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Doodlebugs over London
by Elizabeth Bate

Elizabeth Bate (born 1925 in Kent, England, residing in Nanaimo, British Columbia since 1997)

When the war broke out, we were living in Kent, England.

My sister was married in 1940. The whole village came to the reception, which was held in our garden. Mother did all the cooking. We waved good-bye to the newlyweds as they left for London for the first night of their honeymoon. Just then, German planes started flying overhead en route to London. One of them was hit by English fighters and spiralled down. My father, who was an air-raid warden, and my uncle, who was in the Home Guard, put on their tin helmets and arm bands-both were still wearing their tails and pre-war striped trousers and stiff collars-and drove off to arrest the German paratrooper who came from the plane. They actually returned to the reception disappointed because the proper army had got there first.

We kids had been thoroughly entertained by the war. But later that night, there were hundreds of planes flying overhead. It was the first big raid on London with fire bombs, and we lived twenty-five miles away. We could see the red glow in the sky. It was quite an awesome experience.

At later stages, my cousins and sister-in-law were called up to the forces. One was in the WAF and another in the WREN. They saw so many young men killed that neither of them was the same after. It really wrecked their lives.

I went on to university and was not called up. I was taking a course of social work, and all my vacation was spent doing practical work up in London. The Cockney people I was working with were marvellous, fiercely independent, so full of spirit and good humour in time of danger.

You could see streets of destroyed houses, with pathetic bits of personal possessions marooned on the walls. Unmanned doodlebugs-flying objects-were being aimed at London. When the engine of a doodlebug stopped, you knew it was coming down and you flew for the nearest doorway for shelter. It was always someone's home that got destroyed.

My war was not marked by personal tragedy. My mother had been in World War I. My brother-in-law, John-the one who spent his wedding night in London the very night the Blitz began-says he can remember my mother sharpening a carving knife on the doorstep.

He asked, "What are you doing?"

She answered, "I'm going to be prepared if ever we are invaded by the Germans."

John remarked, "She was a very strong lady." 


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