Part 1 Growing Up in Southwick
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Behind our house and the Cottage was a field where we were allowed to have a swing and I think of the day when the old ram broke his horn butting the swing when my sister was on it, too terrified to stop swinging! - and the morning we woke after a stormy night to see cows enjoying our garden, the fence having blown down. One of my memorable days was that of the Coronation of King George V. I remember crying at school when we were told of the death of Edward VII. I believe we had a tea and commemoration mug but my chief memory is of the huge bonfire which blazed in front of our house on The Green. It must have been about the same time, too, that there was great excitement when the first airship we had ever seen passed over Southwick. Little did we realise then that our peaceful lives were so soon to be shattered by the fear of German Zeppelins and my teenage years were spent during the First World War.

Phyllis and Doris aged 12 and 16
Phyllis and Doris age 12 and 16

Slock Hill Camp 1914 The Green Camp 1915 A Mystery Tower
Slonk Hill Camp, The Camp on the Green, A Mystery Tower under construction

I was 15 when War was declared. Very soon, Slonk Hill, opposite Southlands Hospital, was covered in tents and filled with army recruits. The hill is now built on but then it was a lovely piece of open downland. It became a favourite walk to go and see the soldiers. But how it rained that Autumn of 1914 and soon the poor lads were living in a quagmire. When it became too impossible they were billeted in homes in Shoreham and Southwick. We had two corporals of the Seventh Northants Regiment . Meanwhile a camp of Nissen huts was built on The Green and we found ourselves literally living in the camp - I had to run the gauntlet on the way to the station for school and office. The men were entertained in our homes and in the wooden YMCA building on The Green, roughly where our shopping centre now starts. We ran a canteen for them in our Church Hall and they crowded into the old building (now demolished) in Albion Street on Sundays, filling every available seat - even sitting on the pulpit steps. I can see the scene now and smell the wet blue serge uniforms with which they were issued before the khaki arrived.

Nearer the end of the War the camp on The Green was used by the Royal Engineers who were building the 'Mystery Towers' in the Harbour. One of their Officers was Major Reith, who later became the first Director General of the BBC. His links with Southwick were maintained when his nephew became minister of the Methodist Church

Perhaps one day I will bring these memories up to date but in the meantime, suffice it to say, my village has come of age and changed. "Down the road" has become the A259 and one takes one's life into one's hands trying to cross between the rush of heavy traffic. My Green is no longer peaceful. Cars stream past my door and the hum of traffic is heard day and night, to say nothing of the youthful owners of motorbikes and scooters who make a race track of surrounding roads until late on summer evenings. Houses and roads have crept up the slope of the Downs where we once trod country tracks. Our shopping centre stands where cows and horses grazed among the buttercups and the little harbour has become a busy port.

Yes, things have changed but I still find it a good place in which to live, enriched as it is for me with all the memories and experiences, relationships and loyalties of a happy life in Southwick.

Doris aged 16

Part 1 Growing Up in Southwick
1999 Doris Randall
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