Sompting near Worthing. Alfred Longley lived in Worthing (1894-1965); even as a child he had a rich imagination and throughout his life he enjoyed telling jokes and writing poems and stories about his imaginary hero - "Jimmy Smuggles". From his stories we can read about the Sompting Treacle Mines and the many adventures involving Jimmy Smuggles, tales inspired from events that Alfred Longley had heard about when he was a teenager.
How strange to read that in one of Jimmy Smuggles adventures, he defeated a attempt by Napoleon to invade England. Alfred Longley could have been a P.I.E. agent himself. In his writing he brought humour and light into years of gloom and stress. As a youngster he had heard about treacle mines and had often set out in search of them, but having failed to find them, he invented them and later wrote stories about them!
Sompting from 1903 - 1918 played a vital role in preparing defences. The local people were so involved, that the few, who had not been recruited as P.I.E. agents, must have wondered why the villagers had all be labelled "Treacle Miners". With only about 300 inhabitants, secrets must have been hard to keep. But, "bluff" was the game and the Treacle Miners played it very well. We hear of two local footballers, 'Slogger Mercer' and Blocker Hollis' who loved Sompting treacle, they found it sweet, chewy and energy giving, which gave them more stickability to play hard when their team was in difficulties. Team mate 'Toe Banger' Jim Etherinton used the treacle as dubbin for the toe caps on his boots, whilst Lottie Card used it in making her toffee apples. The supply of most of the Sompting treacle came from Alfred Longley!
However, the 'Treacle Miners of Sompting from 1903 - 1918 played an important role in England's defence.
ALF LONGLEY - A “P.I.E.” AGENT ?
Alf Longley was one of Worthing’s best known personalities. He was born in 1895 and was only a young boy when the Political Intelligence Executive was launched on October 17th 1903.
At the outbreak of World War I, Alf Longley joined the Royal Sussex Regiment and was one of the first 100,000 to enlist in Kitchener’s Army. The whole of his service was spent on the Western Front; he was invalided home three times.
He had a great sense of humour, which made him highly suitable to be a secret agent in the P.I.E. and a leader of the Sompting Treacle Miners. Who else but Alf Longley could have protected Worthing from a probable invasion of our southern shores? It was with his invention of the over-land submarine and the underground flying kite; his skill in appointing to the ‘Treacle Miners’ ranks - Jimmy Smuggles, who successfully defeated Napoleon when the French tried to invade Worthing.
Alf Longley must not be forgotten in the part he played in the ‘Treacle Mine Story’. In 1961, when the newspapers were covering the “Sticky Problem of Sompting Treacle Mine” - Alf Longley’s comment to the press was - “People are forgetting how to laugh, it’s such a shame”.
He made this comment after the local Corporation had to make a decision about the Sompting Treacle Mine. The existence of the treacle mine was never in question; it was inscribed for all to see on the relief map on the Promenade. The ‘Treacle Mine’ was placed firmly in Sompting and had become a famous landmark; a place to be visited on family walks on Good Friday’s.
Walkers discovered the treacle mine was tucked away by the chalk pit north of Lambleys Lane. No one could say how the treacle mine sprang up on the map, but it was thought to be the work of a Mr Albert Gardiner, a Corporation sign writer of King Edward avenue, who was responsible for revising and renovating the map from time to time.
On April 1st 1961 the Sompting Treacle Mine mysteriously disappeared from the map on the Promenade. It all happened in the same week when Mr Gardiner died. Someone instructed one of Albert’s colleagues to paint over the words. That map must be a collector’s item. There were other interesting feature on that famous Promenade map; little figure had been drawn; there was, in Oaken Close a gamekeeper with gun and dog; in Park Rough near Arundel, a couple sat under a tree. It was all the work of P.I.E.
