When Britain declared war on Germany on September 3, 1939, Albert Thorne was fishing from the Palace Pier.

The sirens sounded, Albert, then 16, and his pals were turfed off and the Royal Engineers blew a hole in the structure as a token anti-invasion measure.

Not that it would have stopped the foe but the public had to be re-assured that we were ready for anything. Amid all the preparations for war, soccer continued in Brighton as well as all over the country, but in a regionalised form. Albion Reserves were disbanded and a junior side created to promote the game among the youth of Sussex. The side was fortified as experienced guest players from nearby military units began to filter in. The rest were kids like Albert.

Some, after being called-up, made the grade as fully-fledged professionals like Bernie Moore. Others, such as Albert, played a handful of games and then joined local amateur clubs. Out of that melting pot of teenage promise at the Goldstone was born a lasting camaraderie. Albert's pals were Ernie France and Reggie Bowles, who later helped Lancing Athletic gain County League status. They had all cut their teeth in a hard school for the senior pros at Albion who didn't go to war and needed no second reminder that youngsters could push them out of a job.

Today at 78 and living comfortably in Woodingdean, Albert doesn't regret not having been chosen to make a career in the game. With characteristic candour, Albert, says he wasn't good enough. If that admission may conceal a sense of disappointment, any punctured feelings have long been repaired by the passing of time; after all, it is the infallible healer.

Football for lads like Albert became part of every day life during schooldays at Coombe Road. He made the Brighton Boys side like his dad Alfred and went with him to see the Albion from the Chicken Run. When Albert left school he worked for the Southern Railway and then joined Allen West the electrical engineers. Probably the biggest local employers, the firm had Albion players at the factory in Lewes Road. Stan Risdon was one and, later, Jack Dugnolle.

Albert's first club was Elder Athletic but when Albion let it be known that youngsters were welcome he went along and was soon captivated by Sam Cowan, the former Manchester City and England centre-half who later became trainer at the Goldstone. Any number of pros, then in uniform, guested for Brighton. Bullet Jones was trainer and Les, his son, who worked as an engineer at The Argus, ran the juniors.

Albert, Ernie France and Reggie Bowles all played in the 1942-43 side that won the Sussex Wartime Cup (on a league basis) and the Sussex RUR Cup. Albert scored two of the goals that helped defeat Worthing 4-3 and in May, 1943, despite food rationing, the team was invited by Charles Wakeling, Albion's chairman, to an informal supper at the Golden Cross, Western Road, Brighton. Skipper Thorne, who has kept the card all these years among a stack of memorabilia, showed me the well-thumbed piece of pasteboard. It bore the names: Albert Thorne (captain), Jock Cameron, Charlie Chase, Alan Gunn, Reggie Bowles, Bert Griffin, Ernie France, Bernie Moore, Ken Bardsley, George Stratton and Alan Branstone. They all received medals and not just the plastic sort that get dished out today but solid metal badges that last for years.

When Albert was required to serve King and Country he became an air mechanic in the Fleet Air Arm and was lucky to click for home postings. Football had something to do with that. He turned out as an amateur for Southampton Reserves. Charlie Webb, Albion's manager, once exercised his right to summon Albert for a match at Millwall. Cold Blow Lane was still in business despite the bombing and Albert took the train up.

"My recollection of Mr Webb was as a hard man. After playing at Millwall he gave me five bob to cover expenses although I hadn't even had a meal."

One game for Saints stands out for Albert. On Arsenal's left wing was Denis Compton who later played for England.

"I only tackled him once and put him over the touchline and he threatened to kill me. I never liked him from that time on. Yet, in another game against Arsenal when I played centre-forward, Bernard Joy flattened me, picked me up and asked how I was. What a difference in men. Albion Juniors was my most enjoyable time. Sam Cowan was an inspiration to us kids. But some of the pros were inclined to be jealous of their places when youngsters were tried. They were on about £7 a week, if that, and looking back I can see their point of view. At the time I was a bit miffed.

"Nobody was mollycoddled. There was a huge communal bath we had to get in to get all the mud off and then we were made to jump into another full of cold water. I played most of the time at right-back but had a year at centre-forward and scored 38 goals in 19 matches for the Juniors. Altogether I had only three first team games for Albion and was never offered pro forms and I don't think I was ever good enough although when in the Navy I was very fit."

Wartime Brighton for a young unattached male was not without its attractions. If barbed wire put the beach beyond bounds there were plenty of opportunities for socialising like paying only 1s 3d. for admission to a Regent tea dance or getting into Sherrys. Before going into the Navy, Albert served alongside his dad with the Home Guard; worked nights at Allen West and still managed to cram in his football.

"When Don Welsh arrived after the war I just drifted away. He was an odd man. Fancy making a bonfire of the club records on the pretext that the past didn't matter and, henceforward, only the future was important. There was nothing left covering the period 1939-46 at the Goldstone. What a chump."

One Albion match Albert remembers vividly and with good reason was when he scored the only goal against Clapton Orient on Boxing Day, 1942, in a League (South) fixture. On Christmas Day Albion played at Leyton and were two players short (no wonder). Charlie Webb had to appeal for volunteers from the crowd to make up the number and they lost 3-1. For the return, Webb called on six Juniors and Albert obliged with the winner.

The directors proposed to let service personnel in free but this infringed League regulations and the management committee put a stop to what was undoubtedly a good idea. Not to be thwarted, the directors paid out of their own pockets for those in uniform and the reduced entrance fee was 3p each in today's currency. The crowd numbered 6,800. From 1946-57, Albert played for Lancing Athletic starting when the club were in Division 1 of the Brighton League and played at the Crowshaw Ground changing in a shed and washing from a bucket of icy water. .

"We had to win our place in the County League and that was an outstanding achievement. After Lancing I went to Whitehawk and they had some smashing players like Harry Sargent, who died only a month or so ago, Cocker Blunt, Harry Tharme, Ron Pavey, Bill Miller, Robin Cox and Ken Powell.