Archive News Blog 2008
Christmas fair at the Fort
Wonderful, if unseasonable, sunshine brought people to the Christmas fair at the Fort in their droves – even Father Christmas and the three kings turned up!
Entry to the Fort was free and among the things to see and do were a nativity play by local churches, a yuletide Punch and Judy, a carol service, lots of stalls and a Victorian Christmas museum – all rounded off by music from the Newhaven Marching band – a good time was had by all.
International Brigade Commemoration
In the late 1930s the rise of fascism in Europe was causing concern worldwide and when the Spanish Civil War broke out in which the fascist forces sought to overthrow the government, thousands of ordinary people – many with little or no military experience, went to Spain to fight on the governments side.
The International Brigades as they were known played a major part in the war. Those from Britain left, and returned to, Newhaven; to mark this, a memorial service in the presence of Brigade veterans – including Trade Unionist Jack Jones was held at the Fort on December the 7th and a bench those who fought and died in the war was dedicated.
The service was arranged by the International Brigade Memorial Trust; more on this organisation can be found on http://www.international-brigades.org.uk/
Far from curling up under a bale of straw and hibernating until the Forts reopens on March the 1st, the Fort staff are beavering away at the myriad of tasks that need to be done before that auspicious date arrives – maintenance is high on the list – lots of painting, repairing etc and then there is the displays.
One of the most important tradesmen in the Fort was the blacksmith, kept busy shoeing horses, repairing and making all sorts of metal objects. The old forge still exists – made by Onions of Birmingham; Our lad Ed has revamped and rebuilt the forge, complete with the bellows and tools and even laid a brick floor to give it added authenticity – looks jolly good too.
The Dieppe display has been rearranged and the Sussex Land, Sea & Air collections have both been revamped to give more display space – the latter will include a display by the Croix de Guerre re-enactment society to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the start of the Second World War.
Thank you again to EDF have completely cleared out and cleaned up the First Aid post in the Home Front display.
Thanks to Mike Anderson and David Adams who responded to the last mention of this subject on the Blog – the enquirer is a happy man with the information and is busy collating it all together – something like 50 pages so far.
Having mentioned the Bevan Boys in the last blog, we’ve been reminded of other groups whose efforts go largely unsung such as The Church Army, The Scouts, YMCA and Salvation Army and Forces Chaplains to name but a few – further suggestion for this category would be welcomed.
Army Benevolent Fund
The Forts collection for the Army Benevolent Fund has raised a creditable total of 434.97; the fund continues to support the many and varied needs of British Army service men and women. More details on the Army Benevolent Fund can be found at http://www.soldierscharity.org/
A group of eight uniforms have helped fill in some gaps in the collection – most notably Fleet Air Arm and the Glider Pilots Regiment. The uniform of Lt Cdr Dudley Roessler and a Japanese sword surrendered to him in the Philippines by an officer. Dudley served on Tank Landing Craft on the D-Day landings. .
Old Office now available for use
The Forts old Master Gunners Quarters which for years was the Forts office has now been revamped as a dual purpose room for meetings, exhibitions, research etc.
Can you help with information on these service men?
Captain J Hicks glider Pilots regiment
Lt L Young London Division
Lt CE Setchfield Fleet Air Arm, Royal Navy
Lt Cdr T Edwards
11th November 2009
The collection box for Sussex Air Ambulance raised a credible £41.80
International Brigade Homecoming 70th commemoration
Sunday the 7th December will see a commemoration of the return to Newhaven of the British battalion from the Spanish Civil War. Most of the British 2300 volunteers who went to fight against Franco and his fascist forces left via Newhaven – 526 were killed. The commemoration will commence at 12.45 – the Fort will open at 12pm (there is no admission charge). The commemoration will be led by former TGWU leader Jack Jones; a memorial bench will be placed at the fort as a permanent reminder of the Brigade. Please note this is a private event and the Fort will not be open for visitors.
