On a warm evening in the summer of 1944 I was playing in our back yard while my dad was pottering about or perhaps he was feeding our chickens. I was only five years old at that time, so after sixtyseven years you would not expect my memories to be too accurate when it comes to remembering what happened that evening.
I have often wondered if my child’s mind played a trick on me, for I remember hearing the noise of what I thought was an aircraft engine; a common enough sound in those days, which would always prompt someone to question … “Is it one of our’s ?”.
Well in this case it wasn’t. In fact it wasn’t a plane at all. It was a V1 flying bomb, and it was passing close to our house. When he saw it, my dad grabbed me and shoved me through the entrance of the ‘Anderson‘ shelter which was built in what was once a vegetable patch. Now being the nosey little kid that I was I immediately stuck my head out of the shelter and looked up into the sky to see the ”doodlebug” !
Now it must be remembered that if you could hear the engine of a ”Buzz Bomb” you were safe, but when the engine stopped and the flame from it’s rocket went out it would fall from the sky, and this is what happened just as the missile drew level with our house. It seemed to hover for a few seconds, then it tilted to the right, diving away from our house and exploding in Shakespeare Road, the street on the other side of the railway embankment which ran along the end of our small garden.
So, did I imagine all this ? … Was it a young child’s dream ? .. or .. Did it really happen ?
Well I recently came across this website, and in the official ’incident log’ I found this entry ….
“Borough – Lambeth / Area - Brixton / Date - 23rd August 1944 / Notes – The V1 fell about half way up Shakespeare Road on West side. 4 houses were demolished and 40 damaged”.
The photograph below was taken by me a couple of years ago when on a visit to the old neighbourhood. It shows part of Shakespeare Road, and that flying bomb landed a short distance behind and to the left of the railway bridge in the distance. I lived in the street which the white van has just crossed over.
(click on images to enlarge)
Yes, so it really happened, and it was just one of a few near misses that my family experienced in those almost forgotten days of the London “Blitz” and what became known as …
… “The Doodlebug Summer”.