The Messerschmitt Incident!

The Bailey Family at 15 Regent Hill Brighton. The photograph shows the famous pram with my son Trevor sitting in it. From left to right is my Mother Angnes, Evelyn, me, Kathleen and my sister Dorothy holding her son Michael.
From the private collection of Mrs Kathleen A. Kis (nee Bailey)

My family moved to Brighton from the Sheffield area in the late 20’s as my father (Daniel Bailey) was a professional soldier and had been reassigned to the Lewes Road Barracks with the Royal Field Artillery. My father had been a military man for most of his adult life.  He fought in the First World War in the Khyber Pass with the Royal Horse Artillery and in the Second World War with the Royal Field Artillery in India, the Middle East and Africa.

My family
There were five children in the family with my elder brother in the army and my two elder sisters stationed in Brighton with the WAF.  That left me and my younger sister. I was a young girl when the war started and often given the task of minding my elder (Barbara) sister’s daughter, a task I loved as I proudly paraded her daughter (Sandra) about in a large cream pram which seemed the size of a double-decker bus to me.

Visiting our aunt
On one such outing my mother and I were shopping and decided to visit an aunt who worked in a sweetshop at the top of St James’s Street, (may have been a Maynard’s) just opposite the church at the top. We must have been no more than five yards from the shop on the other side of the road when we were both stopped in our tracks!  From where we were standing you could see virtually the whole length of St James Street to the bottom.

A terrifying sight
In the distance we could hear this almighty rumble, low and behold there was a German plane slowly starting to come up from the bottom of the street with its guns blazing!  My mother and I froze as the plane worked it way up the street in what seemed slow motion. The momentary shock was soon over with my mother grabbing the baby and me and dragging us across the street into the sweet shop.  The three of us collapsed in a heap on the floor with my Aunt looking on in total panic!

Bullets bouncing
Still in a state of bewilderment I could hear the machine gun bullets bouncing of the pavement and ricocheting off the surrounding buildings!  Finally the dull roar of the plane disappeared and we regained our wits, what was left of them! We never did find out what the plane was but were told it was probably a Messerschmitt.

Mother’s action saved the day!
On returning to the street we saw the pram intact but with a complete line of bullets right through the middle of the pram, there was no other damage just this line of bullets!  Well you can imagine the conversation; we were soon surrounded with a crowd of people who all gave my mother a big pat on the shoulder for her quick actions! As money and prams were short supply during the war we continued to use the pram, the stories my mother and I had to tell about the episode were priceless!

The famous pram
I continued to use the pram when my son was born in 1946 and everyone in the neighbourhood knew the story of the famous pram back to front!  Unfortunately the pram is long gone but the memory of that day lives on.

Comments about this page

  • I am the younger sister of Kathleen Kis (Bailey). I was around eight or nine when this happened. We were living on St Nicholas Rd. I remember when the air raid siren went off that particular day and I was home by myself. My friend June Thorpe’s mother made me come into their house until it was over. My Mum and sister came home and told me some of the story, it was quite scary to think I could have lost them. I immigrated to Canada in 1949 as my older sister Barbara was a war bride and I made Canada my home. I worked as a nurses aide for four years and then married my husband Dale Collett. We had five sons. Unfortunately we lost the second youngest in a car accident when he was 23. We have 8 grandchildren and eight great grandchildren and we have been married for 54 years. I recall when we moved from St Nicholas Rd to Regent Hill, a German plane come down in the cemetery of St Nicholas Church. It caused a lot of commotion and as kids, we went after we were allowed and picked up souvenirs, not a very nice thing to do when I think about it now.The German soldier was hanging from a tree,dead of course when the plane crashed. I also remember not having any fruit to eat for a long time. If any came into the stores, it was gone as quickly as it came in. I remember my Mum sending me to line up at the greengrocers for bananas and an older lady pushed in front of me and got the last bananas, I went home crying. I have had a few trips back to England and enjoy coming home as I still consider it my home. I have seen more of England on my visits than I did when I was there.The war stopped a lot of travel and people didn’t travel like they do today. My Dad came home in 1943 after serving since 1939 and we were pleased to have him home. My brother Ted was in a prison camp for three years in Italy and Germany – he was pleased to come home. My brother had contracted TB while in the prison camps and had to spend a year or two in hospital and he had one lung removed. I always thought that it was awful for him after just getting home, but he was better treated there than the camps.

    By Evelyn Collett (nee Bailey) (08/05/2007)
  • I am the son of Kathleen Kis.I have lived in Brighton all my life and have been told these stories many times over the years.Nice to see it finally in print.

    By kazik kis (22/07/2007)
  • What an amazing story. I’m very glad that nobody was hurt and your mother’s quick thinking saved lives. My grandad had a similar story about being followed up Hollingdean Road by a Messerschmitt. He wasn’t pushing a pram though.

    By Catherine Jeater (25/02/2008)
  • I remember my mum telling me about the good old days, what with the doodle bugs and ration books. queuing outside Sainsburys all day just to get a sausage. My mum told me about nan and the fun days they did have as well. I am the son of Kathleen Kis.

    By Jan Kis (07/05/2008)
  • Just another person who went to St Nicholas churchyard the morning after the crashed plane and I remember the airman hanging in the tree. I also picked up a live cannon shell and brought it home only to have it taken away from me. I lived in Crown Gardens, only a short distance from the crash. Is there anybody who remembers the “Dump” and the large water tank that was in New Dorset St opposite the Churchyard? I found a revolver in an upstairs room of a house that was still standing which I swopped for a model plane with some bigger boy. Anyway they were good times for a small boy with plenty of exciting times.

    By Bob Pickett. (20/10/2008)
  • Not exactly this incident but does anybody remember the bombing of Brighton Station and, I believe, Buckingham Place? I was at the Grammar School at the time in the top floor science lab. Hearing a roar we looked out of the window to see radial engined aircraft swooping down. I thought at first they were Havards but how wrong I was, it was my first site of FW 190s I did not see anything fall from them but the next sight was debris flying into the air. You could make out individual items, chimney pots and the like, it seemed all in slow motion. Fearing the blast would bring in the windows we all ducked down for safety but luckily no glass broke. I lived in Brighton all through the war and saw several incidents, some tragic, some extremely funny. Can anyone throw any light on the group of planes circling the Brighton sky early on in the war, suffering without any ill effect apparently, the fire from every machine gun in the area, and a few rifles, all possibly from the French Canadians stationed in the town at the time. The rumour later was that they were escaping Free French but I never found out the truth.

    By Michael Hooper (03/10/2011)
  • I am Jozef Kis, son of Kathleen Maud Kis (Nee) Bailey. Mum is still going strong at 90 years young. I recently visited Canada where I got to meet Evelyn, my auntie who is 83. Dale, my uncle is 84. Trevor is no longer with us as he died of cancer 6 years ago. At present I am doing some family research whinch is very interesting indeed. Mum is still as bright as a button and is always telling me stories from the past. Love you always. xxx

    By Jozef Kis (06/10/2016)
  • Unfortunately Kathleen passed away on 19th October 2019 aged 93 . Her funeral is at downs south chapel on 5th November at 12.30 pm . So if you are reading this and would like to attend that would be okay . She was a truly amazing person and I miss her dearly . I am Jozef, Kathleen’s son .

    By Jozef Kis (27/10/2019)
  • See my reference to this actual incident involving my mother in The War in and over Sussex.

    By Terry Walls (11/05/2020)

Add a comment about this page

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