Southern railway employee’s Sussex research project to become official First World War reference document

A Southern employee has been praised for her painstaking research into Sussex railway workers who served in the First World War.

Laura Lee, a station sales clerk based at Arundel railway station, was presented with a certificate by the Royal Sussex Regiment in recognition of the years of work she has put into her research project.

Members of the Royal Sussex Regiment presented Arundel railway station sales clerk Laura Lee with framed mementoes and a Royal Sussex pin

Members of the Royal Sussex Regiment presented Arundel railway station sales clerk Laura Lee with framed mementoes and a Royal Sussex pin

The paperwork will soon be presented to West Sussex Record Office in Chichester, where it will be treated as an official reference document.

It all started as a small act of respect to those from her station but it turned into a far-reaching labour of love when Laura, 49, started combing through records.

Laura, who has worked on the railway for ten years, said: “It was just a project I was doing to satisfy myself and it’s just snowballed. I just focused on my own station and then people started asking ‘why don’t you do the other stations?’ and it grew from there.

“I do a couple of hours of research every evening when I’m in the mood for it. Sometimes I sit there for hours, it’s been very interesting. There must be 300 to 400 names in my folder.”

A mother-of-two from Littlehampton, Laura began her project in the run up to the centenary of the First World War, collating the names, ages, roles and fates of those based at Arundel.

Her work then sparked a joint project between Southern and Sussex Community Rail Partnership to mark the milestone anniversary last year but it did not stop there.

Given the interest in her work, Laura was encouraged to continue her research for as many as 30 stations, from Crawley to Emsworth and along to Brighton.

Kirsten Firth, community rail development manager, said: “In her own time, Laura continued with the painstaking research into all railway staff on the Arun Valley Line, detailing their post on the railway, their ages and what happened to them.

“For those who are buried overseas, she included a photograph of the war grave.”

Last Monday, seven members of the Royal Sussex Regiment thanked Laura for her sterling work and presented her with framed regimental mementoes and a Royal Sussex pin.

Once Laura has completed the last part of her project, tracing those based at Brighton station, she will hand over her findings.

Rowen Tyler, community development officer for Arun Valley Line and Coastway West Line, said: “It was touching to see the research Laura did in her own time as a mark of respect to railway staff who served in the Great War.

“When the Royal Sussex Regiment heard and asked if they could come to Arundel to thank her in person, we were happy to help the West Coast station management team arrange what proved to be a splendid presentation event.”

Laura was joined by her proud family for the presentation and she said it was very moving.

Visit Arundel railway station to see the display on Laura’s research project.