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15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

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Contributed by 
BBC @ The Living Museum
People in story: 
Henry Silver
Location of story: 
Neasden, London
Background to story: 
Civilian
Article ID: 
A4409877
Contributed on: 
09 July 2005

I was born in 1939 and lived in a semi in Neasdon. My first memory of the war when I was 2-3 was the drone of the impending arrival of the doodlebugs which I now know had a pulse engine. When the engine cut out into silence the bomb would drop. One of these bombs exploded close to the house and I was in my cot with one of the sides down. In the explosion I was thrown out of my cot onto the floor and remember all the dust flying up through the gaps in the floor boards. My mother rushed and calmly put me back in whilst my grandmother rushed in and asked "Is he alright?"
Another memory of Doodlebug V1 is when the whole family were at home one evening. I heard the sound of the Doodlebug when its motor cut out. My mother and father rushed in and literally threw me into the Morrison Shelter in the front room. This was built with steel and wire mesh painted green and designed to protect us if the house came down. I heard the pulse motor of the V1 cut out and the V1 started to descend with a whistling sound. My Mother said “ I think this is it” whereupon the pulse motor picked up again and diverted the bomb to about half a mile away which exploded shaking our house and all the other houses in the area.

Another experience I had was when my father came home from his Home Guard Duties on a Sunday afternoon. I was playing in the garden with his sten gun. I looked up and saw a spitfire chasing a doodlebug and firing at it. Again, we all rushed into the Morrison shelter. Why this area was so vulnerable, where we lived, was because in Dudden Hill Lane was the Post Office Research Centre which was targeted in the war. In fact this was the place where the very first computer was built.

Everybody used to go to the local cinema to gather together to keep each other company. When a man rushed in and said “are the Silvers here? Your house has had a direct hit” My father rushed out down the road to have a look, and came back with a very saddened face, and said it was a narrow miss, the six houses next door were knocked down, all the windows were out in our house, but there didn’t seem to be any structural damage, so we were very lucky. I was a little older at this time, probably around 41/2, and the houses were hit by a V1. Two people were killed.

A strange story about fruit. There was a GI going out with a girl further up our road. He came to our house one day and said to my mother “would your little boy like a banana?” She said that is very kind of you, yes he would. He gave me the banana, and I said “what do I do with it? He said “eat it”, whereupon I bit the top of the banana off and started to eat it, I said this is awful, he then told me you have to peel it first and showed me how. He also gave me some chewing gum, and he said you chew this, but don’t swallow it

I hope this gives some idea of what it was like to be a baby in the last War.

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Message 1 - Doodlebugs

Posted on: 09 July 2005 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

Dear Henry

I read your recollection of WW2 with interest, particularly your memory of bombing.

However, since you were born in 1939 you would have been about five years old when you first heard a V1. The first to arrive in England were launched in the early hours of 15 June 1944. Since you recollect that you were in your cot I can only assume that you were two or three years old (1942-43), therefore that must have been a conventional bomb, not a doodlebug. Those that you undoubtedly did witness came much later.

You also say that "When the engine cut out into silence the bomb would drop. ... I heard the pulse motor of the V1 cut out and the V1 started to descend with a whistling sound". The engine cutting out was as a result of the steep dive, not the other way round. The Germans had intended that the V1 would dive under power but due to faulty design, the flow of fuel stopped in a steep dive. Nor did V1s descend with a whistling sound, like conventional bombs with stabilising spinners; the V1 had wings and descended silently like a glider.

If I may explain, a small propeller on the nose of the missile was linked to an air-log which measured the distance that the V1 had travelled. Once the air-log had determined that the preset range had been reached, two detonators fired which caused the rudder and elevators to lock pushing it into a steep dive. Thus it was not possible for a V1 to start flying level again once the controls had locked. In the extremely unlikely event of the engine restarting, it would still be locked into its dive, as was originally intended.

Best wishes,

Peter

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