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15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

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Childhood in Kemp Townicon for Recommended story

by Brian Hatley

Contributed by 
Brian Hatley
People in story: 
Brian Hatley
Location of story: 
Brighton, Sussex
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
21 February 2004

My earliest realistic memory is living in Montague Street, Brighton and taking cover beneath my mother's Singer Sewing machine, from bombs offloaded by fleeing German bombers after a daylight raid somewhere. I must have been about three or four years old. I remember the glass blown in from the front windows, laying all over the room. My big brother, Billy, had only moments before returned with a loaf of bread from the corner baker's shop, which received the direct hit. We had previously lived in Wentworth Street, where we had suffered similar damage, although I have no memory of this. We then moved to Rugby Place, where I was to spend most of the rest of the War, making many of the friends who remain to this day. The bombs continued to come, and once my mother screamed that she actually saw the bomber pilot sitting in the cockpit. They used to roar out to sea at virtually rooftop level, the noise and vibration very frightening indeed. That particular day, two houses in neighboring Bennett Road where taken out. Another time, in adjoining Whitehawk Road, several shops were hit, and there is a much published photo of the scene belonging to the Evening Argus. I went to St Marks Infants school in Arundel Road, and during one lunch hour, when we would go home, a bomb took out the adjoining gas holder. At the time, my father was on fire watch at Madeira Place and saw the column of flames. We never returned from that lunch hour until after the war. I had come into the world knowing nothing other than being at war with Germany. I didn't know what street lighting was, and couldn't understand why slot machines at rail stations did not dispense chocolate bars. My parents would tell me how, if the enemy were to invade, Dad would be shot, whilst Mum and the boys taken away to be melted down into soap! Having a brother seven years older, was marvellous - he was so interested in things like enemy aircraft, Spitfires, bullets, shrapnel (which we collected from the street after every air raid). I feel guilty for saying this, but it really was a most interesting and exciting time for a little boy. Imagine standing at a bus stop in Bristol Gardens whilst several Army tanks thundered past up the hill, within a few feet. Absolutely terrifying, but an experience I'll never forget. Nor will I forget when a friend's grandad was decapitated during an air raid, and his body stored in a lock-up garage. Us kids were transfixed by the stream of thick blood emerging out on to the pavement into the gutter.

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