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Bomb damage near Eastbourne E.Sussex

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My daughter and partner have a bungalow on a 1930s estate in Polegate, Sussex, first thing we noticed was the strange mix of tiles on the roof, four distinctly different types.




At first we thought a right bunch of cowboy builders had been at work, although a neighbor said it was the result of the 1987 storm, this didn't make sense, an insurance claim would have meant a propper job.


This is next doors roof, all mixed tiles.




As there was no under felt or insulation and we were putting in a loft room the tiles were replaced with new, next door did theirs as well, up on the scaffolding it was plain to see a lot of nearby properties had the same mixed up tiles, with many types of hip,ridge and bonnets.




We then noticed the bungalow opposite (no pic) was a single later type (1950s I reckon) and it dawned on us it may be bomb damage, I live a short distance away and asked my neighbor, one of the oldest locals around, about it and he told me it was indeed bomb damaged!


He was on leave from the Navy and saw the bomber coming in from Pevensy Bay with it's bomb doors open and rushed inside a nearby house to protect a baby, afterwards he pushed his way through the hedge into the estate and got told off "Just because a few bombs have been dropped there's no need to ruin the hedge lad!"

One bomb had bounced right out of the ground again and lay some distance away, he and his mates all stood with one foot on it like big game hunters with their kill!

Although it was generally thought to have been an attempt to bomb the nearby railway station, he disagrees as the bomber was too low to miss, and thinks the estate was mistaken for an army camp as it was the first estate ever built, being all self contained with only one way in from the main road. It is built up all round now so isn't so obvious, the developer made a tidy sum and drove a powder blue car!


Another old neighbor said a lot of bomb damage repairs where done by gangs of matelos (his word) as there weren't enough ships left for them to man, he said they turned up with brand new tools but hadn't got much of a clue what to do with them really, he said when they were nailing up welsh slates they broke more than they fixed in place, as every ton of good slate the miners dug out produced 30 tons of waste, the sailors made it 40 ton.


The other day when the sun was low I spotted what may be bullet or shrapnel holes in one side of the chimney stack.




A friend of mine, when he heard about this brought round an old book published locally listing all the bombs dropped in Eastbourne borough, this has the following entry;


January 23rd 1943


9.50 am After dropping bombs at Southlands Estate Polegate, four F.W 109's raced home over the Old Town district of Baldwin Avenue, Salehurst Road, Longland Road and Summerdown Road with their guns blazing. Some damage was caused by gunfire - from the Huns and our own AA. A Bofors crew at Cow Gap, near Beachy Head, claimed to have shot one plane down into the sea. Parts of the plane and the body of a german airman were washed up later.


Casualties; None in the Borough.


The only thing that may throw doubt on this being the raid that damaged my daughters house is that my neighbor who saw the bomber approaching is certain there was only one and that there were casualties. The book may not have included these casualties because they were outside the borough of Eastbourne.

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Interesting thread, Bernard,.........a few more details, re polegate bombings in wwii; 20 h/e, 5 incendiary and 115 anti personnel bombs were dropped in and around polgate parish;

Details I have of your incident are as follows, 'Southlands Estate, Polegate suffered severley from three attacks (tip and run ). the first, on Jan 23 1943 was made by four aircraft. About 200 premises were damaged, but many only slightly. A pair of semi-detached houses in Western Avenue recieved a direct hit and were completely demolished, three people being killed.

Soon after the start of the Flying Bomb attack in June 1944, a bomb was brought down in a field adjoining the estate, and damage was done in the vicinity of North Close.

Four fatal casualties and considerable damage was caused by another flying bomb which dropped in west Close on July 7th.


All the best,



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Thanks for that Andy, so no single aircraft attack recorded then.


Have you seen/got the book


Eastbourne 1939 - 1945 A complete record of nearly six years of war in Eastbourne?



Hi mate,.......no, not seen that book, info I gave came out of 'The war in East Sussex'........compiled by Sussex Express and County Herald newspapers. 1945.

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Just a couple of stories from neighbours who where there at the time of these raid.


The Single bomber was identified as a Hienkle 111.


Ten of Mr Wadman the farmer's best milk cows were killed in one raid.


A bang was heard and an excited boy ran in saying that something looking just like a bicycle pump had fallen from the sky, this was a V2.


Some of our planes hit the downs (hills) when going out on missions because they were flying low in the dark and fog.


Children with chest trouble and asthma where taken to the gas works to breath in the sulfurous fumes as a remedy,

It was a nuisance when the gas works was hit as this treatment was no longer available !


Four semi detached bungalows and two houses received direct hits and were rebuilt after the war, a sailor home on leave was sadly killed in a bungalow in West Close.


A gunner on a roof in town managed to shoot one Hun plane down and the grateful townsfolk had a whip round for him, they were so thankful.


One neighbour remembers her father driving into town as the word was out that a shop (Dale & Kirley) had just got some combs in stock, and her mother wanted one, they were stopped by a very excited warden who angrily told him to "Get that child in a shelter now!"

