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’.”

Comments about this page

  • I think the building the POWs were housed in became a mental hospital after the War. I used to attend Prestonville School in Belmont which backed on to it. Soon after I left, the school bought that hospital building and moved there. I think this was about 1952.

    By Pat Benham (04/07/2005)
  • I remember the prisoners very well. Friendly men who spent most of their time sewing mailbags in the basement completely unsupervised. I was never sure whether they were German or Polish men who had been forced into the German army. They gave us money and we would go down to the Co-op to buy coffee for them. The derelict building was a good place for boys and I remember being coerced to ride the kitchen service lift several times. Perhaps Derek Ainsley (?) also remembers Michael Keep, Adrian and Bernard Crouch and Neil Slade and the camping trip to Barcombe Mills?

    By Dudley Seifert (09/08/2005)
  • Wow, I’m moved by being given a glimpse into the history of the War in Brighton. I am new to the subject and have just started to research it for a project, but wow, this is amazing stuff and really, really fantastic that this history is being recounted.

    By KDF (11/05/2006)
  • Does anyone have any photos of the house where the land girls used to stay, it was just opposite the pub called The Good Companions? Thank you.

    By Bridget (23/07/2006)
  • Derek Ainley is my dads brother. I now live in Spain on the Costa Del Sol.

    By Nickolas Earl Hobbs-Ainley (20/01/2007)
  • Hi there Nickolas. Thanks for reading my stories and articles. I have many memories of your Dad and our childhood. I took him to Lamberhust in Kent recently, a trip down memory lane as we lived there as boys in the war. Send me your e mail and I’ll send you stories. I have many stories fatual and fictional with your dad in. I have also written many songs and appeared on the Richard and Judy show with a Christmas song. My e-mail is

    By Derek Hobbs-Ainley (18/02/2007)
  • I knew an Ainley in Granville Road?

    By Pat Benham (18/08/2007)
  • If you go to ‘derekssongs’ on any search engine you will find my web site with four c/d’s containing some of my songs. At the moment they are only in part but I am having them altered as most of them are narative, and to only play a section spoils the whole feeling of the song.

    By Derek Hobbs-Ainley (09/05/2008)
  • I knew a Derek Hobbs-Ainley in YORK VILLAS in Brighton and Brewer Street, Brighton

    By Patrick Dobbelaere (07/08/2010)
  • My Father Derek Hobbs-Ainley sadly passed away 2011. Hello Nicolas, my cousin! And yes Patrick of course I remember you well. Dad would be so happy that his stories are still here, for all to read.

    By Nad Bish (21/01/2015)

Add a comment about this page

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *