I remember my Nan talking to me about this next memory of the Second World War. As a child, it seemed so incredible and now as an adult it still remains unbelievable that this was a part of everyday life:
“I am reminded vividly of an episode when I was on holiday at a farm in High Halden, Kent. During 1944 and 1945, I had two holidays here. About 10 of us belonging to the Youth Hostel Association spent a week at the farm doing farm work from 8.30am-1.30pm in exchange for bed and breakfast accommodation. We paid 2/6d a night for an evening meal.
With a packed lunch, we spent the afternoons visiting different parts of Kent. We all had our bikes with us (we had gone there by train with our bikes in the guards’ van).
On one occasion, in the summer of 1944, we were cycling happily on Romney Marsh when the doodlebugs (V1s) started coming over at low altitude. When they came over, the anti-aircraft guns started firing. The fighters went above the V1s to try to shoot them down and, of course, the barrage balloons were in place – hundreds of them in strategic positions to trap the doodlebugs in their wires.
The tracer bullets from the fighters sprayed down the lane…a bit further west and we wouldn’t have been here today.
On this occasion, we were in a dangerous situation so we all fell into a ditch at the side of the road with our bikes over the top of us. What good they would have done, I don’t know, but it was the only thing we could do.
The tracer bullets from the fighters sprayed down the lane six or eight feet from us – a bit further west and we wouldn’t have been here today.
Their launchings were reduced as the Allies got more and more hold on Europe. I used to travel to work on the train to Charing Cross every day and quite often during the time of the V1s they fell on the tracks, making huge craters and disrupting all the trains, therefore it was quite usual to see passengers walking along the lines to the next station – you could never tell what time you would arrive home.
The sting in the tail was about to come as a more dangerous weapon was in the offing. Towards the end of 1944, the V2 made its appearance.
It was rocket launched from bases in Northern Europe by the Germans and there was no warning of its coming. The V2 was the last ditch effort by the Germans and the most deadly. I remember one of the first ones dropping in North London – I worked near Buckingham Palace then and it landed 7 miles away in Tottenham and, even at that distance, the noise was tremendous and devastation extensive.
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