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15 October 2014
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Close Encounter with a Doodlebug

by BBC Southern Counties Radio

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
BBC Southern Counties Radio
People in story: 
Alec Gaskin
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Contributed on: 
07 July 2005

“This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Bob Davis from the Burgess Hill Adult Education Centre and has been added to the website on behalf of Alec Gaskin with his permission and he fully understands the site’s terms and conditions”

My parents and I were living in Edgware during most of the War. My father had built an Anderson Shelter at the bottom of the garden during the early days, but later we had a Morrison Shelter in the lounge. We slept under the Morrison Shelter, the three of us, every night. In October 1944 I was nearly 8 years old. On this particular night the sirens went off during the early evening. I was used to listening to aircraft and knew the difference between the engine notes of German planes as opposed to ours. I also knew about V1's which we called Doodlebugs. I had seen pictures of them in papers and magazines and according to rumour they made a very different sound to any other aircraft. It was also said that if you were underneath one when its engine stopped, you would be safe because it would glide before it hit the ground. This however, was not borne out by photos which one saw in the newspapers which showed them coming straight down.

The siren had woken me up and I heard a distant strange sound which seemed to get nearer. The raucous noise became louder and louder until it seemed it had to be overhead. I just wanted it to keep on going and get quieter as it went on its way. However, the engine stopped. I remember in the silence, hearing for the only time in my life, my mother pray out loud. The silence seemed to go on and on and it seemed to me that by now it must be only just above the house on its way down. I couldn't believe that we would see the flats and houses on the other side of the road in one piece ever again. As this silence seemed to be never-ending, I distinctly remember wondering whether it was all going to end in a blinding flash or blinding darkness.

The explosion, when it came, was like distant thunder — it had landed somewhere else! Again there was the silence and then the sound of the fire engines up in the High Street.

It had landed about a mile and a half away on the other side of Watling Street on a avenue of houses close to a playing field where we used play football at school. According to a book I read years later, written by a Warden at the time, six people lost their lives that night which was the average number of fatalities, so it was said, from any Doodlebug explosion. When we went to play football again we saw the devastion that had been caused. Apart from the complete destruction of some houses, the damage to those left standing stretched for a very long way with tiles missing from many roofs up and down the road.

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