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Horsham woman recalls terror of Second World War

After being asked by her granddaughter to recall what it was like during World War Two for a school history project, Brenda Howlett-Nye of Horsham, Sussex began capturing her personal account on paper.

Once she started writing, she found that long-forgotten memories began to surface, which inspired her to write her first book, Finding Me.

With Remembrance Day approaching, Brenda shares her vivid account of the terror and upheaval she experienced as a little girl living through the war: “When war broke out in September 1939, I was six years old and on holiday with my parents and sister in St Andrew’s, Scotland. As the news unfolded, we travelled back home a few days early to Reigate in Surrey. Food rationing quickly came into place and my father had to dig an air raid shelter beneath the garage.

“During 1940-41, as the Blitz started and bombs were dropping all around, my father decided that I, along with my mother and sister should be evacuated and stay with family members in Scotland, which we did, travelling up there on the Flying Scotsman.

“My mother told me that Hitler liked Scottish people. I believed my mother when she said Hitler liked Scottish people. It gave us the security of thinking that if the Germans invaded we’d be safe in Scotland. By the end of 1941 the bombing had eased off a little and the threat of invasion had receded, so my father thought it was safe for us to move home.

“Two years later, in 1943, doodlebugs began to plague the South of England and my parents were advised it would be safer for children to be evacuated. Parents were given a list of items to pack and I departed from Reigate station with my sister to Wales, with a label tied to my lapel.

“After arriving at Bridgend, I was herded into a hall and ordered to strip so I could be examined for fleas and lice because the children from the London Blitz before us, had been living in shelters and shocking conditions. They were alive with them.

“My sister and I were almost the last to be found accommodation, and we were taken to a mining cottage in Abberkenfig.  A few days later the billet was deemed unsuitable so we were moved to Bridgend for temporary accommodation.

“Little girls didn’t dress in trousers until the war, when it became more practical for us to wear siren suits so we were ready to dive into cold, damp, air-raid shelters. Once the V1 and V2 bases were bombed, my parents considered it was once again safe for us to go home.

“Living through a war was terrifying as a child, and being sent away to complete strangers at such a young age was unnerving, as we only saw my parents once when they came to visit during our evacuation to Wales.

“There’s no doubt that the war affected a whole generation of children. We are getting on in life now, which makes it all the more important to remember the experiences we went through, and the sacrifices made by our armed forces as they fought the Nazis. No-one should have to experience the destruction and upheaval that war creates. I urge people to think of the fallen from all wars this Sunday at 11am.”

Brenda’s first book Finding Me is available from Amazon at www.amazon.co.uk or email brendardjr@gmail.com for enquiries.

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