Posted: 20 April 2008 20:39
Every time I visit Cuckmere Haven, I learn something new.
I've made two trips recently; last Sunday and today, the weather being good on both occasions. Last week's discovery was the possible evidence of some slit trenches on the high ground overlooking the valley, but today's 'find' was not so much about the physical defences, but of an incident that took place during the war.
It was in September 2006 that I last visited the western side of the Cuckmere River; the photo at right was taken on that day.
I assumed the presence of these crosses and faded poppy was perhaps related to the minefield tragedy that occurred in September 1940.
I see today, however, that at the same spot a memorial has been erected since my last visit.
The plaque on the stone bears an interesting eyewitness account of an attack by German aircraft on Canadian troops camped on the hillside.
I've not come across mention of this incident in the war diaries I've looked at so far, but this incident is the sort that would have been recorded not just by the unit involved, but also by neighbouring units and higher formations.
From memory, I can recall seeing mention of a Canadian pioneer company briefly working in the Bexhill area, and I have a feeling that there may have been another Canadian unit somewhere in East Sussex as early as 1940, but I'm not 100% certain this event happened in that year.
45 Division held Cuckmere Haven May-October 1940; they were relieved by 44 Division, who were themselves relieved on 25 February 1941 by 55 Division. My research hasn't gone much beyond this point, but the Canadians were prominent in East Sussex; I'll have to delve into my files and see if I have anything.
Otherwise, if anyone knows more about this incident, then please email me!
Small, narrow trench designed to provide protection against shrapnel and other battlefield hazards. Technically distinct from a weapon pit (which was intended soley as a defensive position) slit trenches were also used as defence works.
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Hibbs, Peter Memorial at Cuckmere Haven (2021) Available at: http://pillbox.org.uk/blog/216547/ Accessed: 17 January 2021
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