Target Brighton

The bombing raids of the second world war

Published in 2008, this is David Rowland's comprehensive account of every single German attack on Brighton from July 1940 until March 1944. In it David evokes the suffering and the bravery of ordinary men, women and children caught up in the carnage, and also puts on record the names of all the civilians who lost their lives in the raids. This is the definitive guide to life on the home front for all Brightonians whose families were involved in it.

Here is an excerpt from the book, which recounts the remarkable and harrowing story of Peter Twell:

"In September 1940 I was 10 years old and living with my family at no. 9 Dinapore Street in Brighton. It was a small terraced house on two floors and had a semi-basement. The front door opened on to a hallway, at the end of which was a flight of stairs leading to the lower two rooms. My family at this time consisted of my parents, Olive and Charles, together with my five brothers and sisters...
My parents worked very hard in bringing us up, and now I can fully appreciate just how hard it must have been. My mother had a wonderful sense of humour and maybe that helped her with bringing up our large family. At this time she was 35 years old, my father four years older. We were a very happy family and, although rather on the poor side, enjoyed life to the full. The older children helped to keep an eye on the younger ones.

On Tuesday 24th September 1940, the day started as usual for us. Once we had had our breakfast we made our way to our various schools. About 3:30pm on this day, and with school finished, I started off on my way home. I had just reached the bottom of Richmond Street when I heard the whistle of falling bombs. At this time there had been no air raid warning and people were caught off guard. I ran into the tobacconists's shop at the bottom of the hill and stayed there until things quietened down. Once I thought it was safe to move I made my way up Richmond Street towards my home in Dinapore Street. When I reached the end of Dinapore Street it had been roped off, stopping anyone from entering. I quickly ducked under the ropes but before I could get any further I was stopped by a policeman who said 'Sorry son, you can't go along there'. I stopped for a second and then dodged past him and made my way along to my house.

I wasn't prepared for what I saw - it was so terrible, and I cannot ever forget it. I saw my poor mother sitting on the pavement and propped up against the wall of the house. Her head, face and body were covered with blood, which was still oozing from her. The blood was mixed with soot and dust. She was in a terrible state. I remember that she kept blinking her eyes. It really was a terrible sight and I was very frightened.

My father was standing by her side and suffering from a large cut down the side of his face, with blood pouring out.
My mother had just been hanging out her washing on the outside line. She had come back into the house and was standing close to the downstairs back window when the bomb fell and exploded at the bottom of our back garden. This blew in the window, with my mother taking the full force of it. My father, although in the same room, was on the far side and away from the window. He was aware that she was badly hurt and just about managed to get her up what remained of the stairs and out into the street.

As I arrived, they were both there waiting for some medical attention. I just stood there looking at them and rooted to the spot. I just couldn't move - in fact I didn't know what to do... moments later I saw my father being led away to an ambulance. He spotted me and called me over to him. He told me to go and pick up my two little sisters, Janice and Irene from their school shelter, which was just down the road, and take them to the Salvation Army hall, which was near the level.

I could see that my mother was still there, propped up against the wall and that she had still not received any medical treatment. It appeared that no one had been anywhere near her, although her injuries were near fatal. She had no fewer than 250 wounds to her body from her knees up - and she was totally blind. Shrapnel and glass from the window had caused the vast majority of these wounds. In fact she was never to see again.

While all this panic was going on, and off-duty policeman came onto the scene. It was PC Richard (Dicky) Brown. He stopped a coal lorry driven by Mr Thwaites, and then with the aid of an unknown sailor home on leave he went to the aid of my mother. They used our front door as a stretcher and gently put my mother on it. They then made haste and took her to the Royal Sussex County Hospital on the back of this coal lorry. She was quickly taken inside where the surgeons worked on her for several hours, removing shrapnel and glass from her badly injured body. She was taken to a ward, although there was little hope: she wasn't expected to last through the night.

However, she was a very tough lady with a will of iron and was certainly not prepared to leave her family. It was quite incredible that she could have cheated death in such a way, especially with the horrific injuries that she had suffered. No wonder the words 'surgical miracle' were uttered by the medical staff. During my mother's time in hospital she was told that she would never see again. She was also told that in all probability she would not be able to use her hands or legs. However, due to her will power and her perseverance, and possibly because she knew that her family needed her, she walked out of the hospital four months later to start her new life as a blind person."

Target Brighton front cover
  • ISBN978-0-9539392-6-8
  • Price £12.99