About the Group
This is a large, very friendly, and popular group, normally meeting at 1:30pm on the 1st and 3rd Tuesdays of the month in St Swithen’s Church Hall.
We are interested in exploring a wide variety of topics associated with the County, with talks and visits as diverse as aspects of local history in and around East Grinstead (including behind the scenes preparations for WW2) to a visit to Newhaven Fort and museum to see evidence of preparations for defence in earlier times.
We have had talks and tours around Sussex villages with supporting in-house talks before our visits where possible. In fact should a person suggest a particular interest, they are signed up as a speaker at once!
On the social side, we finish our meetings with a cup of tea accompanied with lots of chat. At the turn of the year we have a New Year’s party with fun and games and we always finish the year with a garden party.
The meeting on 4th February when Philip Pavey presented his 'Warfare in Sussex'
In his presentation, Phil Pavey dealt with the English Civil War from 1642 until 1652 between the Parliamentarians “Roundheads” and Royalists “Cavaliers” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EnglishCivilWar). He concentrated on the South East and Sussex in particular.
A little bit about Phil, he was born and brought up in Brighton, as a choir boy he came to St Swithens in East Grinsted attending an annual choir festival, his Father worked for the Southdown Bus Company and with him he extensively toured the region by bus with the aid of his Father’s ‘Priv ticket’ as a result they went everywhere by bus. These outings were often walking in the countryside, an activity he still enjoys.
He mentioned the plaques devoted to Ann Tree in West Hoathly and St Swithens churches, in the latter two more plaques are dedicated to Thomas Dungate, John Forman.
He remembered that when he was younger in West Hoathly church yard were buried the crew of a crashed German bomber, however some years ago he found there was nothing to be seen, a lady in the church said that the remains had been returned to Germany. He was fascinated by West Hoathly churchyard, particularly the church’s studded door which is dated to 30th March 1626, sixteen years before the English Civil war, there are a number of indentations in it six of which are consistent with musket shot and his Father had told him, it was alleged that there had been a skirmish when some Royalist soldiers attempting to take refuge in the church were fired upon by Roundhead troops. This was one of the mysteries of Sussex past that had spurred him to take an interest in such events.
In December 1642 there was a battle at Muster Green, now within Haywards Heath, see also https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BattleofMuster_Green . After an hour of hand fighting with 200 Royalists killed or wounded, the Roundheads routed the Royalist Army, this was the furthest that the Royalist army penetrated into Sussex during this war. Phil believes it to be quite likely that a few Royalist soldiers retreating from this battle perused by some Roundheads found them selves in West Hoathly and took refuge in the Church.
We were treated to much more of the Civil War and other events in Sussex, but I will end my summary here. If you wish to pursue further, I suggest studying Phil’s book “Mysteries of History in Sussex".
The meeting on 18th February when Members gave presentations.
The last meeting on 3rd March we welcomed Gillian Halcrow SOE - "Special Operations Executive Churchill's Secret Army"
Gillian had been inspired to research and prepare an address to honour the brave men and women SOE agents who served their country in World War II. She has been fascinated by the subject for many years and has received a terrific response to previous engagements on the subject. She will capture your interest from the start, and over the course of the talk, will move you both to laughter and to tears.
The SOE's task was to organize the resistance in countries that had been occupied by the Nazis and as Churchill ordered, to 'Set Europe Ablaze'. It is a fascinating account of the training and preparation the agents underwent and also stories of a few of the missions, some of which achieved amazing success, whilst other agents were betrayed …
However, at the very end of her talk she mentioned that both her Father 'Ernest Van Maurik and Mother Winifred Hay had both been members of SOE.
Her Father has written a book about his experiences, I have the ordering details for anyone wishing to obtain a copy. Here is some information about him:-
Ernest Van Maurik, known to all simply as 'Van; joined the illustrious Artists Rifles regiment in the Territorial Army in 1936, but when war broke out he was commissioned into the Wiltshire Regiment. In the summer of 1940 the regiment was posted at Folkstone to defend the South Coast in the event of an invasion, during which time he undertook a course at Hythe Small Arms School and found himself involved with the SOE, the Special Operations Executive.
This led to him to Scotland, first to the Commando Training School at Lochailort and then to Arisaig, where he became responsible for helping organise resistance to the Nazi regime in occupied countries. This involved the training of prospective agents in small arms, demolition and other special forces activities. At this time, he helped train a number of Czech soldiers who went on to participate in Operation Anthropoid, the assassination of SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich in Prague.
Van was then transferred to the SOE's headquarters in Baker Street, London. There he was to work for notable figures such as Maurice Buckmaster and General Colin Gubbins. He also got to know a number of individuals who were to become famous agents, people such as Peter Churchill, Odette and Yeo-Thomas ('The White Rabbit'). His main work was to get agents both in and out of Occupied France - but then it was his turn to go into the field.
Van was initially sent to Malta to help with the dropping of agents into Yugoslavia. His next mission was to Switzerland - via Occupied France - to assist SOE agents in France and also deal with couriers from F Section SOE who used Switzerland as a channel for communicating with London.
After many adventures, Van reached Switzerland where he carried out his task until the end of the war in Europe. He then was involved in assisting the investigation into the fate of the many SOE agents who had been captured by the Germans and were still missing.
The Next Meeting will be on 17th March when Matt Homeward will be presenting 'A History of Bizarre Sporting in Sussex
Group leader Shirley King
Webpage administrator Edwin Cowley
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