LOOKING BACK: Worthing was adapted to war conditions

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AS mentioned before in this series of articles, it now seems amazing that the British in 1942 were so confident of victory in a war which, at that particular time, wasn’t going too badly from the German point of view.

The Nazi armies were racing across Russia towards Stalingrad, Rommel had not yet been defeated at El Alamein, and the Allies were suffering severe shipping losses in the Battle of the Atlantic.

Yet, in little old Worthing, there was already talk of how we would put the Germans in order once hostilities had ended.

In the Herald’s September 4 report of a meeting of the town’s Overseas League, Worthing Rotary Club past-president Mr E. T. Hewett, said Germany should be “subdued and uplifted” in its regeneration.

Mr Hewett suggested a conference of Germans should appoint a dictator, who could be dismissed by the Allies at or before the end of a year. Education should be reformed, the Nazi system eradicated, the German fighting forces and Gestapo be disbanded, and a new police force organised.

Wartime propagandist “spin” did its best to boost Britain’s public morale, with the Herald describing the previous month’s Allied raid on Dieppe as “successful”.

It was nothing of the sort, of course, apart from teaching a few costly lessons in preparation for D-Day in June, 1944.

But that Dieppe report did add a local flavour to the costly exercise by telling the story of a Worthing Royal Marines captain, J. C. Manners, being machine-gunned in the sea for an hour before 
he and other survivors of the abortive raid were picked up by a destroyer.

With Worthing just entering its fourth year of war, the Herald’s leading article of that week gave a sobering view of the current situation.

“Much that was essentially Worthing has gone for good, or been adapted to war conditions,” it said.

“Worthing, in common with all other towns and communities, has made sacrifices... the bulk of its municipal entertainment enterprises are out of commission.

“Its promenades and parades are closed, recreation grounds have been handed over for the national effort, visitors are banned, trade and business people have had hard knocks, and Worthing has suffered.

“In this new phase of the war, the calls on the town may be greater. Yet none will doubt its ability to carry those greater burdens when the time comes.”

It was, indeed, an austere message, which may afford some comparative comfort in our “austerity” affected society 70 years on.