A REPORT FROM THE RECORDS LEFT BY P.I.E. AGENT - TREACLE MINER ALF LANGLEY. ENGLAND INVADED BY FRENCH JUNE 1814 PART 1
Have you been to Hambridge Magna ? Probably not; it was a place invented by a secret agent of P.I.E. code name ‘Big Alf’. If you wish to pin point it on a map, you would have to find Sussex, then look for Sompting and Cokeham and Hambridge Magna is between the two.
When England was expecting an invasion from France in the late nineteen century, a whole line of defences was established in the .Dorking Gap’. Hambridge Magna was part of the coastal defences. In a reconnoitring exercise, in preparation for a full scale invasion, Napoleon in his Flagship the “Snail and Casserole” anchored off the Half Brick Inn.
One of his matelots, Marcel the Breton, who had been press-ganged aboard the French ship, was instructed to find out what he could about any possible opposition. He was also instructed to find out if there was a treacle mine in Sompting and just as important, the whereabouts of the porridge quarry in Cokeham.
Marcel the Breton, girdled with a string of onions, entered the Half Brick Inn. He was greeted in a friendly manner by a number of men wearing bowler hats and waistcoats. “Bon jure munseer,” said Jimmy Smuggles to the Frenchman, how’s yer onions?” After a few pints of ale Marcel was speaking real Sussex.
There was a nice bit a crumpet that he exchanged his onions for her slender arms. She placed them round Marcel’s neck, when in walked Giles her betrothed; “Semolina, what do you think you are doing?” calls out Giles. “Just a bit of P.I.E. work,” says Semolina. “Carry on” says Giles.
The Frenchman during the evening was given much to remember! His ship was anchored off Hambrige Magna, it was a small hamlet and everyone was having a good scratch because a hard-bitten married couple from Petworth flea farm, had been sitting at the bar all evening.
Whilst he was being fed lots of information, Semolina’s boy friend was drinking pint after pint and singing dolefully in a corner.
“I be in luv, I be in luv, She is as fur from me as the stars above, And if I baint her’s away I’ll pine I’ll drown myself in the treacle mine”
Amyas Peewhistle, the coastguard shattered the peace as he cries out - “They’re ‘ere” “Who’s ‘ere?” say all. Suddenly Marcel the Breton breaks away from Semolina and disappears into the darkness of the night - and reports back to Napoleon.
The Treacle Miners, Giles and Semolina look towards the bar, where the Queen is sitting on a high stool, knitting a sock for a one legged sailor, she is hoping he wont dangle his other leg over the side, as she does not like wasting her time, she also realises that sharks are not vegetarians.
The Queen sends for the militia, camped in Chichester; but incase Napoleon decides to land before the militia arrives - she orders the bowler hatted gents to come to her aid. The Treacle Miners led by P.I.E. agent Jimmy Smuggles leave the Half Brick Inn. Semolina, helped by Giles, rounds up a flock of sheep and drives them to Cissbury Top. But, first they dye their coats red.
The women and children of Hambridge Magna are taken to the Treacle Mine for safety. They march down the track singing;
“We are marching, marching on a line, Left, right, left, right, keep in time, Tired of dancing, tired of silly sheep, One dose of brimstone and we’re all asleep”
When Marcel the Breton gave his report to Napoleon, Nappie looked though his telescope and saw an octopus! Until Marcel pointed out that it was an Hambrige flea on his telescope lens. Napoleon then turned his telescope towards Cissbury Top and spies many red coats charging down the hill side. Napoleon exclaims :-
“Battalion after battalion, my friends, I’ve fears! We’re up against their Grenadiers, They’re veterans of Quatre Bras, The motto is ‘We shall not pass’ We shan’t set foot upon their ground, I think we’ll turn the ship around” So starboard to a better ‘ole Went back the “Snail and Casserole”
When the Queen and all the regulars of the Half Brick Inn join in the rejoicings of the villagers; Giles and Semonlina announce their wedding day, after Semonlina had lost her shyness on Cissbury Hill Top. Suddenly the door of pub swings open and in comes Marcel the Breton. He says he wishes to stay in England.
In time he became one of them, for they have naturalised him.
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