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A village history in West Sussex


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Born in 1930 I was nine when the Second World War started. My mother toyed with the idea of sending me to Canada or to stay with an uncle in Wales. My grandparents insisted that I should go and live with them in a small village on the Hampshire/Sussex border. The village was called Westbourne, about 12 miles from Portsmouth.

There are a few wartime experiences that stick in my mind. One such was the night my grandparents and myself were standing looking through the landing window. We were watching a red glow in the sky that was Portsmouth burning after an air raid. Another sight was, one morning, seeing 'hundreds' of aircraft, mostly towing gliders, heading south and later hearing on the radio that the invasion of France(D-day) had begun.

Before 'D-day' the village and surrounding countryside was a restricted area. Adults needed a pass to enter or leave it, though why, because there were many ways in across the fields. The reason the area was restricted was that the woods above the village were crowded with troops, mostly Canadians, ready for the invasion of France. During this a friend and I were playing outside when we heard the 'put put' sound of a 'Doodle Bug' (V1 flying bomb). All the local anti-aircraft guns started to fire at it and the sky around the 'Doodle Bug' was full of exploding shells. Then two shell bursts appeared either side of the flying bomb and it's motor cut out. It went into a dive and exploded in the woods above the village. Later we heard a rumour that it had crashed into a Canadian army camp causing many casualties.

During the war all signposts were removed and if you did not know the area you could soon become lost. One day a man with a bicycle asked my friend Don and myself the way to Rolands Castle. We sent him in the opposite direction because we thought he was a spy. We reasoned that everyone knew their way to Rolands Castle. I've always wondered where that poor man ended up?

The most exciting experience that I still remember happened one day when a friend Don and I went with my grandmother and my Aunt Nell to a small town a few miles away to see a film. On our way back to the village, on the top deck of a green Southdown bus, a policeman stopped it. He told the driver that a German bomber was flying around the area and had dropped a bomb on the railway line. We drove on for a short distance and pulled in by a stand of fir trees that were a few hundred yards from a Free French naval camp. The bus being green the trees offered some camouflage. As we waited my friend and I were looking out of the window and saw a low flying aircraft coming towards us. We were arguing as to what type it was, I thought it was a Handley Page Hudson. We both changed our minds when it started to fire at French naval guards. They were kneeling in the road, with their rifles to their shoulders, firing at it. You could see the machine gun bullets kicking up the road surface and heading towards the guards who dived into the ditch at the side of the road. The aircraft swooped over us and flew on. During this time was saw my aunt trying to push my grandmother(who was no small woman) under one of the bus seats. We stayed by the trees for a while, then continued with our journey. Later we heard that this German aircraft had circled the top end of the village, fired a few rounds, one of which hit a letterbox but did no damage. It carried on circling the area and was shot down by a Royal Navy Bofor anti-aircraft gun.

We in the village did not experience any bombing. There were a few incendiary bombs that were extinguished by sandbags and one or two land mines that landed in open fields making large craters.

As a boy the war was exciting but most of the horrors passed me by.

Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar/stories/56/a2784756.shtml

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