Remembering the WWII seamen who braved Hellfire Corner bringing coal to the south

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Pill box at Rye Harbour, where seamen risked their lives
and the British feared invasion

Boating enthusiasts in the South East of England are constantly reminded about the battles that have taken place or have been expected in this corner of the country. The wartime relics are so many that almost the only time we can’t see them is when they’re obscured by foul weather.

But last night, the evening before Remembrance Sunday, I was pleased to see a repeat of the BBC Coast series programme covering the Channel Islands and Dover.

It was well worth watching as usual, but this particular transmission included an interesting segment about the brave Navy and merchant seaman of the convoys carrying essential supplies such as coal through the Dover Straits during World War II.

As every British schoolchild knows, the sea separating Britain from Continental Europe is just 21 miles wide, and so the convoys could be hit by land-based guns based in occupied France, and were very vulnerable to attack by both fast German E-boats and aircraft while passing along the coasts of Kent and Sussex.

See the programme here on the BBCi player – though I gather readers in the USA aren’t able to see this material.

There’s also an interesting summary of the big guns used by both sides at the Wikipedia.

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Fishing boats in a photo from Jeff Cole – but where are they?

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Jeff Cole’s fishing boats shot

Jeff’s old photo of fishing boats – but where are they? My sympathy goes out
to the two guys rowing in that light weather. Just how far did they have to row
that day before they found a breeze? 

Regular readers will remember that Jeff Cole has sent intheboatshed.net some great old photos from his collection – see them here – and has now turned up this dreamy little photo from an earlier time.

But where is the fishing station? Having thought about it for a while, and discussed the issue with my pal Steve Taylor (see comments below), we think this is Hastings, and that the structure on the right wall is the old harbour wall that was destroyed many decades ago.

RX is actually the code for the port of Rye, but the Hastings boats are registered as under the Rye authority.

By the way, this useful list of port letters may be useful some time when you’re trying to identify a fishing craft’s home port.