A Worthing Herald report on a Second World War German aircraft crash has served as the inspiration for a new book by a Worthing author.
Sing Them Home is the latest novel by bestselling author Pam Weaver, and focuses on three strangers who meet for the first time in the aftermath of an aircraft crash which causes complete devastation to the local community.
The three new friends quickly bond over shared experiences and their love of singing and soon form The Sussex Sisters, Worthing’s answer to the Andrews Sisters, to boost morale in dance halls all over the south coast.
When D-Day finally arrives, it’s the promise of a brighter future they have all been longing for. But the men that return home are altogether different from the husbands they waved off.
How will they respond to their wives’ new-found fame? How will the women live alongside these distant, damaged men?
With secrets, revelations and surprises on the horizon, the friends will need each other more than ever.
Pam said: “I have always been interested in history. Not dry old dates or the long list of England’s kings and queens I had to learn at school, but in ordinary people living at the time. And as a writer, I like to imagine how I would feel if I had been caught up in the same circumstances.
“Worthing has some amazing history and the library is a wonderful source of information but my greatest pleasure comes from reading the newspapers of the day.
“The inspiration for Sing Them Home came when I read a first-hand report in the Worthing Herald of August 14, 1942: ‘Bomb-laden Heinkel crashes into houses’.
“On Sunday, August 9, 1942, a German Heinkel 111, coming from the sea, flew low over Worthing. It had suffered a hit, probably from one of the anti-aircraft batteries based all along the seafront.
“It came up Lyndhurst Road, narrowly missing the roof of the local hospital but then crashed into the wall of the headquarters of the Home Guard.
“From there the wreckage ricocheted across the street and hit the corner house on the opposite side. Reydon was the home of a local doctor and was being used as a billet for Canadian soldiers from the 3rd Anti-tank Regiment.
“As the plane came down, the house and the surrounding big trees were engulfed in flames. Five German crew died, three inside the plane. One report says the pilot was found hanging by his parachute in a tree.
“Three Canadian soldiers were also killed but luckily, two women domestics, Eva Collins and Carol Wilson, were rescued as they jumped from an upstairs window.
“When I read the story I began to ask, ‘what if?’ – and Stella, Lillian and Pip, three girls living close by, emerged onto the page.”
Pam’s saga novels – There’s Always Tomorrow, Better Days Will Come, Pack Up Your Troubles, For Better For Worse, Love Walked Right In, and Always in My Heart – are set in Worthing during the austerity years.
Her inspiration comes from her love of people and their stories, and her passion for the town of Worthing.
Pam is launching Sing Them Home at the Old Bake House Tea Room in Tarring with a book signing from 10am to 2pm tomorrow (June 14).
She will also be holding another book signing at Waterstones, in Montague Street, on Saturday, June 23, from 6pm.
• Sing Them Home by Pam Weaver is published by Pan Macmillan in paperback and as an ebook.