Nostalgia: Bluebells and Spitfires book tells city’s story

Flight/ Lieut L. W.( Pip) Stevens RAF
Flight/ Lieut L. W.( Pip) Stevens RAF

A local author has penned a book detailing his personal recollections of life in Chichester during the 1950s and 60s.

The book, entitled Bluebells and Spitfires, has been printed by Chichester’ s SRP Design and Print.

Folding chess set made by Roger's father Peter Berry in Changi Prison, Singapore whilst a Japnese POW

Folding chess set made by Roger's father Peter Berry in Changi Prison, Singapore whilst a Japnese POW

Roger said: “It is not a history book as such although it is alight hearted look at the beginnings of Chichester, growing up in Chichester and episodes with local people.”

The book covers many different aspects of life in Chichester and features several personal or family recollections.

One of the chapters in Bluebells and Spitfires is dedicated to the West Sussex County Council’s ‘ Woodlands Children Home’ that no longer exists, documenting the sites history along with photographs of life there from 1935 to 1966.

There is also a chapter on an RAF mystery at Westhampnett that has never been brought to light, as well as tales of Roger’s father, who grew up in Chichester and was inprisoned by the Japanese in Singapore and on the infamous railway.

Roger with Spitfire 'Exeter' at Goodwood

Roger with Spitfire 'Exeter' at Goodwood

Roger said: “I am very glad that I was born a ‘ Chiddester’ boy, to have lived in such a fair city situated between the rolling downs and the shimmering sea.

“To look down from the Trundle to see the Cathedral spire rising from a hazy carpet of greenish blue, to reminisce of Chichester past, and what the future holds.

“Each one of us holds such precious memories whether good or bad, there is a book in every one of us

“In this book ‘Bluebells and Spitfires’ you will find some recollections, incidents and photos from the 1950s and 60s that have affected my life in and around Chichester.

“Memories are awakened by sound, sights and smells. To me the distinctive sound of a Merlin engine bumbling its way overhead back to Tangmere and the carpets of bluebells in the woods surrounding the city with their heady scent will always launch me back to a slower less complicated pace of life.

“There is a chapter dedicated to the children who came into care at the West Sussex County Council’s ‘Woodlands Children’s Home’ in St Paul’s Road.

“It has long since been bulldozed and no doubt a lot of people never knew it ever existed.

“‘Mystery at Westhampnett’ is a very personal experience, and in this chapter you will find out why two World War II Spitfire pilots are buried in the same grave in a churchyard in Hindhead.

“There is a light hearted look at the history of Chichester, some old maps of Chichester, and why Friary Lane had a place in my family’s history.

“A chapter on growing up in and around the city, some anecdotes about Cicestrians in cars, a tale from the ‘Old Cross’ in North Street whilst working with George Allouis, former head chef of the Caprice in London and his popularity with stars of stage and screen.”

Roger, pictured to the right with Spitfire ‘ Exeter’ at Goodwood, continued: “Another chapter looks at some incidents in my father’s characterful life in and around Chichester, and his life as a Japanese POW in Singapore and on the Burma railway.

“Interspersed throughout this book you will find pages from Myerscough-Walkers Innscape booklets, they relate to Wining and Dining in West Sussex in the 60s, each one a work of art.”

Pictured below is a front cover of Innscape Sussex, by Myerscough- Walker.

Roger said: “He was a larger than life character, a famous artist, a designer for film and stage sets and an architect, he led a Bohemian life around Chichester.

“I hope you will find some of the tales interesting in Bluebells and Spitfires. Enjoy.

“I am indebted to SRP printers of Chichester for their expert help and patience in producing this book. It will be available from Kims bookshop, South Street Chichester, or in person by telephoning 07756 262785 priced at £12.99.”