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.

Ralf Davey of Woodingdean talks to International Space Station, March 22, 2016

http://i2.wp.com/issabove.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/ISS-Above-Logo-sm.png?resize=300%2C192

As regular readers will know, I am researching the South Downs near Woodingdean (between Brighton and Lewes, Sussex, England). In 1881, and again in 1901, a David Davey and his family were living just a mile and half away in Newmarket Farm (birth place of my mother). He was an agricultural labourer and carter. In 1891 – for just a few years – he had his own farm near Horsham.

A little over a hundred years later I discover on the Internet a Ralf Davey in Woodingdean messaging to the International Space Station, travelling several thousand miles an hour, via a seriously cool little gadget…

Hello @Space_Station from @ralphdavey and the Davey Family in Woodingdean, Brighton 257.9 mi away @NASA_Johnson #issabove

This message was created by an ISS-Above.

The mission of the ISS-Above is to inspire wonder for human spaceflight. To remind everyone we have the amazing $150B+ space station
above us and how that is crewed by the only human beings who are in space.

It also streams live video from the ISS High Definition Earth Viewing Experiment which gives live views of the earth from space.
And.. as well as all that this little device lights up whenever The International Space Station is overhead.

How cool is that?!

 

Keneric Wilson Killed, WW2 Training, Balsdean 1945

Military Training Area No. 3, East of Woodingdean; Base image from East Sussex Record Office, The Keep.

Military Training Area No. 3, East of Woodingdean (click on image for an enlarged view); Base photo from East Sussex Record Office, The Keep.

The Second World War had a big influence on the Downs east of Brighton centred on the now deserted medieval hamlet of Balsdean. Sometime, probably in May 1942, it was requisitioned to become the ‘Number 3 South Downs Training Area’. This comprised the majority part of the mostly unploughed steep downland hills and valleys between Woodingdean and the lower Ouse Valley, and between the Lewes Road and the sea. Evidence for their activities was hard to ignore in the demolition rubble of our Newmarket Farm excavation. However, apart from general information, such as that unnamed French Canadian troops had been billeted in Balsdean, I haven’t been able to find any publications giving details of the live firing exercises which took place there, and/or of those who trained in the area. Communications with members of the Sussex Military History Society has confirmed that no such research is known to have been done. So – somewhat reluctantly – I have taken on the task of tracing the various regiments who at one time or other may have trained in this area. I was informed that if I find a war diary of a regiment based in this area, it should list both those who were there before them, and those who replaced them.

Private Keneric Wilson, 16th May 1945

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

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

I started with the only definitive lead that I had for military training in Balsdean; a summary of a Coroner’s report from the East Sussex Record Office for the accidental death of Private Keneric Wilson whilst on a training exercise there on 16 July 1945.


Title: WILSON
Date: 20 Jul 1945
Repository: East Sussex Record Office
ESRO reference: COR 3/2/1945/67
Description: Keneric [Wilson] of Flixton, Scarborough, Yorkshire; 33; Private number 14802005, 1st Battalion Sherwood Forseters stationed at Canterbury, Kent, formerly smallholder; at the Royal Sussex County Hospital on 16 Jul 1945; right haemothora following wounds of chest and thoracic aorta caused by an explosion of a mortar bomb fired during training at Balsdean; accidental
Creator(s): Coroner of the Borough of Brighton
Access status: Open
Access Conditions: Closed for 75 years under the Public Records Acts; for access, please consult staff
See more at: http://www.thekeep.info/collections/getrecord/GB179_COR_3_2_1945_67#sthash.XD3AO60W.dpuf


Keneric Wilson 1912 – 1945

An Internet search revealed some biographical information. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission had some basic details;

WILSON, KENERIC
Rank: Private
Service No: 14802005
Date of Death: 16/07/1945
Age: 33
Regiment/Service: Sherwood Foresters (Notts and Derby Regiment) 1st Bn.
Grave Reference: Sec. I. Grave 2.
Cemetery: FOLKTON CHURCH BURIAL GROUND
Additional Information: Son of Richard and Annie Elizabeth Wilson; husband of Jean Wilson, of Cayton.

There is also a photograph of his headstone, which bears the inscription;

Worthy
Of everlasting love
And remembrance.

The Hull Daily Mail newspaper, Saturday 21 July 1945, summarised the inquest report:

SCARBOROUGH SOLDIER KILLED
Mortar Practice Accident Pte. Kenerick Wilson, First Battn. Sherwood Foresters, aged 33, one of five soldiers injured during mortar practice on the South Downs on Tuesday, died soon after admission to hospital. At the inquest yesterday soldier witnesses stated that a tree 12ft. away was blasted, suggesting that the bomb had struck it. Wilson, a smallholder in civil life, lived at Flixton, Scarborough. Verdict: Accidental death.


 

1st Battalion Sherwood Foresters – 1945

The Museum of the Mercian Regiment website gave some information about the 1st Battalion, Sherwood Foresters;

THE POST WAR YEARS 1945 – 1970
By mid 1945 the 1st Battalion had been re-formed and was training as part of 61 Light Division to move out to take part in the final defeat of the Japanese. However with the end of hostilities its role was changed and instead it joined the Army of Occupation in Germany.

A search of The National Archives catalogue revealed their war diary:

1 Sherwood Foresters (Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment)
War Office: Home Forces: War Diaries, Second World War. INFANTRY. 1 Sherwood Foresters (Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment).
Held by: The National Archives – War Office, Armed Forces, Judge Advocate General, and related bodies
Date: 1945
Reference: WO 166/17198
Subjects: Armed Forces (General Administration) | Army | Conflict | Diaries | Operations, battles and campaigns

A visit to London was therefore in order, but the results were mixed. I give below some edited highlights of their war diary for July 1945 (abbreviations have been translated based a number of guides to military abbreviations and acronyms on the Internet (such as ww2talk.com):


On the 6th July (Charlton Park, [Bishopsbourne,] near Canterbury [Kent]);

Instructions issued to Coys [Companies] for training to be carried out on SOUTHDOWN BLOCK 3 for period 9th – 19th July. See Appendix C.


