The Black Ship SS40

During the First World War, there were numerous attempts to get past the trenches on the Western Front. One of these led to the creation, in East Sussex, of possibly the first ever stealth aircraft. In the Spring of 1916 the War Office looked into the possibility of using a ‘stealth’ airship specially adapted for […]

Polegate Royal Naval Airship Station at Lower Willingdon

During the First World War, Royal Naval Airships from Polegate patrolled the coast of East Sussex. If you were living in Willingdon 100 years ago you would have witnessed great activity as Royal Naval personnel started arriving at the partially constructed Royal Naval Airship Station (RNAS). It covered 142 acres of somewhat marshy meadowland stretching, […]

Airship Station Buildings following the War

During the First World War Royal Naval Airships were deployed at Polegate. After the war the buildings of this base began to find new and different uses. The Polegate Royal Naval Airship Station at Lower Willingdon was disbanded on 6 February 1920 and handed to the Disposal Board the following June. An auction of the […]

Newhaven Port

During the First World War, the British Army in France needed to be regularly supplied with food, ammunition and equipment in order to continue fighting. The port of Newhaven was at the forefront of this supply effort. Before the outbreak of the First World War, Newhaven was a key point in travel between Britain and Europe. […]

HMS Ariadne

When the HMS Ariadne was sunk in the First World War, East Sussex would provide a final resting place for one of her crew. The HMS Ariadne was a Diadem-Class ‘Protected Cruiser‘. These ships lacked many of the heavier armaments of naval warships at the end of the 19th century but did provide protection for some […]

Airship Disaster on the Downs

During the First World War, hydrogen filled airships patrolled the air and coastline around Britain. This duty was, however, not without some serious risks. On the morning of 20 December 1917 five airships set out early on a routine patrol of the Channel from the Polegate Royal Naval Airship Station at Willingdon. The weather was […]

SS Brighton IV and Hospital Ships

The East Sussex ports played an important role as the place of departure for soldiers heading to France, and the arrival point for those returning. Men who had been wounded in action would need to be carried across the Channel by designated hospital ships. The nature of the fighting during the First World War meant […]

Defending Sussex’s Shores

At the outbreak of war in 1914, Britain began the process of sending soldiers to France. But  the fear of a German invasion of Sussex meant defenses had to be assembled and ready. The fear of invasion by a European power was not a new phenomenon in 1914. Since 1871 (and the conclusion of the […]

The Sussex Pledge

Whilst battle raged on land during the First World War, the seas and oceans became new battlefields. Danger lurked beneath the waves and East Sussex found itself on the frontline. By the time 1914 had become 1915, it was clear to most of the combatants on the Western Front that the war would not be […]

Newhaven’s Seaplanes

In order to get much needed supplies safely across the channel, munitions ships from Newhaven would have to be protected. As a result, East Sussex played host to a Seaplane Station to escort these ships from above. During the First World War, Newhaven was a major supply port for the Western Front.  Government Transports (the ships that […]