Musketry galleries get a look in
After all the song and dance over the Counterscarp galleries, it seems a good idea to put the old musketry galleries under the spotlight. Smaller than the counterscarp galleries and seldom visited or photographed, the musketry galleries are located under the moat at the Fort’s south west corner and performed the same purpose of defending the forts 50 foot deep moat against an enemy attempting to cross it.
7th November 2008
A Kings Medal, awarded in 1915 by the London County Council has been donated to the Fort. Dated 1914/1915 it is made out to an F Livingstone. Looking on the 1901 census, it seems likely that this is F Livingstone, who would have been about 32 years old in 1914. Livingstone was born in Holloway in about 1882 and was, according to the census, a Packer. At the time there were two brothers, his Mother and a lodger living in the house – his Father is not mentioned. The medal was awarded for “Attendance, industry and conduct during the year”. Please contact the Fort if you have any further information on F Livingstone.
Mutiny at Blatchington
With an imminent threat of invasion from Napoleon a new battery and barracks were built at Blatchington on the edge of Seaford Head. Conditions for the troops were appalling and in 1795 men of the Oxford Militia mutinied, looting food from shops and stores, causing a day of mayhem in Seaford and Newhaven before the mutiny was quelled and the militia marched back to barracks. A trial followed and two of the leaders taken to Brighton and executed. Surprisingly little has been written about the mutiny. A recent enquiry has been received concerning it. If the Blog reader has any further information then we would be pleased to pass it on to our enquirer.
Does anyone know of former Brighton resident Arthur Offen? Arthur served in the Royal Field Artillery during the Great War which he survived, but then left the area – possibly moving to the Shoreham, Kent area - details for a family historian appreciated.
At the end of the war, thousands of troops travelled by boat and train between Newhaven and the Mediterranean across France. The MEDLOC (Mediterranean Line Of Communication) was in existence for a number of years – did you travel on it? Do you have any information concerning it?
Private H Walter
Private 10846 H Walter of East Surrey Regiment, served with the Regiment during the Great War – info welcomed.
This has been a month for unusual objects starting with some African spears (Assegais), but the most unusual of these is a Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstone. This was discovered when a local company was removing a shed in a garden in Hove when it discovered that the shed’s base was made up of five such headstones – all dedicated to “A soldier of the Great War”. Four were too badly damaged to retain but the fifth, which is also damaged was given to the fort. Research indicates that they have been under the shed for at least 40 years and probably a lot longer and as there are no unidentified graves to soldiers of the Great War in the area they were not used on graves. The most likely reasons for them being there are that they were damaged in transit or were damaged after being inscribed by a local stonemason and then rejected.
1st November 2008
The Newhaven Fort Amateur Radio Group (NFARG) continues to achieve a high rate of success in training and examining budding amateur radio operators. The latest group achieved a success rate of between 90 and 100% in their exams held at the fort at the end of October – well done to them, and to the dedicated team from NFARG who continue with their important work. Well done also to the group for getting their “Awards for all grant” from the National Lottery – this will be used to promote the hobby and to provide specialist equipment to train amateur radio users.
Halloween – a haunting success
This year’s Halloween really was a screaming success with record numbers turning up to do the horrible Halloween quiz trail which was bigger than ever – even the spooks in the Grand Magazine joined in for the first time.
11th October 2008
Although inaccessible to the public, the counterscarp galleries under the northwest corner of the moat were one of the Fort’s most important defensive positions with gun loops to fire at invaders as they crossed, or fell into, the 50 foot deep moat. During the Second World War they became home to crews of the Air Sea Rescue boats of 28 Marine Craft Unit. At the end of the war they were brightened up with murals by Mr Fred Gale who returned to the fort to talk about them on BBC South TV.
6th October 2008
Motor cycle rallies
The Fort has proved a popular venue for motor cycle rallies featuring Harley Davidsons, British classic motorcycles and other proper motorbikes and the good news is that already motorcycle clubs are booking for next year.
17th September 2008
Hastings War Memorial needs your help!
