Woodingdean Social History Project

Horse Ploughing, Downs Hotel, Woodingdean from a painting by Douglas Holland

Horse Ploughing, Downs Hotel, Woodingdean from a painting by Douglas Holland.

I have been meaning to write about Peter Mercer and John Homewood’s Woodingdean Social History Project for some time now. With the recent passing of my father, I realise more than ever just how precious our memories are. If only he had written – perhaps with my help – more of his ninety years of experiences of his life in the village.

Animated gif of The Beehive, Crescent Drive North, Woodingdean, opposite top of Downs Valley Rd, then & now. Images, from Cuthbertson, Holland, Mercer collection, and Google Maps.

Animated gif of The Beehive (birthplace of my dad, centre left, now Treetops Close), Crescent Drive North, Woodingdean, opposite top of Downs Valley Road.. Images, from Cuthbertson, Holland, Mercer collection, and Google Maps.

Who knows what changes will occur over the next ninety years in Woodingdean. Peter Mercer, who has written 3 books on Woodingdean’s history, documented many people’s memories from it’s early days. Now it’s your turn! If you have been fortunate (or unfortunate!) enough to have grown up, lived, or worked in Woodingdean, this is a wonderful opportunity for you to write and share your memories and experiences for posterity.

Entries can be as long or short as you want. They will become part of the Holland-Mercer Collection – several large albums of more than 500 photographs of Woodingdean and Balsdean. This will eventually be donated to the East Sussex Record Office at The Keep, in Moulescoomb, Brighton, for future generations to research and enjoy.

Please send your written entries and copies of any family photographs or pictures to either;

  • John Homewood at jhhomewood@gmail.com or telephone 01273 684139
  • Peter Mercer at PRM442@hotmail.co.uk or telephone 01323 492309
  • David Cuthbertson at scienceinthegreen@gmail.com, or hand your entry in at the Woodingdean Library.
The Downs Hotel, Warren Road, Woodingdean, City of Brighton and Hove, England. 22 October 2011. By Hassocks5489 (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons.

The Downs Hotel, Warren Road, Woodingdean, City of Brighton and Hove, England. 22 October 2011. By Hassocks5489 (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons.

Advertisements

Death of ‘Old Woodingdeaner’ Dick Cuthbertson 1926 – 2017

Painting of The Beehive, Crescent Drive North, Woodingdean by Douglas Holland from a c. 1930 photograph by Duncan Cuthbertson

Painting of The Beehive, Crescent Drive North, Woodingdean by my mum’s uncle Douglas Holland from a c. 1930 photograph by dad’s father Duncan Cuthbertson.

My dad was born in Woodingdean, 1926, shortly after his family moved into the village. The emerging village of shacks and tracks was almost nearly civilised by the time of his arrival. There was a shop or two, a cafe, and the Downs Hotel had just been opened the year before. Nevertheless, on the Downs Estate, east of the Falmer Road, it was a few years before such luxuries as tarmacked roads, electricity, or mains water arrived.

At the time of his death, as far as we are aware, whilst he was not the oldest person in Woodingdean, he was the oldest surviving indigenous Woodingdeaner.

I have touched on the early days of Woodingdean in two previous blog entries, Woodingdean and the Great War; Common Origins, and WW2 & the Woodingdean Downs Talk, as well as in the last two draft chapters of my Newmarket Farm book, Chapter 8. New Developments — 1911–1925, and Chapter 9. Brighton Corporation — 1925– Present. More can be read in the three books on Woodingdean’s early history by Peter Mercer. One day soon I hope to write of some of my dad’s experiences of early Woodingdean in more detail. But not today.

Meanwhile, here are a very few pictures of some of his contributions to our dig.

Looking SW from front to back of house; 3rd May 2013.

Looking SW from front to back of house; 3rd May 2013.

Looking N at excavation of the possible front door; 3rd May 2013.

Looking N at excavation of the possible front door; 3rd May 2013.

Newmarket Cottage, looking SE; 3rd May 2013.

Newmarket Cottage, looking SE; 3rd May 2013.

Cast iron lid of stove found on surface of rubble mound; 7th April 2013

Cast iron lid of stove found on surface of rubble mound; 7th April 2013

My parents with Mr Edwards. Michelham Priory WW2 Event, 19th August 2015.

