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15 October 2014
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The Beckford Family’s Story

by BBC Southern Counties Radio

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Archive List > Family Life

Contributed by 
BBC Southern Counties Radio
People in story: 
Mrs Margaret Cronin, (Margaret Beckford), Mr Harry Beckford, Mrs Louie Beckford, Kathleen Beckford, Barbara Beckford, Mr Cyril Beckford, Mrs Cheeseman, Jean and Brian Tullett, Mr William Hayler.
Location of story: 
London, Brighton
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
08 July 2005

Kathleen, Barbara and Myself early 1941.

This story was submitted to the Peoples War site by Jas from Global Information Centre Eastbourne and has been added to the website on behalf of Mrs Cronin with her permission and she fully understands the site’s terms and conditions

My story starts In Silvertown in First World War, 1917 when Dad was 16 years old.

He was on his way home from work with 3 mates passing Brunner Monds which was being used as a munitions factory, when there was a big explosion.

69 people died on the spot including 2 of Dad's mates and he was left with a leg blown off. 73 lost their lives altogether. 450 people were injured. The sound of the blast was heard and the shockwave felt all over London and Essex, it was heard over 100 miles away as far as Southampton and Norwich, the fires that followed where seen 30 miles away from as far as Guildford and Maidstone.

Nobody in the family knew where he was for 48 hours and an aunt who worked for the Red Cross found him very ill lying in a hospital in London.

Several years later he moved to Brighton, where he started a small shoe repair business, he had trained to be a surgical boot and shoe maker. At about the same time my mother had moved from Hampshire to Brighton and they were married in April 1934.

I was born in January 1936, Kathleen followed in May 1938 and Barbara followed in November 1939. Unfortunately Kathleen is no longer with us, she passed away in 1980.

At the time of my first memory of the war we were living in Queens Park Road, Brighton and we were at home one day when the air raid sounded.

Dad was at work at Brighton General Hospital, repairing shoes for the inmates of the workhouse, when our neighbour Mrs Cheeseman came around to help Mum to get us three children into the sandbagged tunnel between the houses.

All of a sudden she shouted, "Get down flat!" as a plane went over firing a machine gun down our street.

By the time I was 7 years old we had moved to Wiston Road, Whitehawk and my mum and her sister had taken a job between them at Wilsons Laundry.

They shared looking after the children as one worked mornings and the other afternoons, then they alternated this the following week.

It was during one particular day, the raids started at noon when children where on their way home from school, as we heard the siren we started to run and my sister Kathleen fell and cut her knee.

She was crying and I remember clearly saying to her "Don't worry about your knee, come on let's get to a shelter". We just knocked on a house and there was an old lady in there who let us sit in her shelter.

We finally were able to get out and go home at 1.30, and to my knowledge that was the day Wilson’s Laundry was hit and my aunt was inside when it took the hit.

She and some of the other women dived under a big sorting table for safety; she was very badly shaken but unhurt. During this time my mother had been worried, as she didn't know where we were, and she was stuck indoors with our cousin, Brian and little sister Barbara.

She was very relieved to see us come walking up the road.

In August 1943 us three children were permanently sleeping in the shelter. The air raid siren went one night and Mum and Dad joined us in the shelter when a plane came droning overhead quite low, and one of my parents said to the other " this is it!!” As it turned out the bomb dropped in the next street and sadly was a direct hit on St Cuthmans Church, killing one air raid warden, Mr William Hayler.
It was after the war we heard Dad's brother Cyril, had been drafted into the First SAS.

He was actually dropped behind enemy lines but survived.

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