History: Devil's Dyke - the shadow of war

Danger! Public notice warns of bomb testing in 1918

Devil’s Dyke did not remain untouched by the horrors of the First World War. The mechanical marvels of the Victorian funfair were dismantled and replaced by a military bomb testing ground.

By 1918, the Government had requisitioned Devil’s Dyke and transformed it from an adventure park into a munitions research and testing ground.

Although there are few known facts and little remaining evidence, it is clear that the military was making a new generation of weapons in the hope of breaking the four-year stalemate on the Western Front.

Part of the Great War Machine

The geography of Devil’s Dyke provided an ideal bomb testing site.

Bombs were suspended from cables that were hung from a framework of pylons and trolley tracks built on each side of the valley.

They could then be dropped from a height of up to 250 feet (76 metres) to ensure they were fully armed before impact.

Researchers also found the remnants of a small, concrete building on Devil’s Dyke estate that was identified as a ‘bomb house’ and possibly used to make and store detonators.

Steel sheets lined the walls as blast protection and troops could take cover in a dugout just outside the building during bomb testing.

However, few bombs were detonated. Construction work was only completed in early November of 1918, just days before the Armistice and the end of the First World War.

Memories of a Beautiful Home

Many soldiers fighting overseas suffered from homesickness while enduring the atrocities of war.

They found some comfort in comparing the unfamiliar landscapes to fondly remembered sights and scenes from home.

The valleys, ridges and chalk uplands of Devil’s Dyke were likened to the Somme in France, where one of the largest and bloodiest battles of the First World War was fought in 1916.

Troops from the 4th Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment, sent to fight in Turkey in 1915 named one of the most treacherous and inhospitable beach landing sites at Gallipoli after Devil’s Dyke.