LETTER: Eastbourne was not ‘innocent’ during the war

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Eastbourne was certainly not an “innocent” seaside resort or town during World War II, as your correspondent inferred.

The seafront hotels were largely occupied by the Royal Air Force.

Parts of Meads were the home of the Royal Tank Regiment and the streets were lined by Churchill Tanks.

The Canadians had many men in the town and Willingdon, until the Dieppe raid. The Royal Navy had, what I believe, was a Torpedo and Mine school in Eastbourne College, Ascham and Chelmsford Hall schools, evacuated from Portsmouth where it had been bombed.

The Royal Tank Regiment used the Downs to exercise and severely damaged the former lighthouse with stray shots. (The tanks too did much damage ).

My father and eldest brother Pat, were machine-gunned in South Street by a fighter, but got away unwounded early on in the war by throwing themselves down in the gutter.

They were both members of the Home Guard at this time and could well have been in uniform and therefore legitimate targets.

Later in the war my father, Colonel Stevens, President of the Saffrons Cricket and Football Clubs as it was then called, persuaded the authorities not to plough up the grounds but to let the forces use them.

After the war ended Australians and New Zealanders stationed in the town were encouraged to play cricket on the grounds - the New Zealanders were the first to return to the town as tourists and spent a week limbering up and using the nets.

My father raised a team to play a one-day match against them - I still have a signed photo of the two teams.

The Wish Tower had a naval six-inch gun embedded on its sea wall side.

I believe all the hotel windows had to be opened when they practised, otherwise the shock would have broken them.

Barbed wire lined the shore several yards out to sea and scaffolding was smothered with wire to make a landing more difficult.

Later in the war ack-ack guns were stabilised above the promenade to try and shoot down the V1 bombers.

These memories are just a fraction of the war years from a teenager’s point of view.

I was fortunate not to be called up until 1946!

DAVID STEVENS,

Granville Road.