My parents with Mr Edwards. Michelham Priory WW2 Event, 19th August 2015.

He was a quiet, intelligent man, practical man, with a sense of humour, adventure, appreciation of nature, and a belief in our responsibilities to others and the planet. He will be missed by many.

Exciting New WW2 Balsdean Talk!

Tanks move into Balsdean. Photo: Holland Mercer Collection.

Tanks move into Balsdean. Photo: Holland Mercer Collection.

Weds 18th January 2017 I will be giving my next illustrated talk for the Sussex Military History Society at 7.30 for 8.00pm, in the Royal Oak Public House, Station Street, Lewes, East Sussex.

Mustard Gas Training Exercise

I have been researching Balsdean’s military history in detail for over a year now, and have made some exciting new discoveries regarding the many military activities in the area. The most shocking for me was the use of Balsdean for a mustard gas training exercise in July 1941 – the gas bombs landing only a kilometre away from where my mother’s family were living at Newmarket Farm. I have identified a possible firing position and, based on the distance to the known locations of the bombs found after the exercise, I believe they may have been using an experimental livens projector capable of a much longer firing range than usual.

Anti-tank Training Railway

I have also located the former site of a figure of eight narrow gauge railway used for anti-tank target practice. I was told by friends of my dad that they (illegally) snuck into the Balsdean Training Area during the war and had a ride on it. Letting off the brake they said they had a big scare when it set off at speed downhill with them onboard!

National Archives & The Keep

My talk is of the highlights sifted out from thousands of pages of documents ranging from military war diaries, Home Guard records, civil authorities such as the Sussex Police and East Sussex War Agricultural Executive Committee (for whom my father worked), as well as newspaper reports of the day.

New Research Findings

Though it was originally to be largely based on the personal memories of those who lived and worked in the area, my talk’s main emphasis is now on my new military research findings which I hope will be of interest to the military enthusiasts who make up the SMHS membership.

Though I know the area well I am not a historian (military or otherwise) and until recently had no interest in the military activities that took place in Balsdean during WW2. I have therefore been amazed at just how much history I have uncovered  – far more than can be shared in just one short hour. I therefore plan to adapt the talk for a series of blog page articles, covering much of the material cut from the talk.

Three unexploded gas bombs found, July 1941.

Three unexploded gas bombs found near Balsdean, July 1941. Source, The Keep, East Sussex Record Office.

Hyde Manor, Kingston – a talk on Friday 21 October 2016, 7:30pm — Lewes History Group

Hyde Manor, The Street

Hyde Manor, The Street, Kingston near Lewes. Creative Commons Licence [Some Rights Reserved] © Copyright Simon Carey and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

This Lewes Archaeological Group talk should be an excellent one. Lisa Jayne Fisher (Archaeology Services Lewes) will talk about the medieval archaeological remains she excavated last year of the “Manor or purported Manor” of Hyde. Margaret Thorburn – author of ‘An Account of the Manor of Hyde: Kingston near Lewes, Sussex‘ (2001) – will talk about the intriguing history of this Manor – one of the three(!) which dominated the Parish.

In Medieval times it was located on the north side of The Street before it moved across the road in the 18th Century to its present location. By the end of the 18th Century it had become the largest landowner in Kingston, and was responsible for organising the Enclosure of Kingston (and Iford) in 1831. This resulted in the building of the Newmarket Farm whose history I am researching. Though I am currently researching its WW2 history I very much intend to return to researching its earlier origins.

Both speakers have been very supportive of this project. Margaret Thorburn, shortly after the start of our research, generously introduced my mother and I to a number of local Kingston people and publications and gave us a fascinating tour of The Street. Lisa Fisher very kindly helped me last year with the post-excavation processing of our Newmarket Farm dig finds.

A Lewes Archaeological Group Event Lisa Jayne Fisher and Margaret Thorburn: Hyde Manor, Kingston. Lisa who is the Proprietor of Archaeology Services Lewes will talk about the excavations that were carried out at 3 Hollowdown Cottages, Kingston, which was the site of Hyde Manor. Margaret Thorburn a long time former resident of Kingston and historian […]

via Hyde Manor, Kingston – a talk on Friday 21 October 2016, 7:30pm — Lewes History Group

Rottingdean Village Fair

Philip Burne-Jones [Public domain], <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AThe_Village_Church%2C_Rottingdean_by_Sir_Philip_Burne-Jones.jpeg">via Wikimedia Commons</a>

Philip Burne-Jones [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Oh no! Rottingdean Village Fair is less than two weeks away!! It will be on Rottingdean Village Green & in Kipling Gardens, Saturday 6th August, 10am – 4pm – just follow the crowds. And all being well I’ll be there with a display of old and new finds and information from this amazing project.

