Judy Middleton 2003 (revised 2016)
In June 1938 Hove had 535 trained air-raid wardens and 233 of them were women. In addition there were 188 either in training or waiting to join courses. By 1939 a number of staff from Hove County School for Boys were qualified ARP wardens too. P.G. Rogers was Hove’s chief air-raid warden; he had retired in 1931 after a career lasting 30 years in the Indian Civil Service.
In June 1938 a census was carried out in order that each resident could be fitted with a gas mask. Hove was one of the first towns in the country to undertake this task. By August 1938 over 41,000 of Hove’s 60,000 residents had attended gas-mask fitting sessions, the correct size being recorded by ARP personnel. The Sussex Daily News thought Hove’s efficiency was ‘truly remarkable’ especially since at Brighton only 16,000 of the 150,000 inhabitants had attended gas-mask fittings.
On 27 September 1938 the ARP squad of private cars and commercial vans congregated at Hannington’s Depository for the distribution of the first instalment of 58,000 gas masks. Over 21,000 were distributed on 27 September and the rest the following day.
The volunteer girls were so enthusiastic about their vital work that they refused to go home for tea. But at 8 p.m. they were stopped from doing further work because their fingers had gone numb. The girls were mostly employees of H.J. Green & Co. and the Co-op Laundry. Tilling’s buses transported the girls to and from the depot.
|Copyright © J.Middleton|
The RAF Volunteer Reserve Centre at Hove was in
buildings formerly occupied by Kenilworth House School
In March 1938 it was stated that Hove would soon have a fully equipped and up-to-date RAF Volunteer Reserve Centre when workmen had finished fitting up the HQ at 14 and 15 Eaton Road. (Kenilworth House School was the previous occupant of the premises). The centre opened in somewhat restricted conditions because only the ground floor of number 16 was in use but soon there would be a number of lecture rooms, mess rooms, a reading room plus departments for gunnery, model bombing and photography. By April 1938 twelve men had gained their ‘wings’.
Volunteers had to attend at least twice a week for two hours of instruction and every other week at Shoreham Airport so that each man could experience two hours of flying time. It took around eighteen months for a pilot to qualify.
Wing Commander W.N. Dolphin was the commander.
Number 2897 Squadron RAF Regiment was stationed at Hove College, Kingsway. The squadron was formed in February 1942 and remained at Hove at least until November 1944. When the school returned after the war, it was discovered that some men had carved their initials into the red stone by the porch and they were left untouched as a historic memento.
Major General C. Liardet KBE CB DSO was the first commandant: Squadron Leader O.W. Rawes was also at Hove.
The Sussex Daily News (4 October 1938) carried a photograph of workmen filling in and levelling trenches in St Ann’s Well Gardens that had been dug in anticipation of war breaking out. Presumably, after the Munich agreement, the trenches were no longer deemed necessary.
HMS King Alfred
|Copyright © J.Middleton |
HMS King Alfred was situated in the brand new swimming baths called originally Hove Marina.
Hove made a very valuable contribution to the war effort through the creation of HMS King Alfred in the recently built Hove Marina Swimming Baths; the Admiralty requisitioned the building virtually as soon as war broke out. The Admiralty also requisitioned other buildings to augment the establishment so that eventually the ‘stone frigate’ also included Lancing College, Mowden School, Hove, San Remo, Kingsway and St Aubyn’s Mansions.
It is recorded that 22,500 RNVR officers passed through HMS King Alfred. Although at first the regulars of the Royal Navy were inclined to look down their noses at RNVR officers, it is true to say that the war could not have been won without their contribution. RNVR officers were also known as the ‘Wavy Navy’ because of the zigzag design of the gold braid on their sleeves rather than the circular ones of the regulars.
Although much documentary evidence seems to have been lost and there is scant material in the Public Record Office or at the Imperial War Museum, a wealth of memories was gained from personal letters after an appeal in the Navy News in the 1980s.
H.M.S. Lizard was established in the up-market Prince’s Hotel on the south-east corner of Grand Avenue and Kingsway. The Admiralty also requisitioned several other houses in Grand Avenue to augment the establishment.
Indeed Grand Avenue became something of a no-go area for Hove residents. Barbed wire closed off the northern entrance and there were military or Naval guards.
On 26 March 1941 the south coast, including Brighton and Hove, was declared a defence zone and no unauthorised visitors were permitted.
The whole of the sea-front was sealed off from residents. Concrete blocks weighing 8 tons each were set up along the promenade and Bofors or similar ant-aircraft guns were set up between them.
By the end of the war it was reckoned that 80% of the concrete paving slabs were broken.
According to Egbert Kieser, the German High Command knew that the British were not proposing to prevent German forces from landing on the beaches but were planning opposition further inland.
Of course these facts only emerged well after hostilities had ended. The idea that Hove beaches would not have become a battleground should Germans attempt a landing would have been news to the residents. But it seems some officials were in on the secret.
For example, Jack Blaker, who was a Special Police Sergeant during the war, knew there was to be no fighting on the beaches. In the event of an invasion, all armed personnel were to form a defensive line on the North Downs, leaving the civilian population to shift for themselves, as best they could.
