- Contributed by
- People in story:
- DAVID RONALD APPS, BRYAN APPS (younger brother), late JOHN APPS (elder brother)
- Location of story:
- Eastleigh (Bishopstoke) and Chidham in Sussex
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 04 June 2005
This story has been written onto the BBC People's War site by CSV Storygatherer Coralie on behalf of David Ronald Apps. The story has been added to the site with his permission and David fully understands the terms and conditions of the site.
It was the summer of 1938 when my mother's cousin, on holiday from his work at the South African Gold mines, drove us passed the airport at Southampton (Eastleigh) to see one of the first Spitfires rolled out of the factory. At the age of four, all I remember was the excitement of all about me in the car. These are all childhood memories, I remember little of this, only my parents excitement as they made me look out of the window.
It must have been two years later, when spending a day with my grandparents, that we watched what I later realised was the Battle of Britain, out in the Country near Bosham Harbour. I was rushed indoors as a plane came down. But I remember the family row concerning my 12 year old brother, who raced off to find the wreck. He came back in triumphant, with a large part of twisted metal from a German plane. In later years I discovered what he had hidden from my father; a pistol taken from the dead pilot of the plane - for he had arrived before anyone else. He always claimed to be the Black Sheep of the family, and I think my father would have seconded that. But then these were the war years, with a different attitude towards life.
Later we faced the bombing of Southampton, and while petrol could still be bought, my father would drive us near Winchester when the air-raids started, to get under the trees in country lanes to avoid the bombing. I remember him driving out one evening, and us looking out of the car's back windows, and across the water meadows we could see just a huge red sky, which was Southampton burning! After one such raid, my father drove us where he could into Southampton to see the damage. All I remember was the ruins of a Church near the Bargate, where amongst the stones, some-one had placed upright, the brass processional cross. In all this wreckage some-one was not prepared to feel defeated.
It was some time much later, probably about 1943, and my memory is clearer, when one morning my mother shouted for my younger brother and I to rush up the stairs to see some aeroplanes. But as we got to the window, she shouted at us to get down quickly, that they were Germans. Having gone all the way upstairs to see them, I was in no mood to miss out, so while they crouched down I stood and watched as two low-flying planes, at window level, flew passed less that 100 feet away. I clearly saw the german markings, but what I remember most was the German pilot who saw me and waved! Never again could anyone convince me there was anything wrong with the Germans! Unfortunately I overheard my elder brother say in excitement, that one of them was shot down over the Solent, and I just hoped that it wasn't my nice pilot.
Yet another time my mother called my younger brother and I upstairs, during a gale. We were just in time to see a fire ball in front of the window. It was a barrage balloon from the Airport across the water meadows, that had broken loose and hit our house, then bounced next door to set their garage doors and house windows alight. We ran for safety while my mother and other mothers in the street formed a chain of buckets of water and put it out. The woman of the house most threatened, apparently stood like a statue in fright. When the fire engine came it was all over, but when the husband of the lady arrived, he profoundly thanked the firemen and apparently pulled out some notes exclaiming how they all deserved a drink, but gave no thanks to his exhausted neighbours. He was a jeweller and people wondered what money lay hidden in his house, to be in such a state!
© Copyright of content contributed to this Archive rests with the author. Find out how you can use this.