Info board on wreck unveiled at harbour

Civic dignitaries at the unveiling and dedication of the board
Civic dignitaries at the unveiling and dedication of the board
  • Tributes paid to those who died when the SS Barn Hill sank
  • The blazing ship drifted past Eastbourne seafront watched by hundreds
  • Part of wreck can still be seen at low tide off Macquarie Quay

An interpretation board detailing the fate of a shipwreck which lies off the coast of Sovereign Harbour was unveiled and dedicated last week.

The SS Barn Hill was sunk by German bombers on March 20, 1940, off Beachy Head and drifted past the town before sinking. Part of the wreck can still be seen at low tide off Macquarie Quay.

On the 75th anniversary of the bombing and sinking, the SS Barn Hill Project Group got together at the site to remember those who were killed or suffered during the incident.

Eastbourne mayor Janet Cole unveiled the board on the North Harbour beach, at the end of Macquarie Quay.

Following the unveiling, the board was dedicated by Father David Charles, the RNLI Chaplain.

The project to commemorate the event was started by aviation historian, Andy Saunders, and seen to conclusion with the help of Eastbourne Lifeboat Operations Manager, Paul Metcalfe and Sovereign Harbour Residents Association chairman Jan Weeks.

The cost of the board was jointly funded by RNLI Heritage, the SHRA, Sovereign councillors’ devolved ward budget, the Rotary Club of Sovereign Harbour and Premier Marinas. Identity Signage and Printing supplied and printed the insert, free of charge, and Pevensey Coastal Defence arranged for the installation.

The 5,439 ton British Merchant ship, SS Barn Hill was attacked by a lone German Heinkel 111 bomber off Beachy Head, setting it on fire and killing four crew members and a fifth died later in hospital. Seven others were injured, but survived from the flames with fire hoses from the tug.

The ship, badly damaged, drifted out of control along the coast. The Eastbourne Lifeboat, the Jane Holland was launched and was quickly aside the stricken ship, taking 28 men ashore.

In heavy seas, two members of the lifeboat crew, Alec Huggett and Thomas Allchorn, were put aboard the burning ship and made their way forward, protecting themselves from the flames with fire hoses from the tug.

The lifeboat was brought alongside and the captain was lowered aboard and taken ashore where he was transferred to hospital. The Jane Holland returned to the blazing ship carrying members of the Fire Brigade to fight the fire but, pushed by the wind, it drifted past the Eastbourne seafront watched by hundreds of people, eventually running aground where it now rests.