8th July [Sunday];

‘A’ Coy on Southdown Trg [Training] Area field firing.


15th July [Sunday];

“B” Coy proceed to the Southdowns training area for a three-day field firing exercise.


16th July;

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


Appendix C.

Subject: TRG – SOUTHDOWN BLOCK 3
To: List ‘B’
plus: M.O. [Medical Officer],
171 Fd Amb [171st Field Ambulance],
184 Inf Bde. [184th Infantry Brigade]

Ref; O.S. 1″/1 mile sheet 134
From: 2 i/c 1 Foresters [2nd in command, 1st Battalion Sherwood Foresters].

1. Coys will carry out trg at SOUTHDOWN BLOCK 3 as follows:
‘A’ Coy – 9 Jul to 11 Jul
‘C’ Coy – 12 July to 14 Jul
‘B’ Coy – 16 Jul to 17 Jul
‘D’ Coy – 18 Jul to 19 Jul

2. During this period, all coys will bivouac in the ex-REME [Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers] hutments at OLD FORGE BARN 789283.

3. (a) Move to and from camp will be carried out in accordance with the following time table:
Coy Leave CHARLTON CAMP Leave OLD FORGE FARM
‘A’    1400 hrs 8 Jul                     1600 hrs 11 Jul
‘C’    1000 hrs 11 Jul                     1400 hrs 15 Jul
‘B’    0900 hrs 15 Jul                     1600 hrs 17 Jul
‘D’    1000 hrs 17 Jul                     1500 hrs 19 Jul

(b) Eight 3-tonners RASC [Royal Army Service Corps] have been applied for to assist in move on each 8, 11, 15 , 17, 19 Jul.

(c) The following BN tpt [Battalion transport] will move with ‘A’ Coy on 8 Jul and return with ‘D’ Coy on 19 Jul, remaining down at SOUTHDOWN from 8 to 19 Jul inclusive:
1 Jeep
1 4 x 4 8cwt.
3 3 tonners.
2 15cwts.
1 Ambulance (to be provided by 171 Fd Amb).

(d) The attention of Coy Comds is drawn to F.S.P.B. pamphlet no. 9 – ‘Movement by Road’ [Field Service Pocket Pocket Book Pamphlet No. 9 – ‘Movement by Road and Rail’, 1943].
Coln [Column] will halt for 20 minutes at 20 minutes to each even hour.

4. (a) Os. C [Officers Commanding] Coys will each take down the following stores:
Bedding Bivouacs, lamps hurricane.

(b) The following stores will be drawn from the Q.M. [Quarter Master] by ‘A’ Coy and any unexpended item will be brought back by ‘D’ Coy at the completion of trg.

Coal, Paraffin, Petrol, Buckets latrine, and Screens latrine.

Q.M. will arrange for one sanitary man to accompany ‘A’ Coy and remain until return of ‘D’ Coy.

(c) Each coy will take their own G.1098 [standard equipment issue] cooking utensils. Any additions to this scale will be drawn by ‘A’ Coy and returned by ‘D’ Coy at end of period. Arrangements for rations will be made direct with coys by the Messing Offr [Officer].

(d) M.T.O. [Mechanical Transport Officer] will make arrangements for drawing POL [Petrol, Oil, Lubricants] by vehs [vehicles] remaining at SOUTHDOWN.

(e) Mail will be fwd [forwarded] with the rations.

5. All coys will ensure that the R.E.M.E. hutments and area are left entirely clean after use. All coys will render a certificate to the Q.M. on return, stating any losses or damages of G.1098 eqpt. (nil returns returned).

6. Each coy will draw from the W.T.O. [Weapons Training Officer] and be responsible for its own amn [amunition] requirements for period allotted.

7. Os.C Coys will ensure that exercises carried out on BLOCK 3 comply with all safety regulations.
Certificates as to blinds [unexploded shells] etc. will be rendered as usual.

8. Sig Offr [Signals Officer] will arrange for comn [communications] police and control throughout period direct with coys.

9. The R.M.O. [Regimental Medical Officer (normally an army General Practitioner with additional training in Pre-Hospital Emergency Care and Occupational Medicine)]  will accompany ‘A’ Coy to SOUTHDOWN on 8 Jul and will return on 19 Jul.

Charlton Camp North,
Bishopsbourne,
nr Canterbury, Kent.
5 Jul 45.
CHL/[?]CW
[Illegible signiture]
Major.
2 i/c 1 Foresters.


Appendix D included the first week of their training programme (I have only given here that located in ‘South Downs. Block 3‘);

Coy Date Time Type of Trg
A 9 0930-1700 WT [Weapons Training] Circus[?]. Individual Fd Firing.
A 10 0930-1700 WT Circus. Firing All Weapons, P.I.A.T.[anti-tank weapon], High Angle (Demonstration)
A 11 0830-1600 Individual Split Second Shooting Competition.
C 11 1100-1655 Mov to –
C 12 0930-1700 Weapon Firing Circus – Digging, Fdcraft [Fieldcraft], Swimming.
C 13 0930-1700 As for 12th.
C 14 0930-1700 As for 12 – 13th.

Then, after Appendices E – F, which detailed a Rifle, Bren and Sten gun firing exercise in Broome Park, and the Mobilisation schedule for their forthcoming posting to fight the Japanese, Appendix H returned to their training programme, 16th – 21st July, which included the South Down Block 3 field training exercise. Sunday 15th is not given, possibly because they were in transit (no live firing on Sundays?).

