06 February 2008

page 11

page 11

pavement and exploded, killing a man waiting for a bus in City Road. Other bombs fell at the top end of North Walls and Hyde Street where another man was killed and the greatest amount of damage evident. I know for some years afterwards there was a bath and piping visible high up on an exposed wall where the rest of the building had been destroyed. There was talk of somebody being in the bath at the time but I cannot vouch for its accuracy. It is likely the bomber was anxious to get rid of its load and may have aimed for Winchester railway station and marshalling yard.

I happened to keep one of my few persistent diaries in 1943 and the entry regarding this event is interesting ‑ if only for its utter brevity. Here is a (correctly spelled) transcript: Damp. Took a model boat I made for woodwork lesson. Saw a load of tins of household milk drop off a lorry. Air raid siren went. I watched a Dornier Do 217 dive out of clouds and go hedge-hopping then I saw it drop 17 bombs. Damage in Winch. Too wet for cross-country running. One other siren.

That, in a way, summarises my war as a schoolboy. An event which today would make banner headlines merits no greater measure of newsworthiness than can be squeezed between tins of milk and cross-country running.

War of course is dreadful. It is hard to condone although I have personally had involvement in two lesser conflicts.

For me, living where I was and with no member of my family away fighting, 1 had the benefit of a partially abstracted view. For me it was an exciting time, of little money but enormous neighbourliness. We were encouraged, through our comics, to ridicule rather than hate our enemies. I encountered many German prisoners of war. Groups of them were used for labouring work on our roads and I would talk to them in German. They were just ordinary men.

In the final stages of the war, by which time air-raids had diminished dramatically in their frequency, we were threatened with two types of unnerving automated weapons the V1 and the V2.

The V1 flying bomb, or Doodlebug, as it was commonly known, was fundamentally a small, pilotless aeroplane with a high explosive bomb forming part of its fuselage. Propulsion came from an impulse-jet housed in a tube-like arrangement mounted above the fuselage and supported by the tail fin. Every schoolboy could draw a Doodlebug with accuracy.

Many hundreds of Doodlebugs were launched against Britain from sites within occupied Europe. I heard many and saw several. Those I did see were usually as a result of the glow from the jet pipe at night. They were unguided and glided to the ground when their propulsion unit stopped which might be absolutely anywhere. This was the scary bit. After a while we accepted that, if you HEARD a Doodlebug, there was nothing to fear ‑ even if its noise suddenly stopped ‑ on the basis that it would glide sufficiently clear of you. Many Doodlebugs were shot down or often tipped, into the sea by intercepting fighter aircraft which could flip over the wing of a flying bomb with its own wing.

The V2 was a rocket against which there was no defence interception. Knowledge of their existence was in itself frightening and lurid stories were rife at school. There would be no warning ‑ just an explosion. However, as with


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