The anniversary of a devastating wartime bombing which killed more than 100 people has been remembered by a local weekly with a souvenir front page.
The East Grinstead Courier & Observer reverted to the masthead it carried 70 years ago for the edition, with a poster front page featuring a list of names of those lost.
The paper also carried a double-page spread commemorating what news editor David Farbrother labelled “the darkest day” in the history of the West Sussex town.
The bombing, on June 9, 1943, happened when a lone plane peeled away from its squadron and attacked.
It hit the local cinema, killing many people who had ignored the air raid siren, brushing it off as yet another false alarm, and had continued to watch the cowboy movie playing.
Those who managed to escape the explosion were targeted by machine gun fire from the plane as they tried to flee.
Said David: “We wanted to find an appropriate way to mark the day which many of our readers still talk about and remember, and which profoundly affected so many lives.
“Reporters Lewis Dean and Dave Comeau dug out our old wartime editions to copy the 1940s masthead, and looked through the archives of East Grinstead Museum who were generous with their time and resources, and who provided us with some shocking images of the destruction on the day.
“They both spoke to people who witnessed the events of the day. For those of us too young to remember, it’s hard to imagine our rolling hills and bustling towns under attack.
“We took the 100 names which are known, from the 108 who were killed, and put together a striking roll call of those who passed away. Alex Leys who designed the splash did a superb job putting the front page together.”
David said the eye-catching splash had gone down well with readers, with numerous messages of thanks pouring in – and said it was worth putting in the extra effort, despite dwindling resources.
“We’ve been taking calls since we came out from people saying how much they appreciate the way this was done, and from the friends and families of some of the deceased, and who were moved by what they saw,” he said.
“I spoke to one lady who lost a family member in the bombing. She didn’t want to talk, she just wanted to say thank-you. And the owner of the High Street book shop, John Pye, told me the previous owner of his shop lost his life that day.
“It takes a bit of effort to put together a piece like this, with a striking splash – and as all of us who work in local journalism know time and resources are at a premium.
“We have a 56-page paper, and in a good week, two news reporters and a sports reporter to fill it.
“But for big events in a town’s history like this, even if it means later nights, getting those calls of gratitude make it all worthwhile.”