War hero Fred will be missed by many

Fred Austen
Fred Austen

FRIENDS and family are mourning the death of Fred Austen.

On Sunday (June 26), Fred, 88, died peacefully at his home in Hardwick Road.

He was described by his family as a quiet man with a dry sense of humour, who spent most of his life living in the town he loved.

Fred was even on hand to defend Eastbourne from wartime invasion before serving with distinction with the RAF. His son Geoffrey told the Herald, “Growing up in Churchdale Road he was a scout in the 18th Eastbourne Group, went to Willowfield Central School and later to Eastbourne Technical College in Grove Road.

“He married an Eastbourne girl, started his family in Eastbourne and worked and retired in the town.

“He was the son of a grocer and as a youngster served, with his dad, in the Home Guard.

“His memory was of guarding the ‘main access to Eastbourne’, Channel View Road, from the castellated balcony of the Archery Tavern.

“He had one bullet and his father, who had been a professional soldier, had two.

“It is certain that they would have stopped any invasion!”

Fred joined the RAF and was a Flight Sergeant (wireless operator) in Bomber Command.

He flew with a New Zealand crew of 75 Squadron in Wellingtons and then a short posting to Stirling four-engine bombers, which were suffering massive losses.

He returned to Wellingtons but his last op finished with both engines exploding and he baled out over Norfolk at 900 feet at 4am, hitting the ground at same time as the exploding aeroplane a few hundred yards away.

On special three-day leave he married Jean Dumbrell on June 17 1944.

This was just 11 days after D Day, so many members of the family, including his brother Bill could not attend. One telegram brought news that his crew had been lost over Berlin; it was not read aloud.

He was then posted to Air Sea Rescue in the Bay of Bengal, so early married life had to be postponed.

Married life proper was started by living in the Dumbrell family home in Willowfield Road but the young couple soon moved on to a flat in Royal Parade where they started a family and then, with two children, they moved to a house in Albion Road.

He then joined the electricity company working in Churchdale Road, cycling to and from work in all weathers.

Fred and Jean bought their first house in Bedford Grove, close to Princes Alice Hospital.

After periods with Seeboard in Bexhill and Brighton, Fred retired to Eastbourne, living in Wrestwood Road, Trinity Place and most recently in Hardwick Road.

He will be missed by many, including his wife Jean, daughter Christine, son Geoffrey and six grandchildren.

A family funeral service takes place at 9.45am on Monday July 11 at Eastbourne Crematorium.

Full details are available from Haine and Son funeral directors.