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The history of Winchelsea

World War Two

In 1940, Winchelsea once again found itself in the sights of a possible foreign invasion. It is sometimes claimed that Hitler’s abortive Operation Sealion planned a beachhead between Rye and New Romney. Winchelsea Beach became part of the Rye Defence Area and a prohibited zone for civilians. Pett Level was flooded. Families who had been evacuated from London were evacuated elsewhere, along with 85,000 sheep, who were shipped by train to Yorkshire! Winchelsea itself was garrisoned and two Bofors guns were emplaced either side of the Strand Gate. The Court Hall and Periteau House were used as billets, the Armoury as the Officers Mess, Glebe as the Sergeants’ Mess, Firebrand as Company HQ, Yew Tree House as the hospital and the Cricket Field as the parade ground.

Winchelsea was bombed and strafed several times by German planes, and suffered civilian casualties, including four deaths. One of the Bofors guns on Strand Hill caused an attacking German fighter to fly into electricity cables along Sea Road with gruesome consequences: the cables cut off the canopy and pilot’s head.

Five sons of Winchelsea died on active service in the Second World War --- Donald Alford, George Cook, Robert Jenkins, Anthony Stuart and Harry Willeard. Their names were added to the nine names from the First World War on the war memorial in the churchyard --- Archibald Baldwin, William Freeman, Robert Griffin, Henry Patch, Noel Patch, Frederick Penny, George Snashall, Norman Streeton and Edward Watson.

Attribution: The bulk of the information in this history is quite shamelessly derived from two sources: “New Winchelsea Sussex: a medieval port town” by David and Barbara Martin (with contributions from Jill Eddison, David Rudling and David Sylvester, and “Port of Stranded Pride” by Malcolm Pratt. The Martins are the foremost archaeologists of medieval Winchelsea and Malcolm Pratt is the Clerk to the Corporation and an acknowledged authority on the later history of the town. We are very grateful to David Martin and Archaeology South East for permission to reproduce many maps and plans.

Top | War Memorial

The war memorial at Winchelsea

The war memorial at Winchelsea