Virginia Woolf

The Diaries of Virginia Woolf 1936 – 1941

Although she visited London as often as circumstances allowed, Virginia Woolf spent much of the Battle period in and around her house at Rodmell, near Lewes in (now) East Sussex.

Thursday 4 July 1940 – Today a plane – ours – crashed at Southease.

Friday 5 July 1940 – The silly fellow who crashed his plane on the marsh tipped its nose over the brook. He didn’t know about the brook. So I walked down and saw it – a little gnat, with red and white and blue bars; a tent keeping guard. Louie said that Audrey Hubbard who was in the pea field ran to give first aid. She made him write his name on a cigarette card: he was taken to Lewes and has lockjaw.

Sgt Jensen of 601 Squadron had been on a training flight in his Hurricane when he started to be overcome by leaking glycol fumes but managed a forced landing.

Monday 19 August 1940 – Yesterday, 18th, there was a roar. Right on top of us they came. I looked at the plane, like a minnow at a roaring shark. Over they flashed – 3 I think. Olive green. Then pop pop pop – German ? Again pop pop pop, over Kingston. Said to be 5 bombers hedge hopping on their way to London. The closest shave so far.

This was the famous low-level raid on RAF Kenley when nine Do17’s of 9/KG76 crossed the coast at under 100ft and continued to their target at this height. Four were shot down and only one of the rest returned without damage.


Caption – Diana Gardner – The Hedge Hoppers – Rodmell 19 August 1940 – wood engraving

Illustration – courtesy of Charleston Magazine

Wednesday 28 August 1940 – We went out on to the terrace, began playing (bowls). A large two-decker plane came heavily and slowly – Leonard said a Wellesley something. A training plane said Leslie. Suddenly there was pop pop from behind the church. Practising we said. The plane circled slowly out over the marsh and back, very close to the ground and to us. Then a whole volley of pops (like bags bursting) came together. The plane swung off, slow and heavy and circling towards Lewes. We looked. Leslie saw the German black cross. All the workmen were looking. Its a German. That dawned. It was the enemy. It dipped among the fir trees over Lewes and did not rise. Then we heard the drone. Looked up and saw 2 planes very high. They made for us. We started to shelter in the Lodge. But they wheeled and Leslie saw the English sign. So we watched – they side slipped glided swooped and roared for about 5 minutes round the fallen plane as if identifying and making sure – then made off towards London. Our version is that it was a wounded plane, looking for a landing. “It was a Jerry sure eno’” the men said: the men who are making a gun hiding by the gate. It would have been a peaceful matter of fact death to be popped off on the terrace playing bowls this very fine cool sunny August evening.

An unarmed Gotha 145 biplane which had set off from Cherbourg carrying mail had become lost in fog and ended up on Lewes racecourse. The pilot Leonard Buckle was captured. There is another interesting eye-witness account at:

Wednesday 11 September 1940 – A plane shot down before our eyes just before tea: over the (Lewes) race course; a scuffle; a swerve; then a plunge; and a burst of thick black smoke. Percy says the pilot baled out.

Me109 wk nr 1641 of 2/JG51 was shot down by Sgt WB Higgins of 253 (Hurricane) Squadron. Pilot Hauptmann E Wiggers was killed.

Wednesday 2 October 1940 – Caburn was crowned with what looked like a settled moth, wings extended – a Messerschmitt it was, shot down on Sunday. (i.e 29 Sept)

Mount Caburn is the high (450 ft) ground to the south east of Lewes, today used by microlights. I have been unable to trace any aircraft lost in this area around that date.