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Newhaven Fort, England

Newhaven Fort is a museum dedicated to World War One and Two, on the spot where British soldiers left for The Great War. This is also where Canadian forces left on The Dieppe Raid, on their tragic mission to France, before D-Day.

After the Second World War was over, the council purchased this ancient site for £13,000. Today, it’s a quirky and spooky place, full of long, deserted corridors and dummies wearing uniforms. There are excellent bits and pieces of World War Two memorabilia, from ancient red lipstick to childrens’ gas masks.

Newhaven Fort is a short bus or train ride from Brighton, or easily reached by car from Eastbourne, Lewes, Rye or Hastings.
Once you are in Newhaven walk towards the water, and the old-fashioned pub known as The Ark, near the local fresh fish shop. From there, it’s a lovely walk to Newhaven Fort, which is just where you’d expect it to be – high above the English Channel, with perfect binocular-view vision of possible invaders. Newhaven has always been a target, because of its position; close to France, and tantalisingly close to London.
This place is reputedly full of spirit people. Newhaven is empty now, but during the First World War it was so important to the military that it was closed to the public. It still feels rather private and isolated, even though it’s open to the public. You may be the only person here, if it’s off-season or rainy. If so, the atmosphere will be loaded. This is a strange, evocative place.
In 1942 Canadian soldiers gathered at the fort, ahead of the Dieppe Raid. This attack on Dieppe in France, then occupied by the Germans, saw almost 60% of the Canadian troops killed, wounded or captured. For many of them, Newhaven was their last glimpse of England before they died.
There is a peculiar story about the Dieppe Raid. Two days before it took place, on August 17th 1942, the clue ‘French port’ appeared in The Daily Telegraph crossword. The solution ‘Dieppe’ ran the next day. Then on the 19th, the Canadians set off. The War Office suspected the crossword had been used to pass intelligence to the Germans, although an enquiry revealed nothing.
Whatever happened, the success of D-Day, later on, was partly due to the sad lessons learned from the Canadian sacrifice in Dieppe.
Newhaven Fort also has tributes to the Land Girls – the women who became instant lady farmers during the war, even if they had office jobs in London. Led by Lady Denman, they worked not far from here, in the Sussex fields.

The land girls had to learn to love air raid shelters. Newhaven was bombed and machine-gunned almost daily by the Luftwaffe.
Inside Newhaven Fort, you can press a button and hear what the locals heard – the chilling sound of a Doodlebug, or flying bomb. They were also called buzz bombs, but they were universally feared and hated. As the Doodlebug got closer to its target, the buzz would begin, and then cut out. Moments of scarey silence would follow, before the bomb hit the ground and a massive warhead exploded.
There is also an air-raid shelter at Newhaven Fort to sit in. Once the guide closes the door, you will be in the dark, with a wall-shaking soundtrack and the occasional loud bang. Don’t ask to go in, unless you have your grandmother’s grit!

Newhaven Fort is open from March to October, and admission is £6.](Story – Jessica Adams).

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