World War II

Wartime Christmas in Brighton

By Andy Grant

Coastal curfew imposed

Brighton had continued to operate as a holiday resort during the initial phase of the war, even to the extent that children had been evacuated to the town “to enjoy a glorious holiday”. However, after the surrender of France on June 20th 1940, Brighton saw it’s piers severed, beaches closed, esplanades fortified and public access to the town limited. It had become subjected to the restrictions of the coastal curfew placed upon public entertainments and places of resort after 10:30pm.

Relaxed restrictions for Christmas

In 1942, as a gesture of seasonal goodwill, the Regional Commissioner, Viscount Monsell, relaxed these restrictions for the nights of Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve. For those nights only it was conceded that visitors from outside of the area would be permitted into the curfew area until 01:00am. It was further conceded that premises within the curfew area (which usually had to close at 10:15pm) would be allowed to close at 11:00pm and those outside of it at 12:30am (subject to obtaining the necessary Justice’s License).

Photo:In 1940 as an anti-invasion measure the beach, gardens and pools, were mined and wired off. The childrens paddling pool seen here with the adjoining putting green were laid out on the lower promenade in the 1930s.

In 1940 as an anti-invasion measure the beach, gardens and pools, were mined and wired off. The childrens paddling pool seen here with the adjoining putting green were laid out on the lower promenade in the 1930s.

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

This page was added on 24/12/2012.
Comments about this page

I remember paddling in that pool before the war - then all the beaches were mined and wired off for more than 6 years. I remember the bottom of the pool was coloured sky blue. Then we could go on the West Pier which had a tea room with a small orchestra and was a treat as our tram stopped at Pool Valley nearer to the Palace Pier. That had always been downmarket from the West Pier and had penny machines which had "What the butler saw" machines and which showed nude women - I think - because we were banned from looking! But there were many machines for a penny and it was such fun!

By Stevie Hobbs (02/02/2013)

The day the evacuees from London arrived, they came to the end of our road in the evening and families were asked to come and take children from the group. I suppose their names were taken but it all seemed so disorganised and my Nan - our foster mother - said we'll wait until those children are left that nobody wanted. We had two sisters from the East End and they both wore glasses and were spotty so perhaps that's why nobody chose them. They weren't the last because there were some tough-looking boys and we couldn't have boys because we were an all girls household after our foster brother went in the army. We only had three bedrooms and I can't remember how we all fitted in but we managed somehow. People shared beds in those days and for my early years I shared Nan's bed which gave me a feeling of security. I remember them crying at meal times because we didn't give them fish'n'chips which it appears was all they ever had! Their mother came once I think - but didn't seem too worried about her children. Betty, the older one, could dance and taught me some tap dancing steps. Once we made a tent in the back garden and slept out there one night. We draped a blanket over the washing line and made do with that. Two chairs and a cloth draped over them covered one end in. How lucky we were that we were allowed to do this. There was no bombing in Brighton at that time happily. The sun always seemed to be shining that summer. Soon things changed and the evacuees went home and I was to be evacuated to friends in America. The government had a scheme whereby people could send their children if they had relatives there so only the wealthy were able to afford this but I suppose not enough were found so the government decided to pay for the poorer kids to go on the ships. We had a medical officer come to the school who told my mother, who had arrived for the occasion as it was her cousins I was going to, that I had a heart murmur so I couldn't go. Mother was raging because she thought she was going to get me off her hands - not that I saw much of her - and it was explained to her that America wouldn't take any child who wasn't fit and that was the matter closed. In the event I would have been on the City of Benares which was sunk off New York by a Uboat. Most of the children drowned, so I'm here and have outlived them all. I did have a heart op five years ago which gave me parts of a pig's heart and that has taken over the faulty valve and some of the aorta. Not bad for an 83 year old woman!

By Stevie Hobbs (03/02/2013)

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