K.Elmer 13th
1953 Sgt D.Miller 30th
1954 Sgt D.Parsons 14th
1955 J.Corin 30th
1956 Sgt's A.N.Ball/ J.Miles 13th/14th
1957 Sgt D.Simmons 14th
1958 Sgt F.Sheppard 25th
1959 Sgt A.K.Sharp 4th
1960 Cpl A.Mackenzie 14th
1961 Sgt M.Harris 30th
1962 Sgt A.Jackson 14th
1963 Sgt M.Dale 10th
1964 Sgt M.E.Benham 13th
1965 Sgt D.Rowlands 16th
1966 Sgt M.Fanstone 18th
1967 Snr R.J.Simmons 26th
1968 Sgt M.Hall 14th
1969 Sgt D.J.Rance 13th
1970 Sgt T.P.Simmons 13th
1971 Sgt D.Funnell 30th
1972 Sgt D.Gee 14th
1973 Sgt R.Starling 23rd
1974 Sgt M.Fowler 13th
1975 Sgt I.Stoner 14th
1976 Sgt D.White 9th
1977 Sgt M.Ellis Martin 14th
1978 Sgt S.Maskell 14th
1979 Sgt S.Foster 1st L'f
1980 Sgt T.Hall 14th
1981 Sgts S.Avard/N.Neville 14th/13th
1982 Sgt A.Lay 1st L'f
1983 Sgt A.Bennewith !st L'F
1984 Sgt J.Sayers 13th
1985 Sgt M.Ball 13th
1986 Sgt S Walder 13th
1987 Sgt M.Noakes 2nd B/h
1988 Sgt J.Bennett 2nd B/h
1989 Sgt R.Walker 1st L'f
1990 Not Awarded
1991 Cpl J.Anderson 2nd B/h
1993 Sgt P.Cherriman 1st Hors
1996 M.Dignum 3rd B/h
1997 J.Connor 2nd B/h
1998 K.Pickard 2nd B/h
2000 Sgt P.Eaves 10th
2001 Sgt M.Adams 26th
2003 Sgt J.Johnson 1st L/fd
2004 Sgt S.Emerson 26th
2006 Not Awarded
2007 Sgt J.Lewry 26th
2008 Sgt O.Creese-Smith 2nd B/h
2009 Sgt J.Stenning 2nd B/h
2010 Sgt A.Price 3rd B/h
2011 Sgt T.Bryant 3rd B/h
2012 Not Awarded
2013 Sgt C.Dean 3rd B/h
2014 Sgt W.Heyward 1st L/fd
2015 Cpl A Sander 3rd B/h

2016 - Not Awarded

2017 - Sgt J Sherlock - 3rd Burgess Hill

2019-L/Cpl B Sansom-3rd Burgess Hill

2020- Sgt H Newman-1st Southwick 

2021-Sqt T Baty-3rd Burgess Hill

2022- R. James-1st Southwick