Coy Date Time Type of Trg
B 16 0815-1610 Indv [Individual] Fd Firing.
B 17 0815-1615 Indv Fd Firing.
D 17 0830-0910 Coy Comds lane[?] Inspection.
0915-1655 Move to –
Indv Fd Firing
D 18 0830-1655 Indv Fd Firing
D 19 0830-1655 Indv Fd Firing

I haven’t included here all of their day to day activities included in this diary – mostly centred around training and other preparations for their planned posting to the Far East to fight the Japanese, of which the above training would have been an integral part.

I am not a military expert, so undoubtedly I will make many errors in interpreting their battalion’s war diary, nevertheless I have made the attempt anyway (if a job’s worth doing, it is worth doing badly!). Please leave a comment when you spot my errors. Also, please indulge me when I state the obvious. I learnt more from reading and making the attempt to understand the minutiae of this war diary than from all of my previous studies. It helped me to get a feel for the details, which I consider to be just as important as the big picture.

It took me a while to understand that the purpose of this war diary was essentially just to record planning and logistics. Accidents happen. Accidents in live firing situations are presumably not much more than unfortunate if they have no significant effect on the fighting ability of the Battalion. By the very end of the war those in command of the 1st Battalion Sherwood Foresters would have seen much conflict. They were busy making preparations for being shipped out to the east to face the Japanese. Germany had surrendered. V.E. Day had been and gone, but the Japanese were still fighting.

Analysis and Observations

Careful reading of this war diary, combined with further research on the Internet, revealed further information about the men, equipment and logistics involved in this exercise.

  • The 184 Infantry Brigade was involved in the planning of this exercise. They had just received command of the 1st Battalion Sherwood Foresters the month before. They were part of the newly reorganised 61st (light) Infantry Division which was, according to Wikipedia, “to be sent to the South-East Asian theatre to fight in the final stages of the Burma Campaign against the Imperial Japanese Army. However, the Japanese surrendered on 15 August 1945 and there was no need for the division to be sent to the Far East.
  • The Regimental Medical Officer (effectively the Battalion’s G.P.) left the relative comfort of the Battalion HQ where he would have been based and stayed with each of the Companies (in their bivouac huts?) for the duration of their field training, so as to be on hand in case of accidents. A strong indication that the approximately 100 men in each of the companies on this training exercise were recognised to be in greater danger of harm than their 700 plus colleagues back in camp.
  • 171 Field Ambulance provided an ambulance.
  • The Royal Army Service Corps provided eight 3-ton lorries (unfortunately the individual Corps was not named.)
  • The Battalion’s own transport pool provided:
    • 1 Jeep;
    • 1 4 x 4 8cwt;
      • The best possibility I have found for this vehicle is a Morris-Commercial PU8/4, 1942[1940/41?], 4×4 8-cwt truck, though Humber and Ford produced similar vehicles, capable of carrying about 3 people in the back. The ‘Historic Military Vehicles Forum‘ have some good pictures.  However, 8cwt 4×4 trucks were supposed to be obsolete by June 1944 – in order to standardize production by reducing the range of vehicle types being made – and should have been replaced by both American Jeeps (Royal Army Service Corps – 1939-1945 – Motor Transport website), as well as the 15-cwt trucks of both the Battalion Headquarters and the Signal Platoons, which should have been upgraded to four wheel drive, personnel, standard trucks, capable of transporting about 8 men (see for example the Battalion Organisation website).
    • 3 3 tonners;
      • one of the 3-ton lorries (normally used to carry stores) would have been the responsibility of the Administrative Platoon (responsible for a range of goods and services), and the other two would have been issued to the Assault Pioneer Platoon (possessors of a range of practical skills and trades largely associated with construction work).
    • 2 15cwts;
      • each rifle platoon was supposed to have been issued with 3 15cwt trucks, so no problem with provision here.
  • Their Mechanical Transport Officer provided the necessary petrol, oil, and lubricants to fuel and maintain their vehicles, etc. Apparently the Transport Officer was normally a subaltern, the second highest ranking officer in the Administrative Platoon.
  • Their Quarter Master provided their coal, paraffin, petrol (presumably fuel for cooking), buckets and screens for their latrine (shared by each company). He was the highest ranking officer in the Administrative Platoon – a Captain.
  • A sanitary man remained for the duration of the training exercises. Further research has shown there were generally 4 privates assigned to sanitary duties for the Battalion as a whole. Again, they were part of the Administrative Platoon. At the bottom. J.E. Davies included in his published experiences of Normandy; “Dan Dan the sanitary man. He dug his unit’s latrine pits… and graves for KIA’s (killed in action). Every battalion had a Dan.” I traced Dan back to WW1, via the book, ‘They Called it Passchendaele: The Story of the Battle of Ypres and of the Men Who Fought in it‘ by Lyn MacDonald. She quotes from Rifleman W. Worrell, No. 6905960 12th Btn., Rifle Brigade:Every company had a sanitary man, and ours was called Dan. Dan, Dan, the sanitary man. Every sanitary man was called Dan regardless of what his proper name was.
  • The Officers Commanding the companies were to take bivouac bedding and hurricane lamps for their men. They were to be staying in huts, so presumably these were minimally furnished.
  • Standard issue cooking utensils were taken. It was not stated whether the bivouac cooking would have been an individual or communal activity. There is no reference to their bringing any of the Battalion’s cooks with them, though with about 15 of them I would have thought one or two could have been spared if they were considered necessary.
  • Each company would arrange rations with the Messing Officer. Apparently a Company Quartermaster Sergeant had this role. He was part of the Headquarters Company.
  • Mail would be forwarded with the rations. (The M.O. and the Sanitary Man would probably appreciate this, as they were there for the duration.)
  • Each company would be responsible for its own ammunition requirements, drawn from the Battalion’s Weapons Training Officer. I found it more difficult to trace this officer’s position within the Battalion. However, I found someone with this title who had the rank of Captain, and therefore the best candidate for this role was the Officer in charge of ‘Operations & Training’ who was part of the Battalion Headquarters.
  • Unfortunately for me, the safety regulations to be complied with by the Officers Commanding were not given in the diary. Likewise, the process involved with the completion of a certificate relating to unexploded shells.
  • All Companies were to bivouac in the ex-Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers hutments at Old Forge Barn, Grid Ref: 789283. There is a barn of this name immediately to the north of the village of Falmer. To confirm this I needed to locate the Grid Reference on a map. Fortunately for me Peter Hibbs’ website helped me understand I was looking for a Cassini to National Grid converter (I have to admit that I found John Penny’s conversion formula confusing). The best I found was the Co-ordinate Converter at FieldenMaps.info. From Peter Hibbs I knew that the square was ‘wQ’, so the full Cassini 6 figure grid reference was wQ 789 283. This generated a modern grid reference of TQ 35350 09296, which rounds to TQ 353 093. This centres nicely on Old Forge Barn, Falmer using the excellent free maps website of the National Library of Scotland.
Falmer, O.S. 1945. Map courtesy of National Library of Scotland.

