Memories of WWII

Photo:Photo: Often people would join a queue not even knowing what it was for!

Photo: Often people would join a queue not even knowing what it was for!

Image reproduced with permission from Brighton History Centre

Photo:Photo of a Brighton street party - do you know anyone in this photo? Email jennifer@mybrightonandhove.org.uk

Photo of a Brighton street party - do you know anyone in this photo? Email jennifer@mybrightonandhove.org.uk

Image reproduced with permission from Brighton History Centre

VE day and beyond

By Bob Wells

War came, along with a lot of restrictions. No more beach and instead we had blackout curtains, so lights were on all the time at night, and rationing. The people muddled through and mostly helped each other out. If the butcher had any sausages (off ration) or other titbits word soon got around and a queue soon formed. The same applied to other things as well, like coal (we were allowed 14 or 28lbs each) to stop hoarding.

German planes and our gas masks
The war struck in our district with a bit of machine gunning by Germans going back to their base. A lot were shot down over the sea. Some didn't make it, like the plane brought down about 200 yards away from our house in St Nicholas' Churchyard. The pilot from that plane is buried in Bear Road Cemetery. At this time we had to go to an A.R.P station at the top of Gloucester Road to be fitted for gas masks. These had to be carried at all times in a little cardboard box around our shoulders. Sometimes there were spot checks to see if we were carrying them as the boxes were often used to carry other things. In school we sometimes had to do lessons in them, to get used to wearing them.

VE day
On VE day the war in Europe was over. People went wild, laughing, singing and dancing in the streets and public places. I spent that night up till about 11 o'clock, sitting up a lamp post outside the Quadrant pub at the Clock Tower. My brother had put me up there out of the way so that I could see what was going on.

Getting into the cinema
After VE day people got more light-hearted, even though the queues were still there. In fact some rationing stayed well into the Fifties. In those days when you had the money, you could go to the cinema. A lot of the films were about war and heroics, therefore they were "A" certificated, which meant you had to be over 16 to go in on your own. I used to ask people to take me in, after I had paid them my money. Usually they would, all it meant was we had to sit with them. I don't think this could happen these days because of the threat of being molested.

Dismantling the war
All the servicemen from all nations suddenly left our town and things slowly began to get back as they had been. The army took away their BOFAR guns, which were all along the seafront. The beaches were cleared of mines and the barbed wire on posts was taken down. On the seafront the only thing that remained of the war were the gaps in each of the piers. These had been made in case of invasion so that the enemy would not be able to use them to unload supplies. About 5 months later, the atom bomb was used, and despite the horror of the pictures seen in the cinemas, it brought about a speedy end to the war.

Additional material: Jennifer Drury
Added to the site on 12-05-05 
This page was added on 22/03/2006.
Comments about this page
Can you tell me if the top picture is Church Road, Hove, near Forfars?
By Sue (19/08/2005)
Sue: No - the photo is not Church Road, it is Dyke Road, by the Seven Dials. The photo is looking from the Dials towards BHASVIC. Davies & Cowley had 2 shops at the Dials, the one in the photo is approximately where the bookmakers is now, opposite the Co-op. The other one was on the junction of Bath Street and Dyke Road. My wife's grandmother, Mrs Cane, is the lady dressed in a light jacket, towards the rear of the queue.
By Peter Groves (25/12/2005)
I remember going to the pictures using the same method ! I would like to find out more about Brighton Central School. Did you go to that school? If so when (I was there between 1944 &1949)?
By Dennis Morris (09/04/2006)

V.E. Day. What a thrill! People went joyously mad. The whole of the seafront stretching from Black Rock and just past the West Pier was packed with almost hysterical men and women of all description, servicemen included. The same also occurred in the Old Steine area extending up towards Kemp Town one way and up to Western Road the other. The crowd mass also extended more or less the length of The Level. Almost anything was laughed at - and the police were helpless. The town was jammed to a standstill with one man I noticed, carrying an old car horn, standing at the traffic lights in Old Steine. When the lights changed to green he honked the horn and stopped the traffic, allowing vehicles coming from the other direction to attempt almost the impossible of travelling through the crowd over the junction; and so it went on for well into the night. Nothing could move much at all. Bursts of wartime songs generated the air with an exuberance not seen for years; and anything that the man with the horn did was cheered.  I wonder what was written in the Argus on that occasion? Maybe someone will say!

By Ron Spicer (27/07/2008)

I too was around the Clock Tower on VE evening. See the extract from my diary for that day and also for VJ Day. My brother in law John Knight remembers being at the bottom of West Street with his fellow Australian airmen. We were all singing "Give me land lots of land and the starry skies above, Don't fence me in".

By Tony Simmonds (28/02/2013)

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