Members of Hastings and St Leonards Veterans Association held a ceremony in the Swan Memorial Garden, Hastings Old Town, on Sunday May 19, to remember those who were killed in Hastings and St.Leonards by Air Raids during World War 2.
The event was attended by Hastings Mayor Cllr Nigel Sinden, Deputy Mayor James Bacon and the public.
The introduction was given by Bob Marden who pointed out that many today do not know about the events of WW2 and the importance of Hastings in the War effort. After Dunkirk, in 1940, Hastings was in the front line on the English Coast, and had to endure enemy air raids.
Hastings suffered 85 bombing missions by the Luftwaffe, from the first air raid on July 26 1940 to the end of the war in 1945, during which 550 HE bombs and 16 flying bombs (V1s or doodlebugs) fell on the town, causing the loss of 154 lives, with nearly 700 people injured.
Many people of the Borough had been progressively evacuated, and by 1943, only 10,500 remained of the pre-war population of 65,000. Many British and Canadian troops were billetted in the Town up to D-Day and the Normandy Landings.
There was widespread damage to houses in the town, with 463 houses and buildings being damaged beyond saving or completely demolished.
The most devastating raid local people remembered, occurred on Sunday, the May 23 1943 where many shops and buildings, particularly the Swan Inn in Hastings Old Town and the Albany Hotel in Robertson Terrace, were destroyed. In the Albany Hotel, 11 Royal Canadian Hussars, together with 6 unnamed uncounted RAF men. In the Swan Inn and elsewhere, a further 14 ‘civilians’ lost their lives, including the Inn keeper’s wife & 3-year old son. 85 people were injured that day.
Richard Butcher, from the Veteran’s Association, said: “Standing where the Swan Inn once stood 76 years ago, all those in Hastings and St.Leonards who lost their lives and were injured should be remembered. They were fighting for an ideal. They were fighting for freedom and for peace, the freedom and peace which we enjoy today.”
The mayor picked up on the destruction to property, pointing out that whether occupied or not, people’s homes had been damaged and destroyed, with belongings and keepsakes wiped out: his own family in Silverhill had been affected this way and many of their friends too.
A brief service of Remembrance followed, conducted by HSVA Chaplain Rev David Hill, during which the Last Post was sounded, Standards and Flags lowered in salute, followed by a two minute silence before the Reveille. All repeated the line, “We will remember them!”