Secretive squad called Rustington ‘home’ before D-Day invasion

Mary Taylor revealed Rustington's role in D-Day      L23535H14
Mary Taylor revealed Rustington's role in D-Day L23535H14

AS THE world’s eyes turned to Normandy on Friday (June 6) to mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day, Rustington’s secret role in the invasion has now come to light.

Village historian Mary Taylor has unveiled the hidden link Rustington’s Convalescent Home, in Sea Road, had with the secretive Enigma Code-breakers of Bletchley Park, as well as the efforts to disrupt the Nazis in France.

As thousands of troops, cars, tanks and military personally flooded the village in the run-up to the 1944 assault, one particular vehicle proved to be a crucial link in helping to ultimately defeat the Nazi war machine.

The innocuous van housed the members of the Special Wireless Service (SWS) who used the convalescent home as their headquarters in the days before the D-Day landings.

The crew was made up of a single truck, armed with an array of high-tech radio equipment, and six highly-trained signals experts who could intercept Axis communications.

Mary, of North Lane, was only 14 when the SWS set up their camp and had no idea of their existence until a fateful message almost 68 years later.

She has now written a book about the SWS and the significance they, and Rustington, had on winning the war in Europe.

Mary, 84, said: “I had an interesting message come through from someone asking about a Carpenter’s Arms. I said that we didn’t have a Carpenter’s Arms.

“So I started investigating and discovered the building he meant was actually the convalescent home.”

She added: “I think that this is a wonderful thing to have discovered.

“I can’t think of anything better for the village. It really brings Rustington to the fore a little bit.”

Mary’s husband, Bev, helped in researching and writing the book, which is available at the Rustington Museum, in The Street.

Her work reveals how the SWS used Mewsbrook Park’s lake to make sure their equipment was waterproof, as the nearby Rustington beach had been mined.

After preparation had been completed, the SWS boarded the American Liberty ship, in Essex, to make the voyage across the Channel to Normandy. They landed on the French coast two days after the invasion.

One of their objectives, once the bulk of the Allied forces had pushed inland, was to locate the Nazi transmission stations in Normandy and order an artillery bombardment to destroy the installations.

On August 14, 1944, the SWS proved pivotal in the capture of 100,000 German prisoners of war. One of the squad’s wireless operators managed to intercept and decode a crucial attack order for two German Panzer divisions.

This intelligence turned the tide of the battle for the Allies.

For the full story about the SWS and their work in Rustington and abroad, visit the Rustington Museum.