I just hope I’ll be ready! When not helping care for my dad with his worsening dementia, and other commitments with family, friends, etc., I have been distracted by exciting new discoveries researching WW2 and the Balsdean Downs, the results of which will now be presented to the Sussex Military Society in January next year.

My most recent discovery was that Rottingdean featured as the westernmost of the south coast landing sites proposed by Hitler in his final plans for Operation Sealion. Apparently the Germans were correct that there were no concrete defences guarding this potential landing site, but it was well defended nevertheless. In G. van Geleuken’s review on Amazon of Martin Marix Evans and Angus Mcgeoch’s book, Invasion!: Operation Sea Lion, 1940;

The coastal area around Brighton was held by “Brocforce”, later to become the 26th Armoured Brigade in the 6th Armoured Division. The Rottingdean sector was held by the 5th Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders, a machine gun battalion, well supported by mortars and artillery. Right behind that, there were three cavalry regiments (16/5 Lancers, 17/21 Lancers, 2 Lothian & Border Horse) as a mobile reserve, at that time still mostly equipped with Beaverettes and carriers, but also with about a dozen brand new Valentine tanks. In other words, a single German infantry regiment (with a few self-propelled guns) trying to push through that narrow gap in the cliffs would have had no chance at all.

16th and 5th Queen's Royal Lancers 'Shoulder Title' excavated from demolition rubble, Newmarket Farm.

16th/5th Queen’s Royal Lancers ‘Shoulder Title’ excavated from demolition rubble, Newmarket Farm.

Interestingly, a ‘shoulder title’ belonging to an officer in the 16th/5th Lancers was found in the demolition rubble of Newmarket Farm during our 2013 excavation. From their War Diaries I know they were based in West Sussex during the summer of 1940, but have yet to discover whether they crossed the Adur for an exercise on the Balsdean Downs. They were part of the 1st Motor Machine Gun Brigade known as “Brocforce”.

James William "Jimmy" Thompson, Rottingdean professional footballer & talent scout.

James William “Jimmy” Thompson, professional footballer & talent scout.

The 131st Infantry Brigade – which consisted of three 1st Line Territorial Army battalions of the Queen’s Royal Regiment (West Surrey) – held a Falmer Summer Camp in August 1939, immediately before the start of the war. One incident generated the headline, BLOKE’S BONCE BARBAROUSLY BASHED BY BLUDGEON – BLUNDER! At the same camp ex-Rottingdean professional footballer James William Thompson led a one week training session.

Three unexploded gas bombs found, July 1941.

Three unexploded gas bombs found, July 1941.

Two UX gas bombs (British) found, August 1946.

Two UX gas bombs (British) found, August 1946.

There are also the – for me shocking – stories of the Auerbach Jewish German refugee family in Balsdean at the start of the war, and Exercise Exodus, which trained Canadian soldiers to fire mustard gas bombs in August 1941 just a kilometre away from the Newmarket Farm where my mother’s family were living.

And lots, lots more…

Hopefully I’ll see you there.

 

New & Old Balsdean & Newmarket Farm Photos

Newmarket Farm photo possibly taken in about 1924. From a collection of photos by Capt. Bertie Hubbard Maclaren. Brighton & Hove Royal Pavilion and Museums, ref. HA930078.

Newmarket Farm photo possibly taken in about 1924 by the Edwards family. From a collection of photos by Capt. Bertie Hubbard Maclaren. Brighton & Hove Royal Pavilion and Museums, ref. HA930078. Click on the photo for an enlargement.

Thanks to Daniel Robertson, formerly of Brighton Museum & Art Gallery, I now have a copy of the only surviving photo (known to me) of Newmarket Farm. It was found in a scrapbook of WW2 photographs taken by the former Brighton Corporation Superintendent of Parks, Captain Bertie Hubbard MacLaren. He was responsible for the 1920s redesign of The Level and other projects of that era, including the Preston Park Rockery. They are one of the many hidden gems held by The Keep which have yet to be added to their public catalogue by their busy staff.

