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Sussex at War

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WW2 Memories cont.
Michael Stacey's Story
An evacuee to Petworth & Midhurst

One summer's evening in 1940, aged 7, I was sat reading my new book 'Britain's Wonderful Air force,' delivered just around 7pm by our wonderful postal service. I was sitting in the front room window of my home, high at the back of Brighton over looking Preston barracks with the sea on the horizon.
I spotted a Me109 diving over the dust distractor chimney off Lewes Road and it released 2 bombs that struck the Southern Railway Engineering Works at Brighton Station.
Around this time, my mother was told to evacuate my young brother [born in July 1939] and myself. My father, being a Brighton Borough Policeman had to stay, so my mother took us to live with my uncle and aunt at Petworth. We stayed in their beautiful cottage, where Uncle was gardener to the Vicar of Petworth and he tended quite a large estate.
We had not been at Petworth too long, before a bomb went down the chimney at Petworth Boys School. 22 [28] boys and staff were killed. Although I was attending school at the local Parish Hall, I saw and heard the bomb falling from the Heinkel 111.
We moved to some friends of the family, but would you believe it? It was to Aldingbourne at the end of the Tangmere runway! We went into Chichester several times on the Southdown bus. A curtain was run along the windows as we passed Tangmere, so that spies could not see!
Unfortunately, like all the Battle of Britain aerodromes, it was badly bombed, so off we went again to live at my uncle's pub in Midhurst the 'Omnibus and Horses' on the Petersfield crossroads, opposite the old Tabernacle [the HQ of the local Home Guard]. We settled here and lived reasonably well I went to Midhurst Primary School and was a member of the Midhurst Church Choir.
Sometime, probably in 1943, Midhurst was hit by 2 bombs at about 4.30-5pm. A Dornier 17 was being chased, and it jettisoned its bombs. I watched one bomb come down just behind the Tabernacle, flattening a row of cottages. The Tabernacle probably saved my life because I was outside watching. Another bomb went through a Doctor's house near the Church and wrecked another row of cottages. I believe 2 or 3 people were killed. Other bombs dropped in the fields near the Cowdray ruins.
I ran into the pub to see how my uncle and aunt were I found them crawling out from under a large table. They had been doing the banking and the floor was carpeted with white fivers and the window was blown in, frame and all.
Apart from a Bren Gun carrier coming through the saloon bar wall, the passing of several doodlebugs, and the continuous noise of convoys of lorries and tanks moving to the coast for the D-Day landings - not a lot more happened!
I went back to Brighton in September 1944 for my first term at Varndean School for Boys, and a bit of peace!

Copyright rests with the author

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