The Hastings War memorial in Alexandra Park is in desperate need of refurbishment and repair. The plan is to restore the memorial to its former glory and to add new panels of remembrance. This essential work will cost many thousands of pounds and an appeal has been launched . For further details, and to make a donation, please contact:-
Alexandra Park War Memorial Fund, 8 Northampton Way, St Leonards on sea East Sussex TN38 9QN or phone Mr Pelling on 01424 852231
8th September 2008
Quite a diverse selection of exhibits have gone on display recently. Starting with a German bayonet from the Great War; referred to as a saw back or pioneer bayonet. These weapons had a serrated edge on the back of the blade that could be used for cutting wood, rope or whatever. Allied propaganda latched on to these particularly gruesome looking weapons as evidence of what the press called “German beastliness” giving them the blood curdling term of “Butchers bayonet”.
We now have two of these weapons in the collection, both arrived in odd circumstances; the first was dug up in a garden during pipe laying work in Peacehaven and this later addition was actually handed in to a jumble sale! The organiser fortunately realised what it was and donated it to the fort; both were manufactured in the town of Solingen.
The Great War was a total war in which everyone was expected to take a part – sending gifts to soldiers was one way that even children could “do their bit”; a certificate for Christmas 1916 made out to a W Kennard gives evidence of his efforts for the cause.
2nd September 2008
Great War anniversary at the fort – watch this space!
Saturday 8th November sees a major BBC sponsored event to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the end of the Great War. For more information visit our November Events page.
1st - 7th September
Merchant Navy Week
The British Merchant Navy was crucial in both world wars to keeping the people of Britain from starving and supplying the war effort.
During the Second World War, 2,200 British and allied ships, totalling 13 million tons were lost, along with 30,000 crew members. 175 naval vessels and over 600 aircraft of RAF Coastal Command were lost protecting the convoys. Against this, the Germans lost 510 U-Boats and 23,000 crew men.
To commemorate the part played by the Merchant Navy, the Fort will be flying the Red Ensign for the week and will have a display of related objects on view.
Ignominious fact – Whenever a British Merchant ship was lost; from the moment that the surviving crew members abandoned the ship, the ship’s owners stopped their pay.
1st August 2008
Newhaven Fort is working towards Museum Accreditation – a task akin to painting the Forth Bridge! Eventually we will need to photographically record the entire collection; a volunteer who has the time and patience to help would be most welcome.
Victor Lewis Smith
A recent donation of a pair of fleece lined leather flying trousers is causing a bit of a research headache at the moment. They are attributed to a Victor Lewis Smith, and the donor believes they were given to the family after the war. The problem is that a Victor Lewis Smith DFC (service number 128365) was killed whilst flying Typhoons with 198 squadron near Eindhoven, Holland on 20th December 1943. The trousers might well have been from him or was there another Victor Lewis Smith? – Any ideas?
Captain W Howell Jones Royal Artillery
This gentleman served with the Royal Artillery from around 1888 – we’d like to know more about him.
Coastal Forces and Minesweepers at Newhaven
We would like to hear from anybody who served or who has information regarding these forces from Newhaven during the Second World War
Now, not a lot of people know this……
Swords into ploughshares – air raid sirens into washing machines!
Did you know that after the war air raid siren manufacturer GENT planned to recycle the rotating internal parts of air raid sirens into washing machines? The plan came to nothing – perhaps the washing came out fine but the noise would have upset the neighbours!
23rd July 2008
A Royal visit to the Fort
On a suitably hot sunny day, Princess Alexandra paid a visit to voluntary organisations in Newhaven, culminating in a presentation of awards and a reception at Newhaven Fort.
25th June 2008
Forties Jazz Evening rip roaring sell out
It’s been quite a few years since the Fort held a jazz evening but it proved popular and went very well – tickets sold out days before and a good time was had by all – plenty of singing and dancing and the weather held out too! Will there be another next year? You may ask, well, it’s a bit of a way off but it certainly looks like it!
9th July 2008
Value and Quality – that’s us! Once again the Fort has received a glowing report by Visit Britain’s Value and Quality Assurance Scheme (VAQAS).
