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1939 - Air Raid Precautions in Haywards Heath

Updated: Sep 27, 2020

Mid Sussex Times - Tuesday 07 February 1939


Almost every form of destruction known in modern aerial warfare was showered, theoretically, on the southern part of Haywards Heath on Monday evening of last week, when practical exercises were held for all volunteers enrolled in the Air Raid Precautions organisation in the area.

Previous exercises on a smaller scale had taken place at Cuckfield, Lindfield and in the northern portion of Haywards Heath, and those last week were watched by members of the Cuckfield Urban Council and East County Council officials

Many local residents also assembled where ‘the incidents’ occurred, and the fact that everything passed off satisfactorily is mainly due to Mr. L. H. Merry, the Air Raid Precautions Organizer for the Urban District Council. Tribute must also be paid to Mr. R. Staynes (Senior Sanitary Inspector and Anti-Gas Instructor to the Council), who was responsible for the training of the volunteers.

Altogether over a hundred volunteers took part, including Wardens, two first aid parties, two decontamination squads, two rescue and demolition squads, the auxiliary fire brigade and report centre staffs.

The Council offices at Oaklands formed the headquarters, where the majority of those taking part gathered at eight o’clock. In the conservatory the decontamination, rescue and demolition squads assembled to don their anti-gas clothing and respirators, and in the drive were lined up two furniture vans converted into ambulances, four lorries to convey the squads to danger spots, and many cars.

The auxiliary fire brigade’s headquarters were at the fire station in South Road.


and shortly after eight o’clock producers were dispatched from Oaklands, each to a given sector. Each producer carried a sealed envelope, in which were typewritten descriptions of a supposed incident. When a Warden was handed this, he telephoned to headquarters for the necessary services. If a telephone was not available a Boy Scout cyclist was used as a dispatch rider.

A representative of The Mid-Sussex Times visited a number of the sectors and witnessed the action taken after the incidents had been reported. One of the most spectacular was in Messrs. T. White’s yard in Franklynn Road, where a high explosive bomb was supposed to have dropped, wrecking a house and injuring a person on the first floor. The rescue party was quickly on the scene, and the injured person carried down a ladder, placed in the ambulance and taken to the first aid station at Oaklands.

Shortly afterwards a bright flare on a waste piece of ground in Western Road represented a high explosive bomb, and two people were supposed to be injured.

At Franklands Village high explosive and incendiary bombs were represented at the juncture of the two roads, one person being seriously injured.

Franklands Village from the air

In New England Road the Wardens' Post was “destroyed” by a high explosive bomb, and an incendiary bomb fell at the entrance to America Lane, seriously burning one person, while another incendiary bomb fell at the junction of Ashenground Road and Wood Ride, and a high explosive bomb injured one person


occurred near the Fox and Hounds lnn and in sectors at the two entrances to Edward Road. In one of these an injured person was supposed to be lying on the top of a shed, and the Warden himself “sustained a broken leg.” In each incident the presence of a particular kind of gas was noted, and this was efficiently dealt with by the decontamination squads.

The departure and return of each squad from Oaklands was recorded by miniature flags placed on a map divided into the eight sectors. Lieut.-Colonel O. J. F. Fooks (County Air Raid Precautions Organizer) motored round the sectors, and expressed satisfaction at the way the exercises were carried out. Later he will furnish a report based on the observations of an umpire stationed in each sector. These officials were Mr. H. Jessop (County Health Inspector), Messrs. F. H. Leggatt and F. Harding (Assistant County Health Inspectors), Air. W. W. Masters (Air Raid Precautions Officer for the Lewes Borough Council), Captain Hare-Hobson and Captain D. Strange (Area Officers for the Cuckfield Rural District Council), and Mr. G. V. R. Lee (Sanitary Inspector and Air Raid Precautions Instructor to the Burgess Hill Urban District Council). The producers were Messrs. C. N. Lidguard, C. L. Miller, C. Newington, H. W. Hart, F. T. Weller, Rae, H. Ostler and K. Newington.

The report centre staff at Oaklands comprised the following: Executive officers, Messrs. G. Plummer and R. J. Willett; Intelligence officer. Mr. H. A. Randall; telephonists, Miss A. M. Dick and Miss Ricketts; clerks, Miss M. Maby, Miss I. Duncan, Miss E. M. S. Parker and Miss M. Norman; messengers, Messrs. J. A. Alexander, K. W. Kersley and T. O. Muzzell; Services' controller, Mr. A. Ireland. Mr. A. Eastland (British Red Cross Society) was in charge of the first-aid post , the staff of which comprised Miss L. Atkinson, Mr. R. Barton, Mrs. G. Caffyn, Mrs. H. M. Castle, Miss E. R. Draper, Miss G. E. Draper, Miss E. Goss, Miss D. M. Horsley, Miss M. I. Horsley, Mrs. B. P. Killick, Miss G. Everson and Miss W. Brown.


were under the supervision of Section-Leader A. Morgan (British Red Cross Society), and in the parties were Messrs. T. J. Barker, G. Groombridge. A. E. Mills, W. Mitchell, R. A. Redfern, E. Turner. C. F. Mills, . Taylor and J. Smith. Mr. H. Brown (Chief Officer of the Urban District Council Fire Brigade) had the oversight of the auxiliary fire patrols, the two ambulances, each fitted with four stretchers, were kindly loaned by Messrs. George Hilton and Sons and Messrs. E. Miller and Son. and the lorries were provided by the Urban District Council.

The Council’s roadmen formed the decontamination squads under the leadership of Messrs. S. H. Bundy and F. C. Turville, and the rescue and demolition squads, in the charge of Mr. F. C. Hackman, were recruited from his employees.

The service of Boy Scouts as “casualties” and dispatch riders was arranged Mr. H. A. Randall (Haywards Heath Group Scoutmaster) and Mr. S. G. Peters (Hon. Secretary of the Local Association).

Every unit employed worked efficiently and harmoniously, and should the need arise there is no doubt that the voluntary service built up after months of training will perform any duty it is called upon to render with credit to itself and the district it serves.



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