This image shows anÂ anti aircraft gunÂ on Hastings seafront during World War 2.
HastingsÂ had been preparing for the possibility of war as early as 1935, with the formation of an Air Raid Precaution (ARP)Â Committee. Due to the proximity of the European mainland the town was deemed to be at high risk of air raids. TheÂ ARPÂ worked for four years to install first aid stations, wardens and other infrastructure. This was contrary to the prevailing apathy to the prospect of war by the residents of the town, and most of the country. As the prospect of war became more apparent the effort was stepped up in 1938 with extensive sandbagging, trench digging, bomb shelter construction and the purchaseÂ of 47,000 gas masks.
When war broke out on 1st September 1939 the town received nearly 3,00o evacuees from London. At the time the South Coast was not considered to be at risk from invasion. That changed after Dunkirk. The town’s own children began to beÂ evacuated out, and a great stretch of the south-east coast became a defence area, which restricted movement in and out of town to residents only. During that time the town’s population dropped from approximately 65,000 to 21,000 people as families moved away.
German aircraft began bombing and strafing the town in the latter part of 1940 as the Battle of Britain took place. The first anti aircraft defences were finally installed along the seafront on 14th October 1940. The gun shown above is a Bofors 40mm, a design so successful it is still in use today. ThisÂ old news clip shows how they were operated by the men and women of the Army Anti Aircraft Command.
I’m grateful to Nathan Goodwin who kindly provided me with the original image. Â His excellent book, Hastings at War – 1939 – 45 paints a detailed picture of those dark days. It is available to buy on Amazon here.
The original photo of the anti aircraft gun and the same scene today are shown below. It looks likeÂ it was a pretty miserable day when the picture was taken.