NOSTALGIA: Eastbourne Home Guard memories keep marching in

The photograph showing the Eastbourne Post Office Home Guard
The photograph showing the Eastbourne Post Office Home Guard

Our article about Local Defence Volunteers has prompted a number of responses from our readers.

I write regarding the Looking Back article seeking information concerning the Eastbourne Post Office Home Guard, raised by Ms Grace Humphries of Brighton who submitted a photograph believed to have been taken around 1943.

It is a fact that almost nothing has been archived concerning the four platoons of Local Defence Volunteers formed in Sussex and initially named North, South, East and West and later, after renaming them Home Guard were designated G Company.

At Eastbourne, the Battalion was designated 21st Eastbourne and the companies given letters A to D.

A Post Office Company, a Southern Railway Company and Bus Transport Company were formed in Eastbourne becoming a part of C Company, but precise dates unknown to me.

The suggestion that a post office platoon was formed consisting of just Hailsham postal and engineering staff is a non-starter simply because the Eastbourne PO platoon required a merger with Lewes PO staff to make a body of 60 men and Hailsham PO came under Head Postmaster Eastbourne.

The PO unit formed C Company - the 11th, Sussex (GPO) Battalion and the officer commanding was Major C Bennett assisted by Captain J Needham. Names of those serving in this volunteer company do not seem to have survived but I do have some - not matched up with the photograph though.

By May of 1943 we are told there were seven companies of Home Guard in Eastbourne, one comprising the PO staff. I suspect that the reference to 20th battalion is to a national battalion formed in and around Hailsham and not to an industrial battalion as implied.

There is also no doubt that nationally the GPO Home Guard was not disbanded until 1946 and shortly after – around 1949 – the Industrial Civil Defence was formed concurrently with the regular civil defence corps and employers with 200 or more personnel could form their own unit.

In 1952 cards of application appeared in post offices on which to register for service in “The Home Guard” so the term had not disappeared as suggested by 1944. See the Herald Chronicle of January 26 of that year.

A regular civil defence report appeared weekly in the Eastbourne Gazette under the pen name Blue Beret and I would like to learn just who this person actually was.

However only on one occasion did Blue Beret make reference in his column to the PO ICDS.

The CD together with the AFS was disbanded in March 1968.

I am a postal historian and can be contacted on Eastbourne 734562 or at 2 Cherry Garden Road Eastbourne where any contributions to my soon to be published book on the History of Eastbourne Post Office will be duly acknowledged.

Lionel Jones, Cherry Garden Road, Eastbourne.

Grace Humphries, Roseberry Avenue, Brighton, writes:

I have been interested in the response to my photo of the Home Guard and thought I would add a few names of people in the photo.

Third from the left in the front row is Charles Beard, my father.

He was the Quarter Master Sergeant. He served with the 5th Royal Sussex Regiment in the First World War but was wounded and invalided out in 1916.

Second from the left in the second row is Stanley Beard, my brother.

He joined the Home Guard at Hitchin while an evacuee with Eastbourne Grammar School and was allowed to transfer to the Post Office Home Guard although he was not a Post Office employee.

He later served his National Service in the Life Guards.

He now lives in Bournemouth and has given me other names: Percy Thrower is second from left in the front row, Needham who was the officer in charge and a member called Willis.

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