THE beach hut was his pride and joy and central to his recuperation as he recovered from life-threatening cancer.
But arsonists have left pensioner Fred Cummings with only burnt cinders to pick up after setting fire to his beloved hut on Hayling beach.
It is the third time that Mr Cummings has lost his beach hut after it was washed out to sea last year and burned down four years ago.
The retired merchant navy sailor was told his kidney cancer could be terminal, but was celebrating after undergoing a successful operation and being given the all-clear a month ago.
He received the news of the arson attack as he was at the doctors for a check-up.
‘I could have cried,’ said the 75-year-old widower, of Brooklands Road, Bedhampton.
‘I got the all-clear from cancer a month ago and this is my life now and they have taken it all away from me.
‘I am very upset. I don’t know whether I will put it back again.
‘I have spent 26 years on this beach and this is the third time I have lost a beach hut.
‘I lost my wife and my daughter, so this is my life and now it’s gone through sheer vandalism.’
Firefighters from Hayling Island went to tackle the fire at about 12.35am on Wednesday, but it was too late to save two of the huts.
The vandals punched holes in other huts.
‘They must have had a sledgehammer,’ said Mr Cummings, who had the hut valued at £17,000.
‘There was thousands of pounds worth of stuff I had collected.
‘There were so many stones hanging up.
‘I used to give my grandchildren a penny for every stone they brought me.’
The grandfather-of-five deplored the actions of the arsonists.
‘It’s absolutely mindless,’ he said.
‘I feel like giving up – but I love it so much. People would pay a fortune for the view here.
‘I am here at 10am every morning even when it’s freezing cold. I was looking forward to the summer. I have made so many lovely friends here. The kettle is always on.’
Police are investigating the arson attack. Anyone with information should call them on 101.