Friendly fire drama is recalled after find

Scrub clearance work in the Washington chalk quarry
Scrub clearance work in the Washington chalk quarry
  • Grenade ring pulls uncovered by volunteer rangers
  • Find linked to Canadian soldiers from World War Two
  • Day Steyning was hit by mortar bombs recalled
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VOLUNTEERS have uncovered World War Two artefacts while working on the South Downs.

A stash of ring pulls from grenades was among the finds uncovered during work to clear invasive scrub in chalk quarries above Washington and Chanctonbury Ring.

Tom Parry, South Downs National Park ranger, said it was well known the area had been used for training troops during the war.

“This part of the country’s place in World War Two history is well documented but it is still fascinating to find these relics of battle training, which have lain hidden beneath the scrub since they were abandoned 70 years ago,” he said.

The clearance work is to restore the rare chalk grassland, one of the most endangered habitats in the country and vital to the survival of rare wildlife such as the Duke of Burgundy butterfly.

Mr Parry said: “While working to secure the future of this precious grassland, we have uncovered more evidence of its past.

The area of scrub clearance

The area of scrub clearance

“We have uncovered empty cartridges, ring pulls from grenades and barbed wire, amongst other things.”

Norman Dingemans, deputy chairman of South Downs National Park Authority, spoke about the find at the annual parish meeting in Steyning last week, where he was giving a talk about the authority.

He recalled his childhood days in Steyning, where his father was a GP, and remembered the day the town was hit by artillery fire from a practice session on the South Downs.

“The Canadians were very proactive on the South Downs and three mortar shells landed in Steyning,” he said.

Scouts from Steyning Grammar School were sent out to ask them to fire the other way

Norman Dingemans, deputy chairman of South Downs National Park Authority

“One person was killed near the Rifle Range. Scouts from Steyning Grammar School were sent out to ask them to fire the other way. They had no idea there was a town there, because they could not see it from where they were.

“Nothing was done about the mortar bombs, because two days later, they had all gone to Normandy.

“Rings from the hand grenades are now being found in a pit where they are clearing for the Duke of Burgundy Project. We think they dumped them on there before they left.”

Visit southdowns.gov.uk for more on the project.