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15 October 2014
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Machine gunned in Hastings

by alan_le_smith

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
alan_le_smith
People in story: 
Peggy Hollands
Location of story: 
Hastings, Sussex
Background to story: 
Civilian
Article ID: 
A6152726
Contributed on: 
15 October 2005

A girl's war in Hastings
People in story: Reg, Frances, Peggy and Leslie Hollands
Location of story: Hastings, Sussex

I was 10 years of age when World War 2 broke out. That really was the end of my childhood. From then on life changed. Schools were evacuated to other parts of the country. Mother in her wisdom sent us away with one of her sisters and her children. It wasn't a good idea. My younger brother, Lesley, and I have never forgotten when Dad sent us each a postal order for 2s and 6d. We were so happy, pocket money at last, but our Aunt took the orders away from us. We were so upset we met our sister, Frances, (who was working for the Air Ministry) as she got off her bus after work and told her. She took us straight to the pub which was also the village shop and bought us some sweets. My older brother, Reg, was in the army. After a while as we were unhappy we went home to Mum and Dad. We managed to get in a school that opened and I went 3 days a week. Luckily our teacher (actually a science teacher) was good and I enjoyed lessons and had a good mixture of subjects. My father decided to write to the education authorities to ask if I could sit the 11 plus. I did and passed. So I was sent to a school at Ware in Hertfordshire. I only stayed for 2 terms. When I went home at Easter Dad was horrified to hear that I had to do sewing for the people I lived with. They did button holes and sewed buttons on lumber jackets. My buttonholes didn't pass (not neat enough) so I sewed buttons on.
Then at 14 I went to work in a shop. Once on my afternoon off I went into Town (Hastings) on a tram. Coming back, to save a penny, I got off the bus to walk through the park home. The air was suddenly filled with planes, bombs were dropping and I heard machine gun bullets around me. It was a hit and run raid. As I walked up to my road all I could see was dust and rubble. I climbed over it and someone (I've no idea who) took my arm and said "Your sister's all right she's at the ARP station". I then realised our home was wrecked. A bomb had dropped in the middle of the road and bounced across to the school opposite our house. The school was one that had been closed down at the beginning of the war. Unfortunately, the caretaker and his wife still lived in the house next to it. So many friends and neighbours lost their lives that day.
My mother was visiting one of her sisters, my younger brother was at school. My father was told our area was flattened so rushed home. He came up to me and said "Where's your mother?" I told him and said that Frances was all right. Then he said go and get me 5 Park Drive tipped. He hadn't smoked since they had put the price up so I knew he felt bad. One neighbour I remember came out and cried "My home, my home that I've worked and slaved for". Really thinking back she didn't give a thought to all the dead neighbours. Are we all that selfish?
We stayed at one of my Aunt's until the authorities put us in a requisitioned house - it was called Wynsted. Wyn and Ted had been killed by glass while out shopping some time before. That's why the house was empty. I remember once Lesley and I watching a plane high up in the sky dropping his bombs before it crossed the channel. They often dropped them on us if they couldn't get through to London.

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These messages were added to this story by site members between June 2003 and January 2006. It is no longer possible to leave messages here. Find out more about the site contributors.

Message 1 - Machine gunned in Hastings

Posted on: 15 October 2005 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

Dear Peggy

I read your story with very great interest. Particularly the Hit and Run raid that you so vividly describe.

You say it happened when you were 14 and that you were returning from town on your afternoon off. The only Hit and Run raid that fits that happened at 3.34 PM on Thursday 11 March, 1943.

On that afternoon twenty-seven FW 190s attacked Hastings The fighter-bombers crossed the coast at Fairlight, three miles east of Hastings, in three formations, and flew north to Gosling, where one bomb was dropped. They then turned west and south, flying across the town in line abreast at rooftop height, from the north-east. The Silverhill district was badly hit and the Royal East Sussex and Buchanan Hospitals were damaged, and the railway was blocked. In total, they dropped 25 bombs, which killed thirty-eight people, injuring forty-one, with 40 houses destroyed. The raid was very swift, lasting just six minutes. It must have been terrifying for you.

Kind regards,

Peter

 

Message 2 - Machine gunned in Hastings

Posted on: 06 November 2005 by alan_le_smith

Dear Peter,
Thank you very much for your letter. I will copy it out and send it on to my Mum (she isn't into new technology) who will be fascinated to read your response.

Thanks again - Alan

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