This photograph was part of a collection of WW2 photographs of Brighton and its surrounding downs. The album included military parades, bomb damaged buildings, crashed aircraft, and a series of photographs of Balsdean Farm (of which the Newmarket Farm was a part).

Part of scrapbook of photos taken (and collected) by Capt. Bertie Hubbard Maclaren; Brighton & Hove Royal Pavilion and Museums, ref. HA930078.

Part of scrapbook of photos taken (and collected) by Capt. Bertie Hubbard Maclaren; Brighton & Hove Royal Pavilion and Museums, ref. HA930078. Click on the image for full resolution.

Part of scrapbook of photos taken (and collected) by Capt. Bertie Hubbard Maclaren; Brighton & Hove Royal Pavilion and Museums, ref. HA930078. Click on the image for full resolution.

Part of scrapbook of photos taken (and collected) by Capt. Bertie Hubbard Maclaren; Brighton & Hove Royal Pavilion and Museums, ref. HA930078. Click on the image for full resolution.

These pages show one or more military parades or inspections in Brighton, a number of pictures of Balsdean Manor farmhouse, farm and barns, including the former Balsdean Chapel, Norton and Newmarket Farms (labourers’ tied cottages), what appears to be a bombed Whitehawk Farm, and a bombed terrace of houses – probably in Brighton.

The demolished remains of the former Balsdean Chapel. Capt. Bertie Hubbard Maclaren's scrapbook. Brighton & Hove Royal Pavilion and Museums, ref. HA930078.

Photo 392. The demolished remains of the former Balsdean Chapel. In Captain Bertie Hubbard Maclaren’s scrapbook, Brighton & Hove Royal Pavilion and Museums, ref. HA930078. Click on photo to enlarge.

The photograph numbered 392 in the scrapbook is a tragic one. It is of the thoroughly destroyed 12th century Balsdean Chapel. It was deconsecrated and had been in use as a barn. The photo was taken in the paddock between the Manor farmhouse and the row of two farm labourer’s cottages, on or near the same spot as photo 398.

Photo 393. Tanks moving into Balsdean. In Captain Bertie Hubbard Maclaren's scrapbook. Brighton & Hove Royal Pavilion and Museums, ref. HA930078.

Photo 393. Tanks moving into Balsdean. In Captain Bertie Hubbard Maclaren’s scrapbook, Brighton & Hove Royal Pavilion and Museums, ref. HA930078. Click on photo to enlarge.

The following photograph (393) shows tanks rolling into an apparently intact Balsdean, behind a double row of military barbed wire. These photographs are not in chronological order for the isolated building slightly left of centre is the Balsdean Chapel, still intact. The War Office requisitioned these downs in May 1942, though the military were training in the area long before this. Of interest is that a copy of this same photograph also exists in my family’s photographic collection. Our copy was from an old Woodingdean friend of my father, Peter Jackson, though he may not have taken the picture himself. He was in the Brighton Railway Home Guard which he probably joined when 18 in about 1944. The track in the foreground is that which follows the valley bottom roughly southwards towards the Balsdean Pumping Station.

Photo 394. Balsdean with demolished farm buildings. In Captain Bertie Hubbard Maclaren's scrapbook. Brighton & Hove Royal Pavilion and Museums, ref. HA930078.

Photo 394. Balsdean with demolished farm buildings. In Captain Bertie Hubbard Maclaren’s scrapbook. Brighton & Hove Royal Pavilion and Museums, ref. HA930078.

Photograph 394 was probably taken at the same time as photograph 392. The demolished remains of the Balsdean Chapel look equally fresh. The row of two labourer’s cottages in the centre of the photo and the Norton Farm behind appear relatively intact. Norton was originally a separate farm but by WW1 the two farms had merged, and the farmhouse had become dilapidated and was only used to house farm labourers. The main difference between this photo and the previous one is the systematic destruction of most of the farm buildings. It suggests that the military exercises did not involve the indiscriminate shelling of Balsdean. Each building was therefore individually targeted. This photo probably belongs to a series which included photos 392, 395, 398, 401, 404, 406 and 407.

Photo 395. Badly destroyed Norton Farm. In Captain Bertie Hubbard Maclaren's scrapbook. Brighton & Hove Royal Pavilion and Museums, ref. HA930078.

