Air Raids

From Historical Hastings

Hastings suffered its first air attack at 7:15am on the 26 July 1940, when a single aircraft dropped 11 explosive bombs, several of which fell on the Central Cricket Ground. Perhaps out of all the raids, the most severe was the 11th March 1943 tip and run raid[1], although for sheer destruction and loss of lives, the 23rd May 1943 raid which resulted in the loss of the Swan Hotel and Albany Hotel holds that grim record.

Hastings was deemed as a target of low importance by the Luftwaffe in August 1940, with a targeting folder only detailing the piers, harbour arm and gasworks as potential targets, but noting the town as a way-point to several higher-value targets. As a result, it is likely that most raids were targets of opportunity, with enemy pilots strafing and bombing anything that may have revealed itself to them upon crossing the channel in a similar way to which Allied Air Forces operated over the continent during the war.

Air Raid Precautions

A number of Air Raid Shelters and sirens were constructed in various areas of the town and various designs for do-it-yourself shelters were published as early as the mid 1930s with tests being made of those sirens and the varying degrees of success reported in the local press. In addition, mindful of the usage of poison gas in WW1, serious discussion about whether the civilian population would require some form of protection against gas attacks commenced locally around 1935/6. By the middle of 1937 the Government had started to produce and issue Gas Masks to all citizens, carrying of which became compulsory as the war developed.By 1940, it became known that the issued gas masks were prone to deterioration, so testing stations were set up at the following locations in the town: Rear of Castle Hotel; Cave at the rear of 8 Claremont; 79 High Street; London Road Congregational Church hall; St. Mary Magdalen Church rectory; St. Peters Church Hall; the Sun Lounge; rear of Judges premises, Bexhill Road; St. Dominics School, Filsham Road; St. James Mission Hall, Battle Road; 88 Stonefield Road; 114 Mount Pleasant Road; 19 The Ridge; rear of 87 Mount Road. Members of public were urged by the Chief Constable to have the masks tested from the 26th of March 1940[2]. In the final tally, however, there is no evidence that poison gas was ever used against the general population of the UK.

Air Raid Wardens

A number of civilians volunteered to act as Air Raid Wardens and had dedicated posts set up around key parts of the town to spot for fires and damage caused by bombing, together with assisting with ensuring blackout legislation was being complied with and rescue of victims, together with carrying out emergency repairs. A known post was at 2 Frederick Road[3]

Emergency Hostel

In 1940, the Women's Voluntary Service (WVS) set up an emergency hostel in Norbourne, Filsham Road. The house had been donated by the owners, Mr. & Mrs. Crafter[4] and was equipped with bedding and furniture donated by Mr. & Mrs. Southwood of the Cromwell Hotel in order that up to fifteen persons could be accommodated[5]

Known Air Raids

Please note: This list is currently a 'work in progress'; a useful resource is the web-page WW2 Roll of Honour - Bombsites in Hastings & St. Leonards, from which the Map below is taken.

