1945 saw the end of World War Two. VE Day (victory in Europe) and
VJ Day (victory in Japan) came and went. Rye, along with towns all
over the country, licked it’s wounds, mourned its dead and rejoiced
in the return of many servicemen who had been away from their home
for as long as six years.
Many, like Rye boys Bill ‘Blower’ Pierce and Roy Miles, had been POW’s for most of the War. Roy was captured at Amiens on the retreat to Dunkirk and spent most of the war doing forced labour in coal mines in Poland. He was eventually freed as the Russians advanced and spent many weeks travelling with a group of Frenchmen in a lorry delivering men off to their homes all over France before eventually arriving in Paris. He sent a telegram home to his mum to say he was safe. He cadged a lift to England with the RAF and got back to Rye before the telegram. His mother saw him from the butchers in Ferry Road and fainted with shock as there had not been any news of him for months. There were many stories like this, it was getting on for Christmas by the time all the men from the Japanese Campaign arrived back in Rye.
New Year 1946 still saw rationing and other effects left over from the hard years of war but the dour spirit and togetherness that Ryers had shown in the dark days manifested itself into a cheerful optomistic community atmosphere. This was indeed, a great time for togetherness and Rye, as in the past, led the way into the ‘Sunlight on the uplands ahead’ that Winston Churchill had promised in 1940.
Rye had stood on the front line for most of the war years and was battered but unbowed. The Rye & Camber Tram had been pressed into war service, and like many men, had given it’s all. Unhappily, the track and rolling stock was in such dreadful condition the company decided to wind up the railway forever.
The Chain Home radar system at Kent Ditch Corner (RAF Rye) that played such a big part in the Battle of Britain, still opperated, and there were many other reminders of the conflict in and around the town.
There was great determination to get back to normality. Rye United, including Bill ‘Blower’ Pierce, were back in action in the East Sussex Football League and were soon leading the table.
Rye & District Wheelers had reformed as it’s members returned to ‘Civvy Street’. They were one of fourteen East Sussex Cycling clubs to form the East Sussex Cycling Association. Though the membership now (2011) stands at over twenty clubs, Rye, Hastings and Eastbourne are the only three remaining founder members. The ESCA were honoured this year (2011) in being selected to run the National 24 Hour Time Trial Championship. The Rye & District Wheelers are proud that their own Bronwen Ewing became the Womens Champion with a ride of 405 miles.
Back in 1946, it was time to enjoy life and have fun. The Rye & District Bonfire Society put on a spectacular Bonfire Celebrations on Guy Fawkes’ night. A National Newspaper recorded that “The Ancient town of Rye had put on a highly elaborate show up to pre-war standards.” Praise indeed.
Rye was still battered and bruised but the Borough Council, who had power in those days, determined that the town would be restored and new houses would be built “for the people of the town”. And so it was. A fine new estate was built at “Tilling Green” by local builders and craftsmen, with money controlled by Rye Councillors.
By 1950, the first houses were completed and occupied. It was a wonderful environment. Brand new homes with all modern amenities for Ryers who had been used to living, in many cases, in damp old houses that had been neglected over the years. It seems strange now to realise that many houses on the cobbled streets, that were once classed as ‘damp and dangerous to health’ are now highly valued and desirable homes.
Despite there being was a high proportion of children living on Tilling Green, there was no crime. It was a time when few locked their back doors, even at night. Neighbours looked out for each others kids and the children themselves, from a very young age, could wander at will. They would explore the adjacent countryside, learn about birds and animals and know every inch of the local terrain. Even lads still at Primary School would catch eels with a hook and worm from the Tillingham and climb huge trees ‘birds nesting’.
1953 was Coronation Year, by this time the houses in Mason Road, Marley Road, Lea Avenue and the greater part of Pottingfield Road were completed with many more Rye folk installed, and to commemorate this great event the mums and dads of the new estate formed the Tilling Green Entertainments Committee. They arranged a massive Street Party which was attended by every child on the estate. There was a Fancy Dress Competition, a Six-a-side football competition, a raffle for a cake with a golden coach perched on the top, a carnival parade and fireworks in the evening. A ‘Mayor’ for Tilling Green was ‘nominated’ – Sid Pinwill, father of Robert Pinwill of the Mermaid Hotel, was invested with a ‘chain of office’ and a throne!
They had so much fun at the Coronation, the Committee decided to continue organising events into the future. There were Tilling Green Bonfire Celebrations, a Tilling Green Carnival and numerous whist drives. They organised jumble sales, quiz nights and dances. Another ‘knock on’ from the Coronation was a youth football team. “Tilling Green United” went on to win the Robus Challenge Cup, in a competition involving eight other teams from the area.
In winter, when the snow came, the children of Rye headed in droves for Leasom Hill and zoomed down the steep slopes on sledges and Christmas time was very special, Rye Bonfire Boys comadeered Rye Fire Brigade and they escourted Father Christmas as he delivered toys around the town on the Fire Engine.