Indeed after Dunkirk, the British believed a German invasion was inevitable. The plan for the German invasion of Britain was codenamed Operation Sea Lion and it was supposed to take place in September 1940.
Five invasion routes had been worked out and area E stretched from Brighton to Selsey Bill. This area would be attacked by troops crossing from Le Havre. Some 100,000 German troops were poised on the north coast of France to take part and the generals were just waiting for the go-ahead signal from Hitler, which never came.
| Copyright © J.Middleton|
During the war the Fort Garry Horse Regiment was stationed in Hove Park. This photograph was taken in April 2009.
The Fort Garry Horse Regiment from Canada was stationed at Hove Park from 1941 to 1944.
Canadian officers had quarters in the requisitioned Hove College in Kingsway.
In 1941/1942 the following units were set up:
2nd Canadian Salvage Unit sub-depot was established at 100 Davigdor Road.
MG ‘A’ Company office at 44 Hove Park Way
1st Canadian Divisional Ordnance Workshop number 1 at Hove
Orderly Room at 8 Langdale Road
Workshop at Caffyns Garage
In 1942 the Royal Canadian Dragoons were billeted in Medina Villas.
In May 1942 two Canadian soldiers were killed when they were thrown out of an Army truck that collided with a lamp-post in King George VI Avenue. Three of their companions were taken to hospital.
The soldiers who died were:
Gunner Lewis James MacLennan aged 32
Gunner Milten Ernest MacMillan aged 20
In 1944 the 9th Battalion / Cameronians were stationed at Hove before crossing the Channel in September.
Major J.N. Crawford of 1/5 Mahratta Light Infantry lived at 160 New Church Road, Hove and before the war was an insurance broker at Hove. He was well known in Sussex club cricket circles and played for Sussex Martlets. Although he was twice wounded in the storming of the Senio River, Italy, on 9 April 1945, he refused to be evacuated until a bridgehead had been established on the far bank. The banks were honeycombed with dugouts and machine-gun posts and Major Crawford led one of the two assaulting companies. They took 34 prisoners and caused numerous casualties.
In the company that followed was Sepoy Namdeo Jadhao who was awarded a Victoria Cross for his valour in crossing the river bank three times with wounded comrades, silencing machine-gun posts and encouraging others to cross the river by standing on the bank shouting the Mahratta war cry.
| Copyright © J.Middleton |
This marvellous collection of character cartoons was published in
Night Hawk (February 1941) the magazine of the
14th Battalion (Hove) Sussex Home Guard.
In the early days the men were called Local Defence Volunteers. Wags said LDV stood for ‘Look, Duck and Vanish’. It was Winston Churchill who instigated the title of Home Guard.
| Copyright © D. Sharp |
Raymond Sharp, age 17, enrolment card into the
East Sussex Local Defence Volunteers which was signed by
Officer Commanding Hove Home Guard, Lt Colonel A. D. Winterbottom.
On Sunday 16 March 1941 D Company / 14th Sussex (Hove) Royal Sussex Regiment marched through Hove wearing their respirators.
‘A’ Company trained in Hove’s ARP gas chamber.
Allen West, founder of the famous engineering firm, was in charge of ‘C’ Company.
Hove’s Home Guard HQ was the Sussex County Cricket Ground.
Like the men in Dad’s Army, some Home Guard members were senior citizens.
For example, at Hove there was George Lyle who in 1943 was aged 78 but still determined to do his bit.
For example, at Hove there was George Lyle who in 1943 was aged 78 but still determined to do his bit.
A Nursing Sister
Nursing Sister E.M. Bettridge lived in New Church Road, Hove. She went to France with the Expeditionary Expedition, returned in 1940 and then went to the Mediterranean where she served throughout the war. Her war service entitled her to wear the 8th Army ribbon. Her father was a member of Brighton solicitors Graham Hooper & Bettridge. She had two brothers in the armed forces and two sisters engaged in war work.
Hove adopted the submarine HMS Unbeaten built by Vickers & Armstrong, launched on 9 July 1940 and completed by November 1940. In April 1941 she joined the 10th Flotilla and in 1942 she was fitted with a flush bow. It was an unusual name and seeing what happened to her, it is not surprising that the name has not been used again.
Unfortunately, she was lost at sea with all hands in the Bay of Biscay on 11 November 1942; even worse was the fact she appears to have been a victim of what we now term ‘friendly fire’ and in this case most probably the RAF. Unbeaten’s flag survived with its skull and crossbones and two looped bars denoting that she had sunk two U-boats (U-374 and the Italian Guglielmotti) plus eight long bars denoting she had sunk eight surface ships.
It says something for Hove’s enthusiasm in supporting the war effort that the town raised a further £425,000 to pay for a replacement vessel.
Charles Sadler was aged 72 in 1992. During the war he had been a captain in the Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal Team. He was called out to defuse a sea mine on the beach near HMS King Alfred. He had the bright idea of lifting the mine out of the shingle by packing condoms full of the explosive ammonol and placing them down the side of the mine. Unfortunately, the whole lot blew up, giving him concussion, and shattering windows within a half-mile radius.
| Copyright © J.Middleton|
Cricket continued to be played at the Sussex County Cricket Ground despite the danger of unexpected raids.
