There are still plenty of folk around in Brighton who have many a story to tell about life during the Second World War. For most of us though, the experience is missing. The conflict and its effects are limited to varied film footage that afford us images of the conflict unfolding, and often some very poignant pictures of its horrific effects both home and abroad.
Brighton, all these years later, seems to reveal little trace of the involvement of the townsfolk in those terrible years, aside of memorials to those who gave their lives in service. However, if you look closely enough, the evidence of the effects of the bombs that dropped on the town is still there. Two very noticeable examples can be found in White Street and Egremont Place, just off Edward Street.
White Street was bombed on the evening of the 18th September 1940. A few days after the biggest raid on Brighton had claimed, according to official records, an eventual number of 52 lives. In this raid 12 people died, 11 in White Street and 1 in the adjoining Baker Street. Of the bombs that were dropped, the heaviest damage was inflicted upon the lowest part of White Street. A picture from the time is shown below:
Picture Source: Unknown
So what of the effects as seen today ? Well, take a look at this part of the street now:
The houses shown are clearly new builds that would cause anyone to question as to how such constructs came about.
Another example of the legacy of random German bombs during 1940 can be found in Egremont Place.
On the 26th October of that year my late uncle was making his way towards Egremont Place when the bomb dropped. I’m not sure of his exact location, but a piece of sharp flying shrapnel landed just in front of him, some metres from the point of blast. He was probably spared by a few seconds of distance. The occupants of the houses were not so fortunate, two perishing in the blast. On this occasion there had been no air raid sirens, although a lone bomber, often a feature of these raids, had been seen crossing the town.
The buildings affected appear to be number 20 (destroyed) and number 22 (partially, but seriously damaged). There is a photo of the bombsite in circulation, possibly from a local rag at the time, but I am not able to show it here.
However, here is a picture of the site as it looks at present.
Again, above we see the legacy of the bombings, namely new builds that betray some sort of incident that necessitated their build, rather than a natural architectural progression.
There are doubtless many other places that show constructional anomalies in Brighton that folk could point out, and I’d be interested to hear them. But for now these images are the closest, and somewhat powerful connection, I can sense from the time. It’s hard to imagine what life must have been like for those who survived but lost loved ones.
Further recommended reading:
Target Brighton by David Rowland