It was a warm Saturday afternoon in September, but what happened that afternoon has been written into Brighton's history. On 14th September 1940 at approximately 3.30 a lone Dornier bomber being chased by a spitfire jettisons its load of 20 100lb bombs in a last ditch attempt by its pilot to get away from the spitfire, this was to no avail as the bomber was later shot down, but not before destruction is rained down on Kemp Town. The 20 bombs were dropped over Kemp Town killing 52 people. During the whole of the War 198 people died in Brighton from German bombs, the 52 that died on that day represents over a quarter of all deaths throughout the war. The bombs hit the Kemp Town area which included Edward Street and Upper Rock Gardens. The Odeon cinema in St Georges Road look two direct hits which killed 4 children and 2 adults and left dozens injured, the cinema was busy so it was a small miracle that more were not killed.
Keith WEST was taking his younger brother John to the cinema that Saturday afternoon, Keith being John's elder brother was already working and earning so Keith was treating his younger brother then almost 10 years old to a trip out to the cinema and was intending to go to the Odeon, but on their arrival they were turned away because the theatre was full, so the brothers walked down to the Astoria in Gloucester Place, not knowing that this initial disappointment of not getting into the Odeon could well have saved their lives.
This is just one of the stories of lucky escapes that I suspect everyone that lived through the war can relate. Another lucky escape happened when the two boys were walking along Preston Drove when an enemy aircraft strafed the road, the boys diving for cover into Blakers Park. The strafing of the roads especially around the main London Road apparently were not uncommon. Maybe because of these close escapes John was evacuated to High Bentham in Yorkshire in 1941 where he stayed for almost 3 years. On his return with the war still ongoing an incendiary bomb was dropped which landed next door to their home in Waldergrave Road, but luckily did not go off
Dedicated to the 198 in Brighton that were not so lucky