A deep freeze in Sussex that did not make the news


Sussex was buried under a blanket of snow and ice in early 1940. But the fact was kept a secret!

All references to the weather were censored by the authorities for fear that the information could be useful to the enemy. Invasion from across the Channel was on everyone’s mind.

In fact it was an irrevelant precaution as the whole of Europe, even Spain and Portugal, was held in the icy grip of one of the severest frosts on record.

As revealed in the Sussex Weather Book (Froglets and Frosted Earth), if Hitler had invaded Sussex he would have needed plenty of shovels.

Towns and villages were cut off and supplies of fuel were dangerously low.

The temperature at Bodiam went down to a staggering -21C. On January

27 there was a spectacular ice storm. Birds were frozen by their feet to the branches of trees. In Maresfield fan-tailed pigeons were fixed to the roofs of houses. Live sheep were frozen by their wool to gorse bushes on the Downs.

The sea was frozen off the south coast. Milk roundsmen abandoned their wheeled prams and carried their deliveries on sledges. So did errand boys.

And all this time the local newspapers were not allowed to print the information that was so blindingly obvious to everyone.

The thaw arrived in early February. It had been the coldest winter since 1895.

Pictured, a few months after the big ftreeze, the Soviet steamer Ussari, 2,500 tons, went aground on Seaford beach after losing her way in dense fog. The ship ploughed through a wooden groyne and came to a halt on the concrete promenade. Crowds of people flocked to the beach to see her.