WW2 – Swimming into trouble

Contributed by:                A7431347
People in story:                 Alan Archer
Location of story:              Whitstable
Background to story:        Civilian
Article ID:                         A4411414
Contributed on:                09 July 2005

I remember the summer of 1941, living on the sea front in Whitstable. It was an extremely hot summer that year, and all me and my twin brother wanted to do was go swimming in the sea as much as possible, just to cool off.

This wasn’t an easy thing to do however. At the time the invasion of England by the Germans seemed not only possible but indeed imminent. To that effect the beach was heavily fortified against attack from the sea, and nobody was supposed to be on the beach or in the water. I remember when the defences were being put in place, me and my brother would go outside and take the workmen cups of tea.

When the defences were up however, that posed a bit of a problem to our plans for cooling off. We hatched a plan however, and secretly stole a pair of my father’s wire cutters. We’d crawl down the beach, cut through the barbed wire and crawl through the large tank stoppers that had been put there. There was also scaffolding riddled with mines designed to stop German tanks to avoid! They may have been enough to hold German tanks off, but not us! There were also soldiers and machine gun emplacements to avoid, I guess half the fun of a swim in the sea was just getting to it!

One day we were sitting by the surf when a German Messerschmitt appeared out of nowhere and came swooping along the beach, firing its guns at the defences. My mother had heard the noise and had come out of the house to see. What she saw was a German plane firing into the beach we were on, and us falling into the water. She thought we’d been hit! As it was we had just dived out of the way and been very lucky, and as the aircraft went past we just shook our fists at him and carried on swimming.

When we came out my mother was swearing and cursing at us, she was furious! Needless to say we weren’t allowed out for a while after that!

WW2 People’s War is an online archive of wartime memories contributed by members of the public and gathered by the BBC. The archive can be found at bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar. This contribution is published here under the ‘Fair dealing policy’. Copyright remains with the contributor.

Footnote: In later years, Alan was one of the most prolific local collectors of money for the Royal British Legion. For many years we would chat after the War Memorial service had finished. I learned a lot from him, none of which is publishable!