The bombing of Compton Road
Our house is hit
There was a hit and run bombing raid in Compton Road, which is in direct line with the viaduct over Lewes Road, at 12 noon on the 23rd May 1943. A plane dropped bombs obviously meant for the viaduct, but missed its target and so they dropped on our house, the house next door and damaged the houses either side. I was at work, so I didn’t have any personal involvement with the bombing. Numbers 22 & 24 Compton Road were completely demolished.
Buried under the house
My mother and my sister, who was seven months pregnant at the time, and my mother’s neighbour, luckily went into the Anderson shelter of 22 Compton Road. This was very lucky because we didn’t always use it when the sirens went. But I think because it was the middle of the day they thought it might be a genuine raid. Anyway they were all buried under the house. Luckily in Caffyns Garage in Dyke Road there was a group of soldiers training to be mechanics and they were immediately sent round to help get people out.
‘Mind the baby!’
They got my mother and our neighbour out, but had a bit of a problem with my sister because she kept saying ‘mind the baby’ and they were looking for a baby. Of course when they reached her they realized what she meant. The poor lady in number 24 was killed. They were all taken to Brighton General Hospital where coincidentally, my father was Head of the Grounds. He could actually stand at work and look across and see the houses in Compton Road and Inwood Crescent, and he felt that he could see a gap where his house had been. He was told his family had been brought in and was very relieved to find out that my sister and mother had survived. My sister had her son Malcolm two months later and had no complications at all; he now lives in Australia.
I was working at the Brighton G.P.O. Telegraphs in Ship Street and there was a phone call for me from a man. Now this was strictly not allowed, as there were quite a few problems with many ladies working there the men all being called up, and there were too many personal calls. Our supervisor, Miss McIntosh, who I should imagine has died by now, told the caller that he would not be able to speak to me, as personal calls were not allowed. He told her he was a doctor at the Brighton General Hospital and he wanted to tell me some sad personal news. I was naturally very sad at the news but my colleagues were quite thrilled to think that Miss McIntosh had been put in her place!
Where to go?
The family was left with the clothes they stood up in because everything was buried under the rubble. It was such a mess; everything was torn and smashed, so we couldn’t save anything because it was too damaged. The only thing was my mother swore that a lady, who shall remain nameless, did appear in one of my mother’s dresses. That night my father, myself and our lodger, Norah Wells were catered for at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Dyke Road. My father went to stay at my sister’s flat in Dyke Road after the first night, as he was very upset but we stayed in the church hall until the family rented a flat in Dyke Road. My mother never really recovered from the shock and she suffered from nerves and angina afterwards and would never let my father buy another house.
Our house was eventually rebuilt but number 24 and 26 were left as wasteland for several years and then a small block of flats was built on the land. My father always complained that the house wasn’t of the same quality when it had been rebuilt, as there was a terrible problem with damp that hadn’t existed before. My parents didn’t ever live there again but my sister and her husband took over the family house and had another son some time later. I went to Canada with my husband at the end of the war and didn’t return until some years later.