Date Number of Raids Number of Bombs dropped Target(s) Number of Fatalities
26 July 1940 1 11 Priory Road, Whitefriars Road[6], Central Cricket Ground[7] West Hill[8] 1
14 August 1940 1 6 Bexleigh Avenue[6] 2
15 August 1940 St. Leonards area 1
21 August 1940 1
23 August 1940 Ecclesbourne Glen and Barley Lane area[6]
9 September 1940 Bombs landed in sea[6]
10 September 1940 9 Hollington Park, The Green, Tower Road[6] 2
12 September 1940 Alfred Road[9]
14 September 1940 1 9 Linton Crescent[7], All Saints Street (all nine bombs failed to explode)[6]
20 September 1940 Ore Railway Tunnel and Batchelor's Bump[6]
22 September 1940 15 Mount Pleasant Church (four bombs) Alexandra Park (11 bombs, all 11 failed to detonate)[6]
23 September 1940 4 Halton area[6]. This raid resulted in the total destruction of Halton School 2
24 September 1940 2 33[6]
25 September 1940 2 18 Central St. Leonards[6] 3
26 September 1940 2 40 Queen's Road, Nelson Road, Milward Road, St. Marys Terrace[7] and [6] 3
28 September 1940 14 Bexhill Road & Seaside Road[6]
30 September 1940 1 Plaza Cinema[8] 14
2 October 1940 16 White Rock Gardens, causing damage to the children's ward at the Royal East Sussex Hospital[6]
4 October 1940 2 18 St. Leonards Pier[6] 1
5 October 1940 4 29 Bedford Arms[8],Wellington Road[9], Central Cricket Ground, Wallinger's Walk & [6]
7 October 1940 Stockleigh Road[6]
8 October 1940 Havelock Road, York Buildings , Allotments at Braybrook Road[6] 3
9 October 1940 3 20[6] Upper Broomgrove Road[9]
12 October 1940 2 15 Hastings Railway Station, Gasometers at Queen's Road[6]
13 October 1940 2 Kites Farm Harley Shute Road[6]
17 October 1940 2 Tilekiln Lane[6]
26 October 1940 Priory Road[6]
29 October 1940 Linton Road[6]
10 November 1940 3 20 Fairlight Road, Bexhill Road, Harley Shute Road & Buckshole Reservoir[6]
11 November 1940 18 Broomgrove Power Station, Mercatoria & Maze Hill[6]
26 November 1940 West Marina Railway Station[6]
11 January 1941 Incendiary bombs St. Margaret's Road[6]
12 January 1941 1 Machine-gunning town[6]
31 January 1941 1 5 Clyde Road, Gensing Road and Woodland Vale Road[6]
7[a] April 1941 28 HE + 300 Incendiary Municipal Hospital and Royal East Sussex Hospital[10][6].
17 April 1941 1 Elphinstone Avenue[6]
26 April 1941 2[6]
16 June 1941 200 Incendiary Broomgrove Power Station[6]
1 January 1942 'Hit and Run' attack on train going to Hastings Railway Station[6]
5 January 1942 Two raiders machine gunned town resulting in a woman having to have a leg amputated[6]
1 February 1942 Fishing Boat machine gunned 1
24 April 1942 2 West Hill near George Street & Wellington Road[6]
3 May 1942 Emmanuel Church vicarage, Vicarage Road[9], Oakfield Road, 5[6]
17 May 1942 Havelock Road, Middle Street & Falaise Road machine gunning St. George's Road[6] 1
22 August 1942 Boyne Road and Berlin Road[6]
21 September 1942 2 Marine Court[6]
24 September 1942 1 7 Quarry Hill,Warrior Square,West Hill Road, De Cham Road[6][8] 23
17 October 1942 St. Columbia Presbyterian Church, Pevensey Road and Warrior Gardens[6] 2
26 October 1942 High Beech Farm[6]
4 January 1943 Machinegunning near town by three planes [6]
9 January 1943 Mill Lane & White Hart, Guestling[6] 3
17 January 1943 Fairlight Place Tilekiln Cottage off Fairlight Road[6]
20 January 1943 Bexhill Road roofs damaged [6]
28 January 1943 Glyne Gap Gasworks[6] 1
9 February 1943 St. Johns Church Ashbrook Road (did not detonate) Christ Church Ore Moscow Road Alfred Road[6] 3
13 February 1943 Train attacked en-route to London[6]
1 March 1943 Aldborough Road, [9]
3 March 1943 Magdalen Terrace (Nos 182-186 Bohemia Road)[11]
11 March 1943 1 20 Combermere Road, Battle Road, St. Matthews School & Alma Terrace[6][8] 38
13 March 1943 Adelaide House[12] 1
23 May 1943 Albany Hotel, Swan Hotel,Gensing Road Warrior House Hotel, Warriors Gate and others (This was the most destructive raid of the war)[6][8] 25
9 July 1943 14 Markwick Terrace[6]
5 January 1944 Filsham Road
12 March 1944 Priory Road (this was the raid which killed Mr. E. Leslie Badham and his daughter)[6] 1
27 March 1944 Filsham Road[6]
16 June 1944 V1 Flying Bomb Bexhill Road[6]
11 July 1944 V1 in orchard near Meophams Bank (off Hollinghurst Road - Sedlescombe Road North)[6]
16 July 1944 V1 Old Church Road[6] 3
20 July 1944 V1 Shear Barn Farm[6] 1
29 July 1944 V1 St. Leonards Church[6]


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Renamed loco for 80th Anniversary

80th Anniversary of Battle of Britain

To commemorate the 80th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain, a Railfreight locomotive was renamed to the 'Battle of Britain' at the St. Leonards Railway Depot on the 11th of September 2020. The ceremony was accompanied by a flypast of Spitfires and four F35 jet aircraft.


References & Notes

  1. The book 'Hastings in Peace and War' gives the following day as being that of the raid - i.e. the 8th of April
  1. Tip and Run Raid 11 March 43
  2. British Newspaper Archive Hastings & St. Leonards Observer 23 March 1940 Pg. 0009
  3. Hastings Borough Council Planning application ref HS/FA/52/00290
  4. British Newspaper Archive Hastings & St. Leonards Observer 14 December 1940 Pg. 0009
  5. British Newspaper Archive Hastings & St. Leonards Observer 21 December 1940 Pg. 0004
  6. a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax ay az ba bb bc bd be bf bg bh bi Hastings in Peace and War 1930-1945 (Mary Haskell Porter) ISBN: 1870096061
  7. a b c
  8. a b c d e f Sussex at War 1939-45
  9. a b c d e Civilian Deaths during WW2
  10. National Archives
  11. Hastings & St. Leonards in the Front Line
  12. John Busbridge Historical Hastings Facebook Group