Wartme Bournemouth

A Memory of Bournemouth

Bournemouth is remembered by many as a wonderful holiday venue. A place of golden sands, the Pleasure Gardens, shops, cinemas and theatres.

I was born here in 1936, when it was in the county of Hampshire. Pre war memories are
obviously vague. As I grew up I saw the effects the war was having upon my home town.
The beach was still accessible, however the area of sea had been reduced with the introduction of scaffold bars laced with barbed wire. Designed to prevent landing craft. To the west of the Pier Entrance stood several 'Dragon's Teeth'. Concrete blocks about 4 feet square with a pyramid top. [Anti Tank defences.] In later years a large mine was added, this was in close proximity to the 'Dragons Teeth' and was painted a bright red. On the top an engraved slotted brass disc had been inserted, this was for donations, I think were for the families of the seamen both R.N. and Merchant Navy who had perished. Alongside the railway lines were scattered pill boxes. One was situated at Cemetery Junction, demolished some years ago.Both Bournemouth and Boscombe Piers had been partially dismantled, with all the flooring removed.

The town became full of American, Canadian, and Australian military. Being kids they were something 'different' to us, but they became a source of supply for sweets - or as the Americans would say, 'You want some candy kid?'.

My mind goes back to the 23rd May 1943, when a lone German aircraft flew in from the sea, flying so low the pilot could be clearly seen, strafing the Lower Pleasure Gardens with its machine guns before offloading bombs on the Town Centre. These hit the Punshon Church on Richmond Hill, [became a S.W.S.] in Old Christchurch Road that ran parallel to Richmond Hill, the 'West Cinema' was destroyed, Beale's Department Store suffered extensive damage. This was repaired and remains one of the premier shops in the town. Trinity Church was hit, but stood for many years before demolition for an office block. For me the worst casualty was the destruction of the 'Metropole Hotel' where so many of the troops were housed. The 'Metropole' bombing was of a personal nature to me, my mother worked for the 'American Red Cross' that occupied 'Jaycee House' located at the junction of Bath Road and Old Christchurch Road. [Still there today.] May 23rd was a Sunday and the events of that day began around 1 pm. The time she and her friend were due to finish. As they walked to the bus stop alongside the 'Metropole' the air raid warning commenced its wail. The bus was waiting at the stop, mum's friend decided that she was going to shelter, my mother opted for the bus. Her friend walked across Holdenhurst Road and stood in the front doorway of the 'Metropole' That was the last time she was seen.

Meantime at home myself and siblings were having Sunday lunch.- Dad was in the army, an R.S.M. at Brockenhurst P.O.W. Camp. As soon as we heard the siren we all dashed to our indoor shelter [Morrison], came the 'all clear' we returned to our meal. The family cat was making a leisurely tour of the plates. Not long after Mum arrived home, she was shaking, but at the time had no idea of the tragedy she had just avoided.

This was just one of several attacks Bournemouth suffered, Alma Road School was obliterated by a 'Parachute Land Mine' it is now the Lynwood School. At least five homes within a quarter of a mile of ours were hit by Incendiary Bombs, the Martin family, Doe's, and a small shop owned by the Brown's are three I recall. We'd listen to the 'Doodlebugs' and pray for the engines to keep going. When they stopped so began a rapid descent. On such times as these we were shepherded into our next door neighbours underground shelter [Anderson], my tired little legs were unable to cope with the fence and I quite often found myself sprawled in the dirt.

Yes, these were days of Bournemouth past. Days that todays visitors know nothing of, and would wonder why our Town was bombed. - A quiet, beautifully picturesque seaside town.

A memory shared by Barrie R Collins , on Aug 7th, 2011.

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