John Connor remembered watching a cricket match at the Sussex County Cricket Ground between members of the Royal Australian Air Force (based at the Hotel Metropole, Brighton) and a team of auxiliary firemen captained by former Sussex wicketkeeper ‘Tich’ Cornford. There were only around 100 spectators but the quality of the game was excellent and there was a spectacular six hit by a youthful Flight Sergeant Keith Miller; the ball shattered the pavilion clock. In more peaceful times Keith Miller went on to become an Australian cricket all-rounder.
On 14 September 1940 a match was in progress at the county ground when there was a bombing raid that left four large craters in the turf. One intrepid player wanted the ground staff to fill in the holes so that they could continue play but it was decided to call it a day.
In around 1942 another match was in progress when a small bomb fell near the score box and players threw themselves to the ground. Maurice Tate was heard to exclaim ‘What a nerve. Fancy bombing us!’
The Troop Follies
In May 1942 it was reported that Mrs C.W. Docking of Hove who worked on a regular basis with the YMCA mobile canteen, also ran a lively little revue company called the Troop Follies. It started with a small concert party she formed in 1940. Mrs Docking wrote the sketches, lyrics, topical duologues and harmony numbers besides filling the roles of producer, compère, business and transport manager. There were no men in the company. Other members were as follows:
Shelagh Thornton, pianist
Kathleen Byng, pianist
Jean Moir, dancer
Mary Hunt, dancer
Paddy Watts, vocalist
Peggy Rosekilly, vocalist
Gaie Ellison, vocalist
Mary Clarke, comedienne
Occasionally, there was a guest artist. The shows were put on in camps all over the country and often in accessible places. Mrs Docking received hundreds of letters from grateful troops who appreciated her ‘good, clean show’.
A young member of the Methodist Church in Portland Road caused some excitement when it was believed someone was signalling to the enemy during an air raid. It turned out to be quite unintentional; the youngster had merely discovered an electric light switch inside and flicked it on and off several times without realising it was also switching on the lights outside the church.
Five Towns Emergency Dispersal Scheme 1940
This was a document setting out the location of suitable buildings and their facilities should an emergency occur. At Hove the following building were identified; the numbers refer to the number of people who could be accommodated there.
First Line Halls, fully equipped
Knoll School, Old Shoreham Road, 210
Presbyterian Church, Holland Road, 120
Stoneham Mission Church, Stoneham Road, 220
Baptist Church Hall, Holland Road, 80
Bishop Hannington Church Hall, 150
East Hove Schools, 220
Total – 1,000
Second Line – Blacked out and suitable for sleeping but not fully equipped
Knoll School, 220
Third Line – Blacked out, not fully equipped
St Leonard’s Church Hall & Scout Hut, Glebe Villas, 150
North Aldrington Church Hall, Egmont Road, 100
Christian Meeting Room, Payne Avenue, 50
Mission Hall, Clarendon Villas, 100
Cliftonville Church Hall, Ventnor Villas, 200
YMCA, Marmion Road, 100
Green’s Sponge Mixture Factory, Portland Road, 100
Congregation Church, Nevill Avenue, 100
Salvation Army Hall & Citadel, Sackville Road, 100
St Barnabas’s Church Hall, 56 Livingstone Road, 100
Co-op Hall, Portland Road, 100
Facilities at Earmarked Premises
St Leonard’s Church & Scout Hut, two lavatories, kitchens, tea urns
North Aldrington Church Hall, one lavatory, kitchen, kettle
Stoneham Mission Hall, four lavatories, kitchen, ten urns, two gas rings, gas copper
Payne Avenue, one lavatory, gas ring, no cooking utensils
Bishop Hannington Church Hall, one lavatory, electric cooker and range, electric urn
St Barnabas’s Church Hall, six lavatories, gas ring, no cooking utensils
Livingstone Institute, one lavatory, gas ring, no cooking utensils
Places that might be useful as Rest Centres
Palmeira Stores Café, fully equipped kitchen, could accommodate 100
William Hills Café, seats 150
Gwydyr Mansions Café, seats 60
Wick Hall Restaurant, seats 70
Hove Conservative Club, 102 Blatchington Road, could take 50
Aldrington Club, Portland Road, seats 200
Civil Defence List of Air Raids at Hove
(between 3 September 1939 and 2 September 1944) with added details
(between 3 September 1939 and 2 September 1944) with added details
30 June 1940 – West Hove Golf Links, 2 high-explosive bombs.
15 July 1940 – Pembroke district, 9 high-explosive bombs, 1 killed, 5 seriously injured.
Bombs fell on Pembroke Crescent; they also fell on New Church Road, killing one Home Guard who had been on night duty, and injuring two others.
26 August 1940 – 9 high-explosive bombs fell on Rowan Avenue and Elm Drive, I killed, 2 seriously injured.
The person killed in the raid was 87-year old Mary Munro of Stapley Road.