From the mouths of babes…
During a Second World War Home Front presentation, to a group of primary school children, the question was asked “what was the black market”? A young boy responded - “Because things were in short supply, they went on the internet and bought things illegally”.
Reminds us of the time when another group was asked where they would run if they heard the air raid siren, another young lad said “Up the pub!” – Not a bad idea except you’d probably have to hide in the cellar with all that beer, now there’s a thought!
7rd July 2008
The new Tommy Atkins DVD featuring some of The Fort’s collection of classic weapons and also renowned re-enactor Mick Larkin has been released by Tommy Atkins Media Ltd.
Oral History Project
Newhaven Fort is taking part in a wide ranging and very important WRVS led oral history project. Interviews have included a member of the Newhaven Fort Amateur Radio Group, who monitored German radio traffic during the war and a local man who was a telegram boy at the Fort.
The Fort is naturally interested in anything related to Newhaven Fort and Newhaven history but also any reminiscences relating to military life and the Home Front. To take part please contact Philip Baldock on Tel: 01273 517622.
30th June 2008
Fort closed for the day
Essential maintenance works carried out by EDF on a sub station in Newhaven resulted in loss of power to the area, therefore The Fort was unable to open for the day. This was entirely beyond our control but we hope that the closure didn’t inconvenience any of our visitors and we apologise if it did.
20th June 2008
Beating Retreat – a great time was had by all!
In the company of “Forces sweetheart”, Dame Vera Lynn, the immaculate band of the Royal Marines gave a splendid performance of Beating Retreat in front of a packed audience of 500 people at the Fort and they loved every minute of it! The event was organised by and in aid of the Seahaven Sea Cadets efforts to find a new home.
South Downs in Conflict
The South Downs Joint Committee is producing a series of themed audio oral history based tours of the South Downs. One of these is “The South Downs in Conflict”. Many of the photographic props were loaned by the Fort. More about the project can be found on http://www.southdownsonline.org/
16th June 2008
A search was made for an injured kestrel on the cliffs but it seems to have recovered enough to fly away before help arrived. The good news for bird lovers is that this year there are more kestrels surrounding the Fort and judging by what they leave behind, more owls too, so the mice are in for a rough time!
16th June 2008
Bomb Rack Surfaces
The sea produces a plentiful harvest of finds from the fisherman at Newhaven; the latest find is a large German external bomb rack, most likely from either a JU88 or Ju188 (unfortunately we will never know the exact identity of the aircraft or the circumstances of its loss). Trawled up from Beachy Head the rack, made by Siemens, it is actually in good condition and is undergoing a very careful restoration.
On a positive note, since being trawled up nearly two years ago, a 4 bladed propeller boss from a radial engine, complete with the remains of wooden prop blades, has caused a headache as few aircraft types fitted the bill. Eventually, having identified the engine as a Bristol Centaurus, research could begin into identifying the type of aircraft from which it came.
Following lots of research from Martin Brewer, the aircraft was identified as a Blackburn Firebrand of the Fleet Air Arm and unlike the Ju88 we know the exact identity of the aircraft and the circumstances of its loss. Stationed at RNAS Ford, Firebrand EX724 suffered engine failure and ditched a few miles off of Brighton on 18th April 1952. The pilot, JF Plant, was rescued wet but otherwise unharmed by an RAF high speed launch from Newhaven.
The Firebrand was originally designed as a Fleet Air Arm fighter but a whole host of problems and delays meant that it finally entered service after the Second World War as a long range torpedo carrying strike fighter. It was never a successful aircraft, and only 156 were built, serving with the Fleet Air Arm between 1945 and 1953.
13th June 2008
Support the Sussex Air Ambulance!
Every season the Fort supports a local charity and for 2008 we are supporting the Sussex Air Ambulance. This charity came into being in June 2007 and in its first month was called out to sixty emergencies.
