We had to be aware of air-raids and our young ears soon became attuned to the sound of the different types of engine noise helping us to identify German aircraft. If we were near to Bevendean Avenue we would rush on our three wheel bikes to the shelters which had been dug by my father and the neighbours on the green in front of the house (near the parade of shops), these shelters were given a professional make over later when a whole series of shelters were created on the Downland between Lower Bevendean and Upper Bevendean.
After a raid we took great delight in scouring the Cows Field (as the meadow between Bevendean Avenue and Bevendean Farm was known), and the adjoining Downland for anti-radar flack (Strips of silver paper, sometimes black on one side). Poles and wire rope had been strung up over the Downs to prevent enemy aircraft from landing.
On the other hand if we were near to Bevendean Farm we would shelter in a small cave dug into the chalk bank of the track from Bear Road to Falmer at the point where it passed the farm. I am not sure of the purpose of the cave, it may have been to keep milk, or seeds cool.
During the war a gorse filled valley near Bevendean Farm was used by the army for target practice (Mortars) and Manoeuvres. As children we would be fascinated watching, especially the explosions. We would wait for them to go home and then collect the spilled live ammunition, prise the bullet out with an old pair of pliers and scatter the powder from the cartridge on a stone and set fire to it, it was the nearest to fireworks we could create! Two lads from the Avenue found two live grenades pulled the pins and threw them downhill, of course the blast goes mainly up hill and both had minor shrapnel wounds. We would treat unexploded mortar bombs with great respect.
Towards the end of the war, Bevendean Avenue was extended (Heath-Hill Avenue) and prefabs built to house those bombed out of their homes in central Brighton. A lot of the work was carried out by prisoners of war.
My mother would give me sandwiches and fruit to take to them, passing it over at the five bar gate entrance to the "Cows field". They would often give us "foreign coins" in return. The building of the prefabs restricted the sledging fun that was to be had on the steep side (east) of the "cow’s field". One snowy winter several accidents occurred with sledges managing to negotiate the fence ok but going through the side of the prefab!! You had to be quick at the fence, flipping the wire up at just the right moment to pass underneath. The thought now of what may have happened if you failed to do so, horrifies me.
V.E. day was celebrated with a gift of a large tin of chocolate powder from school and in the evening we had a large bonfire with all the neighbours attending. I was hurried indoors when some live ammunition was thrown onto the fire. We did not have to attend school the next day.
It seemed to us youngsters that the council was taking a long time to reinstate the greens running down the centre of the avenue. They had been made over to allotments in the early part of the war, leaving only some very small areas of grass; fortunately these were large enough to accommodate the tables for the V.E. street parties. Spontaneously everyone hung out flags for this occasion giving quite a holiday feeling.
Anyway tiring of the wait and needing somewhere to properly play our football and cricket we all got together and started to clear the allotment banks and running my father’s heavy garden roller over the cultivated areas. This didn't go down too well with their owners, but a number of younger men stood up for our initiative and protected us, someone called the Argus (or possibly it was the Gazette) who rushed up to take photographs and they ran an article backing our campaign.
Throughout the local bobby who lived near the shops turned a blind eye to the incident. It was soon after this, that work commenced to level and re-grass the area, surrounding it with chestnut fencing to allow the grass seed to properly take root.
At Brownlow Farm, my Grandmother and my Aunt "Sissy" both died soon after the end of the war and my father’s younger brother, Arthur, took over the running of the farm. However the new Bevendean housing estate was now stretching to the bottom of their land and the council prohibited him from keeping pigs because of the smell! Sadly effectively the farm was no longer a farm; the area was no longer economical to grow crops or to keep animals.
My uncle let the remaining pasture to accommodate other people’s horses and turned his hand to servicing motor vehicles, Brownlow had become history.
Down at the Avenue in Lower Bevendean, the war time events were also passing into history, the long walk as a 5 to 6 year old to Coombe Road school where if we were half way and the air-raid sirens went we had to run to an ack-ack gun emplacement at the corner of Eastbourne Road where the soldiers would place us in the Ammunition bay to protect us from shrapnel!
If we were nearer school we would sit in the school playground air-raid shelter and have a story read to us by one of the teachers. Slowly the food and clothing coupons were dispensed with and conditions returned to those more recognisable today.
Extracts from "Days at Bevendean from 1938 to after the war" as experienced by the writer, Frank Edwards written in May 2015.