Exciting New WW2 Balsdean Talk!

Tanks move into Balsdean. Photo: Holland Mercer Collection.
Tanks move into Balsdean. Photo: Holland Mercer Collection.

Weds 18th January 2017 I will be giving my next illustrated talk for the Sussex Military History Society at 7.30 for 8.00pm, in the Royal Oak Public House, Station Street, Lewes, East Sussex.

Mustard Gas Training Exercise

I have been researching Balsdean’s military history in detail for over a year now, and have made some exciting new discoveries regarding the many military activities in the area. The most shocking for me was the use of Balsdean for a mustard gas training exercise in July 1941 – the gas bombs landing only a kilometre away from where my mother’s family were living at Newmarket Farm. I have identified a possible firing position and, based on the distance to the known locations of the bombs found after the exercise, I believe they may have been using an experimental livens projector capable of a much longer firing range than usual.

Anti-tank Training Railway

I have also located the former site of a figure of eight narrow gauge railway used for anti-tank target practice. I was told by friends of my dad that they (illegally) snuck into the Balsdean Training Area during the war and had a ride on it. Letting off the brake they said they had a big scare when it set off at speed downhill with them onboard!

National Archives & The Keep

My talk is of the highlights sifted out from thousands of pages of documents ranging from military war diaries, Home Guard records, civil authorities such as the Sussex Police and East Sussex War Agricultural Executive Committee (for whom my father worked), as well as newspaper reports of the day.

New Research Findings

Though it was originally to be largely based on the personal memories of those who lived and worked in the area, my talk’s main emphasis is now on my new military research findings which I hope will be of interest to the military enthusiasts who make up the SMHS membership.

Though I know the area well I am not a historian (military or otherwise) and until recently had no interest in the military activities that took place in Balsdean during WW2. I have therefore been amazed at just how much history I have uncovered  – far more than can be shared in just one short hour. I therefore plan to adapt the talk for a series of blog page articles, covering much of the material cut from the talk.

Three unexploded gas bombs found, July 1941.
Three unexploded gas bombs found near Balsdean, July 1941. Source, The Keep, East Sussex Record Office.

One reply on “Exciting New WW2 Balsdean Talk!”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s