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15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

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Guns, Bombs and Rhubarb and Custard

by BBC Southern Counties Radio

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
BBC Southern Counties Radio
People in story: 
Graham Walker
Location of story: 
Hailsham
Background to story: 
Civilian
Article ID: 
A5206420
Contributed on: 
19 August 2005

My first memory is that war was declared in the morning and the air raid warning siren first wailed at about lunch time, whilst we were eating rhubarb and custard. I was 9 at the time. At the time I was at Grovelands School and we had sing-songs in the air raid shelters. The war generally to a 9 — 15 year old boy was occasionally frightening but mainly exciting. Looking back, it seems incredible how we managed to be at the scene of any incident in double quick time.

On the 27th September, 1940 a Messerschmidt 110 was brought down at the back of Hamlin’s Mill in Mill Road by South African Spitfire pilot Percy Burton - he had run out of ammunition and rammed the bomber, cutting off its tail section. Sadly he crashed into an oak tree in Station Road and was killed. Burton Way is named in his memory. Being schoolboys we were soon on the site of the crashed bomber which had hit the sewer pipe viaduct which ran overground on brick piers. My abiding memory of the plane was its smell which was reminiscent of nail varnish, and also the bare metal seats. I cannot recollect what we walked away with in the way of souvenirs, but there were belts of machine gun cartridges scattered about.

It was in 1940 that the Local Defence Volunteers were formed (later to become the Home Guard) and my Dad was one of its first members. At first all they had were a few shotguns, the odd rifle and even pikes. When they were issued with American P17 rifles my Dad's was kept propped in a corner of the living room at 52, Mill Road where we lived then.

This story was entered onto the site by Charlie Sever with permission from Thelma Walker on behalf of her late husband, Graham. Thelma fully understands the site's terms and conditions.

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