SOUTHEND’S iconic pier will be transformed into a interactive experience celebrating it’s rich history and highlighting the vital role it played during the Second World War.

The Bravest Pier in the World Event will be welcoming schools on September 23 and 24, as well as the public on September 25 and 26, to join in the fun, honouring the world class heritage which sits right on our doorstep.

Not only will guests walk the hallowed boards of Southend Pier, but visitors are set to also learn about the amazing history of the nearly 200-year-old structure.

Visitors are set to meet actors playing people from Second World War Southend and HMS Leigh, which defended the Thames and dispatched over 80,000 ships on convoys throughout the world.

On the event’s schools days, the pier shelters will house costume actors portraying some of those characters whose hard work, day-in and day-out for six years, turned the longest pleasure pier in the world into a Royal Navy battle station.

In September 1939, the pier become Naval Control Centre for the Thames Estuary and was renamed HMS Leigh with surrounding areas becoming HMS Westcliff.

During the war years huge amounts of food, ammunition and special equipment were also carried on the pier’s electric railway.


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HMS Leigh project officer, Alastair Deacon, said: “This is a cultural festival to celebrate amazing people and amazing heritage right here on the Southend seafront.

“When the Royal Navy commandeered the pier back in August 1939, they swapped day tripping pleasure boats with destroyers and promenaders were replaced by petty officers - it must have been a monumental task to keep the whole show running.”

Upon entry at Pier Hill, guests will be met by the guns and members of the Shoebury Royal Artillery Association before passing through the HMS Leigh checkpoint.

From there, visitors will take a walk through the Memory Garden, where people can post a photo or buy a biodegradable ribbon to tie onto the railings in memory of a loved one or pet.

The walk along the boards of the pier will also be accompanied by the Bravest Pier Podcast which will bring stories and music from Second World War Southend to the town.


Alastair continued: “We are so happy to celebrate the Bravest Pier in the World event with the whole community after having to postpone due to the pandemic.”

The event, run by The HMS Leigh Project, will take place thanks to funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Southend Council.

While partners include the Leigh Royal British Legion, Southend RNLI, the Southend Council Culture and Tourism department, Southend Pier Staff, Southend Pier Museum and the S.E. Branch of the Essex Society for Family History.

Schools should contact, while tickets for the public will be available from