Prisoners of war in Dyke Road
“Another wet day, let’s go and see ‘the Germans’.” There we were, four young boys all living around the Seven Dials: myself, Bobby Brown (we called him Bruce), Harry Panther (just Harry), and Brian McPeake (we called him ‘peaches’ – the reason escapes me).
I was twelve years old, Bruce and Peaches, 11, and Harry, 10. ‘The Germans’ were, as I now know, trusted German Prisoners of war. They lived in a very large house with big gardens all around. It was so peaceful it remains in my memory today. It was full of trees.
On one of our escapades a few months earlier we had climbed the wall – it was probably 8′ high. Now, how to enter this garden? We saw large glass conservatories along the side of the house, with lots of broken glass. Bruce promptly threw a stone and broke another, we all followed suit. For some unknown and unfortunate reason for us, Brighton was full of large empty houses and this was one of them. We climbed through an open window (why use a door when you can climb through a window?) and we heard a voice outside. We were trapped, we knew there was no way to escape, so we climbed back out of the window to see six young men in strange clothes. Most young men were then in uniform, they spoke a foreign language, but they smiled and seemed pleased to see us. My name was Derek Ainley, they called me Mr Del – that was fifty-four years ago. My youngest brother still calls me Del…
They invited us in to drink coffee. We learnt that they could speak a little English. I can only remember one name – Hans. They were confined to this house and garden, so they often asked us to go to the shop for them. They were no trouble to children – a different time, I guess. They didn’t talk about the war, just their families.
This beautiful house and gardens stood in the Dyke Road and stretched about 100 yards to the Old Shoreham Road. Modern flats stand there now, but I still call it ‘the Germans’.”