After the church service
It was Sunday September 3rd 1939 and the church service had just finished at the Chapel Royal at the lower end of North Street. Myself, Patrick Lettres and Stanley Ashford, had just changed out of our surpluses (we were choirboys) and were debating whether to go home, or have a wander around first. We had just passed the Theatre Royal in New Road when the air raid siren sounded. It was rather like the sound of an American police car that we had seen at the pictures. The rest is a trifle vague, but there were shouts from people all around us to “get under cover” and there was quite a bit of panic.
Help from an air raid warden
Typical children, we just stood there not quite sure what to do, as there was nowhere to shelter anyway. However the problem was suddenly solved when an Air Raid Warden suddenly appeared from nowhere rounded us up and shepherded us over to the Dome where there was a shelter beneath. Amid much pushing and shoving we were finally settled down in the bowels beneath the Dome.
Visions of Brighton being flattened
We were told in no uncertain terms by the Warden that we shouldn’t have just stood there, and this was followed by a long lecture of the dire consequences of not seeking immediate shelter. During our sojourn in the shelter we heard numerous bangs and thumps, and our visions of Brighton being pounded into the dust were quite frightening. Finally however the “all clear” sounded and we were allowed to leave, having been given another stern warning by the Warden.
Our fears were unfounded
Coming out into the daylight we realised our fears were unfounded and all the bangings and thumpings we heard was furniture being moved around in the auditorium above. We hurried home listening to calls from people in doorways of their houses to get indoors as soon as possible, and not venture out again. There was in fact quite a bit of mild panic until it was realised that nothing was going to happen at that moment in time. The rest of the day passed peacefully enough just listening to the news on the wireless as it was called then.
Brighton WWII statistics
In Brighton the first real air raid was on Monday July 15th 1940. There were in fact 56 air raids up to March 1944 during which 381 high explosive bombs and hundreds of incendiary bombs were dropped. 198 people were killed, 357 seriously injured and another 433 slightly injured. Some 200 houses were destroyed, 894 badly damaged and over 14,000 slightly damaged. But this was just Brighton and does not take into account all the other towns in Sussex.*a*