Editorial

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Thursday, 7 August 2014

43. Jo Christmas, born during air raid at Saxon Villas

Jo writes about the Canadian troops preparing for D-day

I was just going through our file of important documents and found my birth certificate. It gives the address where I was born as 1 Saxon Villas, Lancing on 10th February 1943. I have been on to Google Maps and that address isn't listed any more so I presume it no longer exists.

Obviously I have no personal memory of the time in Lancing as just before I was born an attachment of Canadian troops moved into the area and, in fact, took over the house where my mother was staying. All the surrounding area was evacuated I gather as the whole area around that part of Lancing was full of army lorries and vehicles, loaded with ammunitions etc. as they were preparing for a possible invasion by the enemy. As I was due at any time they allowed my mother to occupy the upstairs bedroom whilst the troops took over the rest of the house. In the meantime the local midwife was detached to try and find someone or some place to take her in as the army wanted me rehoused as soon as possible.

The young Canadian soldiers took turns to sit with my mother (she was confined to bed at this time with a severe case of toxemia) and would talk to her about many things, including their families back home.

One morning one of the soldiers told my mother that all the lorries outside were loaded with munitions and it only needed one bomb to land in the vicinity and the whole area would blow up. A short time later the air raid sirens started and aircraft began flying overhead. At the time my mother was lying in bed on her own and only managed to clamber out and crawl under the whilst she cold here the bombs dropping not far away . Apparently all the troops had fled into the air raid shelter somewhere close by and in the rush no one thought of my mother upstairs. Mother was not even physically able to get downstairs and shortly after the bombs started she went into labour. The midwife in the meantime was scouring the town for someone or someplace to take mum in but had to duck into the nearest air raid shelter to take cover as soon as the air raid siren siren started. However, she realised that this air raid would undoubtedly bring on mother's labour and it wasn't until the all clear was sounded much later that she was able to continue her bike ride to mother's house. As soon as she reached the bottom of the stairs she told mother she could hear me wailing upstairs and on arriving at the bedroom she found me bawling my eyes out under the bed, blue with the cold and mother passed out! She was so upset that mother had been all alone and had me under the bed with no one around to help her but at least I was alive and kicking (or wailing!)

As the midwife had been unable to find anyone to take mother in she was told by the army that she had to leave the house as they could no longer be responsible for her. With nowhere to go she was preparing to put me into an orphanage when an old neighbour was in touch and arranged for me to be cared for as an evacuee at a friend of her's in Seaford and mother then found a place to stay in a nurses hostel in London. I remained in Seaford for the duration of the war. The funny thing about that was that at the time many children were being evacuated out of Seaford because of the many bombings by the V1's flying directly over the Sussex Downs and often unloading their bombs on the area. As our house was directly at the foot of Beachy Head many bombs dropped nearby and I gather I spent a great deal of time sheltering with them in the cupboard under the stairs!

Obviously all this was told to me second hand by my mother as I was too young to remember any of it. Having just found the Lancing address where I was born on my birth certificate I have been trying to find it on GoogleMaps but there is no mention of 1 Saxon Villas Close in Lancing so presume it no longer exists. Would really love to know if anyone in Lancing remembers where Saxon Villas used to be as I would love to find out exactly where I was born. Anyway, thought you might be interested to hear of wartime experiences in Lancing during WW11.

Regards, Josephine Christmas (nee Smith)

Editor Note : After a little bit of luck and research we found Saxon Villas

2 comments:

John said...

Hello
I was born in North Lancing in October 1943 and would be interested to know the name of the regiment of Canadian troops that were in Lancing during 1942/3.
Many thanks.

John said...

Hello
I was born in North Lancing in October 1943 and would be interested to know the name of the regiment of Canadian troops that were in Lancing during 1942/3.
Many thanks.