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The first official recognition of the office of Deputy Lieutenant occurred in 1569, when for the first time the Lord-Lieutenant's commission carried a deputation clause enabling him to appoint deputies to view and train local levies. Initially two deputies were the usual allowance per county, but the number soon increased.
At the time of the Armada, Deputy Lieutenants enforced watch and ward beacons that were kept ready to give warning of invasion. The duties of Deputy Lieutenants were increased to command the militia, training and checking of equipment, obtaining 'Volunteers' for service abroad and also arranging for the billeting of the militia when on exercise or called out against the threat of invasion.
In the late nineteenth century the Militia was removed from the Lord-Lieutenant's direct control, and in 1921 he finally lost the power to call on all able bodied men of the county to fight in case of need. The Militia's successor was the Territorial Army, organised through county associations of which the Lord-Lieutenant was President. In 1940 it was natural for the Lord-Lieutenant and his deputies to take a prominent part in the formation of the Home Guard and in building it up as an effective force.
Currently the Lord-Lieutenant is required to appoint up to forty-seven Deputy Lieutenants for the county of West Sussex. They are appointed at the Lord-Lieutenant's discretion, subject only to Her Majesty The Queen 'not disapproving of the granting of the commission'.
Under the terms of the Lieutenancy Act a person may be appointed a Deputy Lieutenant if:
The aim is that within each county the Deputy Lieutenants should be widely representative of its life in social range, gender, community background, ethnic mix and service to the community. A Deputy Lieutenant is not required to be a British subject.
The holders of the office of Deputy Lieutenant formally accept the obligation to assist the Lord-lieutenant. In her absence the more important assignments are dealt with by the Vice Lord-Lieutenant, but from time to time a Deputy Lieutenant is asked to carry out a particular function. Current examples are:
The well-known Olympic gold medallist, Sally Gunnell OBE DL, one of the county's Deputy Lieutenants