An enthusiastic Eddie Izzard has explained to press and television how his “crazy idea” of recreating the snow scene which greeted his evacuee father on his return to Bexhill for Christmas 1940 has become reality.
Re-enactors from the 23rd Sussex Home Guard greeted Bexhill Museum’s patron when he arrived on Monday, September 16th to open the huge n-gauge model rail layout the actor and comedian has commissioned in the Park Gallery.
A Vickers Medium machine gun sat behind a sand-bagged emplacement on the Egerton Road museum’s front steps.
Volunteers were in period costume as Eddie examined a display of Home Guard weaponry from Ross rifles to Sten guns, a Thompson sub-machine gun to a Boyes anti-tank rifle.
An air raid siren howled a warning before bombs were heard screeching down as Eddie, clearly enraptured by all he saw, examined in detail such landmarks as the Town Hall and West Station, Drill Halls and Hospital.
His late father, Harold John Izzard, is shown as a home-coming schoolboy outside 1 Laburnham Cottages, Ninfield Road, Sidley.
An animated Eddie was soon busily explaining: “Here’s the church where he was a choirboy. Here’s where he went to school…”
The rail layout and its sound-effects are computer-controlled and between filmed interviews Eddie was engrossed in sending the “Crowhurst Flyer” over the viaduct which carried the Bexhill West to Crowhurst branch railway by which his late father commuted to London as a young man.
Watching was museum volunteer and rail modeller Ken Bywater together with fellow modellers Michael Channing, Jack Butcher, Andy Mason and father-and-son team Alan and Martin Ward. Two years of work have already gone into the project with more modelling to come as seafront anti-invasion defences take shape.
Three months of detailed modelling went into the creation of the Town Hall alone.
Eddie explained how the modellers had earlier re-created in the museum’s adjoining Technology Gallery the childhood model rail layout he and his brother Mark had built with their father to raise their spirits after their mother died.
Looking at the 1940 snow scene (seven cans of spray-snow went into its construction) Eddie said:
“It is wonderful that this has happened. They have worked so hard.”
The model includes bombed-out houses and crashed aircraft. Sixty million people had died in a world war launched by Adolf Hitler. The model was a tribute to ordinary townsfolk who endured the conflict, he said.
“Now adults and children alike can come in here and see what Bexhill looked like in 1940.”