Local historian Douglas d’Enno is proud to announce the forthcoming publication, in August or possibly earlier, of his latest volume. entitled Brighton at War 1939–45. It is the first full-length and in-depth study of the Second World War as lived in Brighton and its suburbs.
It contains a fascinating mix of photographs, many previously unpublished, and line drawings, all fully captioned. It includes extracts from a memorial roll of local casualties, civilian and service, which had lain undisturbed in Brighton’s parish church for nearly 70 years. The book records personal recollections of the war years based on interviews conducted by the author with local residents, and incorporates a section on the role of Brighton’s fishermen and their boats at Dunkirk, – and the less well-known ‘other Dunkirk’ at St Valéry-en-Caux.
Long before war was declared on 3 September 1939, Brighton had steadily and carefully prepared for the coming conflict by building shelters, organising defence and rescue services, and providing the population with advice of its own or from government sources. These precautions stood the town in good stead when the first bombs fell on it in mid-1940 and during the many subsequent attacks.
The resort did not, admittedly, suffer as grievously as some other coastal locations, yet civilian casualties totalled nearly 1,000, with over 200 deaths recorded in the civic Book of Remembrance. Serious injuries were sustained by 357 and slight injuries by 433. This is not the first book to reveal the toll of the bombs locally, but it is the first to describe, in parallel, day-to-day events and societal responses during the nearly six years of conflict.
As elsewhere, restrictions often made life arduous for residents. Yet despite the hardship, the town’s citizens even marshalled sufficient resources to ‘adopt’ two battleships and generously saved towards assisting with other wartime causes, such as help to our ally, Russia. The hospitality trade and resort-related services suffered greatly during the periods when the defence ban on entering the town was enforced. In many respects, however, life went on largely as before, particularly in the spheres of entertainment, leisure and some sports.
The author, a well-known authority on the history of Brighton and environs, shows in meticulous detail, in absorbing text and numerous pictures, how life in wartime Brighton was a struggle for many, but never dull.