On the south coast, Brighton must have been a tempting target for the Luftwaffe during World War Two. However, Brighton was not a primary target and was even a placement for evacuated children.
“I lived in Brighton during the war. When war was declared the first thing they made us do was to have evacuees. I had a mother and five children from East London. After France fell the situation altered. Our evacuees were sent to the West Country. The south coast was not the first line of defence. An evacuation plan was drawn up in case the Germans landed. We were even told the times of the trains we were to take.
Soldiers built a sandbag trench on the coast so that they could defend us if the Germans arrived. They also introduced a night curfew. It was from about six in the evening to seven in the morning. We were not allowed to leave our house. My mother lived close by and we were able to stand on our steps and wave to each other but we were not allowed to step down on the pavement.
My husband and I ran a shop. As we could not get to our business and home again within the curfew limits we were given a special authorised permit. The permit instructed exactly what streets we could walk down. I am not sure why we had the curfew. We didn’t think it was unreasonable at the time. Not with the enemy waiting on the other side of the Channel.
We were not allowed on the beach because it was mined. There was barbed wire everywhere. They also demolished the centre of the two piers. It was horrible to see.
Brighton was not a main target for the German bombers. However, if they had any bombs left after attacking London they would drop them on us on their way home. I remember one Saturday morning a bomb landed on a cinema in Brighton that was full of children. On another occasion one was dropped on a dental clinic.
My husband was exempt from service because he ran a food shop. But none the less he had to do something for the war effort. He joined the ARP. When there was an air raid he was called out. I remember him coming home with his face absolutely covered in dust and grey from fatigue. My husband was in his forties then and it did take it out of him. It was a grim task having to dig out bodies from the rubble.
As my husband and I had a grocery and provision shop I had the job of counting up the food coupons. The coupons were very small and I had thousands to count every night. I then sent them to the food office. The number of coupons that I sent determined how much food we could buy to sell in the shop.
Sometimes people would offer to sell us large numbers of food coupons. They never told us where they came from but I suppose they were stolen.
Some customers would give us their coupons. They would say for example: “I don’t eat sugar so I won’t need my sugar ration.” So we were then in a position to give these coupons to someone else. Our customers knew about this and did their best to bribe us. Naturally, the people who came first were our own family. For Christmas presents, I gave my sister’s three boys, 1lb boxes of cube sugar. They are in their forties and fifties now but they still remember that.
As children grow rapidly, mothers tended to use all their clothes coupons on their children. Most of my coupons went on my daughter. However, war encourages innovation. If something was very short you had to look round and find something to replace it with. On one occasion a friend offered to sell me a woollen blanket. I bought this very hairy blanket and then arranged for a dressmaker to turn it into a winter coat. I hated this coat but at least it kept me warm.”