Falmer, O.S. 1945. Map courtesy of National Library of Scotland.

Falmer, O.S. 1956. Map courtesy of National Library of Scotland.

Falmer, O.S. 1956. Map courtesy of National Library of Scotland.

The row of three buildings under the trees to the north west of the Old Forge Barn look interesting. Fortunately there was a planning application in 1979 recorded on the Lewes District Council website. This included a detailed plan of the site.

Falmer Old Forge Barn Plan, Lewes District Council, 1979.

Falmer Old Forge Barn Plan, Lewes District Council, 1979. Click on image for a larger view.

Detail of Falmer Old Forge Barn Plan, Lewes District Council, 1979.

Detail of Falmer Old Forge Barn Plan, Lewes District Council, 1979. Click on image for a larger view.

I love it when a plan comes together!

Appendix D, which detailed their training activities, generated more questions than answers;

  • What was a ‘weapons training circus‘?
  • What was involved with ‘individual field firing‘?
  • Individual Split Second Shooting Competition‘?
  •  ‘Firing All Weapons, P.I.A.T.[anti-tank weapon], High Angle (Demonstration)‘?
  • Digging‘?
  • Fieldcraft‘ (similar to that described in the Home Guard Manual)?
  • ‘Swimming’ (Falmer Pond is only deep enough for paddling so where might they have gone – if in the sea, were all the beaches mined)?

If anyone has information about such training exercises, and/or manuals, etc. I would be very grateful.

Meanwhile, I have successfully found the ex-REME huts in Falmer where Private Keneric Wilson would have spent his last night before his fatal accident. I still hope to find more information about the location of his accident. The results of my follow up visit to The National Archives will be given in my next blog post.

Happy New Year 2016 – Ends and Beginnings

Tanks move into Balsdean

Tanks move into Balsdean, 1942. Photo: Holland-Mercer collection.

Another year of my Newmarket Farm project has ended – lots of achievements, and even more planned to be done! A big thank you to all who have helped make it possible. You know who you are!! The picture above marks both the end of Newmarket Farm, birth place of my mother, and of the Balsdean Farm for which her family worked in 1942. Three years later not a building was left standing. This coming year I plan to find out more about the allied training exercises whose ordnance remains we excavated from the demolition rubble of Newmarket Farm back in 2013.

Project beginnings and achievements

Watercolour of Newmarket Farm, painted from memory by Desmond (Bob) Phipps

Watercolour of Newmarket Farm, painted from memory by Desmond (Bob) Phipps

The project started five years ago in 2010 when my mother met the Phipps family at a local history event in Woodingdean. Bob Phipps had painted this picture of Newmarket Farm from his memories of having lived there as a child and was asking if anyone recognised it. My mother got excited when she saw it for she had been born there. So it was that I was asked to research its history. Little did I know…

Examining Newmarket Farm. Photo John Funnel BHAS

Examining Newmarket Farm. Photo John Funnel BHAS.

Very quickly my researches grew and I soon found myself writing the draft of a book about its history, the text of which is given above. Then a meeting with Natural England’s Castle Hill National Nature Reserve management in 2012 led to an invitation for an archaeological excavation, which which has been chronicled in this blog.

Digging W side of Cottage

Day 1. Digging W side of Cottage.

To follow the story a good place to start might be with Distant Memories…. It is a long story which still has far to go, especially since I had no previous excavation experience, but with lots of good support and advice from Greg Chuter (County Archaeologist), John Funnel (Brighton and Hove Archaeology Society), and a wonderful team of volunteer diggers we did a pretty good job of excavating the foundations of the cottage in 2013, though we didn’t finish till February 2014! I gave 2 well attended guided tours in November 2013. For a review of progress at the end of the dig you might like to read the 2014 post, Update on Past, Present and Future for Newmarket Farm Dig.

Talks and Events

View SE over site from half-way up aerial

View SE over site from half-way up aerial.

In 2014 I gave three well received local talks about the dig and the local history of the area I had researched. However, I also discovered that the post-excavation processing of my finds and the writing of an excavation report was a far bigger job than anticipated. I had struggled to manage formal context recording on site, and to retrospectively analyse each aspect of the dig proved challenging. I therefore signed myself up to a number of archaeological training courses run by the Sussex School of Archaeology. I also became involved in an oral history project about nearby Stanmer Park, which helped in my research of Newmarket Farm, for the Pelham family had a considerable influence on the area.