Many lives have, and will be continue to be saved by the speed and flexibility offered by the Sussex Air Ambulance helicopter, and the Fort is happy to support such a worthy charity. More details of the work of the air ambulance and how you can donate can be found on their web site http://www.sussexairambulance.co.uk/
9th June 2008
From the conning tower there is a German flag fluttering behind the Royal Navy’s white ensign – so it is obviously in the process of surrendering at the end of the First World War. This is rather an intriguing mystery – can our readers throw any more light on to the ship’s identity?
8th June 2008
The Fort staff have been busy volunteering recently. Jenny Flood (Fort Volunteer) attended a event at Bodiam to speak on volunteering whilst helping to promote the Fort by distributing leaflets. Ed Tyhurst (Reception) toured Eastbourne and Hastings on the Fort’s delivery bike to publicise the Fort and upcoming events. Ian, Keith and Adrian (Fort Volunteers) have been busy with the Fort’s object cataloguing.
Painting at the Fort is a bit like painting the Forth Bridge – never ending! Fortunately EDF are up to the challenge and continue to volunteer, helping with many essential tasks. A great new display has been added entitled “Women at war” to the section of the Home Front. We have also had our quiz sheets translated into German and a new “citizenship” worksheet has been produced for the many school groups which visit us.
20th May 2008
Numerous books have now been relocated from the old Fort office to the new one. This ensures ease of access as the archives and library are now located together.
Whilst on the subject of the library, if our readers have any surplus military, naval or aviation books, which they are willing to donate, they would be gratefully received.
18th May 2008
Improving our Carbon footprint
New low energy, long life light bulbs are being installed throughout the Fort to lower the cost of maintenance, electricity and most importantly reduce our carbon footprint.
16th May 2008
EDF have once again been busy volunteering at the fort. Two more teams have visited the fort to paint, move shelves, tidy up and complete many other invaluable tasks. The old naval was painted and now looks resplendent in black with embossed letters picked out in red.
14th May 2008
Further details can be found on the “events” page of the website but just a little reminder of the events coming up over the next few weeks:
May 28th and 31st - As part of architecture week – mixed media workshops and pre booked tours of the Fort
June 1st - Newhaven Fort day – live music, pre booked tours of the counterscarp galleries, Royal Observer Corps and more
June 20th - Beating the Retreat by HM band of the Royal Marines (evening ticket event)
June 27th - Fort Blitz music event (evening ticket event)
8th May 2008
New exhibits include a reminder of escape by “a very narrow squeak”
A lady from Leicester has recently donated the base of a burned out German incendiary bomb. It fell through the roof of her home near St Pancras in London and landed on her bed where it burned out.
Other recent objects gifted to the fort have included a Royal Navy ceremonial sword and a deactivated German Mannlicher rifle of First World War vintage.
Whilst on the subject of weapons…. There may be new laws introduced regarding deactivated weapons, so please be careful to follow the law regarding ANY weapons – particularly guns but also ammunition and ordnance (e.g. shells, grenades, bullets, bombs), edged weapons etc.
5th May 2008
EDF step up for volunteering
Power supplier EDF has a very enlightened view towards volunteering for the community and has been using Newhaven Fort as a volunteering and team building opportunity. This month the company has sent two teams to perform tasks as diverse as painting, light construction work and manual labour. All useful work and more power to their elbow we say.
8th April 2008
“Our Newhaven” day a success
The local populace took full advantage of a special entry price to turn out and support their local community day at the fort. Craft workshops, a theatre production, church service and stalls run by local organisations such as the local history society were some of the attractions that made the event a great success – even the weather was kind, which was just as well as the only description for the weather next day was “ ‘orrible”!
2nd April 2008
The wave monitoring buoy in Seaford Bay is now up and running, transmitting data on wave and tide movement to the National Oceanographic Centre at Southampton. Newhaven Fort is involved in this national programme by having the associated aerials and monitoring equipment installed below one of the gun emplacements. The information gleaned will help monitor coastal erosion and give warning of possible flood conditions and, on a different level, will allow surfers to watch for the best surf conditions!
31st March 2008
Dakota flypast confirmed!
