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15 October 2014
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DOODLES, STUKERS AND EXPLODING MUD: an Essex childhood

by cambsaction

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
cambsaction
People in story: 
Derek Wall
Location of story: 
Rochford, Essex
Background to story: 
Civilian
Article ID: 
A4139390
Contributed on: 
01 June 2005

[This story was submitted to the People’s War site by a volunteer from BBC Radio Cambridgeshire on behalf of Derek Wall and has been added to the site with his permission. Mr Wall fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.]

I grew up at a shop in Oxford Road in Rochford, Essex. We only bought it in 1939. It was a dairy shop but with the rationing, we started to sell everything then. My father had a milk round so he wasn’t called up but he was in the Home Guard. He used to blindfold himself and put a gun back together — to practice for having to do it in the dark. He kept a gun in the house.

There were some new houses behind us but they hadn’t been moved into then — they used to let them dry out first, in those days. They were bombed by Stukers but no one was killed because they were empty.

There was a farm opposite us — it was bombed as well — an incendiary — the haystacks were burned, too, but no one was hurt.

I was born in 1933 so I was six when war broke out. You could see the planes in the searchlights, and the tracer bullets. Being boys, we wanted to go and see any burning planes. We used to watch the German planes coming up the Thames estuary. We had no sense of fear.

I was in my Grandad’s garden once when planes came over. He had a shelter covered with a haystack. I climbed onto it to get a better look at the planes, then realized they were German, with swastikas on. They were flying very low.

One day we went out the front and saw something blazing — a Marauder, a US bomber. It just missed the church and went over the hill and crashed in the fields on my uncle’s farm. It was a school holiday so next day the boys went to have a look. The Home Guard kept us away but we wandered about. We found a foot in a boot.

Dad and I were on a bus once and saw a doodle bug. The noise stopped and it came down but there wasn’t an explosion. It had gone down a steep hill and because it was the same gradient, it had levelled out in the cornfield. The Air Raid Warden and the Home Guard came and stopped us going near.

Another one came down in the mud on the River Roach and exploded. Mud went everywhere. There was a mill there, and it always looked white from the flour. It was covered with the mud after that!

My mother had TB and had to be billeted out. The people I went to stay with, the man, worked in a brickyard. An aircraft came down and the men in the brickyard thought the pilot was German and wanted to shoot him but the man I was staying with stopped them. The pilot turned out to be Polish.

There were German Prisoners of War on my uncle’s farm.

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