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Unveiling of special soldier statue

By Kelly Wickham
kelly.wickham@sussexpost.co.uk

 

A breathtaking statue was unveiled in the city on Remembrance Sunday as part of a special service.

 

The statue of Maurice Patten, created by Vincent Gray, was unveiled in front of the entire service and 48 members of his family.

 

After the wreath laying and blessings, Maurice’s great nephew, Simon Ulrich spoke about Maurice and his death, saying: “My great aunt often showed a treasured faded photograph. A young man she called her ‘dear lovely brother’. I was inspired to research his story.

 

“In August, 1914, Maurice Patten and brother Hubert, left Eartham, family and fiancée Dorothy to join “B Company” 7th Service Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment.

 

“In May, 1915, the battalion leaves for the front and regimental diaries detail it wasn’t the glorious adventure anticipated, but brutal, and unforgiving. Maurice received a promotion to lance corporal.”

 

In January, 1916, Maurice was killed. His captain wrote: ‘The loss to the company will be a heavy one, he was a strong and willing worker, one whose cheerfulness never deserted him. A most capable young NCO (A non-commissioned officer) his company will miss a good friend.’

 

Dorothy, who was heartbroken, wrote to Maurice’s comrade, Private Thomas Harbour. She received a letter detailing Maurice’s death and seven days later Private Harbour was killed in action.

 

On the centenary commemoration of Priory Park being gifted to the city by the Duke of Richmond as a permanent war memorial, local sculptor Vincent Gray was commissioned to create a sculpture. His choice was of an ordinary soldier, a ‘Tommy.’

 

Simon added: “Many from Sussex suffered losses, as you look upon this soldier of the Great War, I hope, you see a glimpse of any loved ones who gave their lives.

 

“Maurice Patten, immortalised, is a permanent reminder to future generations of 900,000 British and Commonwealth personnel whom paid the ultimate price.”

 

Speaking after the service, to the Chichester Post, Simon said: “This is a tremendous honour and purely by chance really. Vincent produced the sculpture as part of the Priory Park 100 years celebrations last year.

 

“I was put in touch with Vincent to advise him on technicalities such as uniform etc and for doing it, he asked me what I’d like, and I said ‘make him my great uncle’ and that’s what we did.

 

“The city council got involved, Rotary Club and MP Gillian Keegan mentioned him in the House of Commons as well, it’s been great.”

 

In 2021, Simon is organising a coach trip to his grave after many members of his family showed an interest.

 

Simon was wearing Maurice’s medals on Sunday; the 14-15 star, victory medal and peace medal.

 

Vincent Gray said he was honoured to have the statue placed in Litten Gardens.

 

He said: “As it was so well received when I was modelling it in clay, someone suggested I should cast it. I had no plans to do that, I made it purely and simply for the Art in Action.

 

“I did cast it and it was out for Armistice Day last year for the 100 years. Again, it was so well received, that I thought if I hadn’t been invited to do Art in Action, the sculpture wouldn’t exist so I thought it was only right and proper to gift it to the city.

 

“The Rotary Club financed the plinth and there is talk to have it cast in bronze. This resin sculpture would go to Eartham where Morris is from.

 

“I am honoured and humbled. The artefacts arranged by his feet include his personal effects which were sent home comprising of his tobacco pouch, his silver watch and chain, a bible and family photographs.

 

“The bible bears a really heavy shrapnel wound which is probably the shrapnel which killed him.”

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