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15 October 2014
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George the Messenger. Eastbourne at War

by BBC Southern Counties Radio

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Contributed by 
BBC Southern Counties Radio
People in story: 
George Turner
Location of story: 
Eastbourne
Background to story: 
Civilian Force
Article ID: 
A4392579
Contributed on: 
07 July 2005

George the Messenger

This story was submitted to the Peoples War site by Jas from Global Information Centre Eastbourne and has been added to the website on behalf of Mr Turner with his permission and he fully understands the site’s terms and conditions

George returned to Eastbourne to look for work and was given the name and address of the Civil Defence Headquarters at 33 Old Orchard Road.

George was already a volunteer messenger boy, so had knowledge of the work.

However, after a short period I was invited to become a full time messenger at Police Headquarters, which was the control room of the civil defence.

George accepted the job and became the youngest full-time person in the Eastbourne Civil Defence.

At this time, I was 16, so y duties were carried out using a bicycle. George’s first callout meant attending a fire at St. Anne’s in Upperton Gardens. What sticks in his mind is the fact that he had to get off his bicycle because the road was littered with incendiary bombs.

The bombs hadn’t exploded this time and were still in their canisters.

George walked to St. Anne’s church, which was by this time well alight.

The control room at Police Headquarters was manned by a team of women telephone operators in two shifts. George was used for various things, eg on a Friday morning he would queue up in Junction Road at a butchers shop, for his boss Inspector Crichton who was George’s boss. This was to collect horse meat for the Inspector’s dog.

Another job George did on a Friday morning was to attend a purpose built hut in Larkin’s field adjacent to the Saffrons. This was laid out as a living room. George had to fill it with wet straw ready for a demonstration by a fire chief on how to put out a fire. Later in the morning people would arrive. I was instructed to light the bonfire, which was really just smoke. The idea being to get out of somewhere while it was alight.

George crawled in the back with a bucket of water and a hand pump, emerging at the front of the building as black as the ace of spades, proving that you had to keep at the lowest of ground levels to survive. This went on for quite a long period, also training French Canadian troops.

George reached the age of 17 and qualified as senior messenger and dispatch rider. This mainly entailed going to Beachy Head to the site of the Observer Corps, who gave him details of the aircraft that had carried out a raid on Eastbourne.

I then had to take the message to Mount Ephraim, Tunbridge Wells, which was the headquarters of the South-eastern region. Unfortunately, on one occasion, while carrying out this duty George fell from his motorbike outside the Grand Hotel. He believes he was picked up by the RAF and taken to the Norfolk Hotel, next to Devonshire Baths. He was then transferred to the Princess Alice Hospital, where he lay in a coma for 3 weeks. Georges’ mother was petrified and visited him every night. According to the nurses, I was not a good patient, as although he was unconscious he kept talking too much and leaving the bed. He had to be strapped in to the bed.

George left hospital and after a week he pleaded with Dr. McLean to be allowed back to work, which he agreed. Not a wise thing as it happened, but George was determined to continue to continue to the best of his abilities.

I was asked to take the father of the assistant killed at Marks and Spencer who had to identify his daughter. This was no pleasure but was a part of the job.

Although we were called “Ghost Town on Sea”, we were determined to have social events, which we needed in those circumstances and were fortunate to have the police who had their own dance band. On one New Year’s Eve to lighten the atmosphere George volunteered to be the “Midnight Fairy”, dressed in just his pants and a silver fairy skirt, a halo and a wand plus size 12 shoes. The idea was that Teddy Wynn who was the local Vet for the council, to chase George round the room with a scythe. This of course caused great merriment and he was ragged for quite a while afterwards.

On 3 occasions the enemy tried to get George. The first was really his own fault. I decided to visit the seafront on a Sunday afternoon, when he lived in Old Town, which wasn’t really recommended. He left the seafront and got to the GPO on Upperton Road, stood in the doorway, waiting for a bus. There was a loud explosion. He was lifted into the road and all the windows of the shops opposite came towards him but he didn’t get a scratch. This was the day that the fire station in Grove Road received a direct hit.

On the second occasion, George was coming down Victoria Drive in Old Town, going back to work, when a Messerschmitt Fighter Aircraft decided to spray the side of St. Elizabeth’s church with machine gun bullets. George dived into a garden and it was all over in seconds.

The last time they tried to get him was when a rocket fell in Baldwin Avenue about 5 hundred yards from George’s house. He was in bed and the whole of the ceiling came down on top of him. His mother dug him out and he then went off to work.

The house was so badly damaged; they had to move to a new address in the Old Town.

One of the proudest moments of George’s work was when he had to meet extra rescue squads to help their existing people. This was at the triangle in Willingdon, to guide them to the scenes of the bombing.

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