University of Oxford
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From East End to Brighton: The McBeth Family

online resource
posted on 2024-06-05, 19:00 authored by Their Finest Hour Project Team

My parents, Dorothy and William McBeth, lived in Leytonstone in the East End of London. At the beginning of the war, they were evacuated to Bookham in Surrey, along with my mother's two sisters; but like many Londoners that were evacuated, they soon migrated back to their home in London as nowhere could be described as safe. For instance, one day in Bookham, my aunts were waking in some quiet woods when they spotted an aircraft. Being young girls, they thought that would wave at the pilot. It was a Messerschmitt and they found themselves diving for cover as he open fired.

William McBeth was a Bethnal Green councillor before the war, and was at the opening of the York Hall baths in 1929. My father worked for a firm in Cheapside called Lindsay's (Southsea ltd) who were surgical appliance makers. This was alongside St Paul's cathedral, but as that was the target for German bombers; the shop was hit one night and burnt out. My mother was the sort of woman who would find a queue and join it, just in case she could buy something for the family. When the shop was burnt out, she went along, and, defying the fire wardens, entered the rubble and found that the office safe was intact. I do not know how she opened it, but she did, and proudly produced something of real value during the war. It was a two-pound bag of sugar, which was almost impossible to get. She had put it there for safe keeping.

As a result of that, my father found himself commuting to Southsea for the rest of the war. He was a surgical appliance maker, which was a reserved occupation. He recalled that on the night of August 19th, 1942, he went to the cinema in Portsmouth, and found himself awaiting the roof to fall in, as the city was being blitzed by the Germans, chasing the failed Dieppe raiders back across the channel.

I was born in March 1944 in Drayton Road in Leytonstone. The story goes that one night a German raid on the East end resulted in the houses each side of ours being hit with explosives. My father described it that in the resulting blast the clock on the mantelpiece went over by 45 degrees and was about the fall then settled back upright. As a result of this, my father moved us to Brighton where he took over the running of the Brighton Branch of Lindsay's. Thus, I have lived in and around Brighton all my life, and tell people that I have done so, "courtesy of Adolph Hitler".


Item list and details

My mother (in checked coat) with my sister in front, London 1942

Person the story/items relate to

Dorothy McBeth (nee Davis) and William McBeth

Person who shared the story/items

Don McBeth

Relationship between the subject of the story and its contributor

My parents

Type of submission

Shared online via the Their Finest Hour project website.

Record ID