Winton Forum


Benny Hill's Blitz Bolthole

Comic superstar Benny Hill was a wartime evacuee to Winton and completed his education at Bournemouth School.

Born Alfred Hawthorn Hill on 21st January 1924 he was just about to enter the Fifth form at Taunton's School in Southampton when war broke out.

Along with around six hundred fellow pupils he arrived at Southampton Central railway station on the morning of Saturday September 2nd, 1939, to board a train full of evacuees to Bournemouth.

He was billeted with a family in Winton and the following day probably sat with them by the radio in sobre silence to hear Prime Minister Neville Chamberain declare war on Germany.

Mystery family

We don't know the name of the family, or their exact address, but we do know that they were one of many local households who were paid 10/6 (just over 50p) a week to give board and lodging to evacuees.

They effectively became foster parents and in later years he spoke of their kindness to him.

Arrival at Bournemouth

Benny, or Alfie as he was then known, found himself walking to East Way every day.

The Taunton pupils had all been transferred to Bournemouth School for Boys. To cope with the influx an emergency timetable was devised. One school occupied the building in the morning and the other school moved in for the afternoon. The schedule included Saturdays.

Show business was a preoccupation for a group of fifth and sixth formers and half day education gave Benny plenty of time to spend with friends who passed much of their time laughing joking and taking off comedians of the day like Max Miller and Tommy Handley. They reputedly knew the words of every George Formby song and ITMA punchline.

By Christmas though, Benny felt it was time to finish his education and get a job.

Years later he said:"I never managed to reach the sixth form. My general feeling about school days are that although I was never classed as brainy, I certainly had fun. And I could always remember what I wanted to remember. Who cares about 1066 and all that?"

He had been evacuated to Winton to avoid the bombing, but ironically returned to work in Southampton in time for the first air raids there.

Bright lights in the blackout

He did concert party turns and worked at Woolworths among other things before setting out in September 1940 to make his show biz fortune in London.

By 1942 he was due to be called up for military service but, constantly on the move, never seemed to get the papers that were repeatedly posted to him.

He was arrested by the Military Police in 1942 and rapidly joined the Royal Engineers. He served in various places before being demobbed in 1947.

It wasn't long before he became an established comic.

Like Tony Hancock he appeared in the radio show "Educating Archie" and worked as a standup comedian at London's famous Windmill Club. By the mid 1950's he had his own TV show and went from strength to strength.

It soon became a television cliche to see Benny pursuing or being pursued by a squad of scantily clad "Hill's Angles".

He remains one of Britain's biggest comedy exports. Because of its strong visual and often saucy humour, the Benny Hill Show is still regularly screened on TVs around the world. It is a long running favourite in the United States.

Many of today's television comic talents pay tribute to his influence on their development.

Benny Hill died alone in his armchair, watching television, in April 1992. He never owned a car or a house. The flat where he died was rented. In some ways his life had not changed much from the way it was when he was living in Winton.

But the boy who came to Winton penniless didn't die a pauper.

His will revealed a fortune of £10 million.