DOWN MEMORY LANE Harbour was our wartime swimming pool

John Hutson was born in Chichester in 1929 and has lived here nearly all his life.

Thursday, 12th May 2011, 11:59 am
Updated Thursday, 7th June 2018, 6:19 pm

He recalls: “As children we were often taken for walks round the harbour, either from Fishbourne to Dell Quay or from Terminus Road, Chichester across the bypass and the railway bridge through the field across Appledram Lane to the harbour wall and then along the harbour to Dell Quay.

“Sometimes we’d have tea at the barge moored on the banks during the war for the airmen from the airfield to use.

“On other occasions we walked down the canal path to the harbour, having tea at a white square building, which became the first clubhouse when the marina was built.

“During the war the beaches were closed and Chichester had no swimming pool, so the harbour became a swimming place.

“We mainly swam at Dell Quay, changing behind the fishing clubhouse and diving off the Quay at suitable tides.

“I was also invited to swim in the pool just north of the Quay a few times and, in fact, saw the terrible bombing of Portsmouth from there.

“I could see the fire and smoke going up. It was horrible and great areas of the city were destroyed.

“Another favourite was to cycle to the Bosham side of the Itchenor ferry and approaching D-Day nobody seemed to mind us swimming round the landing craft moored there.

“Once or twice I believe we were even allowed to actually dive off the craft.

“Thankfully I was too young to sail on them for real.

“Sometimes we put our bicycles on the ferry and came back to Chichester via Itchenor.

“The ferry was only an open boat so you sat in the middle of the boat and held your bicycle beside you to stop it falling over the side.”

Do you remember the tea shop on a barge at Dell Quay or have any photos of the old ferry or landing craft?

Get in touch and let us know.

Noel Pycroft from Hayling Island has many memories of life on the harbour. This is just one of the stories he has added to the website.

He says: “It was the winter of 1941 when a Wellington crashed on Gardners, off East Head.

“One of the crew parachuted out and landed in the water, and another fell in the chicken farm in North Hayling.

“He thought he was in Holland and hid in the chicken house!

“The pilot landed on Black Point. When Dad was out puntgunning, he saw a parachute in the water in the Thorney Channel – it was the fourth crew member.

“He pulled it up and the man was still attached to the parachute – he had been in the water for a couple of days.

“Father told officials on Thorney Island and they recovered the body but not the parachute.

“Dad checked with them and they said they didn’t want the parachute because it was damaged by saltwater. So I went out in the punt with my Uncle, Fred Foster, to recover the parachute.

“We also got some Brownie automatic machine guns, but a wind was blowing up and they were washed overboard on our way back.

“My mother made undergarments for all the girls in our family from the silk.”

More harbour memories will appear in Down Memory Lane next week.

Get in touch with your own memories of the harbour.