Newmarket Farm Dig Stall, Michelham Priory WW2

Newmarket Farm Dig Stall, Michelham Priory, WW2 Event

In 2015 I had stalls at four historical and archaeological events, gave one well received talk, and it saw the all important start of the processing of my finds. Four volunteer pot washing sessions were organised. Hilary Orange of both Archaeology South-East, the Whitehawk Camp Community Archaeology Project, and the Post Medieval Archaeology Society, acted as mentor, along with much appreciated practical assistance from Lisa Jayne Fisher of Archaeology Services Lewes, Archaeology South-East’s finds processing unit, Brighton Museum, the Sussex Archaeology Society at Michelham Priory, and the Brighton and Hove Archaeology Society.

Woodingdean WW1 Edwardian Origins Talk. Photo, Holland-Mercer Collection.

Woodingdean WW1 Edwardian Origins Talk, July 2014. Photo, Holland-Mercer Collection.

WW2 & Woodingdean Downs

WW2 & Woodingdean Downs Talk, May 2015. Painting by Douglas Holland.

The two most recent talks were for the Woodingdean commemorations of the start of WW1 in July 2014, and V.E. day in May 2015. These were my most ambitious talks yet, for they included proper history, as well as video and sound clips edited by myself.

Future Plans

Front Cover of last draft of book, 2014.

Front Cover of last draft of book, 2014. Painting by Desmond (Bob) Phipps.

My researches for these talks has led me to realise I have been assembling new material enough for not one, but three books, each of interest to different audiences.

The first book would be of the pre-Victorian origins of the Newmarket Farm as a result of the enclosure of the medieval field system of Kingston in 1830, through to the breaking up of the Kingston Estate at the end of the Edwardian period. It would be focused largely on the changes in agricultural practice and customs during this period. It would also deal with the challenges of Victorian rural life, which were hard enough for an agricultural labourer – which all those who had lived in Newmarket Farm were – but life for a family on an exposed and remote outfarm would have been about as hard as can be imagined.

A second book would be centred on the tragic murder of Newmarket Farm tenant David Baldy by his former lodger Martin Brown, who was on the run from the Brighton police in 1868. This would encompass Victorian slum life in Brighton, the rural country life of Kingston Near Lewes at this time, and the judicial system. There was a huge huge amount of interest in the murder so an unprecedented amount of detail can be written of the people who lived in the village at this time.

The last book of the trilogy would be of its twentieth century, showing the effects of industrialisation, urbanisation and two world wars on the lives of those who lived in Newmarket Farm. With its change of ownership and management from Kingston to Balsdean and the advent of the nearby Woodingdean (which had an increasing number and range of shops from the 1920’s), these all had a big influence on its outlook and influences. A significant part of this book would be on the final demise of both the Newmarket and Balsdean Farms during the Second World War. And because this last book is planned to cover its most recent history, this will be the first book to be researched, whilst there are still people alive able (and willing) to share their precious memories.

2013 Archaeological Dig Report

Looking NW at dig site & Chris from SeSurveying doing 3d-laser scan

Looking NW at dig site & Chris from SeSurveying doing 3d-laser scan.

Meanwhile, I still have a dig report to write. My most recent excuse is that I wished to include the results from the 3d laser scan of the site which was created by SeSurveying. The only computer I had access to, which was capable of processing the results, was that of my mother. Which meant I needed to create synchronisation possibilities between the files on my Ubuntu linux based laptop and Windows on my mother’s pc. My laptop had run out of space on its hard drive. My father has developed demetia which makes my time at my parents not as productive as it used to be, which doesn’t help. Fortunately, as an early Christmas present I now have a laptop powerful enough to view, edit and store the results. So I am now starting the steep learning curve of learning how to use 3d image manipulation software. The free cut-down version of the native Faro Scene software has limited capabilities. Fortunately I have discovered that Scene lt can export a point cloud table of the results of our three laser scans of the site, which should be able to be imported into and edited by the Open Source software Meshlab. Fingers crossed! I should then be able to produce an accurate grid plan in three-dimensions of the site on which I can delineate the contexts which I have previously roughly drawn on a 2-d plan using the SVG drawing application, Inkscape. I have also made a slow start cleaning and quantifying our numerous finds stored in my parents’ garage – which until recently I had to view by torchlight since the garage’s elderly electricity supply had died.

Because of all this the dig report is several months away from completion. I therefore no longer have plans to return to the Newmarket Farm site for further excavation next year. Nevertheless, to keep my myself in practice, for the past two years I have been a volunteer digger at the Bishopstone Tidemills dig run by Luke Barber of the Sussex Archaeological Society. It is of a similar period to the Newmarket Farm so I feel very much at home there. Most importantly, I can have all the fun of digging, without any responsibility for writing it up!

To summarise; I have achieved lots, still have lots to do, have received lots of generous help and support getting stuff done, and (mostly) have had great fun doing it! More importantly I am very much looking forward to making further progress – writing up my report, and researching a WW2 Balsdean talk for the Sussex Military History Society in November. Happy New Year!

Dieppe Raid Training in Balsdean?

No. 3 Commando returning to Newhaven after Dieppe raid

No. 3 Commando returning to Newhaven after Dieppe raid, August 1942. By Lt J H Spender (War Office official photographer) (IWM # H 22588) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

The Dieppe Raid – 19th August 1942 – was one of the more tragic episodes of the Second World War. It involved 5,000 Canadians, 1,000 British troops, and 50 United States Army Rangers. 3,367 Canadians were killed, wounded or taken prisoner, as well as 275 British commandos. The Royal Navy lost one destroyer and 33 landing craft, suffering 550 dead and wounded. The RAF lost 106 aircraft. Of the 29 of 54 Churchill Tanks which managed to land, all were lost, and all of their crews either killed or captured. Much has been written about the raid, its planning, its successes and failures, and the lessons learned. I leave it to others more knowledgeable than I to comment on these.

