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Looking Back: It’s all over in Eastbourne as Second World War ends

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So many people are deserving of credit for their services in the borough during the war and N Hardy, the editor of a comprehensive book on how Eastbourne survived paid tribute to them.

He writes, “It is impossible to deal with every instance of bravery and devotion to duty. Here are a few cases of particular merit which be made widely known.

“A string of bombs was dropped on the Victoria Drive housing estate. They all failed to explode. The Police Recco Party went to investigate and found a constable standing with his legs wide apart. ‘Have you got a UXB around here?,’ asked the Recco Party. ‘Here it is,’ remarked the constable, pointing to a hole in the ground between his feet. ‘I’m keeping the people away from it.’

“Following a raid on the town, a large unexploded bomb was wedged under a train in the station. A bomb disposal squad was called and the Lieutenant in charge waved his men back with the words, ‘I’ll see to this one boys’. He returned some time later holding the detonator.

A German mine was washed up on the beach. The police and Holywell coastguard inspected it. The policeman, knowing that to touch the horns usually meant it would explode, beat a hasty retreat when the curious coastguard grabbed a couple of horns, rolled the mine over and calmly made a note of the type.

“On one occasion a gasometer was punctured by incendiary cannon shells and set on fire. Two Gas Company employees set to work to seal off the flaming gas by plugging the holes with wet clay. They worked for a considerable time while enemy aircraft were flying overhead, apparently oblivious to the danger of further attacks on the illuminated target.

“When the evacuation from Dunkirk was taking place the police were notified that the wounded were to be brought to Eastbourne Pier. As the Pier was mined ready for blowing up in case of attempted invasion, there was a difficulty. All the mines had to be disarmed and rendered safe.

“All people in the vicinity were evacuated and a member of the Bomb Disposal Squad got busy. He took out detonators from all the mines at very great risk to himself: one mistake would mean a terrific explosion but he succeeded – and the wounded did not come to Eastbourne after all. Then he proceeded to fuse them all again.

“On August 11 1942 the town had its most severe night raid. Many HE and incendiary bombs were dropped. It was discovered that the Hun was using an entirely new type of explosive nose incendiary bomb. Many of them failed to explode. A police party collected 27 of these dangerous bombs after the raid and took them to the police station on the back seat of a car. The PCs concerned turned rather pale when told later what they were.

“A report was received at Police HQ that a parachute with a man attached had been seen descending near Ratton. Investigators went out.

“After a long search a handkerchief, in the form of a tiny parachute, was seen caught in the telephone wires. A policeman recovered it and found attached a small key and a note saying that the pilot of a Spitfire (going out on a sweep) had forgotten to return his key to the Union Jack Club in London. The pilot of the plane had thought of this unusual method of returning the key just in case he didn’t come back.”

 

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