Peggy Reynolds nee Mills born 1922 interviewed 11th February 2014 at Abbey Dean, home for the elderly, Barnham Road
Peggy lived at Eastergate Lane on the border of Eastergate and Walberton. Her father ran a nursery which he took over from Barnham Nurseries. It is now a Care Village (for Downs Syndrome adults?)
Peggy was 17 at the outbreak of war so she remembers well the soldiers billeted in the area and especially the many dances they organised at the hall in Barnham next to the Barnham Hotel (where Barnham Joinery used to be). The Canadians were also billeted at, and held dances at, the Avisford Hilton Hotel at Walberton which had been a boys’ school before the war. When the power station at Portsmouth was damaged, the Canadians organised a dance at the hall next to the Barnham Hotel lit with lamps as there was no electricity.
Alfie came from London (Beckenham?) to stay with her family during the early evacuation but soon returned home. Her mother sent for clothes for him as his were worn out and Alfie’s mother sent an equally worn jumper. He was about 11 years old and wore clothes passed down from her 14 year old brother. He attended Walberton School.
No shortage of food as it was produced locally. Shops administered rationing but there was a lot of bartering and exchange of food and goods. Peggy worked as an apprentice dressmaker above a shop in the Arcade, Bognor. She would travel by train every day. At the outbreak of war she lost her job as there was no call then for dressmakers. However her skills enabled her to refashion many outfits for herself when clothes were rationed.
Peggy’s father was an unpaid Special carrying out the duties of a paid policeman. He would investigate any lights during the blackout and this took him to Gumber Farm in the Downs. Here he found that lights were being shown to draw the Germans away from military targets (very hush hush). He was also called to Ford airfield in 1940 when it was bombed, killing 39.
A land mine was dropped behind Eastergate Church close to a poultry farm. Peggy’s family had a disabled goose that was injured there.
An unusual PoW comes to stay
Peggy’s mother’s sister married a German before WW1 and had a son, Stanley born in England. They then went to live in Germany where she had son, Walter. At the outbreak of war, Stanley was called up to the British army and Walter to the German army. Their parents stayed in Germany with a daughter for the duration. Stanley was given a non-combatant position as the British army recognised his reluctance to fight against his brother. Walter fought for Germany and was captured by the British at Caen. He came to England and word filtered through to Peggy’s family via the Red Cross (and probably via Stanley). Peggy’s father applied for Walter to work for him on the nursery as a German PoW and this was arranged. The US army marched into the family’s village in the Ruhr and the mother ran out waving a white flag calling out “I’m English!” Thankfully they all survived but it had been a heartbreaking time for the boys’ mother.
Revised May 2020