Chills of horror, wearing hob-nailed boots, ran up and down my spine when I saw my first ‘Doodlebug’. It was the night Science fiction became a reality to the children of the UK. My Brother Bert, sisters Jean, Mary and I were sitting on my bed watching the usual scenario of searchlights seeking out the enemy planes, the tracer bullets and explosions of the ack-ack shells lighting up the sky. WWII was at its height. We had moved into out new house after being bombed out of previous home. I hated it, as it was so much smaller and four of us had to share a bedroom. My bed was placed under a long window and became the ‘box seat’ for all of us to watch the nightly air raid ‘shows’. How could we have known tonight would be so different?! I cannot remember who spotted the first one, but there it was, a long cigar shaped object held in glow the searchlight beam. Flames were spewing out of the back of it, then there was another and another. We were scared and called out for Mum to come and see (children believe mums know everything of course). For the first and only time during the war years I saw fear in my mother’s eyes. It was obvious to us all that there could be no pilot in that ‘thing’ threatening us. Suddenly the jets of flame coming from the Doodlebugs cut off! They plummeted to the ground and exploded. Mum rushed us all downstairs and out into the Anderson air raid shelter in the back garden. That was the first and only time we used the shelter, but this was an ‘unknown’ danger and Mum wanted to be sure what it was, so made sure we were safe. ‘Flying bombs’, someone called them. I never did find out who called them Doodlebugs, but their official names were V1 and V2 bombs. The newspapers the next day were full of Hitler’s secret weapon, unmanned remote controlled bombs. Even the searchlight crews that night had no idea what they were up against. I bet they were as scared as we were, well at least for a little while. Later we were told the first ‘flying bomb’ had landed the previous day, but it was thought to have been an enemy plane in flames and only later discovered there was no pilot. To understand fully, you must realise that ‘remote control’ was science fiction to us in the 40s. With the age of technology now, as I write this story it is hard for me to realise just how much we take for granted these days, when it was so frightening to comprehend back then. The South East of Kent became known as ‘Bomb Alley’ during the next eighty days of V1 and V2 attacks. Every one of them aimed at London. In all, 2400 doodlebugs fell on the County of Kent, 200 more than on London. The County of Sussex wasn’t far behind that total. Everyone shot down and saving London from complete destruction. The paper’s that week, and I quote said, “THE PEOPLE OF KENT AND SUSSEX WERE GLORIOUS”. Unquote. In the newspaper, The Kent Messenger, September 15th 1944 issue, they published a map of Kent featuring a dot for every Doodlebug that landed in the area. Many were shown to have been brought down in the sea. I still have a copy of the map. I can’t help wondering though as I sit with my memories. With man landing on the moon and rockets to Mars common-place today, what would it take to frighten our children, as much as we were, when the eighty days of the Doodlebugs came to Kent? Did you have a similar experience to Violet when you were a child? What scary thing happened to you? Share your stories below
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