The “Doodlebug” & The Baby.

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. Scan.BMP

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.



15 thoughts on “The “Doodlebug” & The Baby.

  1. Interesting story. The V-1 was a precursor to the modern Cruise missile and we (the U.S.) managed to grab a bunch of these and V-2’s (and Werner von Braun) before the Russians did and that jump started our space program. I’ve always questioned our looking the other way on his Nazi affiliations and developing the terror weapons that clobbered you folks when it came to using Von Braun for our space program, and ultimately him becoming director of the NASA Space Flight Center. But he’s dead, that’s all old news, we landed on the moon before the Soviets and saved it for truth, justice and the American way. But my question is more regarding oral hygiene, which you make note of in your interesting story.

    Over here it’s generally known that the Brits were not great on oral hygiene. I’m thinking it’s not so much since WW2, but likely when our GI’s served there in WW2 and fought along side you all in WW1, it was noted that Brits had teeth problems. Here in the States oral hygiene has been taught since childhood for nearly the last hundred years. I am curious.. is this because using a toothbrush and toothpaste was a notable expense or luxury back in the day? Those things seem pretty cheap to me and do so much good when used properly.


    1. Actually Doug it wasn’t and I believe still is just oral hygiene that was lacking amongst certain sections of the population, I have plans for doing a blog on the subject which quite literally will astound you you might even think I’m pulling your leg, it won’t astound my Australian chums because they’ve always had their suspicions about the “Poms” lack of personal hygiene.
      We were very fortunate indeed to have no problems with our teeth, my brother sister had perfect sets of teeth as did I and we were never in need of a dentist, it wasn’t ’til I was around 16 and living in Australia that I became fanatical about my teeth, I had a seperate toothbrush for each day of the week 🙂 Stupid but there it is!

      As for the blog well I’m still tossing up about it, I don’t have any family left to shame they’re all dead. barring my sister. and she has nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to cleanliness.


  2. It’s a wonder you and your brother had any teeth left to brush by the time you were given toothpaste and brushes. Or maybe we Americans have been sold a bill of goods by the manufacturers of such items.

    Fascinating story about your sister. She was found abandoned in the middle of a field? So lucky your parents found her!


    1. Yes and hidden beneath the cabbages too she was lucky indeed to be found, perhaps the stork got hit by the passing Doodlebug.
      I don’t think you’ve been sold a bill of goods it’s just that my mother had an unusual I might say weird sense regarding hygiene, I might in hindsight say it was non existent. 😦


      1. Apparently you’re none the worse for it. 🙂


        1. That’s because we came to Australia and I adopted the Australian way of life, being conscripted into the Australian Army didn’t do me any harm, I was taught all about hygiene the very first day. ‘ Get up; “sh.. shave shower and shampoo!” in that order every day!, who said life was ment to be easy 🙂


  3. Interesting Brian, albeit a bit outdated regarding Brit., cleanliness…not sure if you have ever returned Bro.? P.s. The birthmark was higher up than the tum and caused me much embarrassment years later when one of the Oakes girls came with husband to Australia with her husband and he asked to see my ‘Doodlebug’ Mark. At about 15 I was mortified. Thankfully it has faded with age and is now difficult to see at all. I thought you had been evacuated to Somerset not Lancashire…I guess I am mistaken.
    I do know through stories told and also my own memories that you were very possessive of me, but then you and Sonny were both great older brothers. I did hear that you beat up some girls who tried to take over the pushing of my pram from you. But do you remember that you and Sonny almost had me run over by a double decker bus and at about four I was sworn to secrecy ‘ not to tell mum’? Trios to Matchstick Island? I told you I remember list of things.
    Cheers Carole


    1. Hey there Carole hows France?:)

      Yes we did go to Somerset that was early in the piece we were sent to Mere near Glastonbury where we stayed with the Martin family.I recall much of that with great detail perhaps I should do a blog on that, I may have mentioned some of my experences there in an earlier post. Actually the run over by the bus bit might well have happened. I was pushing you in your pram, you’ll remember those huge things that we Engish loved so much and Sonny and I were up at the shops. What happened was that being the little mongrel that I was I wouldn’t let Sonny help me get the pram off the pavement to cross Hedgemans Road to get to Amesbury Rd as a result I kind of lost control and you slipped headfirst out of the pram onto the road, I’m sure had a 145 bus come around the corner you would have been squashed 🙂
      When Kerry and I went there in 2005 I showed her the spot and told her the story and she was not amused!


  4. It is so interesting to hear the stories first-hand. Thank you for sharing, you ol’ Doodlebug watcher you.


    1. Thanks gp I don’t suppose that there are too many of us left to recall these events now, but I shall keep plugging away.


      1. And I’m happy you do! I’ve got a lot of catching up to do on your site – I really do need a few more hours to my day – it would make things so much easier! Keep up the stories!!


        1. There’s a lot of Rambling on my site gp most of the rubbish I write I don’t think would hold much interest for you, then again some just might. I have written a few blogs re the USN which may interest you. Some things that I’ve said and remarks I’ve made may get under your skin and you may feel that I am anti-American; which I assure you I certainly am not. I have many friends in the US and enjoy visiting your country, but it is the idiotic ignorant one eyed Americans that I try to get through to; I know by reading and following your posts that you are definitely not one of those. If you happen to read any of the few comments made on my posts most are from my Yankee chums especially one Lisa, a lady who I’ve known for many years and lives in Louiseville Kentucky. Anyway heres a sample to make the search a bit easier for you


  5. Please keep writing your memoirs. My father’s, written longhand and covering from his birth (1915) to the mid 1960s, have provided fascinating reading for not only us, his children, but also many grandchildren.


    1. Thank you Hilary I know I should, I also know that when I’m ( I’m 80 so there’s not much time left) dead in the not to distant future they’ll wish I had but the only encouragement I get is from the occasional stranger perhaps if the War Office aka my wife was to show some interest then our children would too but alas she really couldn’t care less abot the past.

      Thank you once again for your kind comment and encouragement


  6. Great memories, Brian! Thanks so much. You’ve had a most colorful life.


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