NOSTALGIA: Newspaperman and well-respected Eastbourne historian

George Humphrey and his wife Sheila
George Humphrey and his wife Sheila

George Harry Humphrey, a long serving employee at the Eastbourne Gazette and Herald and accomplished author on the town’s history, has passed away at the age of 94.

Born in Eastbourne in 1922 at the 9 Upperton Road nursing and maternity home, Mr Humphrey originally trained as a compositor at Beckett Newspapers.

He became a member of the Home Guard in the Second World War and joined the Royal Air Force, where he trained as an armourer and worked on Lancasters in Lincolnshire and then flying boats in Shetland at RAF Sullom Voe.

During the conflict, jobs had to held open by employers for servicemen to return to after the war and Beckett Newspapers took Mr Humphrey back on as a proof reader.

He married fellow Gazette staff member Sheila Lavender of the accounts department at St Andrew’s Norway Church on June 11 1958 and the couple had two daughters, Lynn and Jackie.

Mr Humphrey continued his career as a proof reader until the old hot metal process gave way to new technology and he retrained as a photo set operative.

In 1970 Mr Humphrey and six other colleagues were presented with 25 year service awards to Beckett Newspapers at a lunch at the Cavendish Hotel.

In his spare time Mr Humphrey wrote books and published 19 crime novels under the pen names of Jack Shelynn, Mark Ashton, Steve Hanna and Lee Maddox.

To mark the 50th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War in 1989, Beckett Newspapers – under the editorship of Hugh Rowlings, published Wartime Eastbourne, which told the story of the most raided town in the south east and the book was written and researched by Mr Humphrey.

The illustrated history book went on sale on June 19 1989 from most local bookshops and Waterstones Books sold out of copies on the first day.

Eastbourne historian Lionel Jones believes that of all the books written on the history of Eastbourne, Wartime Eastbourne probably sold more copies than any other tome.

The book incorporated 147 photographs taken between 1939 and 1945.

Mr Humphrey established during his researches that 174 civilians were killed in Eastbourne and a further 932 wounded in 112 raids on the town destroying 475 properties and damaging a further 11,000.

As a respected local historian, Mr Humphrey was interviewed by TVS reporter Nick Knowles in 1989 for a television report on how Eastbourne coped during the Second World War.

Mr Humphrey is survived by his wife Sheila, daughters Lynn and Jackie and grandchildren Jamie, David and Liarna.