It seems there was an air raid in progress and the town was being straffed, her father said they hadn't noticed because they were talking too much!

She desribed the bullets as "pitter pattering on the road"


This same woman's mother had saved up the rations for ages in order to bake a big cake, she cooked it and placed it on the window ledge to cool, moments afterwords the window was blown in and the cake ruined, the cake was a much greater loss than the window ever was!

Edited by gritineye
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I found this reference supporting the V2 story;


"There was only one report of the latest secret German Weapon, the V2 Rocket falling in Sussex. This was the silent killer, you didn’t hear it coming and it caused the most enormous crater. I was taken to see the big hole in a field caused by the one which fell near Polegate. You could have lost a couple of Southdown double decker buses in it."

Here. http://www.bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar/user/21/u521021.shtml


A mention of North Avenue is made here http://www.bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar/stories/87/a4387287.shtml I think North Avenue may be Northern Avenue but remembered incorrectly.


This interesting piece found here http://www.91stbombgroup.com/91st_tales/pieces.html


On August 31 on missions to Amiens and Romilly airfields, the 91st was just over the Channel coast of England. As I watched the squadron above and to our right, a B-17 started to fill in a vacant slot. At the same time, another one attempted to fill the position from below, and they spanked together, disintegrating and falling below. As I watched the falling debris and bomb loads, a damaged ‘chute with part of a body floated to our right. I thought, "No survivors, 20 men gone to Glory." "The Eager Beaver" (42-29816) and "L’il Audrey" (41-24523) were no more, but by some miracle, one of the tail assemblies spun downward, then leveled off, and S/Sgt. Charles E. Allen, tail gunner, bailed out, surviving with slight injury when rescued. Eight bodies were recovered, the others MIA in the Channel.


Upon base again, we learned that "Paddy Gremlin" (42-29972) was damaged by falling debris from the collision and crash-landed at Polegate. Three of the crew bailed out over the channel and drowned. Pilot Lt. Jess D. Rogers, 322nd Sq. and 4 of the crew died in the crash.



It seems that even records kept at or just after the events happened can be surprisingly inaccurate, not matching even hard evidence such as rebuilt houses.


Establishing what really happened all those years ago certainly very difficult, even for an eye witness, as this interesting account shows



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yes , interesting reading , the pliability of memories and of children , We think we know something but others convince us otherwise . As true today as ever .... recent past and present criminal court proceedings with witness accounts and statements .

Sorry to veer of course .

Interesting how much that person as still able to gather about the raid and the pilots . How important that as many different people are interviewed at the time of an event to get as many details as possible . Todays events become tomorrows history.

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Guest catweazle (Banned Member)

Great storys Bernard.our end of season rd runs is on whot happened in the local area,

The farmer whos field we use saw a spitfire come down on there land when he was a lad,many years later they dug for it and found the engine,it is now in the musuem on the sea front at Eastbourne.

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I spoke to an old couple about ten years ago in Wolverhampton (actually a village just to the west), a lovely pair who made me tea and spent hours telling stories all backed up with photos and items he had kept since the war. He even still had his car which he brought in the late 1930s, he showed me a pack with all the papers from the day, including petrol coupons, bill of sale, the lot!

Anyway - he was a member of the village Home Guard, Wolverhampton was bombed on and off and on occasion he was on watch as the bombers often turned around over the village on their way back to Germany and dumped bombs. He said they were sitting around on one such night when a message came in that a coppice was on fire, he and his mate tootled off in the car (extra petrol for Home Guard work - apparently) to have a look. When they arrived, they found a stick of incendiary bombs had landed setting fire to some leaf litter, they pilled soil on them to put out the fires and the bombs themselves. One of the incendiaries was a dud and was just poking out of the grass so he pulled it out and chucked it in the car as a souvenir! Being a practical chap he took it home and took it to pieces to see how it worked. He went on to say that he removed the cap and the material inside to make it safe and buried it in the garden (said as he pointed out of the window into the garden) keeping the casing. After further talking he wondered off into the garage saying he had a few wartime things that I might like to have, to a Corus of his wife saying, don't offload your old rubbish on the young man :-)


Out of the box came a clip of 5 .303 live blank rounds

An antitank projectile (can't remember the name ATM)

A great coat with original cap with badge stuffed in the pocket!

A photo of him in the garden with the family Dog

A Gasmask

An LDV Armband

And b*gger me that very Incendiary bomb from his story!


Later on with my box of bits I left via the garage due to the size of the box. The chap (Peter) went to open the door and hanging on the back was his Home Guard uniform, I asked if it was what it looked like and he replied yes, but he didn't think of including it in the box as he used to use it to work on the car after the war so it was a bit dirty, I said it would be interesting to have a look and he just chucked it in the box saying I was free to bin it when I got home.


I'll post a photo when I get home, but I only have a small portion of the items at my new house, most of it is still has my Mom and Dads.


