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15 October 2014
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Memories from Southwick, West Sussex 1940-42

by BBC Southern Counties Radio

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
BBC Southern Counties Radio
People in story: 
Mrs Vera Byatt, Her brother and friends
Location of story: 
Southwick, West Sussex
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
11 July 2005

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Karolyn Milam of Uckfield Community Learning Centre, a volunteer from BBC Southern Counties Radio on behalf of Mrs. Vera Byatt and has been added to the site with her permission. Mrs. Vera Byatt fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.

I lived near the harbour at Southwick, West Sussex, not far from Shoreham. Together with two friends I was walking down the road and saw three planes coming towards us. They were so low that you could see the pilots. At first my friends and I thought that they were British planes as they were so low and it was not until the pilots started shooting at us that they realized that they were enemy planes. We ran for the cover of a hedge, in the direction of the planes. Fortunately for us they missed. If we had run in the opposite direction we would have been hit. We were all very frightened. We were taken to the nearest air raid shelter and when the raid was over the warden took us home.

I lived near St. Michael’s Church in Southwick. My garden was next to the church. Along with many others I was packed and ready to be evacuated from Albert Road when a bomb dropped on the church. It did not go off but went down in sand and water. The bomb that dropped on Park Lane did go off, causing massive damage to the surrounding streets. The steeple of the church was dismantled and all the bricks were numbered so that it could be rebuilt after the war.

It took some time to make the bomb safe and they used to hold dances for the ‘Bomb Boys’,[ that is the name we gave to the bomb disposal soldiers] at the Red Triangle Club. Quite a few of the soldiers were French-Canadian, but our group were English.

My Brother and I were sent to Horsham for safety to a friend’s house. The boys had their lessons in a wooden hut but the girls had their lessons in a room adjoining the chapel. I can remember trying to concentrate on arithmetic lessons to the sound of Rock Of Ages. Now whenever I hear Rock of Ages I am reminded of the war years.

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