Call up, work and raids
I was 14 when war was declared in September 1939 and the first memory I have is when the Army despatch rider came to give my brother (Bert Haymon) his orders to report to the Drill Hall in Dyke Road as he was in the Territorials so was one of the first to be called up. He was in the 57th Field Regiment of the Royal Artillery and his commanding officer was Colonel Green.
My brother Bert had just come home from the SS Brighton Ice rink at the bottom of West Street where he had been watching an ice hockey game. Of course we were all very upset, especially my mother, who was a widow with six other children and Bert was the eldest son, but my brother could not wait to report for duty.
The next big memory was Dunkirk, when all the Brighton fishermen worked so hard to ferry our boys home, men from the big Brighton families such as the Gunns, Rolfs, Leach’s, Howells and Redman’s to name but a few.
Another memory was when my mother went to comfort her friend whose son was killed when the Germans sunk HMS Hood – they lived in Albion Hill.
When I was 16 I tried to join the Wrens but my mother would not sign the consent papers. I was then working at the Allen West factory in Lewes Road but I then transferred to a smaller factory in St Martins Place off the Lewes Road. It was a small engineering works which, until the war started, made lamp posts when it was called the Brighton Street Lighting Engineering Company, BIEECO, but it had then gone over to munitions. There were about a hundred girls working there and we made mortar shells. It was a very friendly atmosphere and the boss was called Mr Heaps, our foreman’s name was Tommy Anscombe and he lived in Windmill Street, as some of us girls lived near him he would see us home in the blackout, he took a lot of stick from us girls but he managed to keep us in order.
All us girls used to go dancing down the Dome at weekends, we loved it down there when the big bands used to visit, bands such as Jack Payne, the Squadronaires and Geraldo. We also loved the resident organist, Douglas Reeve, and we would pester him with requests – his wife Joyce was the singer – a really lovely couple. In the early days of the war we would take a pillow and blanket down with us and when there was a raid on we would sleep in the basement under the Dome, but we soon got fed up with that and when the compere announced there was a raid on most choose not to go to the shelter and the band would just play louder to drown out the noise and we would just dance on.
At home we had a table shelter but mostly we would take refuge under the stairs in the electric cupboard.
Win Haymon was interviewed by Laine Greenland