Denton’s First World War

Denton at the Outbreak of War

Shortly after the outbreak of war, in October 1914, the boundaries of the Fort and Garrison were extended to include Denton. The village was protected by barbed wire entanglements and a series of trenches, which were also used for training. The Denton Waterworks and South Heighton Cement Works were completely surrounded by fences and barbed wire and a searchlight was installed in Claremont Road, Mount Pleasant. A guard of two NCOs and nine men was placed at the railway company’s pumping station at Denton. The Royal Defence Corps provided a permanent guard at the Royal Army Ordnance Depot at South Heighton Cement Works. Approximately 140 staff worked there, making Mills Grenades and handling munitions. Sidings and tracks, built for the Cement Works, were used to transport munitions between the Depot and the North Quay.

Postwoman’s Bicycle Stolen at South Heighton

Joseph Paul Baldwin, aged 18, from the Canadian Camp at Seaford, was charged with stealing a bicycle (worth £3. 5s.) from Edith Buckwell, a Newhaven postwoman.

On the morning of 5th February 1918, Edith left her bike outside South Heighton Rectory, whilst on her rounds. When she returned, about 2 minutes later, she found the bike was missing. There were two parcels on the bike, one addressed to Mrs Geering of 6 West View Terrace, South Heighton and the other to Mrs Woolgar at Lower’s Cottage, New Road. The Landlord of the Hampden Arms, Ernest Lower, saw Baldwin with the bike “proceeding over the hills in the direction of Glynde”. He followed him and, when he caught him up, Baldwin dropped the bike and ran away.

PC Mepham, stationed at South Heighton, saw Baldwin “being chased over the hills by some men”. He arrested him and found some sweets and 1lb of sugar in his possession. The sugar had been taken from one of the parcels.

Baldwin pleaded guilty. A Captain from his regiment said that Baldwin “was young and probably was not as responsible as an older man, but there was no reason why he should not become as good a soldier as anybody. He would probably be drafted to France in about six weeks’ time”Baldwin was bound over for £5 and told that “if he behaved himself he would not hear anything further about it”.

Blazing Bomb Stack at South Heighton Depot

On 23rd August 1918, a fire broke out in a stack of 509 cases of 40lb Phosphorus Bombs, returned from overseas. Mrs Eades and Mrs Bridger were the first to discover the outbreak at 2:05pm, whilst walking towards the ladies’ toilets in the chalk pit. The women at once ran back and sounded the alarm. The burning bomb was in the centre of the stack and staff from the depot quickly began dismantling it. The burning bomb was pulled out at 2:30pm. The bomb could not be extinguished, so it was taken away to safely burn out. As a precautionary measure, another bomb was dropped into the lake to prevent it from igniting. The all clear was given at 2:40pm.

Two O.B.E.s were awarded to the employees for displaying great courage in helping to extinguish the fire. Lots were drawn to see who would be presented with the medals. Mr Herbert Edward Moore won on behalf of the male employees and Miss Nellie Payne won on behalf of the female employees. Their names appear in the 2nd Supplement to the London Gazette dated 15th January 1919. Mr Moore presented his medal to Newhaven Urban District Council, for it to be hung in their offices together with the names of the men. Sadly, the medal can no longer be found, but we can remember the names of the men.

R. Adamson                  W. S. Bartholomew                G. Brown

S. Butler                       J. Driver                                  J. Evans

J. Everest                       J. Heaseman                          G. Holder

J. Hollands                   G. Hollands                              J. Jacques

H. Jenner                     F. Kelly                                     E. Lambert

E. Lower                      H. Moore                                 R. Satchell

D. Simmonds               H. Stevens                               J. T. Warren

F. Westgate                 F. White

Denton Road Board Camp
From the beginning of the war there had been complaints about the state of the road between Newhaven and Seaford.

In August 1916, it was reported that the Road Board had offered to supply the labour for the work, but that the work would be undertaken by Conscientious Objectors. They would be under civil control, but paid military rates, thereby ensuring they would not be paid more than the “men who were doing their duty at the Front”.

The men working on the road lived at the Denton Road Board Camp, about a mile outside Newhaven, along the road to Seaford. As no amenities were provided for the men by the authorities, a hut was donated by Brighton Quaker, Robert A. Penny, and run by the YMCA.

At one point, not far from Bishopstone, the road crossed a small stream and a flint parapet wall was built. One of the men worked into the wall, in flint, one metre high letters C.O. 1917. The men kept the details hidden until the wall was finished. Once the wall was inspected, they were ordered to rebuild it without the C.O. They refused and the wall remained like that until it was demolished in the 1960s.

Peace Day

Although hostilities finished on 11th November 1918, the war didn’t officially end until the Peace Treaty was signed on 28th June 1919 at the Palace of Versailles.

Saturday 19th July 1919 was declared Peace Day and celebrations took place around the country. At Denton, “the whole village was en fete, when a full programme of festivities was provided for young and old in celebration of Peace”. These included a Peace Procession and fancy dress celebrations. Sports were held in the afternoon and included flat races, obstacle races and potato races. There was an interval for tea, after which there was a ‘bran tub’ with prizes for everyone under 14. More sports followed, including a Road Race from the Buckle Inn to the Sports Field. The winner was Mr L. Pout who completed the race in 15 ½ minutes. Unfortunately, “the weather was rather unkind and rain coming on during the afternoon caused the major portion of the sports to be postponed”. 

By Jenny Flood.

Photographs by kind permission of Derek and Ann Payne, Newhaven Museum and Newhaven Fort.

Details relating to the Blazing Bomb Stack can be found at Newhaven Museum ref 33.1.3, the National Archives and the London Gazette.

Unless otherwise stated quotes are taken from the East Sussex News, copies of which are held at The Keep.