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The last flying bomb to hit Eastbourne

by BBC Southern Counties Radio

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
BBC Southern Counties Radio
People in story: 
Anthony Barton, Brian Barton, Bessie Barton
Location of story: 
Eastbourne, East Sussex
Article ID: 
A4386468
Contributed on: 
07 July 2005

This story was added to the website by Eleanor Fell at the Hillcrest Centre in Newhaven, on behalf of Anthony Barton, who understands the site's terms and conditions.

In 1942 I moved from London to Eastbourne with my family, I was about 10 years old. My father, Frederick Barton, was in charge of a factory that made gun sights, Howard Pneumatic Engineering in Fort Road, Eastbourne. It was a specialist factory, and an important part of the war effort. My mother, Bessie Barton, and father rented a house in Eastbourne, and I live there with my two brothers, Brian and Collin.

The day I'll never forget is the day a flying bomb exploded opposite our house. It was August 7th, 1944 in the late evening. I was in the kitchn with my mother and older brother, Brian, and his friend. We had come in late from the Devonshire Park theatre and we all sat down at the kitchen table with a cup of cocoa.

My brother was sitting with his back to the back door and I sat opposite him. At about 11 o'clock I went up to bed, and I could hear a lot of aerial activity, such as planes engines whirring and gunfire. I can't recall hearing any air raid warnings, and at that age I don't remember feeling frightened it was just one of those things.

For some reason I looked out of the window, down the road towards Beachy Head, and I observed an aircraft which turned out to be a V1 on fire, engine running flat out, coming straight up our road.

My first thought was 'RUN!' I flew down the stairs - as only only small boys can - grabbed my mother from the kitchen and bundled her under the stairs and dived in after her. My brother and his friend were still sitting in the kitchen. We heard this enormous explosion, followed by silence, except for the sound of falling tiles.

My mother and I came out from under the stairs to see our two inch thick oak front door, buried in the end wall of the hall, if we'd have been there it would have killed both of us.

When I had gone up to bed earlier, my brother had taken my chair on the opposite side to the back door. It was very lucky that he had decided to move, for the chair that he had been sitting on was under the back door and was sticking straight through it. Both he and his friend were covered in white plaster dust with blood running down their faces, or so we thought. It turned out, to our delight, that the blood was actually cocoa!

The force of the blast had blown the cocoa clear out of their cups and had covered their faces, so they looked like ghosts, splattered with the remains of their bedtime drink.

Outside it was as dark as the grave, but a nearby cornfield was full ablaze, as the hot metal from the explosion had set the crops on fire. I later found out that 16 people were injured, but no one luckily was killed.

The house was a wreck, there were splinters of glass in the headboard of my bed - so it's lucky I shot down the stairs. There was a piece of shrapnel in the carpet which gave off a lovely burning smell and I kept it as a souvenier - of the last flying bomb to hit Eastbourne!

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