Helen Invicta Hall was a writer, historian, artist and expert needlewoman. She was born in Shoreham, West Sussex in 1873. During the War she was an air warden and lived in Lindfield. She kept a detailed record of life in the area during the War, and includede many references to Cuckfield. Her published diary makes a fascinating read and vividly recalls how Mid Sussex folk coped with life in these testing times. In one anecdote she recalls the reactions of evacuees arriving in the area:
One little boy [arriving in Cuckfield] being taken to school said ‘Lummy ain’t they gonna lot of the sky down here’. Another boy was taken to Brighton and naturally his first desire was to see the sea. He stood gazing at it and when he is guardian asked what he thought of it he said ‘Well, it's the first time I've seen enough of anything’.
She recalls that Lindfield, Cuckfield and Haywards Heath worked together to raise £5,000 for a new Spitfire - they closed it at £3,500. She remembers aerial dog fights and on one occasion two planes being shot down over Cuckfield and one over Ditchling Common. She explains that Balcombe Viaduct was a favourite target for the enemy to try and cut off the rail link to and from the coast.
The publisher’s promotional description of the Helen Invicta Hall diaries 1940-1945 claims it is ‘one of the most vivid, detailed and evocative personal records of the Second World War as it was experienced by people living in an English village … Each daily entry gives us an insight into the extraordinary impact of the conflict on local lives, and shows how much energy and commitment ordinary people put into the war effort’.
The full book title is ‘A Woman Living in the Shadow of the Second World War: Helena Hall's Journal from the Home Front’ and it is available as a hardback from publisher by Pen and Sword Military. The 423 page book is also downloadable from Kindle, Apple Books, Google Play Books for less than £4. You can read sections of the text by clicking on this link to Google Books.
Contributed by Malcolm Davison.