Herald comment (June 29th): Airmen’s legacy lives on at Beachy Head

Ex-airman Joe Williams has a special fondness for Beachy Head.

The former Bomber Command air-gunner’s last sight of his homeland was the Eastbourne coastline as he flew off on what was so nearly a fateful wartime mission.

Some 55,000 airmen – almost half the total of Bomber Command – lost their lives over Europe. Joe’s Lancaster plane dropped an engine soon after take-off, limped over Beachy Head, and was later shot down by a German fighter. Joe was taken prisoner of war, but then escaped back to England.

He bears the scars of some of the most harrowing wartime stories, yet this week he wore a smile as wide as the Channel – standing proudly by whilst a memorial stone was lowered into place close to the Peace Path.

It was the culmination of four years’ campaigning when, fittingly, a Chinook helicopter lowered the six-tonne granite memorial onto the cliff top.

It was a wonderful sight; one that Joe Williams thought he might never see and one that many thousands of his fellow servicemen never lived to see. At Beachy Head, now, their memory lives on.

THEY didn’t mince their words. And those they chose weren’t in particularly good taste, either.

Members of the Eastbourne Society, in a mixed welcome to the £70m Arndale extension, described part of the designs as looking “like the Twin Towers after the terrorist attack”.

The society, which safeguards Eastbourne’s cultural history, is uneasy with the proposed design for the building on the corner of Terminus Road and Ashford Road, and its visual effect on the railway station opposite. Provocative words, yes. Sensitive, hardly.

THE “for sale” signs went up in Kings Drive this week – and with it the warning signs. Chatsworth Estates and the Duke of Devonshire are selling the eight-acre site, having given assurances that they would not build homes on it. Do we really believe that developers paying £6m for the site – with planning permission for 120 homes – will have much of an interest in nature?