Today (Thursday July 7) marks the 75th anniversary of the first World War II bombing raid on Eastbourne when, shortly after 11am on July 7, a Dornitz bomber released a stick of high explosive bombs which destroyed eight houses in Whitley Road.
There followed during the war, 94 further indiscriminate raids during which more than 600 high explosive and about 4,000 incendiary bombs fell on Eastbourne.
It became the most raided town in the south east with 174 residents killed, 474 houses were totally destroyed and three churches - St John’s Meads, St Mary’s Hampden Park and St Anne’s in Upperton - were demolished. St Anne’s was not rebuilt.
Local resident Robert Gordon remembers that first raid.
“I was a boy of seven living in Annington Road and, after the bombing, I went out round the corner to see Whitley Road covered in debris and broken glass,” he said.
“The roof of number 38 was two-thirds of the way down to the ground and the post office and store opposite had been blown up.
“We used to go along Whitley Road every Sunday for a family walk and my mother always told me that if I had not been naughty and taken so much time to get ready, we would all have been in Whitley Road when the bombs dropped and would have been killed.”
There is no memorial to the residents who lost their lives, or to the fortitude of those who remained in Eastbourne during all the dangers, but now two local architects, Wendy Thomas and her daughter Tara, have drawn up plans for a memorial to be sited within the moat of the Wish Tower.
They are supported by the Eastbourne Society and have the backing of friends of the Foyle family. It was Gilbert Foyle and his sons Eric and John who financed the building of the Wish Tower Sun Lounge as the town’s memorial to the bombing victims. This was demolished in 2012.
The new plans have been approved in principle by Historic England and by planning advisors so the formal application for approval is now being prepared.
It is proposed to build the memorial where the original moat wall was demolished during the construction of the first Wish Tower Cafe.
Wendy Thomas said, “This memorial will be ideally sited in the quiet and reflective moat of the Wish Tower. It will feature the highest standards of craftsmanship and with an eminent sculptor designing some of the detailed features.”
When all formal approvals have been given by the planning and other authorities, a public appeal for funding will be launched.