With a Machine Gun to Primary School: Childhood and War in the Witterings 1939-45
Accounts from East Wittering Residents
Accounts from East Wittering residents amassed from several public exhibitions, talks, columns, and Janet Smith (ed.), Wittering’s War: Reminiscences of village life during World War Two (West Sussex: Mill Press, 2004).
Source I: Accounts from East Wittering residents amassed from several public exhibitions, talks, columns, and Janet Smith (ed.), Wittering’s War: Reminiscences of village life during World War Two (West Sussex: Mill Press, 2004).
Transcript exerpts from an interview conducted with Mr. Iam Coombes
For us kids it was quite an adventurous time, because there was always something new happening in a place where that didn’t used to be the case. For example, the Canadian soldiers took over the Shore Road Club. They used the hall for a private cinema. We would climb in through the lavatory window one by one as the next in line held up a blanket against the window so as to not let the light show through. The last one in would have to go without the blanket and take a bit of a chance. And you’d go out and close the door and sit down quietly. Big Jim Willoughby was the most well-known Military policeman in the village and a very happy man. When he saw us sneaking in, he would just warn us to be quiet and pass by. Sadly, he was killed in France. All of us kids were very fond of him and we all missed him very much.
Source II: Transcript excerpts from an interview conducted with Mr. Ian Coombes by William Brooks (09 October 2017).
Transcript exerpts from an interview conducted with Mrs. Diana Young
The Canadians were lovely. They’d give us gum and cake and share their parcels from home with us kids, which we were very grateful for… Sweets and candies too!
It was an exciting time. All the bren gun carriers arrived and they would quite willingly give you a ride in them! They were really kind to the kids. Not like the British soldiers down in the far end of our row. They weren’t the same. But the Canadians were friendly. We liked them.
The Americans were also accepted very well. I never attended any of the dances in the village hall, but from what I gather they used to play all the old jazz and jive. These black Americans – couldn’t they dance?! They could jive like nobody’s business!
A lot of them that we got to know never came back. I suppose we accepted it then, as you get older you feel more sadness, take it more to heart. But as children I think we accepted it.
Source III: Transcript exerpts from an interview conducted with Mrs. Diana Young by William Brooks (06 December 2017).