Wartime Camber

The following are extracts from The Jottings  of Camber Village by
Daisy Butchers.

At the beginning of September 1939 war was declared. Soldiers were
already in Camber that summer, making preparations in readiness if
war did come. When it did come, blockhouses were built in the sand
dunes and some were even built in some of the larger houses on the
sea side. Thousands of tall iron and wooden posts were sunk all over
the sands to prevent aircraft landing at low tide. Dragons teeth were
placed at strategic places as tank traps and many thousands of land
mines were placed along the sea wall and on the edges of the golf
course near the sea. As Camber was part of the first line of defence,
ack ack batteries were soon to be seen. One battery complete with
guns and searchlight was situated behind the cow sheds at Camber Farm

All the name signs were removed so that if any Germans did get through,
they would be confused as to where they were.

Early in 1940 while one of the blockhouses was being built near Camber
coastguard cottages, the first bombs to fall on Camber were dropped.
Fortunately no one was hurt but we had frequent hit and run raiders
after this.

On 22nd of July 1940, everyone in Camber with the exception of a few
isolated farmers, had 48hrs notice to leave. Everyone had to be out
by midnight on the 24th. Things were very difficult for people who
had nowhere to go and no relatives to go to. It was also hard to get
transport to take what belongings you could manage to pack. Daisy,
the writer of this, could only take about half of her stuff and even
then only managed to get away at midnight. The barriers were already
erected on the main road by the coastguard cottages and armed sentries
were manning the barriers.

The German heavy bombers were flying overhead and in the end the military
had to help take some peoples belongings in the large military trucks.
A lot of elderly people with nowhere to go were put into Battle Infirmary.
Daisy was fortunate to get a house in Iden, a small village a few
miles inland. The Camber fire engine and tender was also taken to
Iden and the military completely took over Camber. Daisy’s bungalow
was taken over as an HQ and what furniture she left behind was supposed
to have been locked and sealed in one room.

Daisy was called up at the beginning of September 1939 with the nursing
reserve and posted to Rye and Winchelsea District Memorial Hospital.
Her husband was a coastguard and their 11 year old son was a pupil
at Rye Colegiate School. When war was declared, Daisy was issued with
a pass as civilians who were not doing work for the war effort had
to be indoors by 10pm. If they were out after that and had no pass
to prove why they were out, they could be taken to court and fined..

The Battle of Britain was in full swing and dogfights overhead were
a daily feature. At night, bombers on their way to London dropped
their bombs now and again. It seemed they pretty much followed the
same route to and from London and did not always drop all their bombs
on London as they always managed to drop a few before crossing the
channel on their way home.

Everywhere was blacked out and not a chink of light dare show, otherwise
the ARP or police were soon after you. They knocked on Daisy’s door
one night saying she had a light showing. It turned out to be a full
moon reflecting in a mirror which was over the fireplace in the living
room which was never used so the black out curtains had not been put
up. After the visit they went up for sure.

Daisy mostly did night duty at the hospital as it was more convenient
for her. They were getting a lot of casualties coming in night and
day, both our own and German airmen who had bailed out. The signs
for the hospital were also removed with the road signs etc.

Daisy writes …. Early in sept. 1940, before I went off duty in
the morning, one of the Germans who was the pilot of a Messersmitt
109 and had the Iron Cross First Class and the ribbon of the Iron
Cross Second Class, said to me as he was leaving Rye hospital to go
to a POW camp, ” I know what hospital I am in. ” He told me that
he had an aunt living in Hastings and another in Folkestone and for
years he had been coming to Hastings and Rye for his holidays. I have
a photograph of him taken

at Charing Cross Station with a corporal and two privates who took
him to his POW camp. A few nights later, when I was on duty, the corporal
gave me the photograph.

In 1942 a German Heinkel bomber lost its way and came down in a field
at Jury’s Gap. The pilot and crew calmly got out of the plane and
asked where the nearest German Headquarters were. They thought they
were somewhere in France and were most surprised to find that they
were in England. We also aquired a complete Heinkel bomber.

In 1944 a flying bomb destroyed Camber Church and memorial hall and
also badly damaged the Royal William and a number of soldiers and
ATS were killed and wounded.

The first residents were allowed back to Camber in 1945 but due to
the fact that so many houses had been destroyed or badly damaged,
many had no homes to come back to.


Following a recent request from someone for info. on Camber during
the war, I thought it’d be a good idea to include some info. on here
as a sort of reminder/tribute, and whilst I appreciate that not everyone
agrees with the principles of war you have to realise that the outbreak
of the 2nd world war was 60 years ago and things were so different.
I believe that every person that was involved was a hero, no matter
how small the part they played and were it not for those people I
might not have the freedom to write this now. I thank you all.