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Prized shrapnel from a V1 Doodlebug

by The CSV Action Desk at BBC Wiltshire

You are browsing in:

Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
The CSV Action Desk at BBC Wiltshire
People in story: 
Derek Morrison
Location of story: 
London
Background to story: 
Civilian
Article ID: 
A6179628
Contributed on: 
17 October 2005

This story has been submitted on behalf of the author by a People's War volunteer story gatherer. The author has been made aware of the site's House Rules.

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After a heavy raid, you get up very early next morning and you go out and try and retrieve some of the best pieces of shrapnel that you could find the menu would exchange them and show them at school to various people.

My mother did have a very near scrape once.

There was a very heavy raid. We had a gun site near a searchlight battery and they were firing at these Germans. The targets were actually illuminated - the aircraft were illuminated and the ack-ack was going and there was quite a lot of heavy firing; we rushed out to the gate because we thought we heard a German aircraft get hit and one of the engines on fire.

We rushed up to the gate, which was about 15 feet away from our front door, and my dad suddenly grabbed me and shoved me and shouted to my mother, "Run!"

We did but we didn't know why. The next thing, there was a huge great flash and a spark, which came up from the gate right by us.

It was a piece of shrapnel that had come down. Dad had heard it whistling and could hear it heading towards us.

One thing you never thought of, after the ack-ack, say a minute or so afterwards, was how everything would come down - all the bullets they had been firing would start coming down so it was very dangerous to be outside.

The next morning I did find the nose cap of a shell in the garden and a big chip out of the path - it was roughly where my mother had been standing, so my dad had probably saved her life.

I used to have a big tin of shrapnel and I was quite annoyed many years later when my dad was sorting out the sparts of a V2 which looked like bits of plumbing basically, it was just tubing.

The prize for us really was during the latter part of the war when we were playing over at Gladstone Park, in London.

We were down at the bottom end and most of the park had been dug up and was in use as allotments.

The V1 came over - a doodlebug - we could hear it although we used to get quite blasé about hearing them, because providing you could hear them you were safe - it was when the engine stopped you got worried.

Anyway, the doodlebug came over and there was this horrible silence followed by a very large explosion. It had actually come down in the park, probably about several hundred yards from where we were playing close to the allotments.

Nobody was hurt and we weren't all that worried but we were curious and went rushing over. There we found this smoking crater and amongst all the beanpoles, cabbages and what have you, where the remnants of this V1.

The prize object was the engine, the jet engine which was mounted over the tail and was laying there complete, so that was a major piece of shrapnel!

There were about 10 of us and we decided that we had to have this prized possession so we went rushing over and somehow we were going to break it up but it was too hot to touch so we started gathering bits of string from the beans, with the idea of making some kind of cradle.

We knew that the ARP and the police would be over shortly so the idea was to drag it into the bushes somewhere and then dismantle it afterwards.

But unfortunately we were still making our net when the police and ARP arrived and I never did get my V1 jet engine!

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