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15 October 2014
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by BBC Southern Counties Radio

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
BBC Southern Counties Radio
People in story: 
Maurice Sargent
Location of story: 
Guestling, Pett, Fairlight, Broomham House
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
18 July 2005

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Ted Newcomen from the Hastings Community Learning Centre and has been added to the website on behalf of Maurice Sargent with his permission & he fully understand the site’s terms & conditions.

My name is Maurice Sargent and in 1939 I was aged about four years old, living with my parents in Woodside Chapel Lane in Guestling, East Sussex. During the Battle of Britain, German bombers came over regularly every night. My Dad had built a large underground shelter in the back garden that many of our neighbours came to when the air raid warning sounded. Sometimes we would sit in the shelter all night. People didn’t seem frightened, as it became a regular occurrence and they got used to the bombs, searchlights, and flashes from the anti-aircraft guns nearby.
Every night my Dad would close up the shutters on the windows of our house to keep the blackout. He even had his carbide lamp on his bicycle painted black with just a slit to shine onto the ground — I still have it somewhere at home.
My father was too old to be called up but was in the local Home Guard and most nights was on duty at Guestling Thorn. I can remember walking back with my parents one evening after my Father came off duty as all the guns opened up in the fields and the searchlights picked out the bombers in the night sky. Lots of incendiary bombs set fire to farm buildings, especially in the Three Oaks area.
One evening, at about 6 p.m., in July 1943, I was walking to attend the choir at Guestling Church when a solitary German aircraft dived down and machine-gunned me. I jumped into a ditch and managed to chip a couple of my front teeth on my tin helmet, which I carried everywhere with me.
Later, in 1944, during the daytime I used to go down to the fields near Fairlight & watch the Doodlebugs passing over, some of which were shot down by our guns.
One night we were woken up by a huge explosion which shook the whole house when a Doodlebug landed in a field nearby, killing about 20 cows. To this day you can still see the crack in the wall caused by the rocket.
Later, the American & Canadian troops arrived and were billeted in the fields by Peter James Lane and in nearby Broomham House (now Buckswood School), where my Mother worked in the gardens during the war years. I can also remember long queues of lorries and jeeps, waiting to fill up with fuel at Pett Garage & another garage in Chapel Lane, Guestling.
The soldiers had a huge pot for cooking up soup in the middle of the field. They would often give the local kids sweets and chocolates and chewing gum (which we had never seen before). This was a real treat, as we all had to rely on ration books. A lack of meat meant local people would often treat themselves to rabbit pie.
Another night we were all woken by a terrific whistling sound and looked outside to see jets flashing across the sky towards London. We had no idea what they were at the time and only later found out they were the first of the new V2 rockets.
After D-Day, all the troops left and it went very quiet. From being in the front line, we became a bit of a backwater & just read about the war’s progress in the newspapers.
Near the end of the war a lot of German POW’s (Prisoners of War) came to work on local farms with the Land Girls. Some of them even married local women and their families still live in the area to this day.
On VE Day there was a big party in Guestling Village Hall to celebrate the end of hostilities in Europe but it was still many years before rationing finally came to an end.

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