Benny Hill's Blitz Bolthole
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
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.
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
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
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?"
had been evacuated to Winton to avoid the bombing, but ironically
returned to work in Southampton in time for the first air raids
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.
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
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.