VE Day in West Sussex: Memories of a lucky escape in Shoreham

Shoreham had a lucky escape in the Second World War and as the 75th anniversary of VE Day approaches, one former resident has told of the celebrations when victory in Europe was announced.

John Richards, 88, was 14 years old on May 8, 1945. He now lives in Chichester and remembers VE Day well, having been one of the first to hear the news.

Later the same day, he nearly ended up on the wrong side of a Dutch hoe as celebrations ensued.

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John said: “The residents of Parkside, Shoreham, had a very special reason to be relieved the war in Europe had ended. For most of the war, the Army had an ammunition dump in the trees of Buckingham Park which ran the full length of Parkside.

John Richards in his Sea Cadet uniform, a photo taken just after the Second World War had ended

“One bomb, and the whole of the street would have been destroyed. Fortunately, the doodlebug which dropped just south of the Green Jacket pub was too far away to set off the ammunition dump. However, it was close enough blow open our front door.

“Once a week after school, I used to visit a French lady, a Mrs Pocock, to help with my French oral exams. When I knocked on the door, she told me I couldn’t have a lesson that day as the war was over. She had heard it on a French radio station. When I got home, my mother did not believe me, she thought I was skiving. Later on, it was on our news.

“During the war, there was a complete ban on lighting bonfires, so it seemed natural to light bonfires to celebrate. In Parkside, two or three were lit. A young lad who got over-excited was swinging a hoe around his head. It was dark by then and I walked into it. Luckily, it was the back end and I only got a badly bruised lip.

“Later on, to keep the fire going, our next-door neighbour put his upright piano on the fire. He regretted it the next day when he had sobered up.

John Richards, 88, remembers VE Day well

“The next street, Greenways Crescent, had their bonfire on the green opposite St Giles’ Church. To keep the fire going, they put the church’s lovely oak gate on the fire. The vicar was not too pleased.”

John belonged to Worthing Sea Cadet Corps, noted for its large bugle and drum band and for the Midget submarine parked on the lawn of its headquarters in Worthing.

John said: “We were told it was a submarine but I think it may have been a manned torpedo.”

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