When a First World War tank was an attraction on Hastings seafront

Local historian Steve Peak looks at when a World War I tank turned heads in Hastings.

He writes: A First World War army tank was presented to Hastings by the National War Savings Committee in recognition of the services rendered by the town.

It arrived by train and large crowds followed its journey to Wellington Square, where it was put on display, before moving it to a long-term site on the seafront opposite Breeds Place.

It was not the only war-related attraction that went on display at Hastings. Britain and its allies beat the Russians in the Crimean War of 1853-56, and to celebrate the victory a Russian cannon captured in the war was installed in 1857 on Hastings seafront, opposite Pelham Place, at the east end of Beach Terrace.

The terrace was demolished around 1930 when the seafront was being improved by the borough engineer Sidney Little, known as King Concrete. The cannon was relocated at Hastings Museum, and taken for scrap in the Second World War.

In the Second World War Hastings was in the front line of a possible German invasion, so defences of many kinds were put up in and around the town. Three gun emplacements were set up on the cliffs at Rock-a-Nore, and large concrete ‘tank traps’ were laid along parts of the seafront where tanks might come ashore. One of the tank traps is still place next to the Rock-a-Nore Miniature Railway Station, and there is a line of them west of the beach huts at West Marina.

In the war much of the seafront was made inaccessible to civilians, and large rolls of barbed wire were laid along the promenade. In mid-June 1944 Hitler started firing the new ‘doodlebugs’ – jet-propelled flying bombs - towards London. Because some of them passed over Hastings, in July five batteries of heavy anti-aircraft guns were set up, including at Grosvenor Gardens, the Oval and on the East and West Hills. The last alert was on 9 November 1944.

There are more details of these events, and many other key features of the town’s past, in my new website www.hastingshistory.net.

Related topics: