A Holiday to Remember

A happy holiday with an unhappy ending: Doris Jenner (left) and her sister on the beach at Bishopstone only a few days before war was declared. The chalet, which they never saw again, is in the background.

A happy holiday with an unhappy ending: Doris Jenner (left) and her sister on the beach at Bishopstone only a few days before war was declared. The chalet, which they never saw again, is in the background.

It was the last Saturday of August 1939 and a lovely summer day as we prepared for our holiday at the seaside. We loaded our luggage and a box of food into the back of Dad’s Bedford lorry, then I climbed into the cab followed by Mum and my younger sister, who had to sit on Mum’s lap. Dad checked that the door was fastened securely, then got into the driver’s seat. At last we were ready.

We left our village and drove into Sussex. Everywhere was tranquil and beautiful as we travelled to Bishopstone, a small seaside place between Seaford and Newhaven. A relative had a chalet/bungalow there and had invited us to use it. The chalet was one of several built on concrete pillars on the beach which had originally held army huts during the First World War. It was named ‘Lundy’ and consisted of two rooms and a verandah.

When we got there we unloaded the lorry, had a meal on the verandah and then walked along to Newhaven Quay to watch the ferry boat arrive from France and the returning holidaymakers disembark. As I watched I dreamed of visiting Paris the following summer.

We spent a very happy weekend playing on the beach, paddling and enjoying meals on the verandah. Dad had to return home on the Sunday evening as he was booked for work with his lorry for the following two days. At that time work was spasmodic, so he couldn’t afford to refuse any job, but he planned to rejoin us later in the week.

My sister and I continued to enjoy ourselves on the beach, sometimes playing with the dog staying at the next chalet or walking along the sea wall path with Mum to a little shop to buy ice-creams.

Although Mum was aware of the threat of war, we had no wireless set or daily newspaper, so didn’t realise how serious the situation was becoming. Every day we expected Dad to return, and when he didn’t we wondered why. The ferry boats continued to go to France and back, although later in the week we were not permitted on the quay to watch.

As we finished breakfast on the Saturday morning Dad arrived, but our pleasure quickly turned to dismay when he told us that war was imminent, and he had to take us home immediately. He’d been unable to join us sooner as his lorry had been requisitioned by the ARP to take extra first aid equipment to our local clinic and deliver several hundred sandbags for protecting important
buildings in our village. In retrospect, these precautions were premature, for at that time our village was considered a safe area and was designated a reception centre for children being evacuated from a London school.

We packed our possessions, tidied the chalet and reluctantly climbed into the lorry once more. The journey back was a sad one, and even the countryside seemed sombre. Arriving home we gathered around the wireless set and listened anxiously. Next morning war was declared.

We never saw ‘Lundy’ again as the chalets were demolished during the war, but many years later I sailed from Newhaven to visit Paris and my dream belatedly came true.

Jiffi Doris Jenner.