Over the years Mike has written many scripts, books and other musings. You will find some of them here.
Juppy’s first published novel, synopsis and review.
‘It’ll All Be Over By Christmas’
Newspaper series on little known stories of Disasters, catastrophes, stupidity and heroism from The First World War.
‘THE DARK SIDE OF SUSSEX’
Tales of disaster, scandal, murder, mayhem, folklore. Fiasco, origins and warfare. From my home County of Sussex!
THE DARK SIDE OF SUSSEX
The name of our County of ‘Sussex’, whether you are in the East or West part, comes from the Old English word, ‘Sūþsēaxe’ (‘South Saxons’). Its name was first recorded in The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (477 A.D.) and from the very first moment, was associated with murder and mayhem.
The Chronicle records that a Saxon bullyboy called Ælle and his sons arrived in three ships at a place called Cymenshore (West Wittering?) As soon as they got ashore they began hacking up the locals!
Since that time, many a dark and fascinating deed has occurred in,
‘Good old Sussex by the Sea’..
This site has been established to remind us of its turbulent history…
(I’ve started with Bognor..because it’s my home)
Good old Arthur Gore! (Probably ‘Art’ to his friends) but to give him his full title; Arthur Saunders Gore, 3rd Earl of Arran of the Arran Islands. 3rd Viscount Sudley of Castle Gore, co. Mayo, Ireland – arrived at his use by date on 20 January 1837 aged 75.
He ‘shuffled off his mortal coil’ at Arran Lodge, Bognor Regis, Sussex., and was buried on 28 January 1837, at the nearby village of Felpham ( The Felpham, of William Blake fame).
“Yeah? So?”….I hear you mutter. Well, Arthur, Viscount Sudley, had a Bognor Regis town centre thoroughfare named in his honour. ‘Sudley Road’ was, back in old Arthur’s time, a prestigious address lined with expensive terraced houses, built for the ‘upper middle classes’…Oh! – And incidentally, Bognor Regis had, so my amateur research informs me, the first purpose created ‘High Street’ in England. That’s to say, a street of contiguous (joined!) buildings purposely made for commerce!
Sudley Road runs parallel to ‘London Road’, Bognor’s central shopping street, and as the name spookily implies, was the old road to London. Over the following years Sudley Road gradually transformed (declined?) from elegant Georgian family homes to a hotchpotch of offices and business premises. This has included, a bakers, a maternity home, 3 churches, a meeting hall, recital rooms, restaurants, an antique shop, a sandwich bar, a dentist’s surgery and – a Nightclub.
Who knows how many folk have died naturally in Sudley Road over the years? This story concerns just 3 of them. One of them, a death that occurred during the 1950’s was not natural, it was murder!
WW2 saw more murder in and around Sudley Road, this time committed by the Nazis! On a Sunday in 1942 the death toll went up unexpectedly, courtesy of The Luftwaffe!
On the 14th August 1942, Bognor Regis suffered its deadliest single raid of the war. Whether it was a bomber being chased by the RAF and jettisoning its load at random, or a deliberate sneak attack, I don’t know. However, the result was that a 1000kg bomb fell on 46 Sudley Road , completely wiping out the building and leaving its remains in a huge crater.(*see photo) Four 250kg bombs fell on nearby Burnham Avenue and Sturgess Road. The death toll reached nine, with several dozen injured.
Bradlaw House stands next to the bomb site which is now both a car park and the Reform Church. It was originally called St. David’s House. It’s been there since 1905 and has been home to an ordnance survey company, a chartered accountancy firm, a dental surgery (which to this day, it still is) and, a Nightclub!
It’s the basement of the building that most folk remember. It was, and still is a nightclub (Actually, if they’re like me, they’ll remember going in more than coming out!).
It’s had several names in its history, starting, I believe, way back in the 1960’s as, ‘The Blue Max’. It eventually morphed into, ‘Toppers’ and is currently called, ‘Ground Zero’.
