Friday, 1 February 2013

70th Anniversary of Eastbourne Community Fire Station bombing

Eastbourne firefighters will stand side-by-side to remember those who lost their lives when a bomb was dropped on the community’s fire station 70 years ago.

Mayor of Eastbourne, Councillor Mike Thompson, will host the event at 2.30pm on 7th February, outside the Eastbourne Borough Council Offices, Grove Road, Eastbourne, which is the site of the old fire station, now marked by a commemorative plaque.

They will be joined by fellow dignitaries and Principal Officers from East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service, Fire Authority Members, Old Friends, as well as ESFRS employees.

The Mayor said: “It is very fitting that we all share the memory of the brave fire officers who sacrificed so much during the war years and, in particular, those who lost their lives. What they did must never be forgotten.”

Joan Bennett (a former control operator in 1943) and Don Payne (the son of a survivor and grandfather to ESFRS employee Emmy Bastin, who currently works at ESFRS in Health and Safety) will be there to pay their respects. Sadly, survivor Charlie Payne passed away in 1999.

Emmy said:

“Obviously, it was a harrowing event for my great grandad to go through and it only seems fitting that I should be there to support my grandad and to pay my respects, I felt very privileged to do so.

“Because I currently work for the fire service I have strong empathy for the situation and you feel bound to it in some way, on both a personal and professional level.

“Ironically, I work for Health & Safety but back then this was not the kind of thing they would have had in his day, as it was only introduced to the Service in 1974.”

The short service will get underway at 2.30pm, with prayers and a hymn, as well as recognition of the plaque that is currently displayed on the station wall today, followed by the Last Post. Attendees will then retire to the Town Hall for tea and cakes.

A vintage appliance will also attend the event, as a mark of respect for all those involved with the incident.

Seventy years ago a bomb struck at 3pm on Sunday 7thFebruary, in 1943, at the former Central Fire Station, in Grove Road, killing six fire officers.

Remarkably, Charlie Payne and Eddie Guy survived the attack and lived to tell the tale. Knowing how lucky they were to cheat death, every year, without fail, they telephoned to wish each other a happy second birthday because they both realise how lucky they were to be alive and it was always a race for each of them to call first!

They were both buried in the rubble of the Grove Road station for two hours, both seriously injured and with their dead colleagues around them, but they kept each other’s spirits up as they waited to be rescued.

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