You’ll wonder where the yellow went….
Sometime during the middle of 1944 our parents thought it best if my brother, Stanley (Sonny hereinafter) and I were evacuted for a while. Ostensibly to escape the new threat of the German V1 rockets hereinafter “Doodlebugs” and I refuse to refer to them by the silly term “buzz bombs”; I don’t know where or when or who invented that term, but we certainly never used it. The Doodlebugs were always just that, the cry would go up whenever one appeared “Doodlebug!” and we would watch them and be ready to scarper for the shelter if and when the motor shut off and the unearthly silence fell before the bang!
But I’m getting ahead of myself, so back to the story; I can’t recall the exact date or time but I’m pretty sure it was just a little after “D-Day” I can still feel the excitement the energy and the great feeling of relief that we experienced we knew then for sure that we were going to win, not that we doubted it before, it’s just that it seemed so very far away before.
Anyway Sonny and I were packed off to Lancashire for a few months to the town of Burnley, to a house at number 20 Gray Street Burnley to be exact. The night we arrived there was the most humiliating night of my life, and Sonnys.
It was late evening when we got there and we were billeted in a school hall for the night, a couple of hundred children I suppose there were, mattresses were laid out on the floor of the school hall for us. Then the humiliation occurred. We, all the children, were instructed to clean our teeth and get ready for bed.
Sonny and I looked at each other and truly, we began to cry and hugged each other close (it’s the only time in all our years I can ever recall that happening) and tried to hide. We did not have tooth brushes, or toothpaste; in fact we had never had toothpaste and toothbrushes, and so we held each other, and wept. Then some kind hearted soul came and asked what was wrong, and Sonny being the eldest, told them what we didn’t have, we were told not to worry, or be upset. Some short time later this same person arrived and gave us each a small toothbrush, and a small tube of toothpaste, our first ever. A small tube of “Pepsodent”!
Our tears dried, and we brushed and brushed, with great excitement, and the wonder of cleaning and brushing our teeth, was with us to stay. Both Sonny and I were lucky we each had a beautiful, perfect set of teeth and now they were clean. Strangely this is an experience that I don’t believe many people in so called civilized society have ever had, so in that sense we were lucky.
As you can see that experience has left an indelible mark on my brain!
I wont bother you with our time and in Burnley; I may in fact have written sometime ago about our time there, I’ll check sometime or other when I can get around to it and if I haven’t then I will regale you with the story of our time in Lancashire.
Back to London
I know that I rambled on some time back about our return train journey to London (so I suppose I must have also raved on about time spent in Lancashire) and when we arrived home surprise in store awaited Sonny and me. My mother and father had found a little baby girl in the cabbage patch and had kept her. It must have been on my dads allotment (a small plot of land alloted to men/families to grow their fruit and vegies, I think a small fee was paid annually for the allotment).
Anyway we now had a small addition to the family which I found quite exciting and naturally I took it that she belonged to me just as our dog Bob did, he was a bombed out orphan dog that I’d adopted as mine, obviously, then, so was the new baby.
The baby it seems was found just as a Doodlebug fell out of the sky and exploded relatively harmlessly in a field a couple of hundred yards behind our house and the row of houses behind ours if you get the idea (I might snip a picture from Google Earth and insert it later to give a better idea); and the new baby had what I was told was a birthmark on her tummy. This birthmark was in the shape of a Doodlebug, which was all very strange and especially exciting to me.
I was a kind of unofficial Doodlebug watcher, I’d sit on the back trellis and watch for them coming up the river (Thames) they’d usually appear in the same spot, between the chimneys of Barbara Thomas’s house and Nicky Costers. and when I’d spot one I’d bellow at the top of my lungs “DOODLEBUG” and the neighbours would come out and have a look if they weren’t to busy but run for their shelters like mad if the motor shut down. It was quite good fun in a way. Except if they dropped on someone you knew.
My sister, the Doodlebug baby, had a bed in our air raid shelter, it was a drawer from my mothers dressing table, she was actually a lot more comfortable than we were when we had to spend a night in the shelter. The bunks 2 each side, upper and lower with a paliasse, only not filled with straw, placed on top of the tin strips woven across the frame of the bunks. No wonder we only tried to sleep down in the shelter when things were bad up top.
An interesting site with pictures and facts that might well amaze anybody with any interest in rockets as a weapon.
There are many captured/surviving examples of the V1, The United States of America has, for some unknown reason the largest collection, and indeed did make their own version of the Doodlebug after WWII ended and did have big plans for their use.