Battle of Britain Day on September the 14th is set to be a good ‘un. Amongst all of the other goings on at Newhaven Fort that day there will be a flypast of a Dakota – from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (weather permitting) - so there is definitely a date for the diary!
3rd March 2008
New exhibits keep coming in
For the Newhaven Fort Curator, one of the best bits of the job is the arrival of new objects for the collections - he never knows what will turn up next and when something does there can be great excitement - it really can be an interesting life.
When it comes to patience, Bryan Driffell has more than most. Bryan is a keen model ship builder. Over the years he has donated several of his masterpieces to the fort and the latest of these is a three foot long model of HMS Dreadnought. These aren't just any old model kit though - they are made of match sticks - this model took over a thousand to produce - crumbs!
Former Royal Artillery Major, Cliff Mason, has donated his uniforms and a huge collection of cap badges - we are building a special display cabinet to house them all. Major Mason served with the Royal Artillery all over the world and has a fascinating story to go with it.
Documenting Newhaven Fort's history is of key importance and a large amount of archive material dating back to the 19th century has been donated from one source. Also, approximately 200 slides of Newhaven Fort when it was derelict and being restored back in the early 1970s has come from another.
1st March 2008
Season tickets - Great Value for money
Season tickets are excellent value for money - they are on sale NOW
20th February 2008
Events are looking great for 2008!
Have you looked at our forthcoming events list? There are 24 major events this year, including...
Back by popular demand - a wartime jazz evening; the band of the Royal Marines will be visiting us for the first time to perform 'Beat the Retreat'; open-air theatre company, Oddsocks are back for another alternative Shakespeare production, 'Much ado about nothing'. Please note that these events will be popular and require separate tickets - so please book early to avoid disappointment
This year we have more community events such as Urban Culture Day - specially aimed at young people across the county with dance, music and urban games and the 'Our Newhaven' community day with amateur dramatics, community stalls and quiz trails. Vehicle enthusiasts will enjoy the Vintage Morris Rally, cars from 1913; Classic English Motorbike show and Down Memory Lane with vintage vehicles and collectors displays and stalls.
An old favourite, Battle of Britain Day will this year see the return of the ever lively 'Brighton Jive dancers' and the nostalgic singing of 'Swingtime Sweethearts' . Don't forget the architecture tours, paranormal events and the horrible Halloween Quiz Trail!!
8th February 2008
Tracing the ancestors
Since the building of Newhaven Fort back in the 1860s, there have been thousands of soldiers stationed here – even if only for a few days. Not surprisingly we get many enquiries from genealogists trying to trace their ancestors and 2007 was a record year for these. Although we cannot always help everyone, we try and do our best to assist and are always pleased to hear from somebody with a family connection to Newhaven Fort – we learn a lot ourselves in the process! So if you think we can help then please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
4th February 2008
Step forward the volunteers
Having mentioned all of the winter work that has been going on - it's only fair to mention that the fort's volunteers have played a major part in it. They have been cataloguing the library and archives, putting together new displays, decorating and generally being useful. We are looking for more volunteers, and we have a volunteer pack which we can post or e-mail, so if you are interested, we'd be happy to hear from you. Check out the Volunteers Page!
1st February 2008
No time to slumber!
It might be winter and Newhaven Fort is closed to the public, but there’s no time for the fort staff to curl up and slumber – there’s too much to do preparing for the new season that starts on 1st March! As well as painting and decorating the shop and toilets and general maintenance – the fort has two major projects under way. First is a much needed new office space in a formerly disused casemate – at long last there is plenty of room to work and it’s even warm – now there’s a bonus! Secondly is a major new display being built in the “Life in the Fort” casemate; the old metal cage has gone, to be replaced with a purpose built barrack room with adjoining display cabinets. There are also changes to the Sussex Land Sea and Air display.
If you are a regular visitor to the website you will notice that the Newhaven Fort site has changed beyond all recognition and it is, we think, a great improvement and hope that you agree – please feel free to let us know what you think via our Feedback form, which can be found on the Contact Us page.