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15 October 2014
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A Shattering Lunchtime

by BBC Southern Counties Radio

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
BBC Southern Counties Radio
People in story: 
John Clements, Dorothy Clements, Wilfred Clements
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Contributed on: 
02 June 2005

I was born in Islington, London in 1939 and soon after the war started I moved down to Hove with my mother and father, Dorothy & Wilfred Clements. They thought it would be safer for us down near the coast, as opposed to London. At this time we rented a house at 33 Shirley Street, one of a row of terraced properties.

My father worked on a building site in Hove, but he was spotted and was asked why he wasn't in the forces and soon after he received his calling up papers. He then joined the Royal Sussex Regiment and soon after saw active service in Egypt and was sadly killed in Italy in 1944 in the Battle of Monte Cassino.

One day (I've recently been told it was almost certainly Monday 29th March 1943.) I was looking out of the front room window when I saw a man walk past the window and come up the short pathway to our front door. To me as a young child, he looked like Hitler, as he was rather thin and had a moustache. He knocked on the front door and I called out to my mother "Look, there's Hitler". It was a this moment that my mother heard an approaching aircraft and as quick as lightning she scooped me up and ran with me into the back room and literally threw me into the Morrison shelter that we had. She dived in after me and the blast from the bomb just caught the end of her toes.

There was an enormous bang as the bomb struck the house on the corner of our street and Goldstone Street. This house was only about 5 houses west of ours. Just across the street from us was a fish and chip shop and outside the shop as the bomb went off was a baby in a pram, I can only assume that the mother was in the shop.

The blast was quite incredible, as it first went across the street towards the fish and chip shop and killed the baby in the pram. The blast then rebounded across the street, hitting our house. The force of it knocked down our front door and took up the floorboards in the front part of the hallway, just as you would shuffle a pack of cards. Next, the blast travelled up the stairs and blew a hole in the roof. It also blew in the window of the front room which I had been looking out of a few seconds before.

There were glass fragments from the windows everywhere and I remember particularly the glass slivers in the sugar bowl, and slivers embedded in the margarine, a disaster, as sugar and margarine were pretty scarce at the time.

The blast also took out the back window and I can recall my mother telling me later that pieces of glass, deadly as bullets, flew past the shelter about one second after she got in it.

This story was submitted to the Peoples War site by Eleanor Fell on behalf of John Clements's and has been added to the site with her permission. John fully understands the sites' terms and conditions.

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