September 1939 - Started at the Down Primary School
Gas Masks were issued to all children
I was evacuated from Bexhill to a farm (Kane’s Farm) in Cousley Wood just outside Wadhurst for about 3 months during the invasion scare. Bexhill was in the potential area for beach landings by the Germans.
Concrete landing traps, barbed wire and scaffolding were placed all along the coast to hinder landing craft. Bexhill sea front was sealed off for about 3 years and only then opened in small areas for swimming in the summer. The Piers at Hastings, St. Leonards, Eastbourne and Brighton were partly demolished by the Army in the middle and shore end to deter landings by German troops.
There was quite a lot of German aircraft activity in the area, with “Dog fights” between Hurricanes and Spitfires against Fokker Wolfe 190’s and Messerschmitt 109’s during the Battle of Britain. We also heard at night the droning of German bombers, Dornier 17’s and Heinkel 111’s on their way to bomb London; occasionally when they could not reach London they would jettison their bombs on their way back to Europe. On at least 3 occasions I had to throw myself into a ditch when I heard the whistle of bombs dropping and the firing of guns from enemy fighters. Quite a scary moment for an 8 year old.
In 1943/4 Bexhill was also know as “Buzz Bomb Alley” because the Germans were sending over pilot less, rocket propelled aircraft called Flying Bombs or “Doodle Bugs”. These were launched in their hundreds from Northern Europe, they were slow pre-programmed for speed, location and distance; when the engine cut out they fell to the ground and exploded; they were very unpredictable. Sometimes RAF fighters would intercept them over the English Channel; place the tip of their wings under the short wings of the “bug” and flip them into the sea. This was frowned upon by the RAF as it was more high spirits of the Pilots.
Just before the 1944 Invasion of Europe from England we had many military personnel stationed in Bexhill they were billeted in empty houses especially in Glenleigh Park where I lived. Suddenly, overnight they disappeared, we subsequently discovered that they all formed up further along the coast where the vast Armada of ships were assembled to begin the ‘Normandy Landings’.
Life was never dull for a 5 – 10 year old living in Bexhill.