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Written by Ernest L French (C. 1939-44)
Monday, 01 January 2007

In August 1939 I had already got my uniform to go to King's College, Wimbledon, when my parents decided that war was imminent and that I should become a boarder at a school not close to London.

I arrived at Chichester House, Brighton College, a very few days after war was declared. Apart from drawing thick 'black out' curtains at dusk things were pretty much normal. I had to 'fag' for a couple of senior boys who had a study called 'hell', just inside the door from the quad. This entailed lighting their fire, running messages, dubbing their football boots, blancoing and cleaning the brass on their OTC uniforms. Prefects could beat with a slipper for minor offences.

During the Battle of Britain classes were held in rooms under the Hall. When the 'all clear' was sounded we emerged to see the sky streaked with vapour trails made by Spitfires, Hurricanes and Messerschmitts. At night, when their was an air raid alarm, most of the boys slept in the basement under Chichester House. A few of the younger boys slept under the dining room table in the Housemaster's side of the House. Senior boys, together with a master, patrolled the grounds and buildings on the lookout for incendiary bombs.

In 1941 the Engineering Tuition Workshop was put to use making munitions. We each did a two hour shift, two or three times a week. There were occasions when we had a whole day away from school on a farm picking sugar beet or planting potatoes.

Soon after the outbreak of war the OTC (Officer Training Corps) became the Junior Training Corps, which was later supplemented by the Air Training Corps. There was a Brighton College Home Guard platoon in which I rose to the dizzy heights of Lance Corporal. By the time I was old enough to join the Home Guard the threat of invasion had passed but there was still a possibility of commando type raids being made on our coast. We practised firing live ammunition at a range at the back of Roedean School, which had been taken over by the Royal Navy.

Despite the interruptions to a normal school routine I, like most of my contemporaries, got a reasonable Oxford & Cambridge School Certificate; some got Higher Certificates. As soon as I could I joined the Army. By the time I had completed my training the war was over but I did serve for a short time in India, in what is now Pakistan.

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