My own interest is in the history of the now deserted Balsdean Valley (at the centre of the No. 3 Military Training Area). Most references to this WW2 training area state that Canadians used it for Dieppe Raid training. On the highest ground, just inside the training area’s boundary, was the remote Newmarket Farm, an isolated farm labourer’s cottage and barns where my mother’s family had been living since 1938. Her oldest sister remembered a very nice officer who was billeted with them, probably in 1941. The Newmarket Farm cottage was the birth place of my mother in April ’42. The army probably requisitioned this area May 1942, when the farmer they worked for – at Balsdean itself – was given just 2 weeks notice to leave. However my mother’s family believed that they may have stayed on till October ’42.

Dieppe Canadian War Cemetery

Dieppe Canadian War Cemetery. By Labattblueboy (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0 )], via Wikimedia Commons.


Family speculation is that they may have accommodated an unknown Canadian during his training for a mission from which many did not return. Yes, I now know this is highly unlikely, but is it possible that this family story has a grain of truth?

Based on information given to me by Peter Hibbs at the Michelham Priory WW2 Event (confirmed by my own subsequent research) Dieppe Raid training was on the Isle of Wight:

20 May 1942 Training for the raid begins in England. Canadian and British troops train for more than two months on the Isle of Wight practising landing and coastal attacks for the raid.

07 July 1942 Operation RUTTER is cancelled. Due to a number of factors, in particular the unfavourable weather reports, the raid is cancelled.

(Canada at War Forums | Operation “RUTTER” & “JUBILEE” Raid On Dieppe 19 Aug. 1942.)

Troops involved in Operation Rutter training:

The force chosen by General Roberts, commander of the Canadian troops, to take part were to consist of 4th Brigade (Battalions from the Royal Regiment of Canada, the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry, and the Essex Scottish ) all from Ontario. In addition the 6th Brigade (French Canadian Fusiliers Mont-Royal from Quebec, Camerons from Winnipeg, and the South Saskatchewan Regiment plus the 14th Tank Battalion – “Calgary Tanks”). On May 20th all infantry units were stationed on the Isle of Wight which was sealed off and a programme of rigorous training initiated. […] Operation Rutter was cancelled on July 8th. Troops were disembarked and were dispersed.

BBC – WW2 People’s War – The Dieppe Raid

Operation Jubilee – Dieppe raid recommenced:

After much debate, on 27 July 1942, the Chiefs of Staff Committee directed Mountbatten to recommence planning for a raid on Dieppe.

(Combined Operations Headquarters, C.B. 04244, para 39. Combined Report on the Dieppe Raid. London, England, October 1942. Copy on file at United States Marine Corps archives. Cited by Lieutenant-Colonel James Goodman, Canadian Military Engineers, ‘Operation JUBILEE: The Allied Raid on Dieppe (1942) – A Historical Analysis of a Planning Failure’, MASTER OF MILITARY STUDIES, thesis – 6 March 2008 – AY 2007-2008.)

I have yet to read the above named thesis in its entirety, but it looks like an excellent resource. So what happened to those dispersed regiments – between July 8th and August 18th – which were to participate in the quickly remounted Dieppe Raid code named “Operation Jubilee”?

Ports of departure:

Newhaven featured significantly in this operation. Fifty-nine landing craft sailed from Newhaven in the course of an hour. Fourteen LCTs carrying the 14th Canadian Army Tank Battalion, and forty-five LCTs carrying the Camerons of Canada and No. 3 Commando. The strategy, tactics and logistics of mooring fifty-nine landing craft in the harbour, embarking the equipment and personnel, and departing harbour within a limited time slot to rendez-vous  with vessels from Portsmouth, Shoreham and Southampton must be admired.
Newhaven’s Local & Maritime Museum – THE DIEPPE RAID

The Camerons of Canada:

Numerous training exercises and inspections highlighted 1941. By July the Camerons were in the Newhaven area of the channel coast near Sussex, in a coastal defense role.

On 19 August 1942 the Camerons took part in a large-scale raid on the French port city of Dieppe. The Camerons landed at Pourville Beach. Their objectives were the Dieppe-Saint Aubins airfield; battery 265 at Rouxmosnel-Calment and a suspected German divisional headquarters at Arques-la-Battaile.

The Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada

14th Canadian Army Tank Battalion:

[The] 14th Army Tank Battalion (Calgary Regiment)…

In March 1941 the regiment moved to Camp Borden, becoming part of the First Army Tank Brigade and in June 1941 sailed for Great Britain. Matilda tanks were initially used on the Salisbury Plains, but these were replaced later in the year by the first manufactured Churchills.

The overseas unit trained on various vehicles in Canada and the United Kingdom, and in August 1942 took the Churchill tank into battle for the first time at Dieppe.
The King’s Own Calgary Regiment (RCAC) – Wikipedia

Training in Seaford:

A Churchill Mark I of the Calgary Regiment training on a beach near Seaford, Sussex, in July 1942. Source: MilArt photo archives. A Churchill Mark I of the Calgary Regiment training on a beach near Seaford, Sussex, in July 1942. Source: MilArt photo archives, The Churchill Mark I Infantry Tank in Service with the Canadian Army Overseas, 1941-43

Preliminary conclusion:

Both Seaford and Newhaven are just a few miles away from the No. 3 Military Training Area. So it is perfectly possible for these two regiments to have trained in the Balsdean Valley, but this training would not have specifically been for the Dieppe Raid. Also, preliminary research indicates that other Canadian units were billeted in the nearer villages of Woodingdean and Rottingdean and these were not involved with the Dieppe Raid. Therefore, if a Canadian Officer was billeted with my mother’s family in 1942, he was most likely not involved in the Dieppe Raid at all, though he may well have had contact with those that did.

