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Military use: 1800s to WW2

Exercise and drill ground

The use of the Level during the 2nd World War was visible in the geophysical surveys and background historic research. The Land Army based in Wellington Road did their training on the Level in the 1940s, at which time according to one Land Army office person, it was covered with different obstacles to stop the enemy from parachuting in there. In fact The Level was also used in the early 1800’s as an exercise and drill ground for soldiers stationed in barracks in Church Street during the Napoleonic Wars.

Nissen huts and air raid shelters

The most northern quadrant of the North Lawns was taken over by the Royal Engineers Nissen huts to manage the increase in war records and these remained until 1955. Air raid shelters were dug into position on the eastern quadrant. There has been some anecdotal evidence and some photographic indication of bomb damage to the perimeter of The Level.

Tank camouflage by Canadian Army

The National Fire Service had located their emergency water pool there. A lot of military machinery and transport was using the Lewes Road, so much so that it was hard to cross the road. The Canadian Army was reported to have used the natural camouflage of the tree lined pathway around The Level to hide their tanks in the days leading up to D Day, before they were transported overseas, so that they could not be seen from above.

This colony of Nissen Huts was erected early in the war for the R.E.Records Staff, who were there for about 15 years. These photographs were taken in March 1955 and the buildings were removed later that year.

Digging trenches on the Level on that fateful Saturday, 2 September 1939, the day before Britain declared war on Germany, and the Second World War began.


Comments about this page

  • One of my recollections of the Level must have been just before, or just after, the end of the war, working in Brighton when all bus services were cancelled because of a great fog that befell the town(as it was then).  I well remember trying to walk home from the Pool Valley to North Moulsecoomb -it was very spooky, as I was only about 14 at the time. You couldn’t see your hand in front of your face, I thought I knew every inch of the route, but somehow managed to be in the centre of the Level, and completely lost. The Level, during the war, had a number of very large water tanks, for the Fire Brigade to use in case of a fire attack, and they were still there, and it took me ages to struggle to the Elm Grove exit, and I arrived home about four hours later from what would normally take 30 minutes. Does anyone else remember the great smog as it was then called? it would be interesting to hear other peoples recollections and any pictures of the Level at that time.

    By Roy Dibley (13/02/2013)
  • My Uncle Cyril (passed away now) was an RSM in the Coldstream Guards during the Second World War and our father told us that there were tanks parked on the Level. My uncle then took them in convoy down to Portsmouth for shipping across to the Continent. My parents met there in the war when they 12 and 13 respectively and and were together till they passed away many years later. We spent many a happy Saturday down there when we were growing up.

    By Pauline Godden (25/03/2013)
  • I remember walking through the Level with my mum and inside the fence that was around the huts there were chickens running loose.


    By helen healey (18/03/2016)

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