30 August 1940 – Portland Gate, 1 serviceman killed.
This was the date when Sergeant Dennis Noble in a Hawker Hurricane of 43 Squadron flying from Tangmere crashed in Woodhouse Road and was killed.
(9 September 1940) – During the Battle of Britain a Hurricane was involved in a fight near Beachy Head. The plane crashed at Poynings but the pilot, Flight Sergeant Wunsche, bailed out and landed at Devil’s Dyke. He was taken to hospital in Hove with slight burns.
14 September 1940 – Egmont Road, 65 incendiaries, 1 oil bomb, no casualties.
14 September 1940 – Sussex County Cricket Ground, Eaton Road, Salisbury Road, Grand Avenue, 5 high-explosive bombs, UXB. No casualties in the raid but ten days later three soldiers were killed while trying to defuse the UXB, which exploded.
22 September 1940 – Toad’s Hole Farm, 3 high-explosive bombs, no damage.
26 September 1940 – Olive Road, Hove Cemetery, 2 high-explosive bombs, no damage.
30 September 1940 – Furze Croft, Wick Hall, 2 high-explosive bombs, 2 oil bombs, slight damage.
10 October 1940 – Fallowfield Close, British plane (Spitfire) crashed.
14 October 1940 – Titian Road, Hove Park Road, 4 high-explosive bombs, 1 oil bomb, 1 unexploded oil bomb (it was detonated in situ).
21 October 1940 – Cambridge Road, machine-gun fire caused slight fire.
7 November 1940 – Cromwell Road, St John’s Road, 2 incendiary bombs, no damage.
12 November 1940 – Western Lawns, Portslade Gas Works, 8 high-explosive bombs, electric cables cut.
13 November 1940 – Woodland Drive, Goldstone Crescent, 5 high-explosive bombs, 100 incendiary bombs, several houses set on fire and some severely damaged.
9 March 1941 – Woodland Drive, 1 incendiary bomb, no damage.
9 April 1941 – Shirley Street, Clarendon Villas, 1 UXB, 1 high-explosive bomb, slight damage.
The Shirley Press was bombed for the first time; the second occasion was in 1943.
28 April 1941 – Nevill Road, Nevill Avenue, 1 parachute mine, 1 UXB, severe damage and large-scale evacuation. The UXB was rendered safe on 29 April.
17 May 1941 – King George VI Avenue, 100 incendiary bombs, no damage.
14 June 1941 – Western Road, St John’s Road, First Avenue, Kingsway, 4 high-explosive bombs, 1 killed, severe damage.
| Copyright © J.Middleton |
In this old postcard 65/67 Western Road can be seen clearly as the grey building next to the red-brick bank building.
Mary Priest aged 15 was killed when bombs destroyed 65/67 Western Road, Hove, next to the bank building on the corner of Holland Road.
The bombs badly damaged the First Avenue Hotel, situated at the foot of First Avenue and fronting Kingsway. It had to be demolished and a large block of flats called Kingsway Court replaced it in the 1960s
27 July 1942 – In the sea south of the Adur Hotel, 4 high-explosive bombs, slight damage to windows.
4 August 1942 – Berriedale Avenue, Roman Road, 2 high-explosive bombs, severe damage to property.
9 August 1942 – West Hove, 21 incendiary bombs, extensive damage.
24 August 1942 – Worcester Villas, 1 high-explosive bomb, extensive damage.
According to one witness this bomb actually landed on Bellman’s Store in Station Road, Portslade, bounced back up in the air and landed on a house in Worcester Villas where Joan Shepherd ran her dancing school. Pupils from her dancing class and their teacher survived because they were sheltering under the staircase but falling wreckage injured Joan’s legs.
| (Brighton & Hove under Fire)|
The amount of damage to a Worcester Villas house seen in this photograph
makes it seem incredible that the occupants escaped with their lives.
12 October 1942 – Seven Dials, Brunswick Terrace, blast damage, cannon fire.
30 November 1942 – Godwin Road area, cannon fire, slight damage.
31 January 1943 – West Hove, Adelaide Crescent, sea mine exploded, damage to property and extensive glass damage to shops and houses.
According to Margery Roberts the sea mine exploded at 2 p.m. near Lansdowne Place and ‘all the windows between Brunswick Place and Grand Avenue were blown out’.
9 March 1943 – Walsingham Terrace, Rutland Gardens, Shelley Road, Amherst Crescent, machine-gun fire, cannon fire, 6 women, 4 men, 1 child and 1 serviceman were killed.
This was Hove’s worse raid and took place at 4.55 p.m. The child killed was a boy from Class III of Aldrington School and the father of a girl in the same class was also killed. Two other people who died were retired Chief Inspector Divall of the Metropolitan Police and his housekeeper.
The house damaged at Walsingham Terrace (later demolished) was where Charles Stewart Parnell and his wife, formerly Kitty O’Shea, once lived.
| (Brighton & Hove under Fire)|
These three photographs document the damage caused by German bombers
on 9 March 1943, Hove’s worst raid.
