Monday, 25 October 2010

Not a very happy anniversary

This post was to have been called 'Why I'm having more fun than everyone else'. However, something else has occurred to me and I hope, dear bloggy friends, that it will not prove uninteresting to you.

At around 5.34pm on Sunday the 25th October 1942, sixty eight years ago today, a single German aircraft flew low over the English Channel in order to avoid detection by radar, and approached Seaford, East Sussex, intent on a 'tip and run' raid. With machine guns blazing, it dropped four bombs. The first fell on Broad Street - the town's main shopping street - destroying two shops and flats, killing 85 year old James Gale and his 53 year old daughter Fanny, and wounding eighteen more people. The three bombs that followed exploded in Sutton Road, Sutton Park Road and Vicarage Walk. Bomb number two completely destroyed two houses, killing George Borissow and his daughter Kathleen, Jessie Andrew, George Farnes and Mary Willis. It also caused serious damage to a third house - the house in which I now live - and killed Kate Holcombe, who was sixty eight years old. The third bomb killed sisters Fanny and Mary Buck, Catherine Meeson and Sarah Smith. The fourth caused damage to several properties but fortunately only one injury. The last fatality was a 54 year old air raid warden named William Tomley who, whilst making his way to an ARP control point, was struck in the chest by machine gun bullets and killed instantly. Sadly, this was the third death in the Tomley family; William's two sons, who served with the RAF, had been killed in action earlier in the war.

Altogether, there were thirty seven raids on Seaford during the second world war, resulting in twenty three deaths, sixteen dreadful injuries and 2064 properties destroyed or damaged. Rather strangely, it suffered far more than the port of Newhaven, three miles to the west, which one would have thought to be a more likely target for Germany's bombers.

Eventually, the war ended and life in Seaford returned to something approaching normality. My house, solidly constructed in 1907, was repaired. The two houses next door, being too badly damaged for repair, were replaced by a small block of four flats. Kate Holcombe was laid to rest in Seaford Cemetery. Her name and the names of all Seaford's war dead were inscribed upon the memorial that still stands in Sutton Road...

Today was a beautiful autumn day in Seaford. A gentle breeze rustled the fallen leaves and the sun shone in a cloudless sky, its light glinting on the calm and unruffled sea. On such a day it is hard to imagine the fear and horror suffered by the residents of my home town all those years ago.

4 comments:

Rallentanda said...

I think it is wonderful that you can cast your mind back to those terrible days and spare a thought for those victims of war in your home town . I think it is wonderful living in an old house
(1907 is old for us being only 200 years old ).There are too many ugly soulless modern buildings being erected that look like bunker blocks...it can't be good for the psyche!

Chris Hale said...

Rall - I think most people have heard about the bombing raids on London and other British cities, but it's not well known that smaller towns like mine also fell victim to German air attacks.

I love living in an old house; it seems to have its own personality, and, like me, it tends to creak a bit now it's getting on in years!

Derrick said...

I wonder how much research you had to do, Chris? So many stories go unknown.

Chris Hale said...

Derrick - I was already aware of the bombing raid via a close neighbour, but the detailed information was gathered quite by chance whilst browsing the books in the shop at Newhaven Fort. It seemed a shame that something so momentous in the town had been largely forgotten.