With the Hayling Ferry out of service, all we could do was stare longingly at the inaccessible pontoon on the other side of the harbour. It was 350 metres and at least two weeks away from where we now stood, tantalisingly out of reach. We turned our backs on it and walked back east, towards our car.
The walk was only a mile; we were parked at the remains of the Sinah Gun Site.
Hayling Island, though of little military importance in its own right, played an important part during World War Two. This is because from the air, at night, it looked remarkably similar to Portsea Island, the closest point of which is only 350 metres from Haying Island (Portsea Island is where the ferry would have taken us had it been in operation). German bombers were very keen on looking for Portsea Island as they flew through the chill night skies, because if they found it they could drop their bombs on Portsmouth which sat right plumb in the middle of it.
It was decided that the similar size, shape and location of Hayling Island could be put to good use and confuse the bombers. If the bomber crews could be persuaded that Hayling Island was in fact Portsea Island, then they would drop their bombs in the wrong place. Portsmouth, with its naval base, would be safe.
Fires were lit around Hayling Island, trying to simulate bomb damage and draw fire away from Portsmouth. The tactic was successful, and Hayling Island frequently came under attack, suffering significant damage. To defend against this attack (and no doubt to further confuse the bomber crews), two gun batteries were placed on Hayling Island, one in the north and one in the south, at Sinah Common, built in 1939. The defences at Sinah Common are well preserved and maintained. There is a reason for this.
On the night of 17th/18th April 1941 German bombers mounted a large raid. 150 aircraft flew took part, dropping over 100 tons of parachute mines, high explosives, incendiaries and flares. Of these, 30 bombs hit the Sinah site. The Sinah battery fired 2,000 shells in return, bringing down five bombers, however, six men from the emplacement were killed and another 30 injured. Today, the area is a designated National Heritage site. There is a simple memorial to the six men who died here that night.
Points on this part of the walk (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):
- Inaccessible Portsea Island Ferry Pontoon: N 50° 47.800 W 001° 01.790
- Sinah Gun Emplacement and Memorial: N 50° 47.393 W 001° 00.565
Walk #64 Statistics (of which this post forms the final part):
- Date of Walk: 11 January 2014
- Walk #64 total distance covered: 3.49 miles
- Coast of Britain Walk Total Distance Covered: 530.23 miles
- CLICK HERE FOR LINK TO INTERACTIVE MAP!!!
Fascinating story. My late father-in-law was stationed on Brownsea Island during WWII – the sole resident – with the wherewithal to set it on fire to suggest a direct hit on Poole. He never had to do this however. No red squirrels were harmed. RH