LEWES had its worst World War Two experience at about 12.40pm on January 20, 1943, when four enemy fighter-bombers, flying very low, dropped six high explosives and also attacked with machine gun and cannon fire.
Bombs dropped in Brook Street, at the top of North Street, at the junction of New Street and West Street, two in New Road and at the bottom of St Martin’s Lane, near the entrance of the railway tunnel under the town.
The causualties were extremely light, considering the attack was made at a busy period in the day. Two were killed, 11 seriously injured and 34 slightly injured. The Victoria Hospital rendered life-saving service.
But much damage was done to property, as can be seen in the scene of devastation in North Street shown in this photograph.
The Express publication, The War In East Sussex, recorded that great help was given to salvage furniture in North Street from crumbling buildings by Capt J. Sharp and a number of Canadian soldiers under his command who were stationed in the town.
In the evening a fire completed the destruction of the Stag Hotel in North Street and adjoining property.
Another attack occurred at 6.20pm on May 10 the same year when eight high explosives, six ‘firepots’ and three bombs which did not explode, fell at the north-western end of the town and did considerable damage but slightly injuring only one person.
The two enemy aircraft responsible had apparently been driven back from a raid further inland.
l A curious incident: On August 28, 1940, a Gotha biplane, pursued by two British fighters, was forced down in the vicinity of Lewes Racecourse. The pilot, who was unhurt, was arrested and handed over to the military authorities.
The plane, practically undamaged, was found to contain mail for German occupation troops in Jersey, and the pilot had missed his way in a channel fog.