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Eddie Izzard’s wartime railway tribute to his father | Ents & Arts News

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Eddie Izzard’s passion for model railways began when he was just a little boy.

It was something he did with his dad and his brother which took on a new level of significance when his mother died when Eddie was still very young.

“So mum died when I was six and my brother was seven, just going on eight and it was obviously a bit of a devastating thing. Well not just a bit…. it was totally devastating to the family…and dad encouraged us to get into the railway – the idea I think was the railway would help us after mum died.”

Eddie Izzard with his father and brother building a model railway
Image:
Eddie Izzard with his father and brother building a model railway

As as result the boys spent hours perfecting a beautiful railway which Eddie decided to donate to his local childhood museum in Bexhill a few years ago.

“The beautiful thing about this was it was really part us and now it will stay in Bexhill for kids to play with old and young.”

His dad was delighted with the model and so Eddie planned to surprise him with a trip down memory lane for his 90th birthday.

Harold John Izzard, Eddie’s dad was evacuated from his home in Bexhill during the war in 1940 aged just 12.

More than one million children were evacuated from their homes in the UK during WW11
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More than one million children were evacuated from their homes in the UK during WW11

In a recording held by the Bexhill museum Harold talked about the mixture of emotions he experienced.

“Most of us had never spent a night away from home and so it was a great adventure and we didn’t know how it was going to work out.”

The children came home for Christmas and heavy snow greeted them which Harold later remembered vividly. So his son Eddie decided to commission a model railway recreating that scene and portraying what his dad would have experienced in wartime Bexhill.

Bexhill was blanketed in snow when Harold returned in Christmas 1940
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Bexhill was blanketed in snow when Harold returned in Christmas 1940

“This is the Bexhill winter wartime model railway – the sounds you can hear are real…bombed out houses here…to the downed spitfire…these things actually happened,” says Eddie.

Wartime Bexhill is recreated in minute detail
Image:
Wartime Bexhill is recreated in minute detail

From the barbed wire on the beach to the bombers heard flying overhead – the attention to detail and the personal touches visitors to the Bexhill museum where the railway is on show will see – are amazing, including those depicting Eddies own family history.

The railway includes a model of Eddie's great grandmother
Image:
The railway includes a model of Eddie’s great grandmother

“The older woman (you can see depicted by that figure) is representing my great grandma – dad’s grandma and she died seven days before he got home for Christmas so he never gave her a Christmas present.

“So I said to dad ‘we’ve put this image of you giving a present to grandma (in the railway) which you never got to do but that will live on forever just there’.”

But in a sad and poignant twist of fate, Eddie’s father never got to see the finished railway. He died in 2018, shortly before his 90th birthday.

The Bexhill museum, which normally closes over the Christmas period and for most of January, is keeping its doors open this year for Christmas visitors from Boxing Day until New Year’s Day.

Eddie will be back on 29 December to inspect new additions to the layout and meet museum visitors before performing at the De la Warr Pavilion later that evening.

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