Local History Resources

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Brighton Diaries by Ken Chambers

By Jennifer Drury

Memories of a Young Man in Peace and War 1929-1943

Ken Chambers grew up in the QueensPark area of the city. In Brighton Diaries he takes the reader back to his birthplace and those pivotal times during the 1930s and the early period of WWII. Ken's remembrances of his adolescent years are filled with close friends, with idyllic camping trips and long walks along the cliff tops.  

Joined the RAF
When WWII started, in order to learn to fend for himself and also 'do his bit' for the war effort, Ken moved north to work on a farm; he then joined the RAF. It was a time in his life when letters became the means of maintaining precious contact with his family and friends.  

Tribute to his cousin
Ken revisited his extensive collection of diaries, notes and letters in order to write his book. In particular, he wanted to chronicle a tribute to his cousin Cyril who was his closest friend and boon companion. Cyril lost his life in WWII and it is clear that it was a loss still keenly felt today.  

An extraordinary story
We are all used to seeing the diaries of the rich and famous on the bookshop shelves.  Ken Chambers is neither rich nor famous, but his is an illustration of an ordinary life which became an extraordinary story. His writing style is fresh and engaging and his literary voice a mixture of youthful exuberance and the wisdom of old age.   

I would thoroughly recommend this book. For those of Ken's own generation it will be a wonderful trip down memory lane. For the younger reader it will provide a unique glimpse into a world far from their own experiences.   You can buy Brighton Diaries: Memories of a Young Man in Peace and War 1929-1943 at local bookshops and online at Amazon. ISBN: 978-0954429959

This page was added on 30/07/2009.
Comments about this page

If Ken Chambers lived in or near Queens Park Road, and went to St' Luke's Terrace Senior Boys School in the years 1933 through 1936, then I was in the same class with him during those years. One of the things I remember about Ken, if it is him, was that Mr Pollard's class (I think) was enacting a trial in which I was a witness. Ken was playing the part of a solicitor and he asked me "are you hard up for 7s and 6d (which was the fee paid to witnesses)?" The implication, that I was only acting as a witness to get money, astonished me so much that I was speechless and had to stand down. I can't remember much about Ken except that he was tall, articulate, and well dressed, and I seem to remember he lived in or in a street that ran off Queens Park Road, perhaps near or in Carlyle or Arnold Streets. I wasn't a particular friend of Ken, though he may remember me as the bell monitor or prefect that used to ring the big bell in the bell tower above the entrance at 9 am, to signal that all boys should be in school, or be marked as late. My birthday is November 2, and we were forced to leave school at the end of the year in which we became 14, so I had to leave at the end of 1936. I became an apprentice at the Portslade works of Southdown Bus Company, and learned welding, which placed me in a reserved occupation when I became 18, at the end of 1940. Although I joined the RAF Volunteer Reserve, I did not get into the RAF for training as a flight engineer until 1943, when aeroplane manufacture became less urgent because supplies were coming from the USA. After the war I worked as an industrial photographer for Machinery Publishing Company in West Street, Brighton, then as an editor for the weekly Machinery magazine. In 1967 I came to live in New Jersey, in the USA, working as a technical editor, where I still live. I intend to buy Ken's book, which I hope will say something about St. Luke's, and would love to hear from him, or anyone else who was at St. Luke's when I was (we were). My e-mail address is regreen@juno.com, so please send me a few lines.

By Robert (Bob) Green (09/08/2009)

Help!!! I tried to order Ken Chambers' book, but Amazon cannot recognise either the title or the ISBN number you gave, Perhaps the book has not yet been released. If Ken sees this, and can organise a copy for me, I'd be pleased to send him a cheque (check) in US dollars, or could get my wife's cousin, Reg Hook, who lives in Patcham, to send a cheque in UK pounds. Hope to hear soon, regreen@juno.com

Editor's note: HERE is the link to the Amazon page which gives the book details and how to buy.

By Robert (Bob) Green (09/08/2009)

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