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15 October 2014
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Three Very Lucky Escapes

by BBC Southern Counties Radio

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
BBC Southern Counties Radio
People in story: 
Patricia Sabine
Location of story: 
Hove, Sussex
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
26 August 2005

“This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Diana Bransby from the Haywards Heath Library and has been added to the website on behalf of Patricia Sabine with her permission and she fully understands the site’s terms and conditions”

In 1939 I was on holiday staying with my uncle and aunt, Charles and Dorothy Heath, in Old Shoreham Rd. Hove. It was decided that I should stay there as it was safer than returning home to London. (Apparently Hitler was saving Brighton Pavilion for himself!) Later, in 1940, my mother Patricia and the rest of the family came to join me because of the Blitz in London.

We lived near the Goldstone football ground, and I remember when a German Bomber decided to ditch his load before turning for home. He dropped them one by one, on the football ground, the cemetery and probably Portslade somewhere, since planes were often scrambled out from Shoreham and Tangmere which wasn’t far. We used to see dog-fights in the sky as we were so close to the coast and near those airfields.

We saw an impressive sight standing in our back garden one September afternoon, seeing these huge planes going overhead (Dakotas) towing gliders 40 or 50 at a time for what seemed like hours, they were painted underneath with thick black and white stripes, I suppose it was to make them recognisable to our own defences. We learnt later that they had all been on their way to Arnhem.

On another occasion a land-mine, dropped by parachute, landed on the spire of Bishop Hannington Church only 5 minutes from where we lived. These were not like other bombs as you couldn’t hear them falling, but we heard the parachute flapping, I can recall that sound now, it sounded just like Rolf Harris’s wobble-board!

What made the biggest impression on me was when I was about 12 or 13, sometime in 1942 or ’43, I was with my cousin Douglas Pirie who had come to visit whilst on leave from the army, we were standing at a bus-stop at the bottom of Sackville Rd., and we heard a loud repetitive noise that I couldn’t identify — but he must have known straight away what it was. Douglas grabbed me and we ran to the nearest house, these were large houses with long tiled paths up to the front door, he rapped loudly on the door but no-one was in. He did the same at several more houses along the street and still we couldn’t gain shelter. By this time the noise was getting so much louder that without hesitation he flung me to the ground and himself over me to protect me.
It was an ME109, we knew from its outline, and so low we could see the pilot’s head. I could clearly see the black and white markings underneath the aircraft, big thick black crosses outlined with a thin white border, just as I’d seen at the cinema but here was one right over my head! It was so vivid I can see it now. They’d come in over our coastline hedge-hopping, flying low to avoid the radar He strafed the street, then disappeared. For a few months it was a regular occurrence at 12pm and 4pm that was when children came out of school. You don’t forget something like that.

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