Took shelter in The Grand Hotel

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THE episode quoted from ‘Soldaten – On Fighting, Killing and Dying’, relating German POW recollections, grated a nerve (Herald, September 21). It also reminded me of an anecdote other Eastbourne residents may recall.

This extract is from an ongoing narrative manuscript recalls my family’s encounter with the end of the ‘Phoney War’.

One memorable Sunday, according to family lore, mother was perambulating me along the promenade, no doubt heading for a favourite Wall’s Ice Cream kiosk near the Wish Town, when the sun sparkled off Perspex cockpits on a flight of high-flying airplanes over the English Channel.

I was reportedly raising a fuss and having a teething tantrum. She considered a distraction, any distraction, could help.

‘Wave to the pretty planes’, she called out, following the example of other pedestrians, necks craning upward, ears perked at the pitch and whine of engines.

The crescendo increased as the diving planes dropped from the sun.

Suddenly a woman shrieked, collapsing in a bloody heap, moments before the rat-tat-tat-tat of machine guns reached the ears of stunned strollers.

Bullets and bodies bounced everywhere as Messerschmitts of the German Luftwaffe sprayed deadly fire into the crowded esplanade.

Mother swore afterwards, that she could have out-paced the 1939 Olympic sprinter Jesse Owens as she dashed for cover along paths criss-crossing the Wish Tower grounds, seeking refuge in the Grand Hotel.

In later years her siblings teased her at family gatherings, calling her a snob for selecting The Grand, among all the other hotels lining Royal Parade, as the suitable sanctuary of status.

Maybe someone can verify this?

JACK OWEN

Florida, USA