Photo 395. Badly destroyed Norton Farm. In Captain Bertie Hubbard Maclaren’s scrapbook. Brighton & Hove Royal Pavilion and Museums, ref. HA930078.

Photograph 395 shows part of the site of Norton Farm towards the end of the war. The walls of its farmyard and barns are in the front of the picture. The timber framed structure behind was also a barn and can be seen in photo 406.

Photo 396. Balsdean farm buildings. In Captain Bertie Hubbard Maclaren's scrapbook. Brighton & Hove Royal Pavilion and Museums, ref. HA930078.

Photo 396. Balsdean farm buildings. In Captain Bertie Hubbard Maclaren’s scrapbook. Brighton & Hove Royal Pavilion and Museums, ref. HA930078.

Photograph 396 shows some of the barns and outbuildings – old and new – of Balsdean, not far from the Manor farmhouse, taken north-east of photo 399.

Photo 397. Newmarket Farm, probably pre 1934. In Captain Bertie Hubbard Maclaren's scrapbook. Brighton & Hove Royal Pavilion and Museums, ref. HA930078.

Photo 397. Newmarket Farm, probably pre 1934. In Captain Bertie Hubbard Maclaren’s scrapbook. Brighton & Hove Royal Pavilion and Museums, ref. HA930078.

Photograph 397; Newmarket Farm.

I had hoped to find a photograph of the Newmarket Farm for so long that I had almost given up. And now I see it I have mixed feelings, more sad than happy. Some of the romance has gone for me. It looks bleak, very exposed and somewhat run down. Examination of the photograph shows that the outside toilet visible in the north-west corner of the front yard, opposite the front door of the cottage which was used by my mother’s family and the Phipps family before that is not to be seen. Archaeological and oral history evidence indicates that this toilet was built in or very shortly before 1934, so the photo is probably older than (almost) all of the other photographs in this scrapbook. The Phipps and Latham families 1934-1942 have told me that the field in the foreground was used for stock, yet the farmyard and garden gateways in the photo appear to be missing their gates. This suggests that the cottage may have been empty at the time of the photo. Bob Copper in his book ‘A Song for All Seasons’ tells how he visited the Newmarket Farm as a child on a walk from Rottingdean to the Newmarket Plantation. He was born in 1914 so this would have been sometime in the 1920’s.

One evening, climbing a steep, chalk cart-track and drawing near the top of a high hill, I noticed over the brow a small cottage, more of which became visible with every step we took. I had never seen it before. This part of the downland was particularly bare and you could walk for miles up and down the interfolding hills without seeing even a fence in those days.  I was about to ask Jim what it was, when he said, ‘There’s Baldy’s cottage. Did I ever tell you about him?’ It was a bleak, desolate spot and there was something in the tone of Jim’s voice that made it seem even more sinister. ‘No,’ I said. We walked on for a bit in silence… There was a stiffish breeze blowing when we reached the top of the hill and as we approached the cottage we could see it was empty. We came to it and stood there looking down over the smooth hills that fell gently away to the sea, some three miles away. The wind moaned under the eaves of the slate roof and into the cottage through a broken window-pane. The sun was rapidly sinking in the west…

However, the Phipps family said it was cozy, and the best place they had ever lived in the whole of their lives. If it was still standing they would move right back in.

Photo 398. Slightly shell-shocked Balsdean labourer's cottages. In Captain Bertie Hubbard Maclaren's scrapbook. Brighton & Hove Royal Pavilion and Museums, ref. HA930078.

Photo 398. Slightly shell-shocked Balsdean labourer’s cottages. In Captain Bertie Hubbard Maclaren’s scrapbook. Brighton & Hove Royal Pavilion and Museums, ref. HA930078.

Photograph 398. The, somewhat beaten up, row of Balsdean farm labourer’s cottages. The photo was probably taken at the same time as photo 394.

Photo 399. More Balsdean farm buildings. In Captain Bertie Hubbard Maclaren's scrapbook. Brighton & Hove Royal Pavilion and Museums, ref. HA930078.

Photo 399. More Balsdean farm buildings. In Captain Bertie Hubbard Maclaren’s scrapbook. Brighton & Hove Royal Pavilion and Museums, ref. HA930078.