14 March 1943 – Woodland Drive, 1 unexploded parachute mine, no damage.
29 March 1943 – Nizell’s Avenue, Colbourne Road, Shirley Street, Clarendon Villas, 3 high-explosive bombs, 1 UXB, machine-gun and cannon fire, 5 women, 2 men, 1 child, 1 serviceman killed.
2 April 1943 – British plane (Mosquito) shot down and landed on railway line near Olive Road, 1 serviceman killed.
The pilot, Squadron Leader Sutton baled out safely but Pilot Officer Streeter was killed.
25 May 1943 – Church Road, cannon fire.
On this day Brighton suffered its worst raid when 26 people were killed and 58 seriously injured. At Hove the Gas Works was bombed and one gasholder (container number 9) was set alight. Three pumps took an hour to extinguish the flames; it was reckoned that 1,423,000 cubic feet of gas was lost.
21 January 1944 – Boundary Road, petrol tank dropped.
28 May 1944 – 1 high-explosive bomb.
(16 March 1944) – An American Lightning crashed into the sea off Hove but the pilot was rescued.
(6 May 1945) – A Mosquito crashed onto Dyke Road. Flight Sergeant D.F. Williams and Flight Sergeant K. Rhodes were killed.
| (Brighton & Hove under Fire)|
Unfortunately, this photograph of damage wrecked in Stapley Road is undated.
The following figures were given in a confidential letter from Civil Defence HQ, Farm Road, Hove and relate to events between 3 September 1939 to 2 September 1944.
91 high-explosive bombs dropped that exploded
4 unexploded HE bombs
1,272 incendiary bombs (1 kg)
2 buoyant mines (sea mines)
2 unexploded sea mines (sunk by small arms fire)
Killed, 12 women, 9 men, 3 children, 6 serviceman (30)
Died subsequently 1 man, 1woman
Seriously injured, 25 women, 14 men, 1 child, 1 serviceman (40)
Slightly injured, 70 women, 39 men, 15 children (124)
(The figures do not include service personnel killed by land mines)
16 properties totally destroyed by bombs
64 properties demolished as being deemed not repairable
80 properties badly damaged
134 properties lightly damaged
(This made a total of 3,471 properties affected by the war and out of the total the local authority repaired 2,995 of them).
L.G. Cluett Brighton & Hove Under Fire c. 1945) gave the following figures and some are different from those given above.
There were 1,000 alerts at Hove
89 high-explosive bombs were dropped
3 parachute mines
Several hundred incendiaries plus machine-gun fire and cannon fire
29 people killed
153 people seriously injured
Several people slightly wounded
80 buildings either completely destroyed or had to be demolished
132 buildings badly damaged
4,792 private houses suffered minor damage
The worst raid occurred on 9 March 1943 when 4 fighter-bombers flew in at tea-time and 12 people were killed.
|copyright © N.Shaw|
A bleak image of George Street photographed in 1942 during an air raid alert. Note the sandbagged sentry post on the corner and borded up shops
Air-Raid Shelters and Air-Raid Warnings
An old brewery once stood at the north west end of Osborne Villas, which was demolished in 1902 and Grosvenor Mansions built on the site. But the original vaults remained and were used as an ARP shelter. Many of the shops in Church Road had underground / basement storerooms and these were used as air-raid shelters.
In September 1939 the Borough Surveyor proposed that trenches at schools should be dug 5 feet deep instead of 3 feet in order to avoid using large quantities of sandbags. Even so it was thought desirable to have 20,000 sandbags at a cost of £200.
Michael Blaker who was a pupil at Brighton, Hove & Sussex Grammar School during the war, remembered the rear of the playing fields being criss-crossed by trenches lined by corrugated iron. However, the boys rarely had the chance to use them because the air-raid siren quite often went off after a pack of enemy planes had shot over from the south. The sound of the siren caused ironic merriment amongst the boys.
On one occasion at Aldrington School, the children were halfway across the playground to the shelters when two planes started shooting at them and they had to fall flat on their faces. Afterwards, deep bullet marks were discovered on one side of the school.
Just how disruptive to their education the frequent air-raid alerts were can be gauged from the following entry in Aldrington School’s Log Book:
26 August, 4.15 to 5.45 p.m.
28 August, 11.30 p.m. to 12.45 p.m.
30 August, 3.30 to 5.00 p.m.
5 September, 4.15 to 4.40 p.m.
6 September, 8.55 to 10 a.m. / 1.45 to 2.15 p.m.
10 September, 4.10 to 4.35 p.m.
11 September, 3.00 to 4.55 p.m.
12 September, 11.30 to 12.30 p.m.
17 September, 11.30 a.m. to 12.30 p.m.
19 September, 8.35 to 9.8 a.m.
24 September, 11.55 to 12.12 p.m.
27 September, 9.20 to 10.4 a.m. / 3.30 to 3.52 p.m.
30 September, 9.30 to 11.55 a.m. / 4.12 to 5.55 p.m.
2 October 9.50 a.m. to 12.45 a.m. p.m.
4 October 1.55 to 5.35 p.m.
These were not all genuine raids but school authorities felt obliged to take the necessary precautions.
