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Memories of the War - Ronald Parkinson

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posted on 2024-06-05, 19:51 authored by Their Finest Hour Project Team

The first thing I remember about the war was the announcement by the Prime Minister, Chamberlain, after discussions with Hitler that had failed announced "We are at War with Germany". I was with my Mum then and I was eleven and she had knowledge of the First World War and my older brother (John (Jack) Archibald Parkinson) was about 14 years of age at the time so she knew if it went on for any length of time he was going to be involved in the War. We lived in Brighton so we saw a lot of the war because it had huge coach parks and for the Dieppe Raid, when the Canadians went there they were filled with all their vehicles and again for the D-Day landings. I was aware of the implications of war but not as much as my Mother who worried about her eldest son who was subsequently killed!

My Father had served in the trenches in the First World War, so, both of them were very apprehensive about their eldest son but I was not to know at the time. There was a lot going on in the War as we had a port on either side of Brighton. Shoreham on one side and Newhaven on the East and both of these ports were used for the invasion as well as the return from Dunkirk. A large part of the Battle of Britain was fought over the fields of Sussex.

As kids we were into it all, if a plane got shot anywhere close we were into it. There was a fairing range not far away with huge earth butts that was used extensively as a firing range and so after the troops had good we were over there and we all had large quantities of ammunition and thunder flashes and in fact, I cut open one of them. I put all the explosive powder in a tin and put it away! A year later I looked in the tin and thought "I wonder what this is, oh yes, I know" so I dropped a match into it and WOOSH - Hospital. Burnt arms and fingers, my poor Mum had to take me down there after soaking my hand in a teapot of cold tea! Apparently the recommended treatment. We had lots of hit-and-run air raids and we would be sleeping in the Morrison shelter. My Father was working on the construction of tunnels over at Bath and later behind Southampton where they were building tunnels to hide the Supermarine Works. He was an experienced man in the field of tunnelling and he used to send his wages home in a registered envelope. Always got there. We had no money and so we waited for that envelope that always arrived regardless of raids or anything else.

He had to endure tremendous bombing whilst at Southampton. Our Primary school was built on the side of a hill and so they burrowed into the side of the hill and built trenches and as the hills are chalk it was very messy in them and we got very dirty! We had gasmasks and my younger brother had "Mickey Mouse" as a mask to start with and then had the adult ones like we had. The other thing we had to practice reacting to explosions. When a teacher came into the room and lifted a table up and crashed it down we had to dive under our desks.

We were fairly lucky where we lived as far as bombing was concerned there was not Blitz bombing. FW190 fighter bombers would carry out surprise attacks on the area we would hear the Bofers (British Anti Aircraft Guns) start up then machine gun fire and then an explosion. I think they were trying to hit the cinema but they hit a large house which duly collapsed. Some people were killed and when we passed by the curtains were flapping and the staircase swinging. As a young boy, it was thrilling as well as scary.

We didn't have any early warning of a raid as the sirens just indicated that one was coming into the general area. What we waited for were the "Pips" that came from the same source as the siren. These indicated that the aircraft were overhead. On one occasion the sirens went off, just as I was late for school, immediately followed by the "Pips". I was scared so I lay down next to a Privet Hedge until the all-clear "Pips" sounded when I ran on to school where I got told off for being late!

All these memories are still very clear in my head. We lived on a Council Estate, a slum clearance scheme estate and there were some tough "Herberts" there but they all got on well and they watched each other's backs and we knew where each other back door keys were, stuffed up the drain pipe! We had huge water tanks for fighting fires and they had wire netting over them to keep the kids out but they were more harm than good with some kids getting stuck under them with one or two drownings.
We didn't see any volunteer organisations as they were concentrating on the docks.

The FW190's would come over trying to hit the railway viaduct. There was not any concentrated bombing of our area just a few stray ones and a stick of bombs that, fortunately, straddled our house.

VE Day wasn't as happy for our family as my eldest brother got killed on 6th June 1944 D-Day. He was in 41 RM Commando and he was killed at a place called Lion-sur-Mer. There is a square there called 41 Commando Square which we have sat in. He was killed there shortly after landing when his section was killed by a number of mortar bombs at around 10.30 in the morning. It was a horrible experience but we were celebrating the invasion and felt that the war was turning our way even as kids. When the doorbell went I got up to go and my Dad said I'll go and there was a Telegram Boy. Of course, the Telegram Boy would always ask "Is there any reply?". I heard him say no, and he came in "Sorry about that! He had the telegram in his hand and he said, "Jack's died". That's all he said and then he cried. I had never seen my Dad cry before.
He just said "Jack's dead!", showed me the telegram and walked out. I didn't know what to do so I went out and I had a hammer out there and so I took some chunks of chalk and starting smashing it all up and Mrs [?] heard it next door and she had seen the Telegram Boy and they had been frequent visitors around. Of course, as soon as they saw one they came over. You always thought the Telegram Boys would go past your house but they came over and said "Is your brother alright?" and I said "No, he's dead!" and I just went on breaking up lumps of chalk.

That apart we kids were lucky with the coach parks full of all of the equipment for the Dieppe Raid with loads of small tanks (Ed. Churchill Mk I and II's) that had names like Canuck, Cougar and Cheetah on 'C' Troop ones.

Do you know the Germans dropped leaflets 2 days after Dieppe all around the Brighton area showing all the carnage on the beaches with the Canadians just lying there and all of them had had their boots removed! And we saw the same names as we had seen on the Bus parks. That was the only leaflet drop we had but they didn't do it very well because some came down in ones and two but the rest came down in great lumps, you would have been killed if one had hit you!

Thank you Ron.


Item list and details

Copy of dictated memories

Person the story/items relate to

Ron Parkinson and his family

Person who shared the story/items

Ronald Parkinson

Relationship between the subject of the story and its contributor


Type of submission

Shared at Ahmadiyyah Mosque Hall, Warwickshire on 7 October 2023. The event was organised by Leamington History Group.

Record ID

95614 | LEA004