I SUPPOSE most callings have their quirks and peculiarities, but somehow one doesn’t expect extreme response from the happenings at a museum.
For me this happened in the afternoon of Saturday, May 26. There was nothing special about that day, it was rather nice to know that two of our members were coaxing themselves back from the Midlands with a superb model of the last of the Newhaven-Dieppe paddle steamers, the wonderful Paris 3 - almost six feet long, magnificent workmanship, a joy to behold.
But this was not to be our pleasure until 2pm the following day when all was displayed and cameras flourished. The fine craftsmanship is well worth a visit, which is possible every afternoon during the summer.
Perhaps too, this might encourage some to consider joining the museum staff, some of whom need temporary relief so that they can take their holiday as arranged. You will be most welcome.
As is perhaps rather common with me, I have wandered from the main purpose of this article, the arrival of four visitors from Norway.
Their appearance was just like us, perhaps a little worn out having trailed around Denton and Heighton in search of HMS Forward. I assumed they had been directed there during their visit to Portsmouth Naval Dockyard during the morning. As it seemed their main interest was going to be in that area, I sought Geoff Ellis, King of the Tunnels, but he was out. The two Norwegian gents were quite fluent in our language which was a great relief, and slowly it emerged that one of the ladies had been fathered by a sailor from our Navy. He had died by the time she was one year old. She was seeking a picture of a vessel on which her father had served during this short time, just an object she could imagine this unknown person serving on.
They had a record of his being on a vessel named Dunlin in the very early part of the war. They also mentioned Stansted and the plane they had to catch. But they didn’t know what this vessel’s purpose was - just that it was early in the war, at Newhaven, and that its name was Dunlin.
Of the 63 large albums which cover many years, there are two I particularly like putting on the viewing tables, because they involved a lot of happenings in and around Newhaven in those worrying days, and there was one of them right in front of me, where we were sitting.
In desperation I was turning the pages and page six gave me a clue – 3.2.1941 N.7 Morisha ashore Beachy Head, was brought to Newhaven by my old friend Bob Hunt who lived at the Broken Seven (Seven Sisters) two doors from where I now live.
Sadly Bob has long departed, but I was given to understand that Winston Churchill ‘blew his top’ when he heard that the crew had walked home to Newhaven and were not challenged by the Canadians who were then guarding our coast.
Suddenly the source of the photos came back to me, a Brighton ex-Naval seaman had lent me photos of the scratch naval craft he had been posted to and that I had pictures of this craft being fitted with a small gun and given an identity number and other small craft. As I turned the page, there was number N40 Dunlin. The reaction was amazing, cameras into action and she had been fitted with some form of gun ahead of her bridge. It would seem the dear lady just needed to be able to see something which had supported the father she had never seen and that he must have been all over the image of the craft she was holding. They were all so happy, I just hope they were able to catch their flight.
Picture 2 An old time picture looking down Folly Hill, Newhaven to the road to Lewes.
Picture 1: HMS Dunlin, 28.1.1941 near to West Bank Newhaven. Flagship of the auxiliary patrol vessels, commanded by Robert Nunn. Remembered by the WRENS for the lovely parties held there.
Pic No 2: A lovely sight. Down Folly Hill – Lewes Road Newhaven towards Lewes.