Sometimes school was suspended until the afternoon to enable pupils to catch up with their sleep if there had been an air-raid during the night.
At the same time there were many incidents known as tip and run raids where enemy aircraft seemed to materialise from no where, flying low and firing away before any alarm could be given.
On one occasion girls playing in a hockey match at Hove County School for Girls were startled when they came under machine-gun fire. They all dropped to the ground and crawled back to the school alongside the hedge.
Another time young Enid Avis was walking home from school at lunchtime and was just passing a florist’s shop in Portland Road when a German plane suddenly appeared and started machine-gunning the road. A woman pushed Enid to the ground and all the nearby windows were smashed. There had been no warning and she arrived home with blood streaming down her face.
An interesting piece of film has survived showing children at Knoll School leaving their classrooms following an alert and filing into their air-raid shelters. A.E. Palin shot the film in 1939/1940.
The children at Coleridge Street Roman Catholic School used air-raid shelters built in the playground. But this left no room for drill, which had to be carried out at Hove Park or Stoneham Park. By 2 September 1940 the air-raid shelters were in constant use but by January 1941 the Education Committee decided they were too damp for use during ordinary alerts and should be used only when bombs were dropping or gunfire heard.
When the children from Hove County School for Girls were in their trenches, the fourth form read nothing more erudite than Just William books while in the next trench the plays of Shakespeare and Shaw were being read.
At Portland Road Schools air-raid shelters were still being constructed to the north of the playground during the summer of 1940. The headmistress of the Girls’ School took a particular interest in them. On 7 June 1940 she recorded the following:
‘pleading for more ventilation a fortnight ago and as the sandbags were removed and the tarring of the roof was in progress, the surveyor ordered four additional baffles to be inserted, making six in all. These are 9 inches x 8 inches instead of 6 inches x 5 inches and the flow of air inside is very valuable. The rough seats have been bevelled at the front and so fewer torn dresses will result.’
However, perhaps the improved ventilation also allowed the rain to penetrate because on 8 and 9 October 1940 the trenches were well and truly soaked. In fact, on 17 October Mr Stearman ordered the school to be shut until 21 October because the trenches were in such a bad state. In April1943 a Morrison table shelter was placed in each classroom except room 16, which was the kitchen. Emergency exists were also made in the outer walls of rooms 6 and 9 ready for when Anderson shelters were put in the playground. In 1943 children used the shelters on 19 March, 29 March, 5 May, 2 June and 3 September.
At the outbreak of war Hove Council made arrangements with Broadcast Amplifiers Ltd. to install a 100-watt amplifier with twelve loudspeakers in order that people could hear an air-raid warning. Apparently, this was not enough. After a surprise raid on 9 March 1943 there were a number of requests for an audible local alarm known as ‘the pips’. This system already operated in Brighton and Southwick and was being installed at Portslade. It was decided to purchase an 800-watt amplifier, three operating panels and eleven additional loudspeakers. The total cost paid to the company was £946-16s but there was a Ministry grant of 65%.
In October 1943 ten additional loudspeakers were installed. Special alarm bells were also fitted to ten schools in the borough.
There was an air-raid siren at Aldrington Recreation Ground, near the electricity sub-station, and there was another one in The Droveway, near the waterworks.
In August 1944 there was talk about a new device known as the Ripple Control System. But it was probably too late in the war for it to be installed and by the end of that year the Government had ordered that all evacuees should return to their homes.
By June 1945 loudspeakers were being sold off – if a buyer could be found. One idea was that they might be useful at band concerts.
The Evacuation Office at Hove was in existence from 1938 to 1946. In September 1938 Mr L.S. Bowden made a survey of the borough to find out how many London evacuees could be accommodated. This was followed in January 1939 by a more detailed survey. The conclusion was that there were enough billets for 13,000 children (and mothers).
When the London Evacuation started a total of 8,818 arrived at Hove, the number consisting of 2,064 adults and 6,754 children. Out of these, 1,176 went to Portslade while the rest stayed at Hove.
The London evacuees caused problems – some had mites, others suffered from scabies; there were children with rags on their feet while others had not been toilet trained. In addition, it was reported that items were frequently stolen from Woolworths.
Under the second Davidson Report (February 1942) councils in reception areas were allowed to claim back some of the education costs from councils from whose area the children originally came. This involved a considerable amount of paperwork between Hove Education Committee, various Hove schools and other schools. From the documentation it can be established that children (some singly) came from the following places:
London County Council and Surrey County Council accepted liability for some children. There was one unfortunate child from West Sussex whose evacuation papers could not be traced and so the council refused to pay up..
Various official returns present the following figures:
Since 1 April 1941 there were 131 evacuated children in Hove
Since 30 September 1941 there were 14 unaccompanied children billeted in Hove
Since 1 April 1942 there were 82 children officially billeted in Hove, including one family of five children plus a 5-month old baby.
Another return gave the grand total of 205 children made up as follows:
25 unaccompanied children
3 children billeted at accommodation rate only (3/-)
18 children with mothers originally evacuated in 1939
4 children with mothers from other coastal towns
92 children with mothers from London and other evacuated areas (not coastal towns)
63 children with mothers, hop-pickers and families living in houses requisitioned by Hove Council.
