Totally different in character, this is our seaside village. The Bay itself offers extensive beaches, pebble and sand, with safe bathing in clean waters. Wind and Kite Surfing along with Angling are popular pursuits. The Napoleonic Martello Towers, well preserved and now lived in, add a touch of history. The high street offers a range of shops, pubs and eateries to suit all tastes.
The Wreck of the ss “Barnhill”
On the 20th of March 1940, during one of the early bombing raids of WW2, the ss “Barnhill” was struck by a German Dornier in the English channel just off Beachy Head. Four members of crew were killed instantly and eight injured. The first bomb fell down her funnel, the second penetrated her deck plating. The captain was blown from the bridge by the force of the blast and fire spread through the ship. She now drifted out of control with flames leaping spectacularly into the night sky. She passed Langney Point listing dangerously to starboard and into the bay at Pevensey where she broke in two, her cargo of tinned food spilling out into the water.
The news quickly reached Eastbourne lifeboat station and the Eastbourne life boat the “Jane Holland” was launched at 23.15 pm. The sea conditions were dangerous. There was a heavy swell but the lifeboat crew managed to get alongside the “Barnhill” and, amidst explosions, boarded the vessel to take the frightened crew to safety. The captain was presumed to be dead. In fact he lay seriously injured on the deck under some debris. He somehow managed to roll himself to the ship’s bell and by pulling on the rope with his teeth alerted the rescuers who risking their own lives reboarded the stricken vessel, made their way to him and transferred him unconscious into the lifeboat in perilous seas. He spent many months in hospital recovering from his ordeal. He described his rescue as a “miracle of seamanship.” Later the shipowners gave 100 guineas to the RNLI in grateful recognition of the brave men who had gone to the rescue of the “Barnhill”.
Meanwhile local residents scrambled down to the beach at Pevensey Bay to salvage the tins of food which was a welcome addition to wartime rationing even if the labels had washed off and they had to guess at the contents.
At low tide it is still possible to see the remains of the wreck.