Few places were untouched by the two great wars of the last century and Slindon was no exception. Rodney Gunner, a member of Worthing Archaeological Society has been researching some unusual installations that were introduced to the village and surrounding area.
Slindon House Hospital
During the First World War, Slindon House was used as an auxiliary hospital run by Lady Beaumont, the sister of Frederick Wooton-Isaacson, the new owner after 1913.
Prisoner of War Camp
A Prisoner-of-War camp, guarded by Canadian troops, was established between the bottom of Nore Hill and West Gumber Gate (SU 9623 1175). The prisoners were used to clear trees from the area and the remains of the incinerator that served the camp is still visible. The camp was occupied by some 300 German P.O.Ws.
The Canadian Forestry Corps was formed following an appeal from Britain on February 14, 1916 for troops to undertake lumbering operations overseas. The Canadian Forestry Corps assumed various tasks, including clearing land for airfields, preparing railway ties and lumber for use in trenches, building barracks and hospitals as well as farming. During the critical days of 1918, the Corps also supplied 1,280 men to the infantry.
With the aid of the German prisoners a railway some one and half miles long was built in the woods to transport cut timber to an overhead cable railway. Logs were transferred by this method across the downs to a factory seven miles away where timber was fermented to make the cordite used in the big guns.
Other timber was used to make pit props, and trench props.
The Airship Station
Slindon had a large airship station, the landing grounds and billets were built by the Canadians and P.O.Ws. The Station was built late into the War but was important; the airships from this station carried out many important patrols along the channel coast, identifying German submarines.
The airships moored at Slindon, were built at Wormwood Scrubs in London where a large airship factory was located.
Dummy Airfield: Gumber Farm Slindon
During the early period of the Second World War a secret department was formed at Britain’s Air Ministry to co-ordinate a strategy to defeat German bombing by deception. With the help of leading technicians from the film industry, ingeniously designed decoy airfields, towns and military bases were built throughout Britain.
The first type of site was known as a K site, (day sites) from the air they looked just like any other operational air field, they consisted of dummy aircraft, bomb dumps, many old vehicles, tents, buildings, and anti-aircraft guns. The latter were usually the only real things there, the rest all being mock ups, made out of wood and canvas. They were in use from 1940 until 1942.
This type was constructed at Slindon.
There are still remains to be seen at the Gumber today. The old generator building is still intact, lacking the generator, but the concrete shell can still be viewed, together with a large underground shelter, not accessible. The decoy airfield is adjacent to the Roman road to the west; with a little imagination you can visualise the airfield during the last war.