If anyone is able to help with any information I would love to hear from them. You would be fully credited for any contribution – however small.

WW2 Event, Michelham Priory

Michelham Priory and Barbican Tower By Barbara van Cleve (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Michelham Priory and Barbican Tower. By Barbara van Cleve (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0 )], via Wikimedia Commons.

 An amazing venue with lots of history.

Newmarket Farm Dig Stall, Michelham Priory WW2

Newmarket Farm Dig Stall, Michelham Priory WW2 Event.

The photograph above shows me, head down, working on getting our stand ready at the WW2 Event at Michelham Priory. Little did I know how successful the day would be!

The event was bitter-sweet for me. The Second World War saw the destruction of the Newmarket Farm cottage and barns. Also, I do not enjoy military hardware. Nevertheless, whether I like it or not, the Newmarket Farm cottage – where my mother’s family lived for four years until 1942 – as well as its surrounding downland, including the Balsdean farm for which they worked, all became part of the No. 3 Newmarket Military Training Area. I have chosen to research its history, including the sad bits.

Evidence of the Newmarket Farm’s use for military training purposes was abundant in our excavation. The Michelham Priory WW2 event was thus a superb opportunity for me to learn from military experts about what we found, and how it may fit into a bigger picture of things. Above are shown some photos of just a small part of our finds, most of which I brought along to the event.

Fortunately, because the day was pretty full on for me, I had the support of another David, as well my mother – though she was kept pretty busy pushing my elderly dad around in a wheelchair kindly lent by Michelham Priory. They were both especially useful photographing some before and after pictures of our excavated, fired ordnance, whilst I looked after our stand and talking to interested visitors.


PIAT `Bomb’

PIAT Bomb

PIAT Bomb.

The finds that gained the most interest from the experts were the detonated remains of a PIAT (Projector, Infantry, Anti-Tank) projectile (“bomb”). Three or four were excavated from amongst, or under the demolition rubble of the cottage, but the one shown in the above photo was the most complete. It was originally designed to be an anti-tank weapon, and was brought into action in 1943. Some research on the Internet has given me some more information on the workings and use of this challenging weapon.

Though designed as an anti-tank weapon, it was very effective against buildings. A Google books search revealed ‘We Fought at Arnhem‘ by Mike Rossiter. He wrote (pages 182-183):

A sergeant approached Pat and asked him what he could do with his PIAT.

`I can blow the wall up,’ said Pat.

`Go on then, do it,’ said the sergeant, and Pat crawled into position, with Jonty behind him. Pat had already cocked the spring that fired the charge, so it was merely a question of Jonty fusing one of the rounds and placing it in the barrel. The hollow warhead was designed to explode against the armour of tanks and generate shrapnel inside the crew compartment. Not certain how it would work against bricks and mortar, Pat crawled closer to ensure that he hit the wall square on, although he thought, `It’s not hard to hit a house.’ He asked for some covering fire, then rose and pressed the trigger. He felt the hard punch on his shoulder as the spring recoiled, then there was a crash as the round hit the wall, blasting bricks into the air, and dust burst out of every door and window. Slates slid off the roof, then the wall of the house started to fall in, slowly at first but ending in a rush of broken bricks, plaster and joists…

Such would have been Newmarket Farm after being on the receiving end of this weapon.

PIAT Bomb.

PIAT Bomb.

PIAT Gun

PIAT Gun.

Geoff Wicks, shown in the photos above, was pleased to show me the gun which fired the PIAT bombs. He told me what a challenge it was both to load and to fire. I have read that anyone who used it in action deserved a medal, particularly because of its bad recoil – despite having been designed as a recoilless weapon. Apparently it was favoured by Canadian infantry. The son of the Rottingdean based police constable of the time has told me that soldiers of the Canadian Princess Patricia Light Infantry Regiment were based in the area. He reported that they had the wide triangular shoulders typical of lumberjacks – ideal individuals to use and carry such a heavy weapon.

The practice with this weapon against the Newmarket Farm would have been of great benefit for those who would have had to use it in a live fire situation. It is worth noting that further down the valley towards the former hamlet of Balsdean, was a figure of eight light railway which would have been used for anti-tank training. It was well known to the children of nearby Woodingdean, who regularly snuck into the training area during the war looking for souvenirs.


No. 69 Grenade

No. 69 Bakelite Grenade

No. 69 Bakelite Grenade.

Also new for me was to see the original of our recently identified No. 69 (Bakelite plastic) grenade fragments. Our remains, which resembled screw threaded bulb fittings for a table lamp, were the top part of these grenades. The body shell, which would have held the high explosive charge, would have shattered on impact and as yet no such fragments have been identified from amongst our finds. Also yet to be identified from our finds were the firing pins and the ball bearings that were attached to either end of a tape which unravelled in flight and that thus automatically primed the grenade whilst it was in flight. The tape was almost certainly of cotton and would have rotted away. Apparently they were very good at producing a bang and a flash, and so were commonly used in training exercises. However, if the thrower was unlucky, the ball bearing could be blown back in their face causing them significant damage. I found a YouTube video which gives some helpful information about their use and construction.


3″ Mortar Carrying Cases

Replica 3" Mortar Carrying Case

Replica 3″ Mortar Carrying Case.

Replica 3" Mortar Carrying Handle

Replica 3″ Mortar Carrying Handle.

Replica 3" Mortar Metal Strap with Tin Tack

Replica 3″ Mortar Metal Strap with Tin Tack.

3" Mortars

3″ Mortars.

