Brian Sugden

Childhood memories of life on the Home Front.

Changes in the area

Brian was a young boy during the war. He lived with his family in a flat in Gilbert House, Deptford, and was the youngest of 13 children. Brian recalls the changes which were made to the surrounding area during the war years – the green spaces close to the flats were replaced with large concrete air raid shelters, each of which could be used by six families.

Bomb damage

In 1944, when Brian was just four years old, a V2 rocket damaged Gilbert House and it collapsed on top of the shelters. Brian remembers the darkness and the dust and how the fire brigade, ambulance crews and the police arrived on the scene after the shelter had collapsed. Luckily Brian's family was rescued from the shelter. There were Canadian troops stationed at Deptford, who assisted with the rescue operation. Later that day the family returned to see what remained of the building, and watched troops tie steel cables around the damaged foundations which were pulled down by trucks.

'We all run down to the shelter'

On another occasion a land mine fell on Deptford Green, close to the family home. Brian’s brother Jimmy assisted the air raid warden in guarding the bomb. Fortunately he was sent home and was not killed when it exploded.

The frequent air raids which occurred during the Second World War and the impact which doodlebugs had upon the British population is reflected by the lyrics of a song which Brian recalls hearing during the war years – ‘You hear them coming over, you hear the engines stop, we all run down the shelter until it goes off pop!’

Life on the Home Front

Brian’s parents had an allotment during the war years, and as they had been so popular, he remembers how residents fought to keep their plots after the war had ended. Brian’s family kept chickens and he felt upset at Christmas when the family ate one of the chickens which had been given to him the previous Easter.

Brian also has some memories which are less positive – shortly after the war had ended he recalls that a bookie’s runner who operated within the local area collected sixpence each week for the Victory Day street party. Unfortunately he stole the money and the residents held a ‘make do and mend party’ reinforcing the sense of resilience and determination displayed by many during the war years.

This page was added by Malin Lundin on 06/06/2012.

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