War hero returns to green roots

Greenhouse Heritage 1 SUS-171209-095215001
Greenhouse Heritage 1 SUS-171209-095215001

A trip to a 1930’s greenhouse brought back war-time memories for former gardener Bernard Mallion.

The 91-year-old, who lives at Hollington, started work at Alexandra Park in Hastings when he was 16 in February, 1941, and stayed until 1943 when he joined the Royal Navy.

Greenhouse Heritage 2 SUS-171209-095535001

Greenhouse Heritage 2 SUS-171209-095535001

Mr Mallion, who visited the Heritage Open Day at the greenhouse, on Sunday to see progress on its restoration, recalled: “There were at least seven greenhouses on this site then. I was engaged by the park superintendant, Edwin Cherry, and the emphasis was on food production.

“There were about seven of us working here and we were each allocated a greenhouse to look after, venting and watering them. I worked in the palm house.

“There was an incredible amount of stuff grown in here. They were desperate times; in 1942 cold frames were being made from old, bombed houses, using window frames. From March or April onwards, wholesalers would come here two or three times to collect the produce.”

Mr Mallion, who later served as a signalman on HMS Ramillies, praised the work of the Alexandra Park Greenhouse Group to restore the remaining structure, saying: “It’s nice that the greenhouse is being restored, but it’s a pity the others aren’t here anymore.”

He is writing his memoirs about working there and plans to donate them to the group’s archives.

Mr Mallion was serving aboard HMS Ramillies when it supported the D Day landings in 1944 at Sword Beach in Normandy, knocking out four of the six guns at the Berneville Battery.

After the war, he worked in the aerospace industry in London and then worked for 30 years in the fire service.

He and his late wife, Joan, have two children and he is now a great grandfather.

Sunday’s Heritage Open Day also saw retired businessman David Hance arrive with his 1930’s classic Bedford lorry to promote the event. The lorry also toured the area, decorated with banners publicising the national event which celebrated England’s cultural and architectural heritage.

Volunteers did a brisk trade, selling plants to visitors.

Brian Adams, from Ivy House Nursery in Hastings, and his assistant, Dina Tolton, arrived with several trays of plants which they donated for volunteers to sell.

There was also a display about restoration project, which aims to see the greenhouse used for horticultural and educational purposes, and artwork and gardening equipment on sale. Sunday’s open day made £190 and a plants sale at the greenhouse and at a stall beside the park’s cafe on Sunday, August 27, raised more than £160 for greenhouse funds.