Photograph 399 is of a barn more or less directly opposite the Manor farmhouse. It is shown more clearly in photo 403.

Photo 401. Balsdean with demolished farm buildings. In Captain Bertie Hubbard Maclaren's scrapbook. Brighton & Hove Royal Pavilion and Museums, ref. HA930078.

Photo 401. Balsdean with demolished farm buildings. In Captain Bertie Hubbard Maclaren’s scrapbook. Brighton & Hove Royal Pavilion and Museums, ref. HA930078.

Photograph 401 was taken more or less at from the same location as photos 393 and 394. It may well have been taken at the same time as photographs 392, 394, 395, 398, 404, 406 and 407. They were all taken on a winter afternoon and show the same damage. This photograph was taken from the side of the track which drops steeply down into Balsdean on the most direct route from the back of Woodingdean. The demolished remains of the Manor farmhouse can just be seen in the trees behind the building on the far left of the photo. Photograph 407, which also shows the demolished remains of Balsdean Manor, was taken from the other side of these trees.

Photo 402. New farm building at Balsdean. In Captain Bertie Hubbard Maclaren's scrapbook. Brighton & Hove Royal Pavilion and Museums, ref. HA930078.

Photo 402. New farm building at Balsdean. In Captain Bertie Hubbard Maclaren’s scrapbook. Brighton & Hove Royal Pavilion and Museums, ref. HA930078.

Photograph 402 is of a barn at Balsdean, though I haven’t been able to identify it in any of the other photos. Nevertheless, the hillside in the background is identical to that of photos 396 and 399, suggesting they were taken at the same time. No sign of damage to the buildings so probably these were taken pre- or early war.

Photo 403. More Balsdean farm buildings. In Captain Bertie Hubbard Maclaren's scrapbook. Brighton & Hove Royal Pavilion and Museums, ref. HA930078.

Photo 403. More Balsdean farm buildings. In Captain Bertie Hubbard Maclaren’s scrapbook. Brighton & Hove Royal Pavilion and Museums, ref. HA930078.

Photograph 403 shows the same barn as in photo 399. Both were taken either side of Balsdean Manor’s front garden. On the open hillside, just above the left end of the barn, is what appears to be a linear trench, with chalk spoil in about 8 piles on either side of the trench. It is also shown in photo 403 and still looks relatively fresh. This would therefore suggest that the closely related photos, 396, 397, 399, 402, 403 and 405 were all taken in or shortly before 1942. The Balsdean farmer in 1941 complained to Brighton Corporation about the problems they had with all the soldiers. They were definitely conducting live firing and other exercises at least a year before the farm was requisitioned in 1942.

Photo 404. Badly destroyed Norton Farm. In Captain Bertie Hubbard Maclaren's scrapbook. Brighton & Hove Royal Pavilion and Museums, ref. HA930078.

Photo 404. Badly destroyed Norton Farm. In Captain Bertie Hubbard Maclaren’s scrapbook. Brighton & Hove Royal Pavilion and Museums, ref. HA930078.

Photograph 404 shows a badly damaged Norton Farmhouse. The other photos of Norton Farm, 395 and 406, all appear to have been taken on the same day.

Edwards family children early 1920's near the back of Balsdean Manor. In Captain Bertie Hubbard Maclaren's scrapbook. Brighton & Hove Royal Pavilion and Museums, ref. HA930078.

Edwards family children early-mid 1920’s near the back of Balsdean Manor. In Captain Bertie Hubbard Maclaren’s scrapbook. Brighton & Hove Royal Pavilion and Museums, ref. HA930078.

Photograph 405 was taken in the paddock between the rear of the Manor farmhouse and Balsdean Chapel. More interesting is that a copy of this photo was given to Peter Longstaff-Tyrrell by the Edwards family for inclusion in his ‘Lost Villages’ book. It is of the Edwards family children and was taken on or shortly before 1925. Their father was the farm manager from 1918 – 1925 and they lived in the Manor house. It is possible that they also took photo 397, that of Newmarket Farm, which they said they moved to in 1924. Apparently they often returned to visit Balsdean of which they were so fond, and it may have been on one of their visits that they met Captain Bertie Hubbard Maclaren and gave him a copy of this photo.

Photo 406. Badly destroyed Norton Farm. In Captain Bertie Hubbard Maclaren's scrapbook. Brighton & Hove Royal Pavilion and Museums, ref. HA930078.

