Stevie Hobbs' Reminiscences

Bombing of Hollingdean abbatoir

By Stevie Hobbs nee Stevens

Fifty girls under one table

The first time I was really close to a bombing was when a bomb fell in our road. I wasn't there but in the local church hall, with the Girls Life Brigade. We'd heard the sirens but just carried on. Then the pips went, so we knew they were overhead. We still carried on as there was nowhere to go, but when the first bomb dropped, large lumps of ceiling fell and the windows flew in all over us. We all dived under the only table in the room. This was instinctive as we had been told to do this if a bomb fell. Imagine 50 girls all trying to get under one small table. Too late because we were all covered in plaster and choking, and we looked like ghosts. Still, none of us was hurt, and a bit later, the "All clear" went, and an Air Raid Warden came in and said that the bomb had fallen in my road. He said we'd all better get home.     

What a sight to see

Photo:The 'Dust Desctructor'

The 'Dust Desctructor'

Image reproduced with kind permission of The Regency Society and The James Gray Collection

When I got home to Hollingbury Road, what a sight it was to see. The bomb had fallen in the local abattoir. Also there was what was known locally as the  "Dust Destructor"; this was a huge chimney, built in 1869, and all the rubbish of the town was burned there. We used to go and play there in the evenings and watch huge black rats sorting through the debris and ignoring us as if we weren't there. It was opposite the bottom of Hollingbury Road, and we lived in No. 5, very near the bottom. There wasn't a window left intact in the road as far as I could see, and glass everywhere.

The 'wartime spirit'

Everyone was out in the road and I was sucked into the embrace of my foster mother,whom I called "Nan", who had thought I'd been killed. Somehow, kids get used to things and make the best of them. I just thought how much I had to brag to friends about then. This was where the "Wartime spirit" came into action. Everyone was laughing and doing things for each other. It was summertime and in wartime we had ‘Double British Summertime’ which meant it was light after 11 o’clock. So we were able to stay up and watch everything that went on. We had nowhere to sleep anyway.

My brave sister

In no time at all an empty shop on the corner opposite Mr Chalk’s shop, had opened up, and teams of men and women were sitting there and taking reports from every household about damage they had suffered. I think no-one was killed but lots would have suffered cuts, these would have been handled by first-aid people and ambulance crews. My sister used to help with this work, she was so brave. When she was 16, she wore a tin hat and had a special gas mask; when the sirens went, she used to run two miles up Hollingbury Road and down Preston Drove to Preston Manor. Often she did this trip in the middle of the night, in blackout. When the bomb fell on Kemp Town Odeon she was there too, helping save those kiddies left alive; I was so proud of her.

 

This page was added on 22/10/2011.
Comments about this page

As a pupil at the Downs School (1954-1960) I used to look up at the Dust Destructor chimney and imagine there was a tiny little alternative world on its top (I think this was influenced by something I saw in a Superman comic.) Never knew it had been bombed during the war. Has anyone got any pictures of it being demolished? Must have been quite a sight.

By Len Liechti (30/10/2011)

Although I was little I remember this air raid. One bomb fell in our road, we lived at 42 Dudley Rd, my Grandfather and Grandmother lived at number 58. The next morning I went and had a look in the crater, it had missed houses each side of the road....My first sight of a pothole.

By Rioy Scarborough (03/11/2011)

That is one mystery solved for me. I wondered for years why the area opposite the council yard was known as Chalk's Corner and later became a car tuning shop called Formula One I believe. What did Mr Chalk sell in his shop I wonder? Does anyone know the answer?

By Alan Spicer (15/01/2013)

From 1954 to 1957 we lived at number 7 Hollingbury Road with my nan and grandad, so I do remember the old dust yard. My nan used the corner shop all the time. I can visualise the inside of Miss Chalk's shop, like it was yesterday. Little old Mrs Chalk used to sit in the adjoining room, by a paraffin stove that always had a kettle on it. I loved the smell. Along the front of the counter was a row of open tin boxes that had biscuits in them and it used to fascinate me watching Miss Chalk weigh out the potatoes in a big scale that she tipped up to pour them into your shopping bag. I was always a bit wary of Miss Chalk (Doris), she was very straight laced. She always called me 'maiden' - all very old fashioned.  My nan also had a lodger living in the house 'uncle Bert' an old soldier - and he was one of the few people in the road who owned a car - an old Morris Oxford, which he kept in the garage next to Chalks shop, you can just see it in the photo. In 1957 we moved around the corner to 15a Upper Hollingdean Rd. My grandparents remained in Hollingbury Rd until the 70s.

By Irene Dobson (02/05/2014)

The air raid shelter tours at Downs School this weekend Saturday-Monday 3-5 May 2014, 11am-5pm, free entry, no disabled access.  More info at www.partial-facsimile.org 

By LW (04/05/2014)

Thanks LW for reminding me about the air raid shelter open days at the Downs. I took my daughter and grandaughter to have a look down the shelter. I was amazed at how far under the playground the corridors spread. It must have been a lot of hard work digging it out. To enter, we climbed down some metal steps at the emergency exit. I was disappointed not to see the top of the shelter, with the entrance door, which we used to climb on in the playground - apparently it was flattened and the canteen was built where it once stood. Walking through the Infants' gate and down the slope, took me back to my first day at school in 1955. Irene Dobson (nee Budd)

By Irene Dobson (06/05/2014)

Thank you for an interesting article Stevie. I remember the dust destructor very well as I also went to the Downs School nearby, from 1959 to 1961. It would be difficult to drive an old Morris Oxford, or any other vehicle, in or out of that garage now, Irene. The structure is still there, but the front entrance has been bricked up, rendered and painted, and a dark green telecom cabinet has been placed on the pavement immediately in front of it!

By Alan Hobden (06/05/2014)

Hi to all who might remember me from Downs especially Len Leichti. Re the dust destructor. Sorry to disappoint you, the chimney coming down was not very dramatic as it was taken down by two London labourers by pickaxe. They stood on the top and broke it up with pickaxes - I watched through binoculars from the garden of 23 Hollingbury Road and found it terrifying! Fond memories of a happy time at school with good teachers and pupils. Regards to all, David

By David Kydd (26/08/2015)

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