Brian O’Gorman born in 1936 interviewed 27th January 2014
At Stable Cottage, Westergate Street
Brian moved to Maisemore, Elm Grove, Barnham, in August 1939 and lived there with his parents and younger brother until June 1945 when they moved to Slindon. Brian’s father was a successful comedian and during the war he continued to work as an entertainer. At first the theatres were closed and he went to work in Ireland but when they were reopened by Churchill to boost morale, he travelled around the UK using the convenience of Barnham Junction when the purchase of petrol for private use was banned. The trains were surprisingly reliable throughout the war. In 1945 he was working at the Prince’s Theatre, Shaftesbury Ave, catching the 16.05 from Barnham to Victoria in time for the start of the show at 18.30 – never late. When the show finished at 9pm a cab would be waiting to whisk him off to Victoria Station to catch the last train at 21.18 by the skin of his teeth.
(see britishpathe.com and search ogorman)
The house had a very large garden with many fruit trees and space for vegetables: apple trees, pear trees, plums, greengages, damsons, cobnuts, walnuts, rhubarb, soft fruits including raspberries, potatoes, cabbages, peas, runner beans, horseradish. They kept rabbits, chickens, ducks and geese.
Brian with Mr King the gardener at Maisemore, Elm Grove in 1942
They bought 2 pigs from Ray Smith, a butcher in Lake Lane who owned a pig farm, but, under war time regulations, were able to keep only one so one was slaughtered and hung in a stone larder. Salted, this fed the family for many months.
A land mine fell at around ten a.m. on the Wentworth’s orchard where Barnham Primary School is today and Brian remembers it ‘raining’ apples over quite a wide area.
In addition to Mr King the gardener who lived at Rose Cottages, Barnham Road, the O’Gorman family employed a housemaid/nursemaid called Doris who lived in Elm Grove. She worked until she was called up to the ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service for women created in 1938. The National Services Act December 1941 conscripted unmarried women between 20 and 30 to help with war work). A cleaner, Mrs Hitchman, also worked for the family. She lived at Rose Cottages with her husband who worked on the railway.
Evacuees – no recollection but 2 young cousins, Betty and Henry from London, came to stay for a while early in the war. They were about the same ages as Brian and his brother.
Canadians – billeted at the Railway Hotel, Barnham but has a better recollection of the US troops that followed. They were also billeted at the Railway Hotel and at Westergate House (opposite the garage – now flats) for the run up to the D Day landings. Brian would wait with his brother for the Silver Queen omnibus to take them to school at Walberton (the Red Cottage). They would watch around 60 GIs run up the Barnham Road from the hotel to the War Memorial wearing spotless white T-shirts – the first they had seen – and well cut, low on the waist trousers, unlike the rough, high waist worn by our soldiers. Asking his father about this, he was told that each soldier was issued with 8 singlets and 4 pairs of trousers – only the best for the US servicemen. One evening a sergeant and another soldier knocked at the house and asked if the two little boys could attend a party next to the hotel. There was entertainment and trestle tables set with so much food, much of which his younger brother had no recollection of having seen before. At that time there was a makeshift Catholic church opposite the Murrell Arms (Bridge House today) and this was where the soldiers would worship every Sunday morning. In April 1944, from the station to the War Memorial parked on the left all along Barnham Road could be seen gun lorry tank, gun lorry tank ready for the Normandy landings. One day they had gone – the invasion had begun. Brian also travelled to Bognor and saw the Mulberry harbours ready to go.
PC Bates lived at the Police House on the corner of Elm Grove/Barnham Road and there was a police cell within the house. Never officially reported was a fatal accident at the Labour in Vain junction (Nyton Road) in which 2 jeeps both carrying GIs and local girls collided killing all 8 passengers. During the war PC Bates had an official revolver with just 6 bullets.
First Italian and then German PoWs were billeted in the villages. An Italian PoW escaped, killing a guard. He was pursued by the Home Guard and cornered at Long Furlong. He resisted recapture and was shot dead by a 17 year old Home Guard as he tried to escape.
Battle of Britain Brian was with his family at a rented house in the Aldwick Bay Estate after Dunkirk when, on clear summer days, German planes in their hundreds went over and were met by a handful of British planes. A Messerschmitt went over at roof top height and he met the eye of the German pilot looking down on him. The plane was flying from the direction of Portsmouth in the west.
Rene Toynbee’s war time concert
Rene Toynbee was the French wife of Frank at Croftway Nursery. She organised a children’s concert at the old Yapton village hall (now the Co-op) in 1944 for ‘Salute the Soldier’ week. Brian’s auntie Rene played the piano and Brian and his brother Frankie sang ‘Deep in the Heart of Texas’. Everyone joined in and they sang an encore. He also remembers a troop of local girls of about 15/16 years that sang ‘White Cliffs of Dover’. An exhibition was held at Middleton Sports Club where the Canadians had been allowed to use all facilities during their stay. Brian’s father (a Surrey county cricket player) always left 2 cricket bats there as he was unable to carry them back and forth from Barnham on his bicycle. Unfortunately the Americans found them when they were billeted there and used them for baseball – thus completely ruining them.
Village fete at Barnham Court Farm
Brian emailed to say:
… that Fete was in 1942 that must be the one we attended - because I took my brother -aged three - on the back of my tricycle and he fell off going down the slope just past the Station - where taxi rank is now! I got a bicycle for my Seventh Birthday in Summer 1943.
Revised May 2020