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Civil War Dead Honoured, Nov 2015

MUTILATION or death could strike without warning and from a variety of sources as Bexhill’s civilian population endured the Second World War.

Five graphic instances were outlined as relatives and well-wishers gathered at Marina in gusty conditions on Monday, November 30th for the dedication of the town’s newly-updated memorial to its civilian war dead.

Welcoming guests, Rother chairman Cllr Jimmy Carroll recalled that original memorial was erected in 1995 to mark the 50th anniversary of the end of the war. Council chairman Cllr Christine Bayliss had recognised the inadequacy of the previous Town Hall memorial scroll – now in the keeping of Bexhill Museum.

But the first Marina memorial listed only those who died in air raids and omitted those Bexhillians killed outside the town.

Now, thanks to two years of painstaking research by museum history group member Dave Hatherell the new memorial bears 12 additional names; altogether 36 victims of war – aged three to 84.

Dedicating the memorial, the Rev Nicholas Reade of St Barnabas’ Church, said each had a special place in the hearts of their relatives.

Little Anthony Cheese was only three when he ran in the path of a Canadian army lorry in Peartree Lane. Plumber John “Jack” Croft was killed when the Buckhurst Road property in which he was working was bombed. George Gatey was blown up by a newly-sown anti-invasion mine when he ventured into the “rough” off Cooden Golf Course to retrieve a ball. Bert Niner was mortally wounded when Glyne Gap gasworks was bombed. Harriet Tidd was sheltering in a neighbour’s home when it was hit.

Dave Hatherell told the assembly of Daisy Ann Furner who was machine-gunned by one of three hit-and-run raiders which strafed the town on December 16, 1942, injuring seven people and damaging 64 homes. Daisy was taken to Bexhill Hospital. She survived thanks to the skill of staff there and of the ambulance service.

Today’s South East Coast Ambulance Service was represented at Monday’s ceremony by Gareth Hulin. Barbara Wright was present with her husband David, daughter Gill Shrubb and sister Margaret van Draat to remember her grandfather, George Gatey. Ian Cheese was present to remember cousin Anthony.  Jack Croft’s son Ron attended despite being in a wheelchair along with many members of the Croft and Tidd families.

Also taking part was Town Mayor Cllr Maurice Watson, Rother executive director Tony Leonard, museums’ curator Julian Porter and Bexhill Museum chairman John Betts.

Afterwards, David Wright said: "I would like to say how grateful we are to Rother District Council and Dave Hatherell for bringing this to fruition. I know that it has involved a lot of hard work."

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