Narrow escapes

After the successful invasion of Normandy and with the allies pushing into France, Hitler launched a new weapon, called the V1, in the form of a pilotless flying bomb. These were a winged bombs launched from well hidden ramps with a rocket ram jet engine mounted above and to the rear of the device, they did not fly very high above the ground but they were quite fast. To counter this new weapon thousands of anti-air craft guns were moved from defending cities and positioned along the south coast to shot them down as they reached the coast and fighter air craft were also used to this end which was highly dangerous for the pilot as an exploding bomb could badly damage his plane or even destroy it. One of their methods used to destroy these ‘doodlebugs’or ‘buzzbombs’ as they became known, was for the fighter pilot to position his plane so that his wing tip was positioned under the bombs wing and then flip it so that it crashed into the sea.

Despite the efforts to destroy them, thousands still made it through this cauldron and successfully destroyed many buildings and killed and injured a great many people. Although the defence against the V1’s was successful during the day when the target could be seen, it was not very effective during the hours of darkness and this was when most bombs got through, During the period that the flying bombs were most active and until the Allies had overrun their launching sites in Belgium they were a major threat because you did not know where they were aimed at, thus the sirens would sound and we would go into the shelter and stay there for long periods with nothing happening, this went on night after night so that increasingly people ignored the warning and stayed in bed, not so in our household where we went to the shelter with every warning.

It was one such a night that the siren had gone and we children were in the shelter with Mum outside that she saw the pulsing flame and heard the noise of a flying bomb which cut out above our house, Mum dived headlong into the shelter hitting her head just above her eye on the corrugated metal edge of the shelter entrance, almost immediately there was a massive explosion to the north of our house but we did not know quite where but we could see a cloud of dirt and debris raising up, we did not know until the following day exactly where it had hit. Mums face was a bit of a mess with blood everywhere, I cannot remember exactly what happened next to deal the injury but what did not happen was a call for medical assistance, now-a-days she would have gone to A&E and had at least four stitches to close the wound consequently mum carried a scar on her forehead for the rest of her life.

Like the downing of the German plane, lots of villagers including we kids went to the bomb site to see the destruction. The bomb had exploded in Pine Road which was about half a mile away from home, it had landed between a detached house and an Anderson Shelter which was only yards from the house and completely blown the house away whilst only removing the earth from the roof of the shelter, the mother and her children were uninjured but the father who had got fed up with hanging around with nothing happening had decided to go back to bed, I don’t thing they ever found any of his remains. Apart from the total destruction of that house there was a great deal of damage to surrounding houses. A short time after this bomb in had landed in Pine Road a second V1 landed about a quarter of mile further away in a field bounded by Kingsway, Hiltingbury Road and Winchester Road and surrounded by mainly detached houses, They all suffered from blast damage, losing all their windows and roof tiles that faced the field, as did the Catholic Church which also backed on to the field. Both these bombs exploded not far from a large ammunition dump which was sited in Hiltingbury Road and only a couple of hundred yards from Pine Road. If this dump was the intended target, then the Germans were not that far off.

Although Hitler was losing the war there was still a long way to go before he was finally defeated. His ability to attack our country was getting less and less as the allies advanced, his first secret weapon the V1 was only partially successful because its launch sites were being overrun but he had another much more devastating weapon up his sleeve which was the V2, This rocket propelled bomb was fired vertically from its launch pad, into space, before descending on to its target. There was no way of warning of an attack and therefore no one had taken shelter thus the death role was quite high in fact they were so fast that the sound they made was apparent only after they had exploded, they were a real ‘terror weapon’. Fortunately for us living in the south, they only targeted London.

Jerry had one last go at us in Chandlers Ford. As I have already mentioned after ‘D’ Day we children roamed further and further away from home with little or no fear of enemy action, to that end Don and I had gone out in the hope of collecting ‘conkers, the fruit or seed of the Horse chestnut tree, so it was sometime in the Autumn. We had some success collecting some from a tree in Pine Road and were on our way home along Park Road and into Common Road which in turn connected to Hursley Road and close to home. Common Road as I have already mentioned was little more than a farm track with lots of pot holes and deep puddles, on its north side there was only three semi detached properties the first on its western end bordered a very neglected pasture, part of which dad had made an allotment.

To the rear of theses houses was a group of greenhouses owed by Mr Gotham. The Nursery in turn bordered the abandoned brick field which surrounded the middle semi and also bordered the eastern building the rest of the road was taken up by the garden of a house in Park Road. On the south side of the lane there were two blocks of terraced houses with four houses in each block and one semi detached house. The rough pasture at the bottom of our garden separated us from the semi detached house which was more or less opposite the Nursery, this was the home of the Gibson’s, next door was the first of the terraces then another area of waste land before the other terrace block which like the other side of the rest of the lane was taken up by a long garden of a large house on the corner of Park Road. I have gone into detail about Common Road as on this occasion Pat, Rod and myself were spread along the lane, Rod was at the bottom of our garden, Pat was playing in the back garden of the westerly terrace house and I with Don was at the Park Road end.

As Don and I entered the lane there was a single distant ‘boom’ and for some reason I was not happy about it, after all, we well use to guns firing, so we ran down the lane and into the back of the first of the terrace houses where an aunt of Don’s lived, we had just entered the house and in the living with a window facing down the garden when there was a roar of aircraft engines and the sound of machine gun fire, looking down the garden I could see tracer bullets hitting the roof of an out building at the bottom of the garden. The event was over in seconds and no time to be scared.

Pat was in far greater danger and actually saw the gunner in the front of the low flying German plane who was firing randomly, some of the bullets kicked up the soil, much as you see in movies, feet from Pat and her friend and taking out the top of a Scots pine tree they were playing under. Rod although not in the line of fire was very close to the action. Although we children escaped unhurt it cost the life of a soldier sitting on a bench seat in Park Road close to Common Road were Don and I had just run from. There was three air craft in close formation involved in the attack which were probably Heinkel’s and I understand that none of them made it back over the Channel. Years later and after the war I worked in the Nursery, when I was an Art Student as holiday job. The Nursery was more or less opposite the garden in which Pat was playing. When talking about this incident with the staff, which were working near the greenhouses that day, said they felt foolish as they had dived for cover in, of all places a ‘greenhouse’. About fifty panes of glass were shattered in the attack so like Pat they were very the fortunate.