For those who have never seen the ITV program “Foyle’s War” I’ll quickly explain it. Foyle is chief of detectives in Hastings and the original setting was the years from 1940 to 1944 when the war in Europe was on. In each episode Foyle has a murder mystery to solve, and there’s a continuing storyline for each main character. It’s a true representation of what World War 2 was like for ordinary Brits: under bombardment and living with very strict rationing of food, gasoline, clothes and more. The program stars Michael Kitchen, a popular British actor, who portrays Foyle. It moves through time over several seasons until reaching the end of the war. It was so popular, however, that’s it was revived with new programs set in post-war Hastings. If you haven’t discovered it yet, look for it on your PBS channel or find the programs on Amazon.
Hastings’ position on the southern coast of England made it a natural target for German bombers, sometimes due to inaccurate information. The first bombing was carried out by a single plane. In total the town was bombed 85 times, resulting in the loss of 154 lives and many more injuries. Today it’s easy to see how many buildings were destroyed because post-war style houses stand in their place. At the beginning of the war more than half the population fled the town: the population dropped from 65,000 to around 20,000. This website has many details of the war years in Hastings:
Having seen Old Town Hastings on many episodes of this program I’ve had Hastings high on my list of places to visit in England for a long time. I’ve been surprised by the town in some ways but not at all disappointed. The bartender at the pub where I had lunch on Wednesday told me where to find “Foyle’s House.” Hastings’ Old Town section largely survived the bombing of the town from 1940 to 1945 intact. It is filled with ancient houses, many of them antique shops today. In researching the history of Hasting during the war I found a blog in which one woman, Victoria Seymour, details the filming of Foyle’s War and the war years in Hastings. On her blog Mrs. Seymour has posted this graphic which shows the places that were bombed in Hastings during WW2. Each black dot represents a bombing.Here are a few pictures I’ve taken that may look familiar to fans of Foyle.