It’s had an ‘interesting life’! An original manager (Mr. J*****s) was notorious for the sex parties he arranged. After ‘recruiting’ at the club, he conducted ‘saucy soirees’ at his cottage on the northern outskirts of the town. Apparently this, ‘larger than life character’ became a sort of ‘wild life photographer’ for the sleazy goings on. The reason being (allegedly) that getting up to no good with a camera, was about all he could get up to…so he did the snapping.
One of the original resident D.J’s, was a local legend, the late Ian Harding (an old mate of mine!). Ian was best friends with Cynthia Payne (The notorious ‘Madam Cyn’) Born in Bognor and born before the invention of luncheon vouchers. She later found THEM very useful in her career as a brothel madam! http://www.cynthia-payne.co.uk/
Two years ago I spent an afternoon at a local pub with Cynthia! She revealed a lot about the ‘Dark Side of Sussex’ anecdotes of ‘goings on’ in several Sussex towns, including Bognor Regis!
It is said, ‘you can’t libel the dead’, well some of the names associated with Bognor’s shenanigans aren’t quite dead, and so I’ll change the subject and get on with the ‘ghosts!
All 3 spooks are associated with ‘Bradlaw House’. From the outside the place looks forbidding. A lot of that has to do with the paint scheme. Paint which, by the looks of it, was left over by the Germans after they’d finished painting the ’Bismarck’!
Two of the shades of the lingering departed are connected to the nightclub and are supposed to be of the friendly variety. One is that of a regular called ‘Dave’ who frequented the club in its early days, and is sometimes seen ‘lingering’ (and that’s about it really!) The other is a girl, which the staff referred to as ‘Sue’.
(BTW!…I’m not making this stuff up, I’m just telling you what I’ve been told!.)
Anyway, it is reported that the sad looking ghost of ‘Sue’ has been seen watching dancers, and that there are certain points within the Club that can bring on a sense of overwhelming feeling of melancholy or even despair to anyone who sits or stands there. (I have personally experienced the feeling, back when it was called ‘Toppers’. but that was because I’d drunk my taxi fare home!)
I have no information as to who she was, but she is said to have died after falling from an upstairs widow! If she haunts the dance floor, logic says it must have occurred after the Club opened.
Then there is the third entity or whatever you want to call it? This is where events turn ‘dark’. The third ‘presence’ is anything but friendly. What caused ‘Sue’s’ mysterious fall from the window? Could ‘Sue’ have had one too many and got lost in the building? Could she, in the dark of upstairs corridors have come face to face with something god-awful? The extremely unpleasant spiritual leftovers of the, ‘Tall, nasty-looking man’ who strangled a young girl in an upstairs room in the 1950’s?
There is a possible explanation for those folk who swear they have seen these things!
A, they’ve been told about them and therefore expect or WANT to see them!
B, they’re making it up!
C, they’ve been with spirits at the bar all evening…or!
D, the fact that the next door building, is a Spiritualist Church!
Whatever the truth, apart from the all too real horrors of a dentist, if you happen to pass Bradlaw House, just take a moment to look up to the upper floors! You may get the sensation that, ‘someone has walked over your grave’!
TIME TO DIE!
Two people, unconnected in time, but connected in death. They were both young with everything to live for. She, was 36 years old. A rising star of British TV and Cinema, and 5 months pregnant! He, was 21 years old. A German radio operator employed by the Luftwaffe.
The places of their deaths were very close to each other, but the exact manner of their deaths was completely different. The irony is that one was a frenetic, noisy, panic stricken, event that took place over several minutes… and which should have been survivable.
The other was serene, quiet and then explosive, instant event,… and totally un-survivable!
On the night of the 7/8th March 1943, 6 German bombers left their base at Gilze-Rijen Airfield in Holland. They were to join 26 others that were flying from their bases in northern France! Their intended target was Southampton docks, where German Intelligence thought a particularly large number of Royal Navy ships were berthed. If the raid had succeeded it would have undoubtedly caused mayhem and would have been a major setback for the Allies.
