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15 October 2014
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Child's Recollection of WW2 in Brighton

by BBC Southern Counties Radio

You are browsing in:

Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
BBC Southern Counties Radio
People in story: 
Mrs E(Liz)Patching, Peggy Ware (sister), Vera Ware (sister), Liz Ware(sister), John Ware(brother), Mrs Alice Elizabeth Ware (mother), Mr John William Ware,
Location of story: 
Brighton, Sussex
Background to story: 
Civilian
Article ID: 
A7590422
Contributed on: 
07 December 2005

My first recollection of the war was the actual day it started. The family was gathered at home to hear the news. Everyone was quiet. My sister Vera hid under the table and started crying, which affected us all. As things progressed my father thought it best that my mother took my sisters and myself up to West Croydon. Safety in numbers I suppose. While there, we experienced the confines of an air raid shelter for the first time. My mother was unnerved and said if we were going to die it was best we return to Brighton to be with our father.

Soon we were caught up in the flow of daily life. There were many new faces and accents to be heard. There was a contingent of Canadian soldiers stationed nearby. This was in the vicinity of Walpole Terrace, where Brighton College is now. We had to get used to their nighttime manoeuvres. They made their presence felt in a number of ways and seemed to appear everywhere. Scaling walls with sturdy ropes and painted black faces. Some visits were not so welcome. One morning we heard our neighbour jumping up and down, a very angry man. He blamed the Canadians for stealing his prized onions! It caused quite a stir at the time.

One of my most vivid memories was being caught out in the open during an air raid. We had all trooped out of school for lunch to be met by everyone running for cover. The headmistress had locked the gates making it impossible for us to return to the school shelters. A German bomber was strafing the area while being chased by the RAF. Apparently it managed to drop its bombs on a school on or around Wilson Avenue. We survived but the headmistress was relieved of her duties.

The West Pier was partially destroyed so we spent time around the Palace pier. Either side the beaches were mined. The soldiers used to play football on the promenade. As with most things, danger lurked everywhere. A ball bounced onto the beach with tragic results. The soldier who tried to retrieve it was killed instantly.

The war had its highlights too. There used to be a pond in Queens Park. The army were trying out their new amphibian craft and invited “us kids” to jump on board and gave us rides across the pond.

From a family perspective, we supplemented our rations by growing vegetables. My dad really prized his gooseberries. He also built rabbit hutches. At its height, some 80 rabbits were housed and were used for barter.

Doodle bugs, were a fairly common sight. The RAF chased them from the rear in an attempt to turn them around and send them back to their “fatherland.”

The promise of romance was always in the air. My sister Peggy fell in love with a soldier from New Zealand, called Andrew. He was stationed at the Grand Hotel. Whenever they left for duty, he and his chums performed the “Haka”, the traditional Maori war dance, the noise! In April 1946 they got married at St. Lukes Church in Queens Park Road. Soon after she went out to New Zealand. In 1998 I went out to see my sister and, after 52 years being apart it was quite something!

This story was entered on The People's War Website by Sue Castro on behalf of Mrs E (Liz) Patching, who fully understands the site's terms and conditions.

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