Bombed firefighters are remembered

Service of Remembrance for those fire service peronel killed on 7th February 1943 by an enemy bomb at the Eastbourne Central Fire Station, Grove Road. 7th February 2013  E06199P

Service of Remembrance for those fire service peronel killed on 7th February 1943 by an enemy bomb at the Eastbourne Central Fire Station, Grove Road. 7th February 2013 E06199P

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Eastbourne firefighters stood side by side in a service on Thursday to remember those who lost their lives when a bomb dropped on the town’s fire station 70 years ago.

The memorial service was held outside Eastbourne Borough Council offices at 1 Grove Road which is on the site of the old Central Fire Station which was destroyed by German bombs at around 3pm on Sunday February 7 1943.

Six officers were killed when a 500kg bomb hit the fire station and exploded inside. They were section leader John Bailey,

leading fireman Fred Mewett, firewoman Pearl Chitty and firemen John Hunter, Fred Duke and Walter Goacher.

Remarkably, fire personnel Charlie Payne and Eddie Guy survived the attack and lived to tell the tale. Knowing how lucky they were to cheat death, every year, without fail, they telephoned to wish each other a happy second birthday because they both realise how lucky they were to be alive and it was always a race for each of them to call first!

They were both buried in the rubble of the Grove Road station for two hours, both seriously injured and with their dead colleagues around them, but they kept each other’s spirits up as they waited to be rescued.

Eastbourne’s mayor Mike Thompson hosted the event at 2.30pm at the site which is now marked by a commemorative plaque.

Among the guests were fellow dignitaries and principal officers from East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service, Fire Authority members as well as ESFRS employees.

The mayor said, “It is very fitting that we all share the memory of the brave fire officers who sacrificed so much during the war years and, in particular, those who lost their lives. What they did must never be forgotten.”

Joan Bennett, a former control operator in 1943, and Don Payne, the son of a survivor, were also there to pay their respects.