Having suggested that the new link road be named after one of Churchill’s ‘few’ who gave his life almost exactly at the eastern end of the road I was disheartened to discover that the rather anodyne Combe Valley Way has been chosen instead, thus ignoring the supreme sacrifice made by 23-year-old Pilot Officer Alfred Eric Davies.
Pilot Officer Davies was killed under horrific circumstances when, hugely outnumbered, he engaged a large formation of enemy aircraft approaching Bexhill and Hastings on October 30, 1940. With one wing literally shot from his Spitfire the crippled aircraft went into a vicious spin and the young pilot was trapped in the cockpit by horrendous centrifugal forces.
We cannot know how long he took to die, but this young man had faced the enemy in order to protect the people of the towns below him. He knew the fearful odds only too well, but nevertheless he went undaunted into combat to protect the homesteads over which he flew.
When I proposed the naming of the road after Pilot Officer Davies the suggestion received extremely widespread and enthusiastic support, including very recently by at least 90 per cent of the Rother district councillors (of all parties) who responded.
Further, the Bexhill Town Forum meeting supported the suggestion unanimously. There was clearly a groundswell of opinion that this forgotten local hero should be remembered and it seemed especially appropriate to do so given that the road is due to open as the country prepares to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.
However, and to its credit, Rother District Council organised an online vote which allowed anyone to vote for their preferred name. One of those was Pilot Davies Way. Ultimately, the local authority has announced that the overwhelming winner was Coombe Valley Way and that has now been chosen - albeit that Combe means ‘valley’ and thus, in effect, we have Valley Valley Way!
It would appear that this choice has been made by democratic process, and in a democracy that young pilot officer gave his young life to protect. However, that is not to say that the decision is the right one and it certainly seems to be the case that remembrance of Pilot Officer Davies has been casually cast aside.
In doing so, a wholly anodyne, bland and unimaginative name has been selected for a road. Suggestions, now, that some grubby side street on an industrial estate be named after him as an afterthought is somehow rather insulting. Pilot Officer Davies has been let down by the very people he gave his young life to protect.