I was recently lucky to meet and interview a 93 year old Seafordian with a Canadian accent. As today is the anniversary of the D-Day Landings I thought you may like to hear his story…..
My full name is Anthony Edwin Stride Elliot and I was born on 14th November 1925 at 9, Pelham Place, Seaford. I am now 93 and I am visiting Seaford with my daughter Susan. I now live in Canada.
My parents were Alfred Henry Elliot who was born in Bishopstone and Edith Marie (Payne) who was born in Chelsea in 1899. My grandfather Alfred was born in Firle in 1870 and my grandmother Matilda Winter was born in Seaford in 1865
I went to school in Church Street and when I was 10 I went to the school in Steyne Road and later to the ‘big’ school near Sutton Corner which was a mixed school. I have no real memories of my school days although I do remember the black tarmac playground at the back of the Church Street school. At Steyne Road one of the teachers was quite small. We would flick ink-balls at her but she would creep up behind you when you were working in class. If she didn’t like what you were doing she would rap you over the knuckles with a ruler. At the other school the headmaster was a big man but he got into trouble when he beat one of the boys with a cricket bat. My boyhood friends were John Baker whose father ran the hardware store on the corner of Church Street and Clinton Place and a lad called Richardson whose father had the paper shop in High Street at the bottom of Broad Street. I used to deliver newspapers for WH Smith who had a stall on the platform of the Railway Station. I also sang in St Leonard’s Church Choir.
My family emigrated to Canada in 1929 and settled in Kentville, Nova Scotia. Due to the depression in the 1930’s my sister and I returned to England. We sailed alone to Liverpool where we were met by my grandparents and got the train down to Bishopstone. We lived in White Cottages at the back of the church.
My parents joined us in 1935 and we moved to 19 Chichester Road and later to 30 Chichester Road. The Police Station was at the end of the road. At the start of the war we moved to a house called Southover in Hindover Road. I remember hearing the bombs dropping and on one occasion Hindover Road was machine-gunned – right up the middle of the road it was! We ran for shelter in the Seven Sisters pub. When we came out, the girls school (Downs) had been hit and there were bedsheets and clothes all over the place and even up in the trees.
In 1939 I worked up on Seaford Head, making the buildings for the Radar Station. While we were working one day, we heard the air-raid sirens. Suddenly two German planes came up from under the cliffs and strafed us. We dived for cover. I hid in a pile of bricks but some of the others went into a wooden shed and were injured when it was hit. The planes were so close – if I had a rifle I could have shot at them. After the raid I ran down the hill and used a telephone box in Steyne Road to call for an ambulance. Quite a few men were badly hurt up there.
I got a job working for Funnels and one of the jobs was going to Portsmouth to dig up old steel for the war effort. I joined the Seaford Home Guard. We didn’t do much really, just walked around. Our first guns were old Navy issue but we were later issued with webbing, a uniform and an Enfield rifle. Our officer was a man called Kennedy who lived in Sutton Road. Our HQ was a hall in town. (The Queens Hall). I remember seeing a raid on Seaford – I saw the bombs dropping from the planes – they just looked like sacks of potatoes being dropped. I then saw the big clouds of dust being thrown up. I later found that the place where I was born, 9, Pelham Road, had been destroyed in the raid.
When I was 17 I joined the Royal Marines. I was sent to the Marine Barracks in Portsmouth and was amazed to find I was in the very same barrack room when my father had been in the First War. The next year I was involved in the D-Day landings. I was due to be on the Black Prince but missed out on that. We arrived off Arromanches at about 6.30am but had to hang back as our rocket-ships were still attacking the beach. Our ship had machine guns and acid in order to make smoke-screens. We went around port-side onto the beach for the landing craft to be deployed. It was all terrible to watch – I was only 18. When the beach was secure we cruised along to find wounded men. There were lots of dead and wounded in the water but we only picked up the casualties. One soldier was grey and looked dead but you could just see his lips moving so we got him on board. At one point I heard this great ‘whoosh’ down my right side and a big bit of shrapnel landed on the deck next to me.
We were there for a week and a half before our ship decided to sink so we came home. Of the 125 crew only 90 came back. Later we fought up through Holland to Hangerlow?. The Americans wanted us to attack Bremmen but with no support our officer said no. I was later attached to the 2nd Canadian Armoured Division and drove an anti-tank carrier. I wanted to work on the guns and another chap called Elliot wanted to be a driver but they got us mixed up and we ended up doing the jobs each other wanted to do.
We headed up to the coast to Wilhelmshaven. On one occasion we took the wrong turning and got lost. We stopped to ask for directions at a small cottage. Luckily our senior officer spoke a bit of German. He returned to tell us we were actually 5 miles behind enemy lines in Germany! We soon got out.
I returned to Seaford after the war and was married at St Leonard’s Church. My daughter was born in Brighton. In 1947 we moved to Ontario in Canada where I worked on the THB Railroad (Toronto, Hamilton and Buffalo Railway). In the early 50s they were recruiting for the Korean War and I thought ‘why not’? I was getting 38 dollars a month on the railway and when I joined up my wages over doubled. I remember being on Hill 108 when the Chinese were on Hill 109. They sent over planes. I was in an armoured car going along with some others when we were attacked and one of them got hit. They were blown all over. It was horrible.
I am very lucky to have survived several near-misses. A few months ago, I was awarded the French Legion d’Honour for taking part in the D-Day landings. I would like to be remembered to any old’uns in Seaford who may know me.
It was great to speak to such a nice man – a true hero! My thanks to Jean and Eric Woodward of Malvern House for arranging the interview, to Susan, Tony’s daughter and my wife Mandy for her note-taking.