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Surviving the 'Doodlebugs'

My family remained living in Admaston Road, Plumstead Common from the outbreak of war until we were finally made homeless in 1944.

Our house was situated about 1 ½ miles from Woolwich Arsenal and about half a mile from the optical building which manufactured telescopes, binoculars and so on: prime targets for the German bombing campaign.

We led a pretty normal life throughout the war, watching dog fights in the skies, playing in bomb craters, helping dad on his allotment and doing things kids did, mainly getting into mischief, for which we were duly punished.

Then, one Thursday in August 1944, the air raid sirens sounded at approximately midday. My mother was getting lunch ready, as my father was due home at 1pm from his job in bomb damage maintenance.

Mum had told my sister, who was ten years old and me, eight, to go into the garden and listen for approaching aircraft. Being children, we didn't do as we were told.

A little later she came through from the kitchen to find us reading comics. She became angry and told us to do as we were told.

We had a Golden Retriever (Bob) who always waited for everyone to enter the Anderson shelter, in the garden, before coming in himself.

On this occasion as soon as the back door was opened he ran straight down the garden into the shelter. On seeing this, mum just shouted, 'Run! Run!'; we did so and we had all just got into the shelter when there was an enormous explosion and there was dust and dirt everywhere.

After a while everywhere was quiet and we climbed out to find that the house and a number of other houses down the road where no longer there; just a heap of bricks.

Our house was hit by a doodlebug. The unusual thing about it was that the engine did not cut out prior to the impact. We found out later that it had actually come straight through the front door of the house and the nose was found alongside the shelter in the back garden. Not five feet from us!
My father arrived in the road a little after the explosion and thought that we were all dead. In his words, 'No one could survive that.' He just stood there not knowing what to do when he saw, climbing over the rubble, a Golden Retriever. He then knew we were safe and came to find us.

One of our neighbours who would not use their shelter was found bending over the pram which contained her baby. Both, incredibly, alive! Her son, the same age as me, could not be found. Eventually he was. Apparently, just before the bomb hit, his mother had pushed him up a chimney in the house. The rescuers got him out uninjured.

Unfortunately, my best friend was killed in a shop just up the road.

It was after this, as we had nowhere to go, mum, my sister and I were evacuated to Liverpool. My dad remained with Bob, our dog, in Plumstead doing war damage work.

The sad ending to this, apart from my friend being killed, is that on our return from Liverpool, after about four months, we learnt that dad had given Bob away to his employer.

We never forgave him!

By Len Holiday

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