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15 October 2014
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Memories of Doodlebugsicon for Recommended story

by cranhist

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Charlie Gosford
Location of story: 
Cranleigh, Surrey
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
18 August 2005

I was sixteen when early one Sunday morning I awoke to the most unusual noise not at all like any aircraft I had heard before. Suddenly it stopped and was soon followed by an explosion. The first flying bomb to hit Cranleigh had landed in the Rookery, a small wood between the railway line and Knowle Park. Next morning with some of my pals we went to investigate. It had blown branches off the trees and the stream was covered in tiny pieces of leaves. Some said it looked like mint sauce.

A couple of weeks later another one landed on Jubilee Field at Cranleigh School. My home was in the middle of Parkgate Cottages near the cross roads. The first doodlebug damaged our back bedroom windows. The emergency repair method was to cover the window with 'Windowlite', an opaque wire-reinforced plastic sheeting.

A week or so later we were getting ready to have our tea when the siren went. Very soon we heard a doodlebug approaching. Its engine cut out and we could hear it whooshing through the air. We scrambled into the cupboard under the stairs just as it hit the Gasholder near the bottom of our garden. As soon as it was quiet I ran out onto the Common. I had to go about fifty yards to get clear of the dust and smoke. When it cleared I went back indoors. My Mother, Father and young Sister were unhurt but my Grandmother had been in the front bedroom and, sheltered by the bed, had been trapped by the wardrobe which was blown over. Her back was badly bruised.

The downstairs walls were built of brick and withstood the explosion. However the upstairs was timber frame with lathe and plaster inside and tile-hung outside. All this had blown off. It was easier to see through the walls than the windows which were still covered in Windowlite. The curtains had blown off and were draped around the gaslight in the middle of the ceiling. Our meal was covered in dust.

During the next couple of hours several people from Civil Defence called, checking for casualties, gas-water leaks etc. A doctor came to check my Grandmother. He arranged for an ambulance to take her to her other daughter who lived in Alfold Road. A friend from Restwell Avenue came and offered us beds for the night. We slept there for the next 5 or 6 weeks. Later that evening a WVS lady came and offered a meal at the 'Troop Inn'. This was a forces' canteen in a shop near the top of Knowle Lane. After normal closing time they prepared stew and puddings for those of us who accepted. During the day my father and I were at work while mum went home and cooked our dinner and generally cleared up. The damage was assessed and declared repairable by the Building Inspectors. Then workmen came and did the basic repairs to make the place habitable again. I think we were 'bombed out' for about 6 weeks.

There was one fatality in this incident: Mrs Ede, the wife of Jack Ede, the Gasworks Foreman. They lived in a cottage next to the Gasholder. She went outside and was hit by a part of the Gasholder. Their daughter stayed inside the cottage which was damaged beyond repair. She survived but had to go to hospital to have the dust washed from her eyes. Unfortunately Jack was operating the Gasworks and had to shut down and ensure all was safe before he could go home. I got to know him very well as in the course of time he married the widowed mother of Margaret, who in August 1952 became my wife.

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Message 1 - Re: Memories of Doodlebugs

Posted on: 18 August 2005 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

Dear Mr Gosford

I found your story to be a very valuable eye-witness account of Civil Defence activities, visits, and assessment of housing bomb damage in 1944, almost as soon as the dust had settled.




Message 2 - Re: Memories of Doodlebugs

Posted on: 19 August 2005 by cranhist

Thanks you for this, Peter.

Mike Payne, who typed it for Charlie (who has no computer). [I have now corrected some spelling!!]

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