But it didn’t!
Strong winds over the English Channel played havoc with both the course and timing of the raid. One particular bomber, a Dornier 217 E4, 5526 (Code U5 + EH) manned by a crew of 4 and piloted by 22 year old, Feldwebel Gunter Westewig, got hopelessly lost and flew over the Sussex coast at a height of 11,000 feet.
Instead of crossing the coast to the west of Selsey Bill and heading towards Southampton Docks, the aircraft was actually heading towards the remarkably un-strategic and sleepy, Sussex market town of Midhurst.
However, the Dornier was not alone in the sky above Midhurst – If the crew had been paying attention, which they obviously were not, they might have seen the exhaust flames of an approaching aircraft. They might even have seen the foreboding dark shape of the gun and canon laden death machine that was rapidly bearing down on them.
But they didn’t!
It’s not certain what had happened during the minutes they were lost over the wooded hills and valleys of Sussex, but during that night, 3 bombs fell on Haslemere, and one hit the tower of Fernhurst Church.
It seems likely that the crew, like so many other German Bomber crews had done in similar circumstances, decided to jettison bombs before trying to head (rapidly) for home! It’s entirely possible, that if that was the case, they were watching the bomb strikes instead of watching for enemy aircraft
Talking of which! One of a German bomber crew’s worst nightmares was the British built, twin-engine Bristol Beaufighter. ( night –fighter variant)
At 01:55 on March 8th, one of those exact flying nightmares, flown by S/L Goodman and F/O Thomas, from 29 Squadron, West Malling in Kent, was hurtling towards the dithering Dornier. The Beaufighter opened up with its arsenal of .303 machine guns and 20mm canons, hitting the Dornier in the starboard fuel tanks and engine.
Pilot Westewig immediately ordered the crew to bale out. He and the Observer, 21 year old Obergefreiter Gerhard Polzin, managed to get out, and although both were injured, they survived.
The 21 year old gunner, Obergefreiter Franz Huske had no chance of extricating himself from his gun position before the doomed bomber smashed into the ground near Fernhurst.
His body wasn’t found until 2005 when the Ministry of Defence ordered the site to be cleared of all remains of the Dornier. The aircraft’s grave had been investigated in 1989 when the largest haul of WW2 ordnance from a single aircraft crash site was recovered! But, of gunner Huske, there had been no trace.
He had been there all along , tangled in the shattered wreckage, 20 feet below the surface in the sticky Sussex clay.
The 4th member of the crew was the 21year old Radio operator, Obergefreiter Hans Witkopp. His was a particularly cruel and unnecessary fate. Witkopp DID bale out with the others! He DID have the time and the height to survive…But!.. in his panic to get out of the stricken, disintegrating and flaming bomber, the young Luftwaffe man…forgot his parachute!
He fell to his death amongst the trees and ferns of Reeks Wood, Van Common, Fernhurst!
Parts of ‘The Fernhurst Dornier’ can be seen at The Tangmere Aviation Museum’
Hans Witkopps grave is located at Chichester Cemetery, Square 42. Grave No. 43
Among the debris recovered from the wrecked Dornier was a bottle of perfume, and two miniature bottles of Schnappes and Brandy.
24 years later, another aircraft was heading towards Fernhurst, it too had bottles of brandy and perfume aboard. It too would end its flight catastrophically very close to the grave of the Dornier, only this time there would be NO survivors!
(Continued in Part 2)
WHEN JESUS BURNED!
THE DARK SIDE OF THE HILL – PART 2
Blackdown Hill is near Fernhurst in the heart of West Sussex, and at 919 feet (280 m) it’s the highest point in all of Sussex.
On the night of Saturday 4th November 1967, at 19:30 hrs UK time, one of the world’s first short/medium-range jet airliners, a Sud Aviation Caravelle ( No..EC-BDD) of Iberia Airlines, departed from Malaga in Spain. The aircraft had been named the ‘JESUS GURUDI’,after the celebrated Basque composer.
