worthing history


Man with a secret


FG Searle
INVENTIVE MIND:  FG Searle, Worthing businessman and – secretly – an inventor.

HE became a leading Worthing businessman between the two world wars, primarily because he started – and built into a thriving business – the town’s first agency for Ford cars.

But FG Searle was a relatively shy man and few of even his closest friends knew that closer to his heart than business success was his hobby as an inventor.
     It was this hobby that at the height of World War Two led him to an idea that, had it received sufficient official backing, might have saved millions of tons of Allied shipping sunk by the     torpedoes of German U-boats.
     That, in turn, would have meant more food and aid getting through to beleaguered Britain and that could feasibly have shortened the war.
     WHILE FG Searle’s idea was simple in concept, experts warned him it would probably be impossible to demonstrate it for real in the unfortunately short time available.
     But FG, as all his colleagues knew him, refused to give up that easily.
     In 1940, and in secret, in his High Street, Worthing, garage, he made a small model, crudely embodying his idea, and prepared to submit it to the Admiralty.
     The device consisted of hinged flaps of steel carried on the sides of a ship, well above the water line.
     When a ship was holed at the water line by a torpedo and did not immediately explode, FG suggested that the flap above the hole could be dropped over it and made fast by a system of hawsers running under the keel of the ship and connected to powerful winches.
     The inventor claimed that only a powerful plate, operated as he suggested, could withstand the inrush of water after a ship had been torpedoed.
     He also considered that his idea ought to remove the necessity for ships being so heavily armoured near the water line and, as a result, would be able to increase their speed considerably.
     “It is known,” he was later reported as saying, “that increasing the protection of a ship cuts down its speed by as much as five knots.”
     Fortunately for us all, more conventional methods of sea warfare managed to reduce the carnage of U-boat attacks in the short time available, so FG Searle’s invention was never put to the ultimate test.
     If it had been, the former site of Searle’s garage and car showrooms in the High Street might well have qualified for one of those blue plaques reminding us of yet another highlight in the town’s history.

Going to great lengths on beach

Carrying the 480ft long pipe.
Carrying the 480ft long pipe.

LYING on the beach, it looked like a fantastically long and thick stick of Worthing rock. 
     At a word of command, 36 men heaved it onto their shoulders and, as it snaked to the rhythm of their march, they bore it carefully and gently over the sands and into the sea.
     It happened one hot, clear, summer’s day in 1960 and it was just one stage in the completion of an effluent outfall to dispose of wast-es from the penicillin and other drug processes due to be undertaken at the new Beecham factory in Clarendon Road, Broadwater, when it opened later that year.
     The very long, bendy, stick of “Worthing rock” was, in fact, a six-inch pipe, 480 feet long, weighing a ton and made of cream-coloured plastic. It was to be used to provide the final necessary length to discharge the effluent “well out to sea” on the edge of the borough boundary at Western Road, Lancing.
     In a race against the incoming tide that Monday afternoon, the pipe was fixed to the end of a steel pipe already sunk into the sands.
     At its free end, and along its entire length, the pipe was carefully laid on the seabed, where it
was held down by concrete collars, pinned into the sand with steel bars.
     A special pneumatic hammer had been made for the under-water work carried out by divers, one in a frogman’s suit. From the shore to the far end of the plastic pipe, settled on the seabed, was 1,880 feet.
     There was one big snag in jointing the pipe, which had been supplied in 20ft lengths – the seaweed flies, all too familiar on Worthing beach in the 1960s.
     They turned out to be very partial to the cementing material, sticking to the joints and even getting into the tins of cement.
     Otherwise, the job of fixing what at the time was the longest underwater plastic outfall pipe on the south coast, at a cost of £12,000 for the whole operation from factory to sea, went off without a hitch.