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Civilian Peggy Rosemary Harland
Second World War Civilian War Dead 1939-1945 United Kingdom
By Philip Baldock

United Kingdom

Civilian Peggy Rosemary Harland
View record on CWGC
Died 29th September 1940 at Eastbourne, buried Westham Churchyard

Civilian Peggy Rosemary Harland born the 6th of December, 1923 the daughter of Asher Harland and Olive Eastwood.

The 1939 Register records Peggy with her family at Peelings Cottage, Westham. Asher born the 22nd of June, 1888 is a Market Gardener on his own account. Olive, born the 20th of February 1890 is unpaid domestic duties. Two children are recorded, Robert born 25th January 1919 is a gardener and Peggy who is recorded as a horticulturalist.

On the 28th of September 1940, Eastbourne was attacked twice by the Luftwaffe. One attack occurred at 17.48 and the other at 18.07. Both were executed by single fighter bombers, each dropping four HE Bombs. The attacks killed four people and injured fourteen and caused widespread serious damage.

One bomb destroyed 69/71 Cavendish Place whilst an unexploded bomb landed very close by. Several people, including Peggy Harland were trapped here and the only way for the rescue services to get to them was to tunnel through the debris. Added to long list of hazards were the unexploded bomb which could have gone off at any time, and a burst water main which was flooding the area and required continuous pumping. Some of the rescuers became exhausted and were taken to hospital but they returned to continue with their work.

Peggy was trapped by her ankles and in great pain but in spite of her predicament she remained calm and cheered on the rescuers as they toiled to reach those who were trapped. Eventually, the rescuers reached Peggy only to find that her position and the manner in which she was trapped prevented her being released from the weight of the debris. The only option for the rescuers was for doctors to amputate both legs where she lay.

Once Peggy was released, she was rushed to Princess Alice Hospital where she died the following day. He bravery and fortitude earned her a posthumous Girl Guides Gilt Cross, known as the Girl Guides VC.

Those who died in the attack were Stanley Giles, Peggy Harland, Olive Giles and Myrtle Wilkinson.

Peggy was buried at Westham, Sussex, on the 3rd of October 1940 the service was conducted by the Reverend Allan Davies. The burial register gives her home as Peelings Lane, Pevensey Park Road, Westham. The Headstone inscription notes that Peggy had been awarded the Girl Guide Gilt Cross.

[Also remembered here is her brother Robert (Private 6401941, 7th Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment) who was killed in action in France on the 20th of May 1940 serving with the Royal Sussex Regiment aged 21.He has no known grave and is remembered on the Dunkirk Memorial. - “Immortal Invisible God Only Wise”.]

After the raid, the gallantry shown by the rescue squads resulted in the award of fourteen gallantry awards, including an MBE, four George Cross and nine commendations.

The Eastbourne Gazette for the 27th of March, 1946, reports on a roll of honour to the six Guides of the Eastbourne Division who lost their lives in the war. The work of Mrs Clay, the memorial was unveiled Canon Corbett in the Guides Divisional Headquarters in South Street. Those named are - Violet Hookham, Peggy Harland, Joan Sherwood, Kathleen Davies, Lilian Lawrence and Amy Weller. 

The grave of Peggy Harland (copyright unknown)