With 30 passengers and a crew of 7, the Caravelle crossed the Sussex coast somewhere above Bognor Regis. At 11,000 feet the Spanish jet was flying at the same altitude as Gunter Westewig’s ill fated German bomber…and heading in the same direction! ( featured in Part 1)
Nothing on board was out of the ordinary. Down below in the Sussex countryside the weather was cold, drizzly wet and misty. Visibility was reasonable and wind strength was not a problem for Hernando Maura Pieres, the aircraft’s Spanish pilot. Either he or his co-pilot had set the controls to bring flight IB062 down to its next fixed altitude and all was well.
But it wasn’t
Inside the virtually new aircraft, it was warm, bright and busy. The passengers would have been gathering their thoughts and their possessions, pushing seat trays back, buckling up and readying themselves for the landing which was only a mere 10 minutes away. Some would have been nervous about the imminent landing; while others would have been chattering and looking forward to meeting their friends and relatives waiting to greet them at Heathrow.
The aircraft’s flight path took it over the Sussex coast and inland over Petworth and the South Downs. From there it would descend over Epsom in Surrey to 6000 feet, before making its short, final approach bringing it into land at London Heathrow.
But it didn’t!
Altitude controls had been set to FL90 – 9000 feet, and then to the assigned flight level of FL60 -6000 feet and the gradual descent to London Heathrow with an ETA of 22:10 hrs.
The passengers comprised of 25 UK nationals, 2 Spaniards, 2 Americans and 1 Australian. Among the British passengers was the industrialist John Clarkson, who was also Vice-President of Coventry City Football Club. Donald ‘Doc’ Campbell of the ‘Campbell Aircraft Company’ was returning from his holiday in Spain. The irony of Campbell being on board was that he was sitting in a state of the art Caravelle jetliner, when his own company produced the ‘Campbell –Bensen gyrocopter’, arguably one of the world’s most dangerous flying contraptions!
The most famous person on board was the British actress June Thorburn. The 36 year old actress’s career was blossoming and, she was 5 months pregnant with her third child.
Thorburn was already an established Stage and TV actress, appearing in such hit shows as; ‘No Hiding Place’, ‘Danger Man’, and ‘The Prisoner’, and she had already starred alongside some of the greats of the British Cinema.
Her films had included; ‘The Cruel Sea’ with Jack Hawkins and Donald Sinden,.‘The 3 Worlds of Gulliver’, ‘Touch & Go’, and probably most memorably, alongside Russ Tamblyn, Peter Sellars and Terry Thomas in the comedy musical, ‘tom thumb’. In a twist of dark irony, the character she had played in ‘tom thumb’ was that of ,’The Forest Queen’.
Slightly to the north of Fernhurst and to the west of Haslemere lies the village of Shottermill. At 10’clock on the night of November 4th 1967, eleven year old Rosemary O’Gorman was lying in bed when she heard the sound of an approaching jet aircraft. This jet was much louder and lower than the usual passing traffic and because of that it attracted Rosemary’s full attention. She listened intently as the sound grew louder, faded into the distance, and then, at 2 minutes past 10, abruptly and inexplicably – stopped!
She ran from her room and shouted to her parents that ‘something had happened to a plane’, her parents told her not to be silly, and to go back to bed
A few minutes earlier the Caravelle had descended to its assigned flight level of 6000 feet but, instead of leveling out, it had continued its gradual descent towards the mid-Sussex countryside. The jet was now descending through rain-filled fog clouds towards the rolling, forest covered slopes of the South Downs. Unwavering in its final moments it powered towards the wooded and fern covered slope of the 919 feet high, ‘Blackdown Hill’.
At 22:02 hrs the Caravelle struck the south facing slope of Blackdown Hill at 700 feet above sea level. The slope of the hill and the angle of descent of the jet were almost identical. It clipped the tops of trees in the grounds of Black Down House, continued for a few hundred yards and then sliced through a row of hedges that surrounded a sheep meadow.
