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Front Line Eastbourne

by threecountiesaction

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
threecountiesaction
People in story: 
Mr Steel
Location of story: 
Eastbourne, Bristol.
Article ID: 
A4691351
Contributed on: 
03 August 2005

This story was submitted to the People’s War Site by Three Counties Action, on behalf of Mr R.A Steel, and has been added to the site with his permission. The author fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.

My experience started 7th July 1940 when the first bombs in Eastbourne hit
I was 11 and half and went round to my father’s newspaper shop with his breakfast in a basket, he left me at the shop and he ran up to the seafront to deliver the papers.

While he was away a German bomber came inland 8-10 miles and he came back and I saw these little black specks coming from the aircraft people we shouting get inside get inside I saw the first one hit and I ran inside, my father came dashing back on his bike, people were saying the road names that had been hit and we found it was Whitley Rd that had been hit. The neighbour’s house was completely flattened. I had to go to my sisters flat until my mum brother and sisters arrived and we had to wait until people volunteered to have us for the night. We were moved from the east side to the west side up the top of a hill near beachy head we stayed there for several weeks, we used to sit on the top of the hill and watch the battle of Britain and all the vapour trails in the sky from the bombs.

We wanted to stay in Eastbourne and not be evacuated but after we saw another bomber come over my dad went to get the tickets for the train for us to be evacuated to Bristol, we’d only just got there and we saw a squadron come over trying to bomb Chiltern aerodrome and we’d just moved from the coast. We stayed up there and I became a farmer’s boy at 12 I learnt to milk the cows muck out and groom the two grey horses and I used to ride them bareback, I could just about grab its mane and ride it round the field.
We’d been there 17b months and we heard that it was safer in Eastbourne and my mum and younger sister and I went back and lived in our bombed out house.

Three months later they started the tip and run raids all along the coastal towns about once or twice a month Eastbourne was the most hit by these. They come in at sea level and then fly 50ft over the houses and drop their bombs willy nilly. At went on from May 42 to June 43 and you got a feeling that a raid was coming you’d get intuition as you got used to it happening. More often than not I used to get it right and a raid would happen that week, I worked in the air raid repair dept waterproofing and repairing damaged houses so I got to know the pattern. I worked there till the war ended and then worked for the council. I got called up for national service in 1947 for the RAF and I served for two and a quarter years as a tele printer operator in signals.

Seven days after the dday landing the v1 flying era started and it lasted 13 weeks from June 1944 and it finished about Sept 1944 these v weapons came over night and day my mum and sister were evacuated as they still had the shock of the bomb next door and couldn’t sleep.
Me and my father stayed, there seemed to be a route over our house and they were coming over every 10 or 15 mins 24/7 they bought down the heavy ack-ack and they had them in batches of 8, radar controlled, they were following the route of the flying bomb and the sky used to light up, the thousands of shells that went up was unbelievable. You couldn’t stand out side and watch as the shrapnel would come raining down. It was unbelievable. Now and again they would hit one and there would be an orange and red glow.

One night we were standing at the gates of the recreation ground and we heard a swoosh of the rocket and an explosion and we said that must have been a rocket, well they didn’t say that they were rockets until later on they used to call them gas explosions. We got to the farmers field where it had hit and we got there before the police and we got off our bikes and looked in the crater and saw the rocket motor. I’d say the crater was 30 ft deep by 30ft wide, we were told to hop it by the police and we were told to keep quiet and not tell anyone. That was in Sept 1944. In the books I’ve got there is no mention of this.

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