VE Day - A nice D-Day on the beach

Preserving life stories for generations to come

Hospice Biographers is a scheme that aims to give terminally ill patients the opportunity to have their life stories professionally recorded on audio. Neil Theobald – Day Hospice visitor and amateur writer, shares a snippet of his story.

May 4 1944 – Neil was told not to attend school, lock the doors, draw the curtains and not look out, while his parents had to go to work extra early that day. Feeling restless, Neil and his friend Mick went out to play in the garden of a house his father had been house sitting for the duration of the war.

“Playing opposite Coney road which led to the beach we heard all this commotion … The Army marching and Bren gun carriers and tanks coming up the road. Leaning over the fence we saw that the Army guys marching up were a bit soggy – in fact soaking.””

“What are you up to?” cried Neil.

“Are you English then?” came the reply from a soldier.

“Yeah of course we are”, said Neil.

“Thank god for that, we thought we was all in France!”

The beach at East Wittering had been chosen for its similarity to the beaches across Normandy in anticipation of the D-Day invasion little over a month away.

Two people who watched that same scene from Bracklesham Bay hotel were none other than Mr Churchill and Mr Eisenhower. But of course this fact would not be known until long after the war.

When VE day finally came to town a year later, Neil was amongst those celebrating with a bonfire and letting off the fireworks people had been keeping for over five years. The sky was soon lit red by the signal flares of joyful army officers.

Neil’s story continues, taking in the earliest days of Goodwood racing, local village cinema clubs where Petula Clark would sing and much much more.

Celebrate VE Day Friday 8th May as we give thanks to those who gave so much. There will be a national toast and cheer for all our World War Two veterans at 3pm, with themed programming on national tv and radio throughout the day. 

For details of our current volunteering opportunities please contact volunteers.office@stwh.co.uk  or call 01243 755815.