We are using actual family history to help understand the Second World War. Please reply to this post with stories about your family’s involvement in, or experience of, the war.
Here are some of Mr Milne’s mother’s memories of wartime bombing of London.
I was living in Finchley in north London as a young child during the bombing of London in the Second World War. Towards the end of the war – 1944 – Hitler was sending across V1 rockets, which were bomb-carrying missiles powered by engines fixed to them (basically, flying bombs). They flew across the English Channel powered by a motor, and when the engine cut out, they dropped.
When you were in bed in the dark all you heard were sirens either signalling an attack was about to begin or signalling the all clear. The V1s, or Doodlebugs as they were called, had a motor, which sounded very similar to the motor on your fridge, so everyone used to turn their fridges off at night so that they didn’t mistake them for the V1s. This particular night my father was out driving an ambulance and my mother was in the flat and she thought she heard the fridge motor and went into the kitchen to turn it off. But she found that she had already turned it off and the motor she could hear was the Doodlebug. At that moment, it switched off to silence, which meant that it was about to drop.
I can remember her throwing herself on top of me and a huge explosion, lots of dust and the doors and windows crashing in. This is my first memory. The bomb actually landed, tragically, on the block of flats on the other side of the road, but it damaged our block so badly that we all had to evacuate the following day and go to wherever we could. We went to friends we had in St. Albans, and stayed with them until the end of the war.
I used to hate the sound of the sirens, the drone of the planes and the sound of the explosions and bombs going off. To block out all these awful sounds I used to rock to and fro in bed and sing so that I couldn’t hear anything. This habit stayed with me long after the war ended – until I was about 14!
(As an aside, although I can’t remember it, I was perhaps in even more danger earlier in the war. I was born in London at the start of the Blitz – the massive nightly bombing of London during 1940 and 1941. Almost as soon as I was born, I had to be evacuated from the hospital, during an air raid, into an underground tube station, which Londoners used as an air-raid shelter. I contracted pneumonia and was lucky to survive.)