The Caravelle was rapidly breaking apart, but its rear engine configuration meant that no wing mounted engines had dug into the ground, tipping it over or preventing it from slicing through the field.
Fire from ruptured fuel tanks and shrapnel, both machine and human followed in the wake of the crew cabin and forward passenger fuselage. The wings broke away after they had scythed every living thing in their path, including a field full of sheep. 65 were killed with 23 so badly burned that they had to be put down.
For most, death was instantaneous. Others would have had enough time for the situation to have been recognized and the message sent to the brain, for a lucky few there wasn’t time for the message to be sent back!
Those in the front fuselage, including the pilot and co-pilot may not have been so lucky. They had a few fleeting seconds of understanding, just enough time to realize that they were about to die. Everything exploded around them in a blast of cold, wet, black air!
The warmth and light of the jet had instantly gone, what followed was a few seconds of a wild, careering death ride of splintering, screaming and disintegrating as the jet ploughed along the ground, gouging out nearly 500 yards of earth, hedgerows, sheep, bushes and trees.
The horrific injuries and mutilations suffered by the unlucky passengers of the Handcross Bus crash ( As told in an earlier posting) showed what could happen when a vehicle collided with a tree at just 25 -30mph!. Flight 062 had been travelling at close to 200 mph when it belly-flopped onto the South Downs!
The scenes that greeted the emergency services were harrowing in the extreme.
Many of the victims had been literally diced by the trees as the aircraft had disintegrated. Nearly all had their clothes stripped away, then their limbs! Many had been shredded or impaled by, jagged splintered branches.
Most poignant and tragic for all that witnessed it, was the discovery of June Thorburn’s unborn baby lodged high in tree branches above the crash site.
Here is part of the report of one of the first Police Units to arrive on the scene by P.C.(?) STEVE GILBERT –
“PC Doug Brazier and I were in Lima 2 that evening. The weather was cold (of course!) and patches of fog. We were in the Hindhead area and got the call from HJ (Mount Browne Ops Room) that a loud explosion had been heard and was called in on 999 from the south of us near the border. I can’t recall the exact location. On our way, we received further information from HJ that sheep were on fire in a field.
When we arrived we saw a terrible sight. An airliner had narrowly missed a house by just feet and the old couple were just retiring for the night and he opened the curtains of the French window to see the plane heading straight towards their home. I believe it has already ‘bounced’ on the side of the hill once (hence the fire with the sheep) and then flew just over his house and impacted into the side of the wooded hill.
The nose of the aircraft was still intact and had buried itself into soft earth. I clambered inside calling out – but it was ‘dead’ silent and I saw the bodies of the flight crew still strapped in their seats. The main fuselage aft of the flight deck was completely broken up and there were naked body parts, shoes, clothing all over the place, some body parts were impaled on trees. A sight I will never forget.
Doug and I worked the scene looking for survivors, calling out. Other cars, the fire brigade and ambulances arrived and the fire brigade erected powerful lighting and placed a large canvas sheet in a cleared area and put the remains of the passengers on the sheet. We were told that due to the high speed of the impact, the passenger’s shoes and clothing were stripped from their bodies. There were no survivors”.
No conclusion was ever reached into the exact cause of the loss of Flight 062.
To this day it is a mystery, though the chief cause is suspected to be a mistake made by a possible misreading the aircraft’s altimeter.
The Air Accident Report stated,
“With this type of altimeter it is not difficult to read an indication of 6,000ft as 16,000ft if particular note is not made of the position of the 10,000ft pointer. Evidence against the possibility of simple misreading of this sort is the message from the aircraft to ATC reporting passing FL145, indicating at this time the crew knew that they were below 16,000ft. “
Flight 062 would not be the only Caravelle to simply fly into the ground. In fact flying into the ground is apparently, remarkably common!
