- Contributed by
- BBC Southern Counties Radio
- People in story:
- Eugenie Hobbs Fred Gillett and Jessie Gillett
- Location of story:
- Bickley Nr Biggin Hill
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 07 July 2005
This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Wendy Wood of Hastings Community Learning Centre, a volunteer from BBC Southern Counties Radio on behalf of Eugenie Hobbs and has been added to the site with his/her permission. Eugenie Hobbs fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.
In common with the rest of the population Hitler’s aoir force tried to kill me.
Usually it was a hit and miss affair, a generalized attempt aimed at all and sundry, but the first time I was in the firing line it appeared totally personal and this is why….It was a sunny Sunday morning in early summer 1940. Britain had been at war with Germany for 8 or 9 months but nothing seemed to be happening. Father went to the city, Mother played bridge, I went to school, took and passed my school certificate. This time was called the “phoney war” and the general opinion was that “Hitler had missed the bus”. How wrong we were.
On this Sunday morning I sent with a group of friends for a country walk. The bus from Bromley took us to Downe from there we walked through the countryside oblivious of the fact that we were near Biggin Hill aerodrome, a target for the German air force when they tried to destroy our fighters.
Faintly we heard the sound of an air raid siren, a sound unfamiliar then but soon to become part of our daily lives, a cloud of black smoke rose a few fields away a haystack was on fire, then the roar of an aircraft, hidge high it came towards us, we flung ourselves into a ditch but not before I saw the markings on its wings and the figure of a pilot. It was over an hour before we dared to move and the all clear sounded. I don’t remember the bus journey home, all I could think about was the terror of that morning and how I hoped for comfort and reassurance from my parents.
When I rushed into the mouse my mother was dishing up the Sunday lunch, my father standing in the hall in his golfing plus fours. “I have been machine gunned” I said “and my arm is all scratched because I have been lying on brambles in a ditch”! “Yes” replied my father, “and I have been lying on sand in the bunker on the 17th fairway all morning”. And that was that.
Reprehensible it may now seem, perhaps my father’s dismissive response to my traumatic morning and my mother’s total disregard (taking the line from her husband) stemmed from a characteristics of middle class Englishness which would stand in good stead when further and more devastative events occurred: to show emotions would have been considered by my mother as unladylike, by my father as un-British. He referred to the French as “that hysterical nation”.
That sunny Sunday morning 65 years ago has lefty me with a legacy of irrational fear: I hate fireworks, hide from thunder, distrust balloons and duck if I see a low flying aircraft, however distant, because a pilot might just have another “go” at me.
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