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Stories From Local Voices
The Oral History Project: Tony Holmes

Tony Holmes was born in 1929 in Steyning where his father was a coal merchant, E. Holmes & Sons. Tony attended Steyning Grammar School. In this second of his stories, he describes an incident which occurred during the Second World War.

Tony Holmes

Iwas in the Grammar School. Three consecutive Thursdays we'd had a German plane over, not dropping bombs, just flying over. And this was about half past eleven/midday, Thursday, beautiful day like today

And this plane came over the school so low that there was a shadow went across the room as he came over. And I turned to the chap – we were in the science labs – and I turned to him and I said "It's Thursday again, Jerry . . ." and there was an almighty explosion.

And it was quite funny really because we had counters in the lab, and there were two sink holes under the counters, and there were three or four of us trying to dive into the sink hole. No good whatsoever, because it was all over by that time, but I suppose it was instinctive. And I can always remember backing out of this sink hole and looking out of the window, and seeing this pall of what I thought was black smoke, but it wasn't.

It was dust from the houses, and there were little flecks of glass glistening, coming down in amongst this dust. It was just down the road from us, and I think it demolished five houses, killed an old lady who was more or less an invalid, who was sitting in a chair, and a dog.

And when we came out of school at midday (we always used to go home that way, my friend and I), and we got down Church Street as far as we could to Saxon Cottage. And the trees were all hung with clothing and feathers. I shall never forget it. They wouldn't let us through there, they stopped us going through.

It was a Focke 190, and it had come in at Arundel, and my uncle was on Observer Corps on Arundel Castle. And before they rung through to Steyning, that plane had got through to here and dropped its bomb and gone. It was a loner. It wasn't with anybody, just on its own. Must have come in on the off-chance and got low enough to get below the radar as well. He was rooftop height . . . It was a miracle really that there weren't more killed.

See more local voices


Tony Holmes
During WWII, Tony worked with
horses for the coal merchants
E. Holmes & Sons.

Christopher Passmore
Just after WWII, Christopher drove
sheep from Applesham Farm
across the Downs to Findon Fair.

Geoffrey Chalcraft
Geoffrey delayed his National
Service because he had an
apprenticeship as a TV engineer.

Tony Holmes
Tony was at school when a bomb
dropped on Church Street. He saw
the scene shortly afterwards.


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