These children were officially evacuated children but there were a number of privately evacuated children too.
By January 1945 there were still 84 London children at Hove of the latter category but only 7 officially evacuated ones.
The reason for the discrepancy between the 1939 figures and these figures is that the evacuation of British troops from Dunkirk in May and June 1940 changed the perception of the south coast as being a safe area; many children were swiftly returned to London because of fears of an imminent invasion.
For a few months whole schools from London were re-located to Hove. For example, at Davigdor Schools there were Latchmere (Battersea) Senior and Junior Schools and Kennington Road (Croydon) Senior Schools. There were other London schools at the Portland Road Schools.
Under the Ministry of Health Order 2605 dated 11 March 1941, Hove became an evacuation area. All schools at Portslade were closed on 17 March 1941 and some children were evacuated to Denholm, Yorkshire where some of them remained until 12 December 1944.
Children from Portland Road Schools went to Birstall, Leicestershire. On 16 March 1941 Miss Bulbeck and Miss Hambly accompanied 47 children while on 31 March 1941 Mr Mayes, Mr Chapple and Mrs Oddy took around 35 boys.
Children from Davigdor Road Schools also went to Birstall.
In March 1941 many girls from Hove County School for Girls went to Settle, Yorkshire under Miss Hemming’s leadership.
On 22 March 1941 some 22 children from Coleridge Street Roman Catholic School went to Yorkshire accompanied by Miss Olney.
Private schools were also affected. Hove College moved to Wedmore, Somerset for the duration and their building was taken over by the military authorities. Cottesmore was requisitioned and the school moved first to Merioneth and then to a place near Barmouth. Mowden was requisitioned too and became part of HMS King Alfred while the school moved to Oxendon Hall, three miles from Market Harborough, Northamptonshire.
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Hove College had only moved into this house in 1935. During the war the RAF, Canadian officers and South African officers were the occupants.
The official total for evacuees from Hove were 2,075 children and 904 adults made up as follows:
909 in organised parties (unaccompanied) to Leicestershire
440 by private arrangements (unaccompanied) to various authorities
726 evacuated with mothers to various reception centres
In December 1944 special trains were laid on to bring them home as follows:
8 December 1944 60 children from Barrow-in-Furness district
12 December 1944 46 children from Yorkshire
13 December 1944 3 mothers and children from Wales
14 December 1944 train from Cornwall
15 December 1944 train from Devon
In 1945 it was stated that since then 117 had returned who were included in the special parties.
But some children never did return to Hove because they had found employment, or they had been adopted, or because their parents had moved away. There was one grandmother in Wales who refused to be parted from her grandchild.
Mrs Lofthouse and Miss Malcolmson worked at the Hove evacuation department, having both joined as volunteers with cars in 1939. They had toiled away under full wartime pressure for six years, being on call day and night. Mrs Lofthouse had travelled 20,000 miles and Miss Malcolmson had travelled 16,000 miles.
Local Industry and the War
In 1909 Caffyn’s became a public company with an issued capital of £15,000. W.M. Caffyn started the business with a small shop in Eastbourne. The firm’s first venture outside Eastbourne was at Heathfield in 1912, followed by Bexhill in 1913. The Great War proved to be a difficult time because most of the male employees joined the armed forces but after the war, the business grew apace; two premises in Brighton were opened in 1920 and 1924, then Haywards Heath and Lewes in 1927, followed by Hove and Worthing in 1928, Seaside in 1930, Tonbridge (Kent) and Horsham in 1935, East Grinstead in 1936 and Goring and Crowborough in 1937. The Caffyn family still ran the enterprise. A notable association was their long connection with Wolseley (subsequently Leyland) believed to be an industry record. Shortly before the Second World War the turnover was recorded as £610,332 whereas in 1904 it had been precisely £5,205.
During the Second World War Edward Caffyn commanded 10th Army Field Workshop, which in the early days was based at Portslade Brewery. In March 1940 the unit was shipped off to France aboard the screw-steamer Ben Macree. Major Caffyn came into his own at the Dunkirk evacuation because he knew the roads in northern France from his peacetime travels. He was thus able to get his men to safety in Brest with the loss of only one of the three recovery units. By 1942 he had been promoted to colonel and later in the same year he became a brigadier. When the 21st Army Group was formed he became Director of Mechanical Engineering and controlled over 43,000 men – that is all the REME units on the continent. Brigadier Caffyn returned home from the war with a hand-written letter of thanks from Field-Marshal Montgomery who said his branch had ‘done its stuff in a manner that is beyond praise’. In 1963 he became Sir Edward Caffyn.
Sydney Caffyn commanded the Sussex Recovery Company Home Guard with 200 men and 45 vehicles and factory units at Seaside and Hove. Sydney Caffyn was twice Mayor of Eastbourne and he was knighted in 1972.
Meanwhile, the war caused headaches to the business not least because 370 staff joined up. There was also the harsh fact that Caffyn’s premises were bomb damaged in no less than 79 separate incidents.