:coffee:I spoke to loads of ex-Home Guard back then, recorded some of the conversations and took notes on others - it was a wonderful experience and one that will NEVER be repeated, sadly.

Edited by ajmac
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Great story Alastair, thanks for that, it reminded me of when we found an anti personnel bomb on our smallholding when I was about five years old, my older brothers and I spent a while throwing it at the pigsty wall. I remember things like 'It sparked that time' and 'let's have a go you're not hitting the point right' were said!


We showed our mum and she just put it down a fox hole and sent us down to get the police, who had a little kiosk about a mile away in Green Street.They jumped in their car and raced off, leaving us to walk back, so we missed a ride and all the real fun and felt cheated, it was our bomb after all.


It's all under houses now, no country side left. :cry:

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There's a memorial to a B-17 crew who crashed up on Butts Brow (very close to Eastbourne/Polegate, near Willingdon). I go walking up there sometimes with my dad.



Hi Lauren, there is a book on this crash, 'Ruth-Less' and Far from Home, written by Kevin Watson. isbn0-9538390-0-1.


Ruth -Less was the nickname of said B-24D Liberator which, whilst attempting to make an emergency landing at Friston airstrip, crashed into the hillside at Butts Brow on 2nd Febuary 1944.



Part of the 44th Bomber Group based at Shipdham, Norfolk,Ruth-Less was returning from a raid on Watten, in the Pas de Calais, on the V1 assembly building at Foret d'Eperlecques, damaged by flak with no three engine knocked out, and no 4 loosing oil,......ehese both on starbourd wing, rendering her unable to return to her home base,.............with the tragic results commemorated by said plaque, on a quiet peaceful hill side above Eastbourne.

10 of the crew died in the crash.


As Gritineye has said, the downs were a magnet for aircraft crashes,..............and yes CW, the spit engine is indeed in the eastbourne redoubt. ( and yes, hopfully there WILL be a run from his field again this year. :-D)

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A few more little snippets of local civy life at the time, told to me by locals.


A lady farmer at Herstmonceux, (or Herkymoo as we say) a village about 5 miles from Polegate, was tending graves at the church there with her mother when they heard a huge bang, the loudest thing they had ever known. There was no sound of any plane and no warning at all, this scared them so much they rushed home straight away, they later learned this was the V2, which landed in Broad Road, Polegate.


Her father, when the flying bombs were "coming really thick" used to shoot at them from the attic window, but he could never get the speed right so missed them all!


On the first day of the war a steam engine was heard going to and fro along the railway line blowing it's whistle all the time, it turned out this was an air raid warning because the proper ones had not been put up yet, the plane that caused the alert was in fact just returning with some important people from Europe.

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A friend of mine who farms a few miles from Polegate, he mentioned a curious old tin shed that is on his land, here are some photos of it, the construction of the frame is very heavy and unusual for a mere shed, although there is not much left now.












It turns out that this shed came from the WW1 Royal Naval Airship Station at Polegate. Not a lot is left to see in the area now and I don't think anyone knows of this sheds history apart from the farmers family.




25 July 2007 Community news from Willingdon, Wannock and Jevington.


AIRSHIP STATION – A plaque to commemorate Polegate Royal Naval Airship Station is to be unveiled at 12noon on Friday July 27 at Willingdon Library in Coppice Avenue.

Chairman of Willingdon and Jevington Parish Council John Pritchett will be performing the ceremony and residents are very welcome to attend.

The airship station, which stood on 142 acres of meadowland in the parish of Willingdon from July 1915 to April 1919, stretched from the British Queen along the A2270 to Polegate (then Willingdon) Mill and west to Wannock and the South Downs. The station was named 'Polegate' in accordance with service practice, as that was the nearest railway station. It was commissioned on July 6 1915.

Polegate Airship Station was one of 11 stations around the coast carrying out air patrols against German U Boats, and was the most active. The patrol area in 1918 was 4,500 square miles stretching from Dungeness to Portland Bill. Eight thousand, one hundred and forty hours were flown that year. At that time the station's complement was 37 officers and 264 men.

During the time the station was open, 13 officers and other ranks were decorated for bravery and service, and 13 mentioned in dispatches. Four officers and 10 other ranks died on active service. On December 20 1917, an unfortunate accident at Hill Farm, Willingdon, occurred when two airships collided, killing one of the pilots, Flight Sub Lieutenant R Swallow. He is buried in Ocklynge Cemetery. The station closed in April 1919 following the end of the war, and since then the land has been fully developed. The original idea of having a plaque to commemorate the Airship Station was that of Andy Watkins in January 2006, when, as a district and parish councillor, he set the wheels in motion. He said at the time, "This airship station is part of our heritage. I am sure that like me, other long time residents of Willingdon will remember the remaining concrete blocks being blown up when parts of Lower Willingdon were developed. Also, when in 1995 the former motor transport workshop, which became the Birds Engineering site, the last reminder of the station, was demolished. Behind that building there had been another former hut used as a library until the present library was built."



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