WW2 in Seaford & Lewes

Yesterday I met Dorothy Trethowan at her home in Polegate. This is what she told me…

I am 97 years old. I have spent much of my life in Seaford.  I was born Dorothy Gretton. My parents lived at a house called Sommerville, Highlands Road, not far from the Catholic Church (I remember the church being built)

I went to the girls school in Church Street. This consisted of the girls school on the left and the infants school on the right.  The boys school was in Steyne Road. There were 30 girls in the class of Miss Mitchell.  I was allowed out of school early every day because my mother was ill.  I had to go home to help her with household work and shopping.  The last lesson was usually spelling so I have never been able to spell. It was a good school.

My best subject was numbers and I am good at counting – you won’t beat me in figures!.  When I was 14 years old, the owner of Sayers Bakery in the High Street came to the school and said he wanted to someone to do his accounts.  Miss Mitchell recommended me and I left school to join the bakery as a book-keeper.   I used to do all the accounts from a small office at the back of the bakery.  There were five bakers and they would go out on their rounds delivering the bread.  They told me what they had sold and then I would make up the bills for each customer.  I worked from 9am to 5pm each day.

I met my husband Alan Bowrah at work – he was a baker.  We married on 28th January 1940 at the Congregational Church in Seaford. It was a bitterly cold icy day and the car that took me to church had to have chains fitted on the tyres.  We moved into Fernlea in Rother Road but later lived at Ledbury at 17, Hindover Road.

Initially my husband was in a retained occupation and was not called up, however later in the war he joined the RAF and served a short time abroad.  When the war broke out I worked in the Seaford Control Room. This was a small office in the Council Building at the Crouch. The room had a table and two telephones and a man and a woman were on duty there all the time.  I worked there from 6pm to 6am every day.  I am not a good sleeper so I didn’t mind working at night. There were really no facilities there and we had to take in our own food. 

The Army were up on Seaford Head and would telephone us if they thought there was going to be a raid.  I think they used codes that were colours. We would then pull the electric switch that set off all the air-raid sirens.  I can’t remember where all the sirens were but I think one was on or near the Plough Pub in Church Street.  People would go to the air-raid shelters but we were not allowed to go from the control room. We had to sound the ‘all-clear’ at the end of the raid.   Sometimes we had to go to the shelters to count how many people were using them.

I remember one raid when a German plane came over Seaford firing its machine guns. I don’t think it dropped any bombs. At the time I was walking past Southdown Road and the postman threw his sack on top of me to protect me.  I can remember afterwards seeing  the corner of one house just hanging off.

I remember during one raid the back of the Ritz Cinema, on the seaward side, caught fire because of a firebomb. The Fire Brigade were near and were based at the back of the building. The Fire Brigade had a rescue team based at Seaford.

After a raid I had to take the register and check that people were safe.  There was a bad bomb at Pelham Place and one girl (Betty Hamper) was trapped all day by her legs. She was very brave.  I remember seeing the rescue workers digging her out.   She later lived in our house in Hindover Road. George Morley, the builder – his wife was killed in that attack, she went from the top of the building to the bottom.  A bomb didn’t go off and ended up on the door-step of the Plough.

Later in the war I was told that I had to work in Lewes for the Council.  I worked at Lewes Town Hall and it was my job to issue the Food Coupons for the animals.  The coupons allowed the farmers to buy feed.  For cows there was a rate depending on the amount of milk each animal gave.  Because I was now working at Lewes I had to be a Fire-Watcher there.  There were three posts, the Town Hall, the Railway Station and the Castle.  I worked at the  Castle.  I can’t remember much about working there – five of us worked together but nothing really happened.

During the war there wasn’t a lot of depression. The people were very good. We realised that we may not be here tomorrow so we all made the best of it.  I didn’t like to see the people killed though. I remember Mrs Hart and her sister were both killed.

Although we had rationing, people exchanged food with each other and many had allotments.  We used Bond’s Shop on the Alfriston Road. There was a butchers up there too although the main shops were in Broad Street and the High Street.

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