Private Jethro “Jesse” West

Regiment: 7th Battalion, The Royal Sussex Regiment.
Service No: G/3076
Date & place of birth: 4th qtr 1876, in Lodsworth, Sussex
Date & place of death: 14 February 1919 (aged 42) at Chichester

Jethro West had previously served in The Royal Sussex Regiment during the Boer War. He re-enlisted in 1915 but was invalided with a shellshot wound to his leg.  Although his birth was registered as “Jethro”, he enlisted as “Jesse” West. He died in hospital at Chichester after the war from tuberculosis.

Family background

Jethro West was born in Lodsworth in 1876, the sixth child of James (known as “Jemmie”) West (1845–1904), from Easebourne, and his wife Jane, née Adlington (1841–1914).

Jane had been born in Easebourne, the daughter of Sarah, a widow, and an unknown father and spent her childhood in the workhouse at Easebourne. She left the workhouse to go into service and in 1861 was the cook for John Butt, a timber merchant, and his wife Rhoda in Littlehampton. Jane and Jemmie married at Lodsworth on 10 October 1867 and their first child, Jane, was born a year later. The couple remained at Lodsworth, where Jemmie worked as a hoopmaker in the brickyard, until about 1880 when the family moved to Titty Hill, near Stedham, where the couple’s ninth and final child was born in 1887.

Jethro was born at Lodsworth and his birth was registered at Midhurst in the final quarter of 1876.  He was christened in St Peter’s, Lodsworth on 4 October 1876. By the time of the 1891 census, the family had moved to Polecats, near Heyshott, where Jemmie worked as a cleaner and 14-year old Jethro worked as a carter. The family remained at Polecats until about 1902, when they moved to Little London, on the opposite side of Heyshott Common.

Military service

Jesse first enlisted in The Royal Sussex Regiment at Chichester on 28 November 1898, when he gave his age as 21 years 2 months, although he was actually a year older. His occupation was a farm labourer, employed by a Mr Dunnett at Lodsworth. He was given the service number 7827 in the 3rd (Militia) Battalion, formerly The Royal Sussex Light Infantry. The 3rd Battalion volunteered for service overseas in South Africa and set sail for the Cape on 29 March 1901. The battalion spent the Boer War protecting lines of communication and convoys. After 18 months service, the battalion returned home to England on 28 September 1902. Jesse remained with the battalion until he was discharged on 28 November 1904, after six years’ service. His service in the Boer War earned him the Queen’s South Africa Medal and clasps. At the time of his discharge, he was described as of “Good character”.

After his discharge, Jesse (Jethro) returned to Lodsworth. At the time of the 1911 census, he was living with his brother Frank and his wife at Lodsworth Street, where he was working as a gardener.

On 9 December 1915, Jesse re-enlisted at Chichester into The Royal Sussex Regiment, although he was not called up until the following June, when he was posted to the 11th Service Battalion, with service number G/13076. He remained in England until 28 September, when he was sent to France as part of the British Expeditionary Force. On 17 October 1916, he was transferred to the 7th Battalion, following their heavy casualties at the Battle of Le Transloy. The following April, the Battalion was engaged in the Battles of the Scarpe.

Death & commemoration

Grave of Jethro West in Heyshott churchyard
Grave of Jethro West in Heyshott churchyard

On 23 July 1917, Jesse was awarded 21 days Field Punishment No. 1, for being “drunk on the line of march”. Five days later, he suffered a shell wound to his left thigh and was sent to the hospital at Etretat, before being transferred to the Hospital Ship Carisbrook Castle on 17 October and returned to England.

On 12 April 1918, he was discharged from the Army as “being no longer physically fit for War Service”. On the notice of his discharge, he is described as “an honest and hardworking man of good character”.

He returned to live in Heyshott, but died on 14 February 1919  in  The Royal West Sussex Hospital in Chichester; his death certificate records the cause of death as “tuberculosis of the lungs”. He was buried at St James Church, Heyshott alongside three other soldiers, and is commemorated on the Heyshott memorial window.

As well as the Queen’s South Africa Medal, he was entitled to the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

Other family members

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission record for Jethro West states that he was the “husband of Mabel West, of Heyshott”. We have been unable to trace any details of this marriage and are unable to identify her maiden name. The death of a Mabel West born about 1878, was registered at Midhurst in 1957.

In November 1914, Ernest West, the son of Jethro’s elder brother Alfred, enlisted at Horsham in the 4th Battalion of The Royal Sussex Regiment, claiming to be aged 17 years 3 months old, although he was actually two years younger and thus too young to enlist. Before Ernest could be sent to the front, his mother wrote to the army explaining that he was under age. “We blame ourselves for letting him enlist at such an early age as he is still so young”, she wrote. “We wish to claim him back till he is … Perhaps by then he will have more sense and know it is a serious thing to disobey one who is set over him. The bad language is very sad. I expect it was a fit of temper but that he must learn to govern.” Ernest was discharged on 11 February 1916 and lived locally until he died in December 1962, aged 63.

Midhurst U3A WW1 War Memorial Project