Geoff Wicks was also displaying his replica 3″ mortar carrying cases. We had excavated a large stash of lids, carrying handles, metal strapping and tacks, which pretty much matched his replica. The stash was associated with a discrete area of burning against a recess in the east wall of the cottage, facing the head of the Newmarket Bottom. Also found were what we called ‘bicycle bells‘; circular shallow bell-shaped (lids?) each with 3 widely spaced rivet strengthened holes about the diameter of a shoe lace hole. I have speculated that they may have fitted inside the ends of mortar carrying tubes. Evidence for this possibility was that they were a perfect fit around the curved ends of the 3″ mortar fins. However, none of the military experts at the event had seen them before, and I have yet to find any illustrated on the Internet. Further research is needed. I have yet to record them in detail; to measure their dimensions, and to count their numbers – especially in relation to all the other related items from the excavated deposit – I believe we found just about every item from this particular context. This information could then be forwarded to, perhaps, the Imperial War Museum for a formal identification.


Maps

War Office 1" O.S. Map 1941.

War Office 1″ O.S. Map 1941.

War Office 1" O.S. Map 1941

War Office, 1″ O.S. Map 1941.

War Office 1" O.S. Map 1941.

War Office 1″ O.S. Map 1941.

I was very pleased to see my first example of a War Office 1″ Ordnance Survey map (on a stall belonging to Newhaven Fort?). Even better that the sheet on display covered the South Downs between Brighton and Eastbourne, and clearly showed the Newmarket Farm! It may be important for my planned research on locating military training exercises. It clearly confirmed what I had previously learnt from Peter Hibbs’ excellent The Defence of East Sussex Project website – that the War Office used a 1km grid system with a different orientation to that used on modern O.S. maps.


A Mug!

Enamel cup from drain

Enamel cup from drain

Army Issue Enamel Cup

Army Issue Enamel Cup.

We had excavated a white enamel mug from inside a ceramic drain in front of the cottage. It was found along with an enamel saucepan handle, a bottle of OXO, and a rusty food can (empty); all possible remains of a camp meal. I had speculated whether the cup might be of military issue. I was wrong! Army issue cups were not only larger, they were an essential part of their kit, and if lost or damaged there would have to be a very good reason for it, or the culprit certainly be put on punishment duty.


People

Visitors to stall at Michelham WW2 Event

Visitors to stall at Michelham WW2 Event.

Visitors to stall at Michelham WW2 Event

Visitors to stall at Michelham WW2 Event.

It never ceases to amaze me the interest shown by people about the project. Apart from a large part of our military related finds, books and documents, I also brought along some of our many other materials that related to life on the home front. I am glad I did. A wide variety of people with different interests and backgrounds, including children, came to visit the stall. I just wish I could remember their names, as well as the names of the organisations many of the interested stallholders were from! A big thank you to them all – for the interest and information I received.

Mr Edwards

Mr Edwards.

My parents with Mr Edwards

My parents with Mr Edwards.

A Mr Edwards visited the stall, and had a chat with both myself and my parents. He was the nephew of one of three brothers I had recently researched. They each worked one of three adjacent smallholdings collectively called Brownloaf Farm. It was situated on the steep hillside between Woodingdean and Bevendean, not far from Upper Bevendean Farm. My mother’s cousin now rents the farm from the Wests (of Bevendean Farm) for the grazing of a considerable number of horses and ponies. My father used used to fix at least one of the brother’s tractors. As a teenager I knew him just as ‘Eds’. I was able to tell Mr Edwards the little of what I had learnt of them from when I was researching the Edwardian origins of both Woodingdean and WW1. Unfortunately I either didn’t receive, or mislaid Mr Edwards’ contact details, for I would be happy to pass on copies of my research documents, including some copies of the 1942 agricultural surveys of the 3 Brownloaf Farms.

The Home Front

The Home Front.

I was so busy with my own stall I sadly didn’t manage to visit many of the other excellent stalls, including this one informing visitors about life on the ‘Home Front’.

Five Land Girls and a Lumber Jill

Five Land Girls and a Lumber Jill (right to left).

My mother was fortunate to meet these amazing ladies. I had recently been told that the hard-working women of the Land Army were regularly seen in the rapidly developing village of Woodingdean. Trained at Plumpton Agricultural College, they took on much of the valuable work which helped feed the nation during this time of crisis. They cultivated the many acres of vacant plots of land requisitioned by the East Sussex War Agricultural Committee. They also took over the running of Woodingdean’s Wick Farm (to the north-east of the Downs Hotel crossroads). It was the last remnant of entrepreneur Oscar Selbach’s acquisition of the Balsdean, Norton farms, and of the far western end of the Kingston Farm, which included the labourer’s cottage and barns of Newmarket Farm. The greater part of his farmland – that situated in the Balsdean Valley watershed – had been compulsorily purchased from him by Brighton Corporation in 1925. He didn’t have a good reputation in the village, and has been widely reported as having been an arrogant man. However one can only imagine what it must have been like for him to have his last remaining remnant of farmland – on which he kept a small dairy herd – confiscated by the East Sussex War Agricultural Committee after it failed its assessment in 1942. He had allowed his pastures to get into an extremely poor condition. Though he was not the only farmer in the area to have the management of his farm taken out of his hands for the duration of the war – the farmer at Lower Bevendean lost his – but he was the only one that I have read of in the area to have had it managed by women. Judging from the ‘land girls’ in the photo above, I reckon they could have easily taken on his farm and have left it in a better condition than that which they had started with.

Peter Hibbs, who I met at the Michelham Priory event, has kindly sent me copies of compensation documents for the South Down farmers who lost all or part of their land during the war. Oscar Selbach, for the first time in any of his many documented dealings with officialdom, only submitted a modest claim.