At 200 Dyke Road, Brighton, the Civilian Training School for Army Mechanics was established at Caffyn’s Garage; between 1940 and 1945 over 8,000 service people were trained there.
Despite restrictions and shortages after the war, the firm continued to acquire businesses and by the 1950s and 1960s the fourth generation of Caffyns had joined the business.
T.B. Colman & Son
This was a celebrated firm of shop-fitters based in Ruskin Place, Hove. They made beautiful revolving doors that were installed in top London hotels.
In 1939 Donald Sinden joined the firm as an apprentice – this was long before he became a famous actor noted for his wonderful deep voice. It was Frank Verral, the joiner, who taught Sinden the properties of the different woods in use at the factory. But for the war effort Sinden had to make ammunition boxes and rattles that could be used in the event of a gas attack.
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Dubarry’s Perfumery was based in extensive premises north of Hove Station.
The top floor of this establishment was used for war work run by a firm known as RFD. The girls made and repaired inflatable dinghies, inflatable grey panels, fins and rudders for large barrage balloons and possibly components for weather balloons too; after D-Day they repaired lifebelts. The pay could hardly be called generous and the girls were paid 10d and a halfpenny an hour.
During the war, like the rest of the sea-front, Hove Lagoon was in a restricted area. Although residents continued to occupy houses opposite, they were forbidden to take photographs of whatever military activities and training might be taking place at the Lagoon.
In the run-up to D-Day, tanks that had been made water-tight were taken to the Lagoon at night to be tested.
Rayner Optical Co.
This company was located at Lorna Road, Hove from 1939 to 1989. The Second World War had a great effect on the company due to the observations of military surgeon Harold Ridley, late consultant ophthalmologist at St Thomas’s Hospital and Moorfields Hospital, London. Mr Ridley took note of the fact that when air crew were subjected to gunfire that shattered the canopies covering the cockpit or gunnery positions, their eyes were not always as badly damaged by penetrating fragments as might be supposed. In fact, unless a sharp edge harmed the sensitive portion of the eye, the tissue reaction to the foreign body was insignificant. The crucial factor being that the canopies were made of Perspex (polymethyl methacrylate). When Mr Ridley began to think about an artificial lens for the eye, he thought Perspex might be the answer. ICI again produced high quality fighter-aircraft Perspex known as Transpex 1 at his request. In 1948 Mr Ridley had a private meeting with John Pike of Rayner’s to discuss the project and to design and manufacture an artificial lens. The first IOL was made at Lorna Road in 1949 and by the 1950s Rayner Optical Co. was supplying lenses to surgeons worldwide.
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Brighton, Hove and Sussex Grammar School continued with its educational use and is now known as BHASVIC
Michael Blaker – He attended the Brighton, Hove and Sussex Grammar School during the war, He remembered the boys had a mania for collecting anything to do with the war and often their pockets were full of jagged pieces of shrapnel after there had been a raid. They seemed quite oblivious to the danger although the headmaster thundered at them that any boy found to be in possession of a single live round would be expelled immediately. But nothing much changed.
For one day every week, the boys were obliged to work the land, weeding or thinning out the sugar beet; an Italian prisoner of war supervised them
Blaker lived with his parents in Holland Road and recalled the place being full of military personnel, mainly Canadian soldiers who were billeted in a large, requisitioned house. One night the Canadians indulged in a terrific party and the next morning they had all left for the ill-fated Dieppe Raid.
Later on, there were American troops in Holland Road and then the Guards Armoured Division arrived. The top of Holland Road was barricaded with barbed wire and Blaker had to show his pass before the sentry on duty would allow him to go home.
One day at school the boys heard a low hum that grew into a loud roar and they all rushed to the windows to find out what was happening. They saw that the sky was full of Flying Fortresses on their way to France.
Lieutenant Stanley Fase
During the war he served with the Royal Sussex Regiment, which for a time was part of the 4th Indian Division. During the Tunisian Campaign it was Lieutenant Fase who accepted the surrender of Axis commander, General von Arnim.
Lieutenant Fase died of wounds at the age of 22 in June 1944. His mother lived at 130 Church Road, Hove.
Blaker, Michael Autobiography of a Painter-Etcher (1986)
Cluett, L.G. Brighton & Hove Under Fire (c.1945)
Encyclopaedia of Hove and Portslade
History of Caffyns from1865 (1999)
DB/B53/8 – Blitzemerg. Five Towns Emergency Emergency Disposal Scheme 1940
DB/53/47 – Military Locations November 1941-August 1942
Log Book of Coleridge Street Roman Catholic School 1 May 1908 to 25 July 1968 (kept at Cottesmore St Mary’s in 2003)
Log Book of Portland Road Schools, Mixed / Boys, 30 September 1898 to 6 May 1942 (kept on site 2003)
Log Book of Portland Road Schools, Girls, 3 September 1906 to 10 August 1942 (kept on site 2003)
Log Book of Portland Road Schools Log Book 4 August 1942 to 4 September 1951 (kept on site 2003)
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