I was born in Newington Green Middlesex on April 14th 1930.
My mother was Clara Emily Brown (nee Jones) and my father was Thomas Herbert Brown.
I also had a brother Cyril who was aged nine at that time.
When I was seven years of age my father died of pneumonia on 09 Dec 1937 in Hillingdon County Hospital, Uxbridge, Middlesex.
I can remember very little about my father apart from the fact that he worked for a company in the city of London.
My brother joined the merchant navy when he left school, so I did not see much of him after that.
After my father died mum had to sell the house as she was now unable to pay the mortgage. We moved many times to different flats in many parts of London, this meant that I had to attend many different schools and ended up with a very poor education.
There was no social security as such in those days so money was in short supply, things like holidays were out of the question. But she was a good mum and looked after me very well.
We were living with my grandparents in Tooting when the Second World War broke out in 1939. Mum decided that it would be better if we moved out of London, so that was how we ended up in Brighton.
When you see what happened to London during all the bombing, she was right. We had a flat in College Road and I went to St Marys Church School.
In 1941 my brother returned home. He had been all around the world many times on all sorts of cargo ships and ocean liners. When he had last landed in New Zealand he left his ship to join the New Zealand Army, he was trained as a gunner in the artillery unit and sometime later was allowed to return to England to join the Royal Air Force. He worked his way back as a gunner on an armed merchant ship.
We moved once again this time to St Georges Road.
I well remember going out after every air raid to look at the bomb damage. I was able to pick up pieces of shrapnel, burnt out fire bombs, cartridge cases and spent bullets etc.
I had a great time watching the A.A. Guns firing at German planes and the flying bombs. I remember at one time watching a spitfire shooting down a German bomber, which ended up going into the sea. This was all great fun and excitement for a young boy.
We moved yet again, this time to College Street in Kemp Town.
One Saturday morning I was to have gone to the Childrens Club at the Odeon Cinema in Kemp Town. As I had been giving mum a bit of trouble (I must have been a little bugger), she would not let me go. That morning the cinema received a direct hit from one of a string of bombs dropped by a German bomber.
Many people, most of them children were killed or injured. That could have been the end of this story.
In 1941 mum married Arthur Potiphar. He really was a very nice man, everybody liked him. I could not have wished for a better stepfather. They had met at the Savoy Cinema in East Street where Arthur was the head doorman, mum started work there looking after the hats and coats for the customers. This was great; I now had a complimentary ticket to the cinema every week, best seats in the house.
At about this time I started going to Park Street School. What a school, I wouldn’t say it was tough, but even the teachers went about in pairs. You think I’m kidding. Anyway you did get used to it, you soon found out how to look after yourself and “do unto others before they do to you” as they say.
In July 1943 mum received a telegram to say that Cyril had been killed in action. This was a great shock to all of us, to me my brother had always been a hero and I felt a great loss. He was a sergeant wireless operator/air gunner on a Lancaster bomber and had been stationed at an airfield near Peterborough. He was one of a seven man crew on S for sugar in 61 Squadron.
His plane was shot down during a raid on Hamburg in Germany and his grave is in the military cemetery outside of that city. He had a very short, but very exciting life. He was only twenty-two.
When I left school at the age of fourteen I started work at the Curzon Cinema in Western Road. This is now part of the Waitrose store. I was a trainee projectionist, I spent maybe two years, in this job and at this point I will mention that during that time this naive and very innocent young lad was taken advantage of by an older woman. Oh yes, she must have been six months older than me. She was one of the usherettes. My first girlfriend, her name was Susan.
I got fed up having to watch the same film over and over again so left and took a job at the old Kemp Town Brewery, first in the stores and then as a drivers mate. It was a good job, we went all over Sussex making deliveries and it had the added bonus of good tips and plenty of free beer.
© Douglas Brown 2014
Life in the Army