Photo 406. Badly destroyed Norton Farm. In Captain Bertie Hubbard Maclaren’s scrapbook. Brighton & Hove Royal Pavilion and Museums, ref. HA930078.

Photograph 406 is of Norton Farm, and shows the relative location of the buildings shown in photos 395 and 404.

Photo 407. Totally destroyed Balsdean Manor. In Captain Bertie Hubbard Maclaren's scrapbook. Brighton & Hove Royal Pavilion and Museums, ref. HA930078.

Photo 407. Totally destroyed Balsdean Manor. In Captain Bertie Hubbard Maclaren’s scrapbook. Brighton & Hove Royal Pavilion and Museums, ref. HA930078.

It is hard to believe that photograph 407 is of almost the same view as that of the Edwards family children sitting in the paddock next to Balsdean Manor’s back garden gate. In the distance, more or less in the centre of this photo, is the farm building shown in photo 401.

An amazing series of photographs. The rest of the scrapbook would be of interest to anyone researching Brighton’s WW2 history. Ownership of these photos rests with the Royal Pavilion and Museums and the book reference is HA930078. Their copyright policy is:

The images and data in this site are made available under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0 Creative Commons licence. This means that you can use the images under the following conditions:

1.    The image may not be used for any commercial purpose
2.    Where published, the image must be credited to ‘The Royal Pavilion and Museums, Brighton & Hove’
3.    Where the image is used in another work, that work must be shared on the same basis as this image ie. free of charge.

As far as I know the scrapbook has yet to be added to their public catalogue, so an email to thekeep@eastsussex.gov.uk is required to make a request to view it.

Pte K. Wilson, 1945 Balsdean – part 2

Folkton & Flixton War Memorial, near Scarborough. From a photo by Colin Hinson.

Folkton & Flixton War Memorial, near Scarborough. From a photo by Colin Hinson.

In an earlier post I gave a lengthy description, based on a variety of sources, of the accidental death on 16th July 1945 of Keneric (also spelled Kenerick) Wilson, Private number 14802005, B Company, 1st Battalion Sherwood Foresters. This was during a 2″ mortar exercise at Balsdean, in the centre of the South Downs Training Area, Block3. The mortar appears to have hit a tree just 12 feet away, killing Wilson and wounding 3 others. The 1st Battalion Sherwood Foresters, recently stationed near Canterbury, Kent, was part of the 184 Brigade – part of the 61st Light Division – since June 1945, and were training in preparation for being shipped out to Burma to fight the Japanese. Wilson was 33 years old, had been a smallholder, and had lived at Flixton, Scarborough. He left behind a wife and child.

1 Sherwood Foresters (Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment) War Diary, July 1945. The National Archives: WO 166/17198

1 Sherwood Foresters (Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment) War Diary, July 1945. The National Archives: WO 166/17198

What surprised me was the lack of detail in the battalion war diary’s record of the event:

One O.R killed and 3 O.Rs wounded in an accident during ‘B’ Coy 2″ mortar field firing exercise in Southdown Trg Area.

171 Field Ambulance was supposed to have supplied an ambulance for the exercise, and I located their war diary at The National Record Office. Unfortunately they did not record the provision of this ambulance, yet alone any information about this incident.

After sorting out some confusion between the 183rd, 184th and 185th Infantry Brigades (see comments below), I also found their June and July 1945 war diaries. They were the brigade in charge of the 1 Foresters from June of that year. They chronicle the setting up of their new HQ near Canterbury, and the reconnaissance of training areas.

13th June     Bde Comd [Brigade Commander] visited SOUTH DOWNS training area.

21st June     BMs [Brigade Majors] conference on training areas.

On the 8th of July the first of the 4 companies of 1 Bn Sherwood Foresters set out for the the South Downs Training Area, and started the first of their 3 days training on the 9th July. It is interesting to note that the 184 Infantry Brigade recorded:

10th July     Bde I.O. [Brigade Inspection Officer] visited SOUTH DOWNS.

11th July     Conference of Bde reps on SOUTH DOWNS to revise safety precautions

Was this routine, or was there an issue that needed addressing? The War Diary was silent on the matter.

Five days later Private Wilson was dead. Perhaps I was naive to expect to find any more information. I should by now have realised there was a war on.