Continuing our series of how Eastbourne survived the fierce bombing campaign during the Second World War, this week we pay tribute to those who worked tirelessly from 1939-1945 in the words of N Hardy, the editor of the book, Eastbourne 1939-1945, a complete record of nearly six years of war in Eastbourne.
Mr Hardy writes, “21st Sussex (Eastbourne) Batallion Home Guard. Formed in May 1940 under the command of Brigadier General E Costello as G Company, and later divided into four companies. Costello was succeeded in turn by Colonel Wise and Brigadier General Charles Terrott.
Lieutenant Colonel T Sutton was appointed commanding officer in June 1943. The batallion area was enlarged in the same month to include Polegate, Pevensey, Friston and the Cucmere Balley. More than 5,000 men passed through the ranks of the 21st Battalion.
In addition to their normal duties, members of the Home Guard were always on hand during raids. Practice, lectures, drills, night patrols, parades – hour after hour after a hard day’s work.
“Done willingly (with a grumble or two perhaps) but in the full realisation that this south east corner of England’s green and pleasant land might at any moment be turned into a battlefield. A good job well done!
“This record of Eastbourne during the war years would be incomplete without reference to the following people who carried on unobtrusively often behind the scenes: blood donors, who offered their blood for service casualties brought home from Europe to local hospitals in addition to civilian victims of air raids; the Casalty Bureau operated from the Public Health Department. All information regarding casualties in air raids was filtered by this bureau before transmission to the controller.
“Control. The staff at control did a splendid job. They were the king pin during raids and the responsibility of organising quick action after an incident was theirs.
“Rescue Services. On the job within a very few minutes of a raid. Burrowing, heaving, to rescue trapped people at considerable risk to themselves. A great job well done.
“Medical. We can be grateful for the wonderful work of our doctors, nurses and first aid parties including the British Red Cross Society and St John Ambulance Brigade for their part during the way years.
“We owe a special word of thanks to the doctors who, badly overworked due to many of the local medical men being in the forces, were always on hand to ease out ills – real and not so real.
“The women. Our womenfolk set a fine example of fortitude and courage in every phase of war. Local people remember with pride the members of the Women’s Transport Service and the Women’s Voluntary Service of this town who decided they had a job to do and did it – quietly but with enthusiasm and loyalty.