Posted: 11 June 2006 21:47
I mentioned previously that I had found mention of an incident in the war diary of a Royal Engineers Field Company who oversaw many of the defensive preparations in my corner of Sussex in 1940.
On 20 September 1940, the company sent a Sergeant Fall to Newhaven to lay "mushroom" mines; one of these exploded, killing an N.C.O. of the Royal Sussex Regiment and seriously injuring Fall. He was taken to hospital with serious injuries, where he died the following day.
A second incident occurred shortly afterwards on 22 September at Cuckmere Haven; the war diary reads as follows:
0930: 2/Lt Burns, Sgt. Lewis & 1 Driver left to connect up mushrooms at Cuckmere with Capt. Cambridge of the Sussex.
1400: C.Q.M.S. Curtis and Sgt. Line proceeded to Cuckfield Hospital ref. 'effects' & funeral of Sgt. Fall.
1500: Message received from 50th Sussex at Cuckmere to say that a Beach Mine explosion had occurred - killing 2L/t Burns, Capt. Cambridge (Royal Sussex), Sgt. Lewis & Dvr Ball - O.C. left immediately left for Cuckmere.
The diary subsequently states that Sgt. Lewis was buried at Seaford, so I jumped on my bike and went to take a look.
I eventually found his grave with regulation headstone; I was suprised to find Captain Pickard-Cambridge's grave just three along from Lewis's; he may well have been a local man. (The relatives of the other two men requested their bodies be sent home to them.)
This sort of story makes you reflect on things; Sgt. Lewis was just 26 when he died; I've already had seven years' more life than he did. It's all very well reading about casualties in unemotional documents, but being faced with gravestones brings reality home.
Naval Beach Mines
A record of events kept by all units from the point of mobilisation. A diary's contents vary enormously from unit to unit; some give detailed entries by the hour on a daily basis while others merely summarise events on a weekly/monthly basis.
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Hibbs, Peter 1940 minefield incidents (2017) Available at: http://pillbox.org.uk/blog/216500/ Accessed: 22 September 2017
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