Part 06: The Odeon Cinema, Kemptown

Odeon Cinema
Image reproduced with permission from Brighton History Centre

Because I lived in Walpole Road my cinema was the Odeon Kemp Town. [I] remember it was completely black at night time, no street lights or shop lights, so you had to have a torch to get to the cinema. And there were no lights in the cinema; you had to go through double doors. You went through one door and closed it behind you before you opened the next one where the lights were you see.

The Odeon in Kemp Town was our really worst incident. The cinema was full and a bomb fell through the roof and exploded in the middle of the seats; killed a lot of people there. People often say “You went to the Odeon and that was the one that the bomb hit?” We always used to say at the time: “Well, lightening doesn’t strike twice in the same place!” The other thing was that you were a darn site safer [inside].

It would come up on the screen “Air raid warning in progress” because you couldn’t hear anything over the sound of the film and when the pips went it had got “Raiders Imminent” on the screen.

Someone said to me “Didn’t you get out quick?”, well no because our guns were firing up at these planes [and because of] the shells which they fired, bits of jagged hot metal were coming down out of the sky. You were a darn site safer in the cinema than you would have been outside trying to get home.

Tony Simmonds was interviewed for the My Brighton and Hove website by Zoe Woods.

Comments about this page

  • I was extremely lucky the day that the Odeon Kemptown was hit. I stand corrected, but it was a time bomb that hit the cinema, and it was the stampede that killed hundreds, mostly children, as ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ was showing. My Auntie May and I couldn’t  get in, and went for a walk along Marine Parade, and looked down on Maderia Drive, where the ack-ack guns were emplaced. You could also see where the mines were laid.That afternoon we finished up looking at Pop-Eye in his boat next to the Adelphi Hotel. My mother was frantic when we got home as she knew we had gone to the Odeon Kemptown that afternoon.

    By Ray Stoner (22/09/2011)
  • I spent the morning reading this, enthralled. I would so like to read this in its entirety. It appears to stop at part 13 unless I have missed it somehow. Any way of connecting to the family for some more extremely readable memoirs?

    By Jennifer Tonks (24/09/2011)
  • I feel it prudent to point out that the interview with Tony Simmonds by Zoe Woods was after he arrived in Brighton in 1942. The bombing of the Odeon Kemp Town was approximately 15h40 on Saturday September 14 1940. The film showing at the time was “The Ghost Comes Home” starring Billie Burke, Frank Morgan and Anne Rutherford. It was the other half of a double bill called “It Could Happen To You”. Inside the cinema twelve people were killed or died later from their injuries.

    By John Wall VK2 (24/09/2011)
  • I am still around though now in my 80s. If anyone wants to get in touch with me my Email address is

    By Tony Simmonds (22/02/2013)

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