A Shattering Lunchtime
I was born in Islington, London, in 1939 but soon after the War started I moved down to Hove with my mother and father, Dorothy & Wilfred Clements. They thought it would be safer for us down near the coast, as opposed to London. At this time we rented a house at 33 Shirley Street, one of a row of terraced properties.
My father worked on a building site in Hove but he was spotted and was asked why he wasn’t in the Forces and soon after that he received his call-up papers. He then joined the Royal Sussex Regiment and soon saw active service in Egypt and was sadly killed in Italy in 1944 in the Battle of Monte Cassino.
A house call from Hitler
One day (I’ve recently been told it was almost certainly Monday 29th March 1943.) I was looking out of the front room window when I saw a man walk past the window and come up the short pathway to our front door. To me as a young child, he looked like Hitler as he was rather thin and had a moustache. He knocked on the front door and I called out to my mother “Look, there’s Hitler”. It was a this moment that my mother heard an approaching aircraft and, as quick as lightening, she scooped me up and ran with me through the back room and literally threw me into the Morrison shelter that we had. She dived in after me and the blast from the bomb just caught the end of her toes.
There was an enormous bang as the bomb struck the house on the corner of our street and Goldstone Street. This house was only about 5 houses west of ours. Just across the street from us was a fish and chip shop outside of which was a baby in a pram, I can only assume that the mother was in the shop.
Our house takes a hit
The blast was quite incredible. It first went across the street towards the fish and chip shop and killed the baby in the pram. The blast then rebounded across the street, hitting our house. The force of it knocked down our front door and took up the floorboards in the front part of the hallway – just as you would shuffle a pack of cards. Then the blast travelled up the stairs and blew a hole in the roof. It also blew in the front room window out of which I had been looking just a few seconds before.
There were glass fragments from the windows everywhere and I particularly remember the glass slivers in the sugar bowl, and slivers embedded in the margarine. This was a disaster as sugar and margarine were pretty scarce at the time!
The blast also took out the back window and I can recall my mother telling me later that pieces of glass, deadly as bullets, flew past the shelter about one second after she got in it.