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  • Christina Drummond

Private Reginald Thomas Tite, 13th Battalion, the (Southdowns) Royal Sussex Regiment

Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1916, Private Reginald Thomas Tite, 13th Battalion, the (Southdowns) Royal Sussex Regiment, was executed for cowardice and desertion. In 2006, along with three hundred and five other soldiers, he was posthumously pardoned.

Private Tite had joined the army in October of 1915, prompted by his having been appalled at the shooting of Edith Cavell by the Germans. He was sent to the Western Front and was involved in the fighting on the Somme in the summer of 1916, where he saw many of his friends and comrades killed.

During the autumn he had been in a front-line trench for over two weeks, more than twice the length of time that was normal, but with a shortage of able soldiers he had no choice but to stay put. At one point he asked permission to leave the trench, and an officer refused permission but allowed to to remain in a safe place for a short period of time – he was late reporting back and was put on periscope duty. He reported to another officer that he could no longer stand it, and he was later arrested. He said, “I wish to state that I am very queer when I am in the line. I can’t sleep and I can scarcely eat anything. When there is a bombardment on I seem to take leave of my senses. I run from one bay to another and I have to clear out of the line altogether.” The doctor who saw him before his trial merely referred to him being physically fit, with no reference to his mental state. However, after the court-martial on the 2nd of November he was admitted to the Field Ambulance with a raised temperature, but was not seen at the Casualty Clearing Station until the 19th of November when it was discovered he was suffering from bronchial catarrh. He was discharged after three days, and a few days later was executed at dawn.

Private Tite is buried in the Poperinghe New Military Cemetery at West-Vlaanderen in Belgium, and he is remembered at the Shot at Dawn Memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum near Alrewas in Staffordshire. His family had experienced much tragedy up to that point, with the death of siblings and of his mother when he was four years old, his brother Joseph was later killed at Salonika (his wife died young and left their two young sons orphaned), and his two cousins who joined up with him were also killed in action. Records indicate that his father was not told of the nature of his death, the certificate merely stating “death”.

Reginald, from East Grinstead, was 27 years old.

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