According to the Boeing Aircraft Company., “A ‘controlled flight into terrain’ (CFIT, usually pronounced “see-fit”) is a leading cause of airplane accidents involving loss of life, causing over 9,000 deaths since the beginning of the commercial jet age”.
Another tragic irony of the Black Down Crash concerned one of the first ever’ See-fit’ crashes. On January 16th 1942, TWA Flight.3, just 17 minutes out of Las Vegas, flew into a mountain, killing all on board. Among the victims was another actress and rising star, Carole Lombarde, wife of the Hollywood superstar Clarke Gable.
Follow the link to the Pathe News Broascast.
You know those cute little salamander, lizardy creatures that you find in streams and ponds? They’re called ‘Newts’..Only they aren’t, because really, they’re ‘Ewts’ – ‘An Ewt’ became ‘A Newt. Well it’s the same with a lot of place names in Sussex..Over the centuries some have changed so much that the original meaning has been obscured or lost -.I live at the Roman end of Sussex…that is, ‘West Sussex’.The area is full of villages, hamlets, mud-huts etc. Some of which have THE most peculiar names! . If you’re the enquiring type, you read them and ask, “Now WHERE did they get that name from?” .
‘HALNAKER’ – Now THERE’S a name! ‘.Halnaker is a hamlet in the Chichester district of West Sussex, England. It lies on the A285 road 3.5 miles northeast of Chichester, where it follows the line of the Roman road to London called Stane Street. – Wikipedia’ –
Yes, fair enough! But what does it MEAN?…Over the millennia, the English, and probably everyone else, have tended to simplify, compound or shorten names. Most names derive from place names, especially if it had an obvious identifying natural feature, occupational names or nick-names ‘Halnaker’ is what we’re left with after the original meanings were fused into one word. The name appears in 1086 in ‘The Domesday Book’ (Called ‘Doomsday’ because you had as much chance of escaping William The Conqueror’s tax survey, as you had of escaping ‘Doomsday’ – The Day of Judgement!)…Anyway, it’s recorded as the old English words,’Healf aecer’ meaning ‘Half an Acre’…Well if you say it quick enough and for long enough (in a Sussex accent) you get… Hal (f) (a)n Acer’..I haven’t a clue why or when the ‘C’ was changed to a ‘K’…but I do know that the ‘half an acre’ referred to the amount of land given over to the Windmill..Halnaker Mill ..which stands there to this day!
Oh! BTW..While I was writing this old nonsense..I suddenly thought, “Hang on a minute!..’Nick’ – names’? Now WHY are they called that?…Same principle as the ‘Newt’. It was An ‘Eke’ name, which morphed into. A n(e)ick-name..- I refer you now to experts!
‘A form of ‘nickname’ has been around since the early 14th century- eke name, literally meaning “an additional name.” Eke is an even older word, dating back to about 1200 meaning “to increase.” (Eke also meant “to lengthen,” and it was this meaning that eventually became the meaning of to eke out or make just enough.)..So there you go! 24 carat Pub Bore material.
WHITE DEATH & BLACK HUMOUR!
THE LEWES AVALANCHE
Believe it or not!…The most deaths caused by a snow avalanche in Great Britain, wasn’t in the highlands of Scotland, or the mountains of Snowdonia: it occurred on the outskirts of Lewes, the County Town of East Sussex.
The winter of 1836 was a particularly savage one for Sussex, with reports of snowdrifts of up to eleven feet in height.
One such snowdrift had piled up on top of ‘Cliffe Hill’ above cottages in Boulder (or Boulter) Row. Despite a fall of snow a few days earlier, and a warning of imminent doom…the hardy cottagers decided to ignore the warning.
At 10.15 on the morning of Tuesday 27 December, the huge accumulated bank of snow fell off the cliff and killed eight unfortunates.
‘The Snowdrop Inn’ stands at the spot where the disaster occurred. So if you’re in there on a snowy winter’s night, and the bartender ask’s “Do you want ice in that?”..Just be careful what you wish for!