The Brighton Blitz

How Brighton suffered and survived from 1940 to 1944

On Tuesday 25th May 1943, David Rowland was seven years old, and walking home from Finsbury Road School in Southover Street with a friend. Looking up, they saw a lone aircraft coming towards them from the direction of Brighton train station, flying very low, and with a rush of horror they both realised it was as German plane. As they ran for cover the plane's guns opened up and fired all the way up Albion Hill, just missing them. This terrifying near-miss inspired David to start recording the dates and times of the various air raids that had affected Brighton since 1940, which took a huge amount of time as the official records have been lost.

Originally, this book was intended as an account of David's own experience of an air raid, but by the time he got round to writing it he had amassed so much information about the bombing of Brighton that this book has grown to become a record of the many attacks on the town.

Here is an excerpt from the book, :

"Tuesday April 19th, 1944: The last attack of the 'Baby Blitz', a renewed offensive against London, occurred on this particular night. Taking part was 24-year old pilot Richard Pahl in a Messerschmitt 410A-1 based at Evreux in France. The Messerschmitt, damaged by flak over London, was first seen north of Brighton heading for home across the Channel. It was spotted by the crew of a Mosquito of 96 Squadron from West Malling in Kent. The time was 12:48 AM. The Mosquito opened fire and there was a large flash from the German raider, followed by sheets of flame. The Messerschmitt turned towards Brighton, losing height, the navigator bailed out and drowned in the sea. His body was washed up the next day near Friston and he was buried in the local churchyard.

The Messerschmitt crashed on the lower part of Dyke Road, striking a lamp standard and ploughing into the flint wall of St Nicholas's churchyard. It was blazing fiercely, fuelled by igniting flares, and there was great danger of ammunition and bombs still in the aircraft exploding. The tail and parts of the fuselage fell among tombstones and many of the graves were disturbed and had their headstones broken or knocked down. Eventually the plane burnt itself out.

The pilot was found dead, hanging by his parachute cords from a tree on the oposite side of the road - he had a shrapnel wound to his head.
Eileen Donoghue, then living at 5 Dyke Road, had gone out on the town with her brother and sister-in-law for the first time since the start of the war. She returned late and had just gone to bed when she felt something heavy crash onto the bed beside her. She could see there was a fire outside close by. She got up and rushed outside where she saw a German airman hanging in a tree; he appeared to be on fire. Later she found that the object that landed on her bed was part of the churchyard wall. The pilot - Richard Pahl - was a much decorated Luftwaffe officer. He had been awarded the Iron Cross which he was wearing when he died. He was buried in the Bear Road cemetery."

The Brighton Blitz front cover
  • ISBN1-85770-124-0
  • Price £5.99
  • Published: 1997