RAF NEWHAVEN (SEAFORD BAY) AIR STATION

 

Seaford Bay once had an Aircraft station to track enemy submarines

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World War Once seaplane station WRAF

 

WWI SEAPLANE STATION - During the First World War, Newhaven was a major supply port for the Western Front. Seaplanes from Newhaven would patrol the sea between Dungeness and the Isle of Wight, operated by the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS). As you can see in the picture above, all that remains of the station is the concrete bases and a few railway sleepers. Copyright © April 12 2016, all rights reserved. You will need permission from Bluebird Marine Systems Ltd to reproduce this photograph.

 

 

WORLD WAR ONE

 

78 SQUADRON

Formed at Newhaven on 1 November 1916, Number 78 Squadron and its BE2s was designated as a Home Defence unit, responsible for intercepting marauding Zeppelins as they attacked targets on the south coast, moving some six months later to London to defend the capital when German bomber raids started. Shortly before the Armistice in November 1918, the unit started to re-equip with 1½-Strutters, but never received its full complement before disbanding, like many other squadrons, in 1919.

 

Newhaven was designated as the principal port for the movement of men and materiel to the European continent during World War I, and was taken over by the military authorities and the ferries requisitioned for the duration of the war. Between 22 September 1916 and 2 December 1918, the port and town of Newhaven were designated a 'Special Military Area' under the 'Defence of the Realm Regulations', and the Harbour station was closed to the public. The port and harbour facilities, rail sidings and warehousing were greatly enlarged at this time and electric lighting installed to allow for 24-hour operation. Some 17,000 crossings of the Channel took place and over six million tons of supplies were carried to the French coastal ports. Eleven of the ships were lost to enemy attacks from mines, submarines, aeroplanes or destroyers and about a hundred of the seamen, who had become well known to the local townspeople, were killed. Many survivors of the ships were brought back to the port.

 

 

 

WWI PORTACABINS -  RAF Newhaven consisted of three railway carriages and two hangars. You can see another hangar under construction to the right. The East Sussex coastline was a frontline defence against possible invasion, though Dad's Army would be another twenty-one years in the making

 

 

SEAPLANE BASE

 

Newhaven Seaplane Base is today the derelict site of an experimental seaplane base at the head of the beach east of Newhaven Harbour, seaward of Tide Mills in East Sussex, England.

The first formation of No. 242 Squadron RAF was on 15 August 1918 from numbers 408, 409 and 514 Flights at the seaplane station at Newhaven in Sussex. Operating from there and the nearby airfield at Telscombe Cliffs, it was equipped with Short Type 184 seaplanes and carried out anti-submarine patrols over the English Channel until the end of the First World War.

 

In January 1917, Germany declared unrestricted submarine warfare from the 1st of February. By May of 1917 the importance of protecting shipping from submarine attack gave rise to a Seaplane Station operated from Newhaven. What is unusual about this air station is that the biplanes were beach launched sea-planes.

 

The seaplanes rolled down a slipway into the sea and then took off. Landing was a reverse of the take-off procedure, the planes touched down in the sea and made their way to the slipway, where they were winched up the beach.

The Station was situated half a mile along the beach, east of the town. A double-fronted wooden seaplane shed (120ft x 50ft – approx. 36.6m x 15.25m) was built on the beach some 15 feet (approx. 4.6m) above normal high tide. It stood on a concrete hard-standing, with a wooden slipway leading down to the sea. Three old railway carriages were used as makeshift offices and a crew room; the original portacabins. Most of the deliveries to the site were by railway, with the track serving Seaford adjacent. Access by road would have been difficult in 1917 and is just about impossible in 2016.

 

The harbour has developed considerably since World War Two, whereas the Tide Mills and Seaplane Station have all but been forgotten. The immediate port are of Newhaven is run down, without any obvious plan to regenerate the area that we could identify.

 

 

 

EXTENSION - In 1918, the Station was extended with the addition of another larger seaplane shed (180ft x 60ft – approximately 54.9m x 18.3m) designed for repairing damaged aircraft. Newhaven Seaplane Station was initially home to four Short 184 floatplanes, later supplemented by a few Fairey Campania and three Fairey IIIB seaplanes. On 1st April 1918 the Royal Flying Corps merged with the Royal Naval Air Service to become the Royal Air Force (RAF). The aircraft stationed at Newhaven formed 408 and 409 flights, which were incorporated into 242 Squadron in July 1918.

 

 

 

DISBANDED - On 15 May 1919, the squadron was disbanded. The foundations and railway sleeper mounts still survive. The area was taken over as holiday homes after the first war and lasted until 1941 when the site was cleared for WWII defence purposes. We are still at war, but now the global enemy is plastic waste.

 

 

 

A seaplane’s full load consisted of one 112lb and two 50lb bombs. There was a Lewis machine gun mounted on the observer’s cockpit, in case of attack by enemy aircraft. The observer also carried a loaded revolver and a ‘Very Light Pistol‘. The pistol, invented by American Naval Officer Edward W. Very, fired coloured flares (Very lights), which could be used for signaling. If the seaplanes came across a submerged submarine, which wasn’t in a prohibited area, their orders were to bomb on sight.

 

 

 

Newhaven Seaplane Station was officially closed in May 1919 and the buildings were auctioned off in the 1920s. One of the wooden sheds was relocated to the East Quay, where it was used as a bonded wine warehouse. It was completely destroyed by fire in the 1960s. The larger shed was used to manufacture the 50ft (15.2m) concrete piles, which replaced the rotting ones in the harbour. You can still see one on the beach. The shed was finally relocated to Wimbledon where it was used to store railway equipment for the electrification of the line. It was granted Grade II Listing on 23rd July 2012.

The concrete bases of the sheds are still visible on the beach and are occasionally used as a helicopter landing pad by the local coastguard. Extracted from pieces by Chris Kempshall, Jenny Flood and others - with grateful thanks.

 

 

CONTACTS

 

The Newhaven Port & Properties Ltd
Administration Office
East Quay
Newhaven
East Sussex
BN9 0BN


Administration Office: Tel: 01273 612900
Port Operations Supervisors: Tel: 01273 616075
Marine matters/emergencies: Tel: 01273 612926 (24 hours)

 

http://www.newhavenportauthority.co.uk/

 

 

 

Denise Miley RF7 chain home plotter

 

WAAF operator,  Denise Miley, RF7 chain home plotter WWII

 

 

WORLD WAR TWO

 

Seaford Bay appears to have been cleared of anything that might assist an invading force, and tank and other obstructions installed.

 

During World War II, large numbers of Canadian troops were stationed at Newhaven, and the ill-fated Dieppe Raid in 1942 was largely launched from the harbour. As one of the few ports within the proposed landing area, Newhaven was targeted by the German invasion plans for Operation Sea Lion and additional guns and fortifications were added in 1940.

 

In 1944, Newhaven was an important embarkation port for the D-Day landings. At any one time the port could handle four medium coasters, 3 LCT, 1 LCI and 1,800 troops per embarkation and 19 vessels per 24 hours.

 

 

 

WWII NEWHAVEN FORT - A gun emplacement was built into the cliff face just to the west of the harbour entrance. This is now open to the public. In the distance in the above picture you can see what remains of the First World War launch and recovery slipway - and closer to the breakwater, what appears to be a beached submarine.

 

 

RAF air sea rescue service operatin out of Newhaven harbour

 

AIR SEA RESCUE - The RAF operated a rescue service from Newhaven harbour during and after the Second World War, until the 1960s. 

 

The Port of Newhaven is a port and associated docks complex located within Newhaven, East Sussex, England, situated at the mouth of the River Ouse.

International ferries run to the French port of Dieppe, Seine-Maritime, a distance of 75.5mi. Although there are some derelict signs of the one-time train ferry operations, the harbour still sees a great deal of freight and passengers movement.

 

 

 

 

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LINKS & REFERENCE

 

Tyrrell Sussex books

Maureens Choice A_Sussex_Sunset

RAF Royal Air Force

Wikipedia Newhaven_Seaplane_Base

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newhaven_Seaplane_Base

http://www.raf.mod.uk/

http://www.tyrrellsussexbooks.com/books_3.php

http://www.maureenschoice.co.uk/book_windows/a_sussex_sunset.html

 

 

 

 

The Dam Busters is a 1955 British war film, set during the Second World War, and based on the true story of the RAF's 617 Squadron, the development of the "bouncing bomb" and Operation Chastise, the attack and destruction of the Ruhr dams in Germany that supplied munitions factories, a victory accomplished only through the painstaking invention